Cycle-drive summer getaway in eastern Hokkaido, Japan


My parents were over in Japan in early August, so Haidee and I planned a quick 7-day trip to eastern Hokkaido. The idea was fairly simple: the parents hire a campervan, Haidee and I travel on our folding bikes, and we all meet up at a set location each day. It was a good way to mix cycling, camping, and the ease of travel with a campervan.

Camper-cycle hybrid tour of eastern Hokkaido, Japan

Amazingly, we were able to find a Toyota Grand Hiace Campervan for only 9,000yen per day at a local 100yen Renta-car franchise in Kiyota-ku in Sapporo. We had reserved the vehicle almost four months in advance. Early August is a popular time for campers, and even four months out, many places we had called were already completely booked out.

The Hiace was perfect for our needs. Plenty of space to put the folded bikes (Haidee’s Bike Friday Silk and my Tern Verge S27h), and plenty of space for Mum and Dad to spread out at night.

Camper-cycle hybrid tour of eastern Hokkaido, Japan

We left Chitose City where we live on a Friday afternoon, on the 7th of August. By the time we made it to the Yuni campground, around 40km east of Chitose, it was already night time. The next morning broke clear and calm. Perfect for a spot of birdwatching.

Camper-cycle hybrid tour of eastern Hokkaido, Japan>

Camper-cycle hybrid tour of eastern Hokkaido, Japan

The main mission for Saturday the 8th of August was to try to get to Lake Kusharo by car, in the far east of Hokkaido. A late-ish start and long distances would mean we didn’t make it that far on Saturday. But this was made up for by the fact we were able to camp next to Lake Oneto. The campsite was unusually quiet, with only a few other campers. We’d find out the next day that this was because the nearby volcanic Mt. Me-Akan had been unusually active recently.

Camper-cycle hybrid tour of eastern Hokkaido, Japan

The next morning was another beautiful one. With little to do on Sunday the 9th of August but get to Lake Kusharo 80km away, we took our time at Lake Oneto.

Camper-cycle hybrid tour of eastern Hokkaido, Japan

Camper-cycle hybrid tour of eastern Hokkaido, Japan

By late morning, we had made it to Lake Kusharo and spent the rest of the day relaxing, and soaking in a nearby onsen (hotspring).

The real action on the scenery front came on Monday August the 10th. We had made it to Utoro Town on the edge of the Shiretoko National Park, and decided to leave Mum and Dad to drive via Shiretoko Five Lakes to Rausu on the other side of the Shiretoko Peninsula. Haidee and I would cycle to Rausu over the Shiretoko Pass, missing out the Five Lakes area detour, since we had been there before.

The weather was the complete opposite to the last time we cycled over this 740m high pass (climbing from sea level). This time, rather than heavy rain and a driving headwind, we had clear blue skies.

Camper-cycle hybrid tour of eastern Hokkaido, Japan

Camper-cycle hybrid tour of eastern Hokkaido, Japan

Camper-cycle hybrid tour of eastern Hokkaido, Japan

Camper-cycle hybrid tour of eastern Hokkaido, Japan

Camper-cycle hybrid tour of eastern Hokkaido, Japan

We had just arrived at the top of the pass, and were admiring the view of Mt. Rausu…

Camper-cycle hybrid tour of eastern Hokkaido, Japan

And mother Russia (the Kuril Islands)…

Camper-cycle hybrid tour of eastern Hokkaido, Japan

When Mum and Dad arrived over the crest of the pass. We had to get a photo of them in front of one of the best views of Russia you can get from Japanese soil.

Camper-cycle hybrid tour of eastern Hokkaido, Japan

From the top of the pass it was a mad dash down the hill to Rausu, where we had lunch, chucked the bikes in the camper, and drove the rest of the way to Notsuke.

Camper-cycle hybrid tour of eastern Hokkaido, Japan

Where we bumped into our friend Dirk from Sapporo (what a small world!), and then it promptly started raining around sunset. Thank goodness for a watertight tent.

Camper-cycle hybrid tour of eastern Hokkaido, Japan

The remaining few days of the trip were spent cycling over to Akan (I have no idea where those photos have gone), and then driving back to Chitose to get the camper back in time for the return deadline. All in all it was a much shorter summer cycle trip than we are used to, and one that involved much less cycling than usual too, but it was great to be able to show Mum and Dad some of the places we love so much in Hokkaido.


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