A to Wa of Japan: Week 41

It’s time for A to Wa of Japan again! Last week’s post was about things beginning with  ら (ra) and we looked at Ranma (欄間 / らんま). This week we are looking at things beginning with り (ri). A big thank you to those who joined in with suggestions this week:

Zooming Japan suggested Rilakkuma (リラックマ / a bear character); ThroughTheLookingGlassAndDownTheRabbitHole suggested ringo (リンゴ / apple); Japan Australia suggested Rishiri-to (利尻島 / an island in Hokkaido), and Rinzai (臨済宗 / a school of Zen Buddhism); my Mum also suggested Rilakkuma; and Paul suggested rikishi (力士 / sumo wrestlers), Rikidozan (力道山 / a pro-wrestler who became a national hero in the 1950/60s), and Rip Slyme (a rap group).

Thanks for the ideas this week everyone! It seems like ‘ri’ was another tough one to think of topics for, but in the end I decided to write about…

Rishiri-to (利尻島)

Mount Rishiri © Yasufumi Nishi/© JNTO

Mount Rishiri © Yasufumi Nishi/© JNTO

There are so many parts of Japan I have yet to discover. The further north I look, the more unknown I names I find, and today I’m going up to the very north, right to the edge of Hokkaido, to Rishiri-to, or Rishiri Island.

Rishiri-to is an island about 20 kilometres off the northern tip of Hokkaido, with a circumference of about 63 kilometres and a population of just over 5,000. The island is part of Hokkaido Prefecture, and is made up of two towns: Rishiri and Rishirifuji.

At the centre of the island is Mount Rishiri (利尻山), which is a dormant volcano standing at 1,721 metres. It is possible to climb the mountain, with its climbing season opening in July, but apparently it’s quite a difficult climb and takes a full day. If climbing’s not your thing, the 5th station of the mountain can be reached by car, and there is an observation deck there. However, if you do climb the mountain you should definitely look out for this small shrine at its summit:

Shrine at Mount Rishiri's summit

Shrine at Mount Rishiri’s summit

(Image source)

The main industries on the island are fishing and tourism, but Rishiri Island is not a place I would think many Western tourists get to. The island was only vaguely on my radar after hearing about nearby Rebun Island (礼文島), and I can’t say I’ve explored Hokkaido that much at all (yet!). Rishiri Island and Rebun Island together make up the Rishiri-Rebun-Sarobetsu National Park (利尻礼文サロベツ国立公園), which was established in 1974.

Mount Rishiri © Yasufumi Nishi/© JNTO

Mount Rishiri © Yasufumi Nishi/© JNTO

Rishiri-to is accessed by ferry from amusingly named Wakkanai (稚内). ‘Wakanai’ is a casual way to say ‘wakarimasen’, which means ‘I don’t know’ or ‘I don’t understand’. Although the pronunciation is slightly different, I always thought it would be incredibly difficult to be a foreigner living in Wakkanai!

Ferry to Rishiri-to

Ferry to Rishiri-to

(Image source)

I don’t imagine tourists will ever be flocking in their hundreds to Rishiri-to, but that is part of the attraction for me. If I ever find myself exploring Hokkaido and in need of a little island escape, Rishiri-to would certainly be on my list of places to escape to.

Mount Rishiri & seagull © Yasufumi Nishi/© JNTO

Mount Rishiri & seagull © Yasufumi Nishi/© JNTO


Next week we’ll start with る (ru), so please leave a comment below suggesting a topic for things beginning with る. Topics can be anything, as long as they are connected to Japan – food, places, people, characters, whatever you want to hear about! Just remember that the words you suggest must be Japanese words.

I look forward to hearing your suggestions!  (*^_^)v

10 thoughts on “A to Wa of Japan: Week 41

  1. Thanks for using my suggestion! Rishiri-to is definitely a place I’d love to explore one day.

    A few suggestions for next week are:

    Ruriko-ji (a famous temple in Yamaguchi)
    Rusutsu (a ski resort in Hokkaido)


  2. I’ve not made it to Hokkaido yet but definitely want to go in the future.

    As for る, I can’t think of anything except for RuRuBu (るるぶ) travel guides, which are magazine style tourist guides/restaurant advert brochures.


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