Heading northwards through the scenic coastal road Ororon Line from Rumoi, this long and slim region shows off pleasant sandy beaches, fishing towns, ocean-view campsites and onsen – along with touching sunset over the sea.
Engan Bus (沿岸バス: www.engan-bus.co.jp) drives along the coast and can drop you at these attractions. During the winter, the crashing waves lapping on the shore.
The good value Moekko Free Kippu (萌っ子フリーきっぷ) allows unlimited travel on the local Engan Bus routes on the Ororon Line, between Ofuyu (in Mashike) and Wakasakanai (in Toyotomi). Pass holders receive discounted fares for the Haboro Enkai Ferry. The pass dones’t cover intercity buses. The pass sells at the Engan Bus ticket offices.
Rumoi to Wakkanai (Ororon Line)
DURATION: 5 hours +
BEST TIME: Early July and mid August for swimming / June for wildflower gardens / May to September for long-distance cycling and camping / Winter for dramatic landscapes
Obira ›› Swimming in the clear waters of the pleasant beaches and feeling about the herring fishing history.
Misakidai Park ›› The Ororon Line’s best spot for camping and recharging in an onsen with dramatic ocean views.
Toyotomi Onsen ›› Healthy oily water is believed to be helpful in treating psoriasis and atopic dermatitis.
Sarobetsu Shitsugen ›› Exploring the isolated wetlands, wildflower gardens and dunes overlooking Rishiri-to.
Halfway between Sapporo and Wakkanai along the Sea of Japan, Rumoi Region’s small capital was once herring fishing and colliery town. It serves as a transport hub for Mashike and Haboro. The scenic cape Ogon-misaki (黄金岬) is the best point to finish this road trip and it boasts gorgeous sunset.
TRAVEL BY BUS ›› Local Engan Bus departs from Rumoi-ekimae (留萌駅前: tickets 9.30am-4.30pm weekday, to 12.30pm Sat) stop, about 100m south of JR Rumoi Station near Chuo Bus Rumoi terminal.
9km to 23km
About 10km north of Rumoi, Obira was also once a herring fishing village. From early July to mid August, the town’s two sandy beaches, Usuya (臼谷) and Onishika (鬼鹿), are the sparkling playgrounds. Michi-no-eki Obira Nishin Ban-ya (道の駅おびら鯡番屋) contains Old Hanada Family Fishing Hut (旧花田家番屋), Hokkaido’s largest wooden fishing hut like a herring palace.
TRAVEL BY BUS ›› Both intercity buses from Sapporo and local buses from Rumoi stop at Obira-chuo (小平中央) in the town center, the Hanada Ban-ya-mae (花田番屋前) at the michi-no-eki, and Onishika-Minato-machi 3 (鬼鹿港町3区) near the Twin Beach.
The windy town of Tomamae is known for the worst bear attack in Japanese history, but today higuma (brown bear) is a symbol of the town. Bear enthusiasts come here and taking pictures of the unique bear statues. The attractive Michi-no-eki Fuwatto Tomamae (道の駅風Wとままえ) has an onsen and a campsite.
TRAVEL BY BUS ›› Both intercity and local buses stop at Tomamae-Uemachi (苫前上町) near the michi-no-eki. Local buses stop at Tomamae Yakuba (苫前役場) at the town hall and Sakaehama (栄浜) near the White Beach.
For most travelers, the main reason to visit Haboro is to catch the ferry to Teuri and Yagishiri islands. Central Haboro occupies a grid of streets with a few modesty sights. Haboro Onsen Sunset Plaza has a michi-no-eki (道の駅ほっとはぼろ) and an onsen.
TRAVEL BY BUS ›› Honsha Terminal (本社ターミナル) in Central Haboro is a hub for bus travel on the coastal Ororon Line from Sapporo (6 daily / 3hrs 10min), Rumoi (1.5hrs / 10 daily) and Asahikawa (1 daily / 3hrs). There is a left-luggage service at the ticket window (ask for staff). Haboro ferry terminal is a 20-minute walk from the Honsha Terminal. Minibus Kannonzaki Liner (観音崎ライナー) and taxi are also available.
Misakidai Park みさき台公園
A highlight of a road trip to the quiet village of Shosanbetsu (初山別 / しょさんべつ) is the coastal Misakidai Park overlooking the ocean and three islands. It is a perfect place to break up a journey on the Ororon Line for camping, eating and bathing with a dramatic sunset. You will be able to look up at the starry sky on a clear night.
TRAVEL BY BUS ›› Local buses stop at Shosanbetsu Onsen (しょさんべつ温泉) in the park. Intercity and kaisoku (rapid) buses stop at Toyosaki (豊岬) on Route 232, about 1.3km northeast of Shosanbetsu Onsen.
At the mouth of Japan’s forth-longest river Teshio-gawa, this town was one of Northern Hokkaido’s major trading posts until the early 20th-century. Today the town is known for its tasty shijimi (basket clams) from the river.
TRAVEL BY BUS ›› Teshio bus stop is located behind the red brick Teshio-gawa Historical Museum (all buses stop here). You can switch to train at Horonobe (幌延) for a short cut to the JR Soya Line and Wakkanai. If you take a Rumoi-Toyotomi local bus after departing at Horonobe, settle the fare (or show your Moekko pass) at Horonobe Underground Research Center (幌延深地層研究センター前) to the driver.
Toyotomi Onsen 豊富温泉
Japan’s northernmost tiny onsen ‘village’ was discovered during the search for oil in 1926. Oily water is believed to be helpful in treating psoriasis and atopic dermatitis. Some of the onsen hotels allow nonguests into their bathing facilities.
TRAVEL BY BUS ›› Both intercity and local buses stop here. Local buses pauses at the Fureai Center-mae (ふれあいセンター前) at the bathhouse (photo above). Local buses from Rumoi continue to Toyotomi Station (豊富) on the JR Soya Line, and intercity buses from Sapporo run to Toyotomi Eigyosho (豊富営業所) terminus at the town hall.
Sarobetsu Shitsugen サロベツ湿原
A vast stretch of Sarobetsu dotted with wetlands, quiet marshes, sandy beaches and peaceful dairy farms. Colorful and lovely wildflowers bloom from late June to mid July, a refreshing wind heals the traveler’s heart. If you are driving, follow the coastal Ororon Line (Prefectural Road 106) to Wakkanai overlooking Rishiri-to in the sea.
TRAVEL BY BUS ›› Engan Bus runs from Toyotomi Station to Wakasakanai Dai-2 (稚咲内第2: 2-3 daily / 19min / ¥640) via the Sarobetsu Shitsugen Center (サロベツ湿原センター: 9min / ¥380). There are no buses from Toyotomi to Wakkanai, so take the train (45min) on the JR Soya Line.
Japan’s northernmost city of Wakkanai is an important turning point for all tourists. In summer Wakkanai is crowded with group tourists, railway enthusiasts, hiker, bikers and cyclists. They spend a couple of time in the town and its surroundings before traveling onward. This nationally-famous city has ferry connections to Rishiri, Rebun and Sakhalin (only in summer) islands.
CONNECTIONS ›› Wakkanai has ferry connections to Rishiri and Rebun islands. In summer there are also international ferries to Sakhalin Island, Russian Far East. Local bus runs to Soya-misaki, mainland Hokkaido’s northernmost cape.