Shiretoko National Park

五湖 "Goko" Five Lakes, Shiretoko National Park

Shiretoko National Park (知床国立公園 Shiretoko-kokuritsukōen) covers the entirety of the Shiretoko Peninsula (知床半島 Shiretoko-hantō), a remote northeastern corner of the Japanese island of Hokkaido. In 2005, the park was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.


Shiretoko is one of the most remote areas of all Japan. The national park has no sizable settlements, and the northern portion of the peninsula does not even have any roads. Peak visiting season is during the short summer season; the park is open all year round, but the conditions in winter can be very harsh.

Get in

Public transport to Shiretoko is extremely limited. The nearest train station is at Shari, from where you can catch infrequent buses (3 per day in peak season) through Utoro to the western coast of the peninsula. On the eastern side is the small town of Rausu, reachable by bus from Kushiro (3.5 hours) and (in summer only) two daily buses from Utoro as well.

Get around

Getting around for all practical purposes requires your own set of wheels, as buses services are limited and infrequent, especially outside the peak summer season. Note that the northern side of the peninsula is off-limits to cars of any sort. There are no roads on the southern side of the peninsula past Rausu.



There are a number of popular hikes, but most require spending a night or two on the trail. The volcanically active Mt. Iō (1563m) is generally off limits due to the sulphuric fumes it spews out (it last erupted in 1936), but Mt. Shiretoko (1245m) at the northern tip is a possibility. Kamuiwakka Falls trail head closed, but the trails are open.

  • Iwaobetsu Course (岩尾別コース) (Starts in the NW.). This is the most popular and less-rugged course.
  • Rausu Onsen Course (羅臼温泉コース) (Starts at the Rausu Onsen Campground. The visitor desk there has a log book.). Most hikers start around 5AM. This course is around 14.6km roundtrip and, because of the large elevation gain, takes 9-12 hours. It is best to carry water from the bottom or use (properly treated) snow melt there are some steam vents and sulfurous areas that might make the stream water undrinkable.



There are few places to eat in Shiretoko. The youth hostel has affordable meals and will pack a lunch on request. Sometimes there are food stalls at Shiretoko Pass.


Shiretoko's sole alcoholic entertainment option is the tongue-in-cheek Izakaya Iwaobetsu at the youth hostel, consisting of a beer vending machine.


Upscale lodging can be found in nearby Rausu and Utoro in Shari.

Stay safe

Shiretoko claims Japan's largest bear population, a fact stressed to no end in local tourist literature. In practice, the Hokkaido brown bear (ezo-higuma) is no match for the North American grizzly, and you are exceedingly unlikely to be attacked if you observe a modicum of common sense. That said, most hikers wear tinkling bells known as kumasuzu to alert bears (which shy away from human contact), and you should not leave any food in or near your tent if camping.

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