Yagishiri Island: A Scenic Place in Hokkaido Worth a Day Trip or Longer

Yagishiri Island: A Scenic Place in Hokkaido Worth a Day Trip or Longer

Northwest of Hokkaido, off the coast of Haboro, lies Yagishiri Island. This tranquil destination nestled in the Teshio Mountain Range makes a great day trip for nature lovers!

The natural beauty of Japan is sometimes neglected by travellers who find themselves drawn towards the bright lights of Tokyo or the ancient temples of Kyoto. There’s no better place in the Land of the Rising Sun to get in touch with nature than Hokkaido, which is vast in scope and untamed in nature. Let’s take a look at one particular destination which is well off the beaten track for overseas visitors, but definitely worth exploration for those looking to embrace a more primal Japan.

Yagishiri Island lies nestled off the coast of the small town of Haboro in the northwest of Hokkaido. Haboro is situated within the picturesque Teshio Mountain Range and has served as a port since 1953. Mount Pisshiri, the tallest mountain in the range, provides sublime views of the sea and land. The most effective means of reaching the town is via the JR line from Sapporo, some 200 kilometres to the south, but private cars and buses are also an option.

The island can be accessed via a quick and pleasant ferry trip from the town, which typically takes less than one hour. During summer, when both the temperature and visitor numbers are at their highest, there are three ferries in operation per day. During the off season there is only one trip per day, so try and make sure that you don’t miss it!

Two-thirds of the island is covered by a lush and enchanting forest, undisturbed by human development. At one point the entire island was engulfed by an ocean of trees but eventually, fishermen on the hunt for Pacific herring began constructing settlements for themselves in the late eighteenth century. A huge fire consumed large quantities of the forest in 1886 but thankfully a replanting effort soon restored the island to its former glory. The forest is now under governmental protection, meaning that its future is secured.

Most homes and businesses on Yagishiri today are situated on the island’s coast, with the interior remaining pristine and pure. There are two restaurants on the island, both of which serve up delicious seafood caught by local fishermen. Locals recommend the sea urchin, which is in season from June to September. The population of the island is a mere 300 people, all of whom are warm and welcoming to visitors.

At the heart of the island lies the Uguisu Valley, where one can feel at peace with the world in a truly tranquil setting. The valley can be reached via a suspension bridge, which is the last human construction you will see before becoming fully enriched by nature. Bicycles can be rented for the day in the town, and the narrow trails are ideal for an afternoon ride in the sun.

The most striking man-made feature on the island is Yagishirito Lighthouse, which was completed in 1913. The most deforested area on Yagishiri is actually a sheep farm, where around 500 domestic Suffolk sheep cheerfully spend their days grazing away without a care in the world. Sheep farming arrived on the island as a means of providing alternate sources of employment for islanders during the winter months, and it has been very successful thus far.

Yagishiri is a floral lover’s delight, as there are dozens of varieties of trees growing in abundance in the island’s primaeval forest. Of particular note is the presence of the Japanese yew tree, or Taxus cuspidata, of which there are more than 50,000! Yagishiri’s trees are also noted for their thick trunks, thanks to the low canopy.

While you’re in the neighbourhood, you can consider heading four kilometres west of Yagishiri across the Musashi Channel to the island of Teuri. This smaller island is famed for its vast seabird nesting grounds and is known as a sanctuary for them. Precious birds, such as the common guillemot, breed along the steep and rugged cliffs of Teuri’s west coast. There are four viewing platforms built which allow travellers to get a better look at our feathered friends, the highest of which is Akaiwa Scenic Overlook.

Both Yagishiri and Teuri form part of the Shokanbetsu-Teuri-Yagishiri Quasi-National Park. You can conceivably visit both islands in a day and be back in mainland Hokkaido by nightfall, but if you choose to stay overnight at a traditional family-run inn you will be treated to both the hospitality of the locals and the opportunity to gaze out at a crystal clear starry sky.

About Author

Ciaran Lawler
Ciaran Lawler

Ciaran’s spent a bunch of time travelling around East and Southeast Asia in a haze of wonderment. Foreign cultures have fascinated him from an early age and this interest spawned a love of travel. He’s spent many years studying economics and international relations and hopes to one day settle down at a comfy desk job.

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