Shakotan Hut provides an excellent base from which to explore peaks such as Mt. Shakotan-dake (積丹岳 – 1,255m) or Mt. Yobetsu (余別岳 – 1,298m) on the Shakotan Peninsula. About 40 minutes from the end of the snow-cleared section of dirt road, this is a public-transport accessible hut, free to use for […]

Shakotan Hut and Mt. Shakotan-dake Ski Tour (Hokkaido, Japan)

I hadn’t expected such a grandiose summit at the top of Mt. Mekunnai (目国内岳 – 1,220m). The summit looks pointy from a distance, but we were not prepared for the great frozen mountain of boulders, encrusted in a winter’s worth of wind-blown snow and frost, that greeted us almost out of […]

Mt. Mekunnai Ski Tour (Niseko Range, Hokkaido, Japan)

I once saw a photo of Mt. Piyashiri’s summit hut, encrusted in gale-crusted snow, and it launched my keen desire to do an overnight trip there in mid-winter. Hiro was mad enough (or perhaps naïve enough) to come along, so we made the 3-hour drive north from Sapporo, diving head-first […]

Mt. Piyashiri Summit Hut and Ski Touring (Hokkaido, Japan)

Last year I was here at Hakuginso Lodge (Fukiage Onsen) with three fellows from France and a fellow from Germany (story here). Today I was back with my brother-in-law from New Zealand to try our luck at Mt. Maetokachi (前十勝岳 – 1,790m). I was keen to capture this active volcano’s […]

Mt. Maetokachi ski tour and Hakuginso Lodge for the second ...

This ‘ski-by-numbers’ ski touring route is a beauty. The red ski-tour-specific trail markers, starting at #1 at Shokanso Hut (290m), make for relatively straightforward navigation up to around 1,000m in altitude. To summit Mt. Shokanbetsu (署寒別岳 – 1,491m) however, you’ll need near-perfect conditions and an early start. Right on the […]

Shokanso Hut and Mt. Shokanbetsu (署寒別岳 – 1,491m) Ski Touring ...

First impressions of the Mt. Mayoizawa (迷沢山 – 1,005m) backcountry skiing route are probably not that great. You’d be forgiven to want to shun this route, with its overbearing-looking pylons and not much of a peak to speak of. But it has two seriously good things going for it: it is […]

Mayoizawa-yama mid-week ski tour (Sapporo City, Japan)

Mt. Okotanpe (オコタンペ山 – 968m) is classed as a beginner’s mountain in the guidebook. This is probably a reasonable description if you are on snowshoes. If on skis, you’ll want to be confident of your steep uphill zigzagging and steep downhill tree-dodging skills, such that I’d class it more as […]

Mt. Okotanpe Ski Tour (Hokkaido, Japan)

The approach to Mt. Soranuma-dake (空沼岳 – 1,251m) is a convoluted mess of topography which doesn’t lend well for great downhill skiing. Don’t let that put you off though. The old forester’s outpost Bankei Hut (万計山荘) is worth the effort, and the national park landscape is magical. We did the […]

Mt. Soranuma-dake Overnight Ski Tour (Hokkaido, Japan)

The pristine Chitose River, fed from Lake Shikotsu 25km upstream, is abundant with birdlife at this time of the year. Swans, ducks of every type, herons, and woodpeckers…all relatively nonplussed at a couple of people on snowshoes, tramping where few other humans tend to venture at this time of year. […]

Chitose River Urban Snowshoeing (Chitose City, Japan)

When Chitose City in Hokkaido, Japan, finally gets enough snow (around the beginning of January), the local ski field grinds into action. The tow-rope lift is a brutal contraption, but once you’re used to it, the 60yen per ride (or a whopping 500yen for a day-pass) feels like the bargain […]

Chitose City Ski Field: A one-run wonder micro-resort

The circuit track around Lake Hangetsu, at the foot of Mt. Yotei, is hardly the place for alpine skis. But with an abundance of bird-life at the trailhead, good views, and just enough elevation gain to make the second half fun, this is a great spot for honing the kick-and-glide […]

Hangetsu Lake Circuit: A fun side-trip on skis

Mt. Iwaonupuri (1,116m, curiously also marked as Mt. Io in English) – the smaller sister to Niseko’s Mt. Annupuri, sits to the northwest of the bustling ski slopes of Hirafu. It is a long circular drive to get there though, so it is a great way to get away from […]

Mt. Iwaonupuri (Mt. Io): A ski tour day-trip at the ...

Mt. Chisenupuri (チセヌプリ) is one of the classic Niseko-area backcountry ski locations. At the lower reaches is the Chisenupuri ski area, closed since 2013 (but re-opened for cat-skiing in December 2016). Word on the ground (when we did this trip in December 2016) is that the cat-skiing operation (run by […]

Chisenupuri Ski Area ski touring (near Niseko, Japan)

All good things must come to an end, and such did our 10-day cycle tour around the deep south of Hokkaido. We bundled the bikes back onto the train, and that train whisked us back to Chitose, ready to face another semester at university. Thermarest posted on Instagram and Facebook […]

Southern Hokkaido Cycle Tour Day 11 – Onuma back to ...

*Featured image by Haidee Our last day of cycling on this end-of-summer cycle tour around southern Hokkaido would end up being the only day where we had rain. And the day was topped off with a shared campfire on a lakefront with another cycle touring couple. In the morning, we […]

Southern Hokkaido Cycle Tour Day 10 – Kakkumi to Onuma

After a thoroughly relaxing two days sightseeing in Hakodate, we were back on the road again. At 66km, it would be our longest day of the trip, and our minds and bodies felt it. The sleepy little fishing villages and quiet roads kept things interesting though, as did the quirky […]

Southern Hokkaido Cycle Tour Day 9 – Hakodate to Kakkumi

Not being one to overly enjoy popular sightseeing locations, I’d never been to the tourist-bustling city of Hakodate before. But despite my reservations about its popularity with hoards of Asian tourists, it was an overwhelmingly worthwhile place to visit. The old star-shaped fortress and its painstakingly reconstructed magistrate’s building is […]

Southern Hokkaido Cycle Tour Day 7 – Shiriuchi to Hakodate

Matsumae Town on the south coast of Hokkaido was a surprise. As one of the earliest settlements on Hokkaido by the Japanese in the late 1800’s, it still maintains its mainland-Japan feel, with traditional Japanese architecture not seen in other parts of Hokkaido. Today we also caught a glimpse of […]

Southern Hokkaido Cycle Tour Day 6 – Matsumae to Shiriuchi

Despite being late September, it was a sweltering day today. Climbing high up over bluffs and cliffs along the Japan Sea coast kept our speeds down. The views were to notch though. Wild beaches, untouched forest, and wild-camping in Hokkaido’s first-settled towns, full of history. The theme of early mornings […]

Southern Hokkaido Cycle Tour Day 5 – Okushiri Island to ...

In 1993, one of the most powerful tsunami in modern history hit Okushiri Island. Just 5 minutes after a powerful magnitude 7.7 earthquake, the 30m high 500km/h wave destroyed much of the north, west, and south areas of the island. We weren’t fully aware of the magnitude of that event […]

Southern Hokkaido Cycle Tour Day 2 – Setana to Okushiri ...

After an unusually hectic July, August and September, Haidee and I finally managed to head off on our annual two-week cycling vacation. Being the last two weeks of September, days were already getting short, and the evenings and mornings were getting a chill on them. After a summer of more […]

Southern Hokkaido Cycle Tour Day 1 – Oshamanbe to Setana