Developed by railway workers in the 1910s, Otoineppu (音威子府) is Hokkaido’s smallest village by population but appealing place along the river surrounded by tranquil mountain forest. The woodcraft galleries and a pleasant onsen are dotted on the river bank. You will see the Milky Way on a clear night.
Highlights Teshiogawa Onsen, Eco Museum Osashima Center
Tourist Information Otoineppu Tourism Association (音威子府村商工会 · 観光協会): Tel 01656-5-3039 (8.45am-5.30pm weekday) / otoineppuvillageka.wixsite.com/otoin
In 1857, the Japanese explorer Matsuura Takeshiro visited Osashima, on the west of Otoineppu, with the Ainu’s chief Aetomo and devised the name ‘Hokkaido’.
Otoineppu is halfway between Asahikawa and Wakkanai on the JR Soya Line, and buses run for North Okhotsk Region such as Hamatonbetsu and Esashi. It is a good place to break up the long journey, thanks to its nice place to sleep and eat.
01 LOCAL HISTORY
Tenpoku Line Memorial Museum
天北線記念館 / JR Otoineppu Station / 9am-5pm / FREE
From 1922 to 1989, Otoineppu Station was a branch point of the Tenpoku railway line for Wakkanai via Hamatonbetsu. Train buffs will find the collection of period railway tickets, photos, equipment and models inside the train station.
02 ART GALLERY
Eco Museum Osashima Center
エコミュージアムおさしまセンター / 55 Monomanai / 9.30am-4.30pm May-Oct / Closed Mon / ¥200 / bikkyatelier3more.wixsite.com/atelier3more
The Ainu’s prominent sculpture Sunazawa Bikky’s atelier was housed in an old wooden elementary school and now an art gallery near JR Osashima Station. His fantastic wooden carvings and crafts are scattered through the rooms. There is also a lovely cafe.
03 ONSEN & SLEEPING
天塩川温泉 / Tel 01656-5-3330 / www.teshiogawa-onsen.com
It is a 10-minute walk from JR Teshiogawa-onsen Station and hidden away at the end of narrow road, this hotel is a tranquil location on the pleasant river bank of Teshio-gawa. Japanese- and Western-style rooms are clean and compact. Day tripper can use an onsen (10am-9pm) and a restaurant (11am-2pm & 5-8pm).
Rider House Sakkuru
ライダーハウス咲来 / Tel 01656-5-3155 / Sakkuru-ekimae / Jul-Sep
Built as a branch of the Nippon Express in the early 20th-century, this quiet rider house is located in front of JR Sakkuru Station. It has classical and cozy dorms for motorcyclists and backpackers, with shared facilities. You will need to bring your sleeping bag.
The friendly owner Osawa-san offers a shuttle service to Teshiogawa Onsen at night if you don’t have your own wheels. Dinner and breakfast soba is available for ¥1000. Note that the owner is sometimes to go out by car.
Otoineppu bus terminal is in the same building as the train station (tickets 7.50am-6.30pm).
TRAIN: For Otoineppu, three daily limited express trains run from Asahikawa (1hr 45min) and Wakkanai (2hrs) on the JR Soya Line, and there is a daily limited express train from Sapporo (3hrs). A few local trains run between Nayoro and Wakkanai via Otoineppu.
BUS: From Otoineppu Station, Soya Bus operates three buses daily to Onishibetsu (2.5hrs) in Sarufutsu via Hamatonbetsu (1hr 40min) continue to Soya-misaki (3.5hrs) and JR Wakkanai Station (4.5hrs) on the coastal Okhotsk Line.
There are daily buses from Asahikawa Station (3hrs) and Sapporo Odori Bus Terminal (4.5hrs). You can use two daily intercity buses between Otoineppu and Esashi (1hr) in Northern Okhotsk Region.
There are several free municipal buses per day (except 1 Jan) between JR Otoineppu Station and Teshiogawa Onsen via Sakkuru.
From Otoineppu Station (20min) 9:40 / 11:00 / 13:30 / 15:40 / 17:30
From Teshiogawa Onsen (20-25min) 8:00 / 10:05 / 11:25 / 13:55 / 16:05 / 17:55 / 20:15