Wakkanai (稚内市) – Rebun (礼文島)

Yesterday was a train day, today will be ferry day as we got up at 430am to pack up / breakfast / pangsai before we dragged our luggage to the nearby Wakkanai Ferry Terminal for our ride to Rebun island. Like in most Japan citys, they have very nice pedestrian pathway so wheeling our luggages was very easy.

she kept pointing to wrong directions.. lol

Since it was off-peak season in September, there was not a lot of passengers. We promptly bought our one-way tickets (2,470yen per person) at the counter before posting some postcards with we bought from Asahikawa Station and stamps from Cape Soya Post Office.

posting time
our tickets for the ferry ride

We departed at exactly 6.40am, heading off in quite calm seas. Using the on-board free WiFi, we kept an eye on reports of the approaching Typhoon Jebi which is suppose to hit after nightfall.

local aunties and uncles having a photography ball after departure
we pre-booked the outdoor seating... all of em

Even before the Covid-19 pandemic, we opted to keep our baggage outdoors where we had the whole seating area to ourselves. Personally, being outdoors prevented me from getting sea sick but the boat was pretty stable throughout. We did venture inside the indoor seating area which was basically large spaces with tatami mats, there are no seatings (in 2nd class). Everyone had to remove their footwear prior to getting on the tatami and following Japanese style, we arranged our footwear in an outward direction too.

Footwear lining up facing outwards. So Japanesesandals is Penang tho
the best milk in the world, IMHO ... and i didn't lau sai

After an hour, the sight of the cone-shaped shy Mount Rishiri (利尻島) came into view over the horizon. Someday will want to climb to the peak :). By now, our faces were so dry from the constant sea wind. lol.

suddenly the passengers all moved port-side and there is Mount Fuji... er... Rishiri

Another 45mins later, our destination of the day – Rebun island came into view on the starboard (right) of the ship. And soon enough, the ferry was slowly gostan-ning and docking on Kafuka port.

land ahoy! - passing inbetween breakwaters
Japanese passengers leaving the mats as clean as when they arrive. Not a single sampah

We booked Pension Uni for out 2-night stay. Pensions are family-run accommodation in Japan and Uni (sea urchin) is my favorite delicacy in the world. It is located nearby Kafuka port and is walking distance actually but they provide free shuttle service upon your arrival so do inform them (email in English is ok) prior. The oto-san (dad) was waiting for us at the arrival hall.

Oto-san only speaks limited English and lots of gestures

After a short ride, we quickly left our belongings, grabbed the trail leaflet and headed out for a hike using the Momo-iwa trail (Peach Rock – momo being peach and iwa, rock) which starts just behind our pension. The total hike distance is about 9.3km round trip with 500m of elevation gain. With Typhoon Jebi fast arriving, we did not expect blue skies anymore.

typhoon, why u come to this area??

After turning in from the main road, the path turns into a dirt road and with no wind at all, it was pretty hot and humid. We had to peel of layers of clothing coz we were actually sweating a lot.

mysterious road

About 15 minutes later, it got colder with the presence of a mist making visibility just a few meters only. It got worst and worst as we ascended higher. Thank goodness it was only a singular well-marked path.

thankfully no gorillas in this mist
the view playing achilot with us

After 45mins of mild hiking, we reach this area where we can see the mist and the winds howling with speed. We waited for 15mins at this stop hoping that the mist will go away but it seems like it wouldn’t let up. It kept coming and coming blanketing the whole area with white. So we decided to call off the hike as it would be futile in this kind of weather. See the video below :

With a heavy heavy heart, we traced back our trail down the hill. As we were descending, we could finally see how the whole area looked like because we couldn’t see it earlier in the hike. If finally cleared at the lower elevations. It was 30mins of descending already at this point… we thought “we came this far … and it will be a waste if we didn’t finish this hike”.

Just then, two Japanese hikers came bouncing up the trail greeting us a chirpy “Ohaiyo” (Morning!) and happily hiked on up . From then, we decided to u-turn again to fulfill the reason we came to Rebun for. Hike. Ikimasho!!

wow... there are roads?? now we see it

Up we go again!! By this time, the mist has somewhat cleared abit – exposing beautiful green fields and blue seas – it was simply breathtaking. Although we wished the sun would show up but it was beautiful nonetheless.

a happy bunny .. the two Japanese hikers had already disappeared over the horizon
some of the flowers still left standing after the summer bloom
look how small she is in the presence of nature's beauty.. we are of little significance
some tiny cute flowers blowing in the wind

It was awesome views after awesome views. This island is indeed magnificent especially viewing with our own eyes. The real beauty can only be captured in our memories.

simple trail markers gives you some assurance
the indomitable Mount Rishiri in the background makes a very good direction marker
take me home, babeh

Throughout the 9km hike, we only encountered about 6 hikers in this social distancing-ready location. Reaching the Motochi Lighthouse starts the slow nice descent to Shiretoko town (not to be mistaken with the other more famous Shiretoko National Park).

finally kau liao

We reached the Shiretoko bus stop and waited for awhile. We didn’t have the timetable so we decided to walk along the main road until hopefully a bus will come along. We walked and walked…until we reach the Kafuka town port which is near the pension – not having seen a single bus passing us. Lol.

Penang aunty walking along a social-distancing road

After nearly 4.5 hours of hiking, we were really famish. Since we were at the port, we went up to the first floor of the Kafuka Ferry terminal for our lunch at Take Chan Sushi. It has canteen type feeling with windows facing the sea.

Using limited Japanese, I asked “osusume wa nan de suka?” おすすめは何ですか (recommendation)? She pointed to the menu of the day which is sashimi with rice… I’ll have it. so hungry d. Elaine had the Isokko Ramen (1,500y) – First time I heard of this ramen.. tak apa, tembak saje.

I cannot remember how much d... but it was so dem fresh
Isokko Ramen - loads of sea food - It had some uni too, but I transferred to my bowl since Elaine did not fancy the sea urchin
give us the view of the sea with no air conditioning - anytime
Eh...what is that? I knew she will pass to me this mysterious sea delicacy
Closer inspection - it's a whelk or Tsubu. Like Penang balitong but on steroids. so big. I would love to eat it again given a chance. So nice.

After the deserving lunch, we made our way back to our hotel for some rest as I heard from locals the typhoon is arriving soon. We stopped by a “department store” for some tit-bits. Only way to wait out a typhoon is more Calbees and Kito-Kato. hahahaha.

the largest department store on the island
What are these hydrangea doing in September? lol
It was so quiet and eerily windless - like the calm before the storm

We passed by Rebun Itsukushima Shrine but didn’t go up. After the hike, we were not too keen on climbing more stairs liao. Surrender.

Pension Uni serves the best and fresh meals everytime

After taking our hot water bath, we came down to the communal place for dinner. Pension Uni is the best best best when it comes to serving up culinary magic. I still think they serve the BEST uni I’ve ever tasted in my life. The pension had a full house booking – but one meal left with an empty seat. We chatted awhile with the owners – until suddenly our friend came in for his dinner. The lone ranger from Yokohama hiked the Rebun-rindo (forest) and Rebun-taki (waterfall) trials and miscalculated his timing. lol.

Flounder deep fried.. bagus
i can only see the juicy uni on my left... target locked
thin sliced squid i think - i prefer the seaweed tho

The wind can be heard howling outside with the impending arrival of Typhoon Jebi and it will be the first time in our lives experiencing a typhoon. Tonight we will sleep with beautiful memories and painful legs.

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