Hokkaido Summer: Island to Island


Rebun – Rishiri

41 miles

The rain wasn’t heavy, but it was constant, and within a few hours my tent was drenched. By torchlight, I was able to find a vast bulk of the water’s entry points and under each drip I placed a plastic bag to collect the water. Every hour or so I emptied the bags outside of the tent, before allowing them to slowly refill again. Ridiculously, I kept up these shenanigans until dawn, by which point I had 9 bags of water positioned around myself.

I waited for the rain to simmer into drizzle before packing up camp. By the time I’d paid my camping fees to the site manager – who had no idea I had even camped upon his turf – it had started to rain again. Donning my wet weather gear and heading north, I realised the only thing missing from my pack was a pair of inflatable armbands.

Rebun is a narrow, elongated island, stretching 18 miles from north to south and just 5 miles east to west, so despite the on/off rain it shouldn’t take one too long to quite literally soak up the sites. I cycled a very touristy route to Cape Sukotan, Rebun’s northern most point. A number of tourist buses thrashed past me in the rain; excited and surprised faces pressed up against the windows, eager hands reaching for cameras. I wondered if perhaps the bus passengers thought that I was either one of two things:

1:  A hard-arse, or

2:  A dumb-arse.

As I spat out an ominously sour tasting piece of muck that had flicked up from the road’s surface, directly into my mouth, I knew it was more than likely the latter.

Making it to Cape Sukotan, I was congratulated by a small number of tourists from the bus. As they clapped their hands, my ego took a rare opportunity to bathe in the glory and I cordially accepted a handful of mochi cakes from my adoring fans. Fans that like me would no doubt be disappointed with Cape Sukotan itself. Through the marring drizzle one could just about make out a few craggy islets and a couple of fed up seagulls. I shrugged my shoulders and turned south.


I took an alternate route on the way back, hugging the island’s eastern coast. A number of battered old fishing houses were dotted along the coast, some were merely corrugated shacks that looked as if they would be lucky enough to stand firm for just one more day. Elderly fishermen and women, were out maintaining their boats or prepping their catch for market. The hard working life of a Rebunite seemed far from a prosperous one, but it was the only kind of life most here would ever know – and that’s testament to the courage and the adaptability of mankind.


To the far south of the island lay Rebun’s money shot. A steep climb out of Rebun Town saw me picking up a walking trail to Motochi Lighthouse. From a small car park, where I left my bike, I would be treated to an orgy of delights: absorbingly lush green hills that stemmed from a series of high rising cliffs, carved by either Nature’s expertise – or by the wand of a local wizard.


A certain enchantment now encapsulated Rebun, as the occasional front of sea mist passed through, obscuring my surrounds for moments at a time, before again clearing and blowing me away with its scenic beauty. However, south-westerly, an effigy of Mt. Doom from Lord Of The Rings lay prominent, a monstrously sullen looking Mt. Rishiri awaited. And with nothing but misery certain, I caught the next ferry over.


It was a short 40 minute ferry trip to Oshidomari in the island’s north; Rebun and Rishiri being separated by just 6 miles. From the blackened summit of Mt. Rishiri, vast dark swathes of cloud were being cast out across the island, forcing me hastily south of town for a couple miles to one of Rishiri’s designated camp sites. A small clearing amongst a patch of woodland saw me set up camp next to a couple of young Japanese campers; they too were bracing themselves for a rough night’s sleep. I had prepared my tent as I had done on my previous night in Rebun, poncho covering one side and an armoury of plastic bags littered across the floor inside. And, as the heaven’s burst with all their might, I was ready for Round 2.


Round 2 came and 23 minutes after the first drops of rain began to fall, I found myself abandoning ship; my tent utterly compromised. Torrents of water came flooding into my tent from every angle, no amount of plastic bags being able to bail me out as a thuggish wind swept across the camp. It was dark outside, as I stuck my drenched head out of my water filled vessel. One of my neighbours was scampering about desperately with a flashlight, trying to find his tent pegs as the wind had just effortlessly whipped his flysheet away. He gave up and by dawn would be found sharing his neighbour’s far superior North Face tent.

I though wasn’t about to knock on a stranger’s tent door to ask if there was any room for one more dumb-arse. But I couldn’t stay put; and braving it out was far from an option. About 30 yards from my tent – which I had now dubiously named ‘Sir Leaksalot’ – was a barbecue gazebo. I ran over to it barefooted with my flashlight. The ground of the gazebo was solid stone with a roof made from wood which was leaking, but the barbecue itself wasn’t secured to anything. I pushed it to one side and made adequate space for one terribly shit tent. I then ran back and forth importing all my worldly goods to their new less than ideal, but perfectly survivable camp site. Crawling into my moist tent, I waited it out as the rain continued to pour ceaselessly throughout the night.




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