Rebun Island
Rebun Island

Rebun: The Flowered Floating Island

Frantically I put my foot down, driving along the incredible Route 106 (the last stretch of road to the north of Hokkaido) through a storm where the sky and the ocean are as one.

Although the road trip to Hokkaido had been carefully scheduled, I wasn’t expecting these lowering black clouds to follow us everywhere. But hang on, what’s that I see in the offing? The sky opening as in a dream. An island seeming to emerge from the mist, swept by rays of light. Rebun, the island of Rebun … a visit wasn’t planned, but it’s beckoning us over don’t you think?

Rebun Island
Rebun Island

As soon as my parents and I reach Wakkanai (Japan’s northernmost point), we stop at the port to pick up the ferry timetables for Rebun. At 6:30 next morning we’re aboard the Heartland (nothing to do with the eponymous bar from the dubious past of Tokyo’s Roppongi Hills). At last the weather is good and I can’t wait to reach the island. Two hours later, here we are!

Motochi cat

We leave our things at the guesthouse and set off right away to greet the cat at Motochi, on the other side of the island.

Motochi, the remotest corner of the island, is also the most photographed. The group of houses down below look like a village, but no way! We go down towards the cat, but … the young owner of what turns out to be a B&B (minshuku) comes out and yells at us! The beach is reserved for guests 😉 So over to the drone to capture Rebun’s famous landmark.

Convince me, you can see a cat here? 😉 It seems to be brooding, eyes fixed on the Russian neighbours. Proximity problems, perhaps? After this short stop, we head back to the heart of the island.

Path of the waterfalls

It’s beautifully verdant. But in truth the winters on this island, regularly battered by devastating gusts of wind, are among the longest in Japan. Which explains its well-kempt look with no shaggy foliage to be seen. And not a single tree …

Rebun Island
Rebun Island

This splendid path is taken by so many summer hikers because of the alpine flowers endemic to Rebun. Unluckily we won’t see them because it’s autumn. And we won’t see the waterfalls either … because I can’t be bothered, and I’m hungry! Next stop? A resto of course, Dan Oyasumidokoro, the only one in the north of the island.

Dan Oyasumidokoro

I gulp down a don, a bowl of rice covered with salmon roe and sea urchins. At around 3,000 yen it’s as expensive as Tokyo … but delicious and freshly iodized.

Already 2 in the afternoon. For a Japanese autumn, that’s almost the end of the day 😉 Decide to go back to the cat, and on the way take a look at a sanctuary that seems completely inaccessible. Such a mystery.

Here we are back at Motochi. Now I’ll let you enjoy the fabulous …

sunset over Rebun

Rebun Island
Rebun Island

Kafuka on the shore

Kafuka is at the heart of the island. This was actually the name of the main village before everything was amalgamated and simplified as Rebun.

There are less than 3,000 islanders, and I haven’t seen any young folk, so no surprise that the nightlife is rather limited. We make the most of our ryokan, which is just incredible. Very thoughtful hosts – they even cooked my mum’s sashimi (because she doesn’t like raw fish)! Followed by onsen and beddy-bye.

Sayonara colours

Wake up at dawn, must catch the “farewell” colours! Sun struggling to rise, fighting its way through the clouds that don’t want to let it pass. The same clouds that finally seem to have detached themselves from Hokkaido to come and join us …

We enjoy the stunning play of colours for an hour until the sky dulls. Before leaving, I look in at the local primary school. No longer in use, but now a small museum commemorating the school and a film made there. There’s even a hologram that rather took me by surprise 😉

Rebun Island
Rebun Island

On the way back to Wakkanai. Will we find good weather in Hokkaido? To tell you the truth, yes! And we’ll even see bears! Come on, all aboard!