Rishiri Island
Rishiri Island

Rishiri Island

This wild island with its rich and protected fauna and flora is a nature lovers’ paradise. Guided tour available.

Rishiri (利 尻 島) lies off the northernmost Japanese island of Hokkaido. Together with neighbouring Rebun, the island is part of Rishiri-Rebun-Sarobetsu National Park because of its natural riches.

Rishiri Island
Rishiri Island

The wild island of high peaks

The main resources of Rishiri, population just over 5,000, are tourism and marine products such as sea urchins and kombu kelp (seaweed). Lovers of untamed nature and adventure come every year to attempt to climb Mount Rishiri.

The name Rishiri comes from the indigenous Ainu language and means “Island of high peaks”. A well-deserved nickname given the altitude of Mount Rishiri, an extinct volcano formed by an eruption 200,000 years ago.

Rishiri Island
Rishiri Island
Rishiri Island
Rishiri Island

The island is sometimes referred to as Rishiri Fuji because of its conical “Mount Fuji” shape. The 360° view from the summit includes the Russian island of Sakhalin, Rebun and the main island of Hokkaido.

Booming herring business

Rishiri, covering around 180 km2, is the second largest Japanese offshore island (after Sado).

As the Tokugawa shogunate (military dictatorship) was beginning to lose control in the 19th century, the island was increasingly in contact with foreigners, including fishermen and whalers. It was even attacked by nearby Russia in 1807.

Rishiri Island
Rishiri Island

By the end of the century many fisherfolk had migrated from Aomori, Akita and other coastal areas of the Sea of Japan to enjoy the fish-rich waters. Colonization of the native Ainu people’s territories had begun.

Rishiri Island
Rishiri Island

Herring was the staple of the island economy. By the boom year of 1915, the annual catch was over 100,000 tonnes. But after 1955 herring became regrettably scarce and the island turned to fishing for kelp, sea urchin, octopus and flounder.

Rishiri Island
Rishiri Island

A precious protected wilderness

Designated as Rishiri Rebun National Park in 1965 and Sarobetsu National Park in 1974, the island has become a tourist destination for nature lovers.

Rishiri Island
Rishiri Island

A tourist trail, “Mount Rishiri 16 Scenic Spots”, has recently been set up. Original stamps can be collected at various locations. The aim is to encourage visitors to discover the mountain’s different facets, which locals call “the 16 beautiful faces”.

A view of Mount Rishiri features on the packaging of Shiroi Koibito cookies, a very popular Hokkaido omiyage (souvenir gift).

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Who Am I

I am Jordy Meow, a French photographer based in Tokyo. I explore offbeat places in Japan.

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