How to access World Heritage Shiretoko by railway. Japan Rail Pass can be used to access there?

Shiretoko Pass is the highlight of Shiretoko peninsula. (C) JNTO
Shiretoko Pass is the highlight of Shiretoko peninsula. (C) JNTO

Shiretoko is one of UNESCO World heritage site in Japan. Shiretoko cannot be accessed by only rail, you need to take the bus from the station. You have two way to access to Shiretoko. The first one is from Abashiri(網走) via Shiretoko-Shari(知床斜里). The other one is to access from Kushiro(釧路). The nearest station is Shiretoko-Shari(知床斜里). So if you want to save the money, take Abashiri via Shiretoko-Shari route. Let’s see the time and extra cost.

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Access from Abasiri via Shiretoko-Shari

This is most popular route to access Shiretoko. Shiretoko-Shari is 40 minutes away from Abashiri by the local train. Abashiri can be accessed by Limited express train “Okhotsk” from Sapporo where is the biggest city in Hokkaido. But we only have 4 trips of express train from Sapporo. And one more trip is added in Ryuhyo (Drift ice) season. This seasonal train is called “Ryuhyo Limited Express Okhotsk no Kaze”. This express train is operated by the different type train set from regular trains. Please see the details on Ryuhyo Limited Express Okhotsk no Kaze.
Then you need to take a local train to get Shiretoko-Shari. There are also only 9 local trains from Abashiri to Shiretoko-Shari. It is very limited access by rail. In Drift ice season, there are some additional train between Abashiri and Shiretoko-shari too. This train is called “Ryuhyu Norokko train”. This train is designed for Drift ice watching from the train. Please see the details about this train at Ryuhyo Norokko train.

If you stay in Sapporo, your sample itinerary is the following;
07:21 Depart from Sapporo by Ltd Express Okhotsk 1
12:46 Arrive at Abashiri
13:25 Depart from Abashiri by the local train
14:12 Arrive at Shiretoko-Shari
14:20 Depart from Shiretoko-Shari by bus (operated by Shari Bus company)
*This website is in Japanese only.
15:10 Arrive at Utoro

If you stay in Abashiri, your sample itinerary is the following;
06:41 Depart from Abashiri by the local train
07:22 Arrive at Shiretoko-Shari
08:00 Depart from Shiretoko-Shari by bus (operated by Shari Bus company)
*This website is in Japanese only.
08:50 Arrive at Utoro

These itineraries are based on 2010 summer schedule. If you travel in winter time, the bus service is very limited. The bus fare is 1,490 yen from Shiretoko-Shari to Utoro one way, from Utoro to Rausu at 1,310 yen, and some bus take you to directly to Rausu from Shiretoko-Shari at 2,410 yen.

Utoro(ウトロ) is located in the west coast side of Shiretoko Peninsula. It is the gate town to go around Shiretoko. You can access to Shiretoko Five Lakes, Kamuiwakka Falls and Shiretoko Pass from Utoro. And also you can access to Rausu(羅臼), the east side of Shiretoko Peninsula, via those sightseeing spot. It takes another 50 minutes from Utoro to Rausu.

Access from Kushiro

You can access to Kushiro from Sapporo by Limited Express Super Ozora. We have 7 trips from Sapporo to Kushiro. So it is a bit more convenient than Abashiri. You can access to Rausu from Kushiro by bus. It takes about 3 hours and 30 minutes. We have four trips in weekdays. But we only have two trips in weekend. By the way, this bus line is the longest operated local bus in Japan.

If you stay in Sapporo, your sample itinerary is the following;
09:04 Depart from Sapporo by Ltd Express Super Ozora 3
13:03 Arrive at Kushiro
13:50 Depart from Kushiro by bus (operated by Akan Bus company)
*This website is in Japanese only.
17:35 Rausu

If you stay in Kushiro, your can take the first departure at 07:35 from Kushiro. It will arrive at 11:05. We have another two departures in weekdays only at 10:05 and 16:00 from Kushiro. The bus fare is 4,740 yen one way. We have two departures at 06:40 and 12:45 from Rausu everyday. And another two departures at 09:10 and 16:50 in weekdays only.

Sample Itinerary

If you want to enjoy Shiretoko and another sightseeing area in the east part of Hokkaido, take Abashiri via Shiretoko to Kushiro. You access to Lake Mashu, Lake Akan and Kushiro Marsh on the way to Kushiro from Shiretoko or from Kushiro. If you want to see Kushiro Marsh, take the local train from Shiretoko-shari to Kushiro. Please refer one of 7 days sample itineraries, Hokkaido 7 days. If you want to enjoy Shiretoko, save time and not to hesitate to spend extra cost, take the bus from Rausu. You must see Shiretoko both Utoro and Rausu.

15 thoughts on “How to access World Heritage Shiretoko by railway. Japan Rail Pass can be used to access there?”

  1. Planning to visit North Eastern Hokkaido on Dec 27 to Jan 12, 2018. Can we use our 14days JR Pass in N.E. Hokkaido? After Hokkaido trip we will visit Tokyo all the way to Hiroshima… we are group of hobbyist photographers.

    Thank you,

  2. Hi again Takeshi, we are trying to fit the whole Shiretoko in one day following you schedule. We are definetely going to the five lakes but we are not sure about the waterfalls. Which ones do you suggest?

    We are tempted to visit Kamuiwakka falls but we are not sure if it is worth, as I have read the access to the upper part is closed (we wouldnt climb a hard route either)

    And then, Furuppe or Oshinkoshin Falls?

    To visit all of them we should only visit the first lake, so? What is best? What place would you discard?

    Again, my best thanks from Spain

    1. Hi Maria,

      Actually I have never been to both Shiretoko lakes and falls. I’ve been to only Utoro. Please ask it on other site.


      Takeshi / JP Rail

  3. Only one week to fly to Japan, and here I am back to your advice. I am having problems finding a rental car in Abashiri due to Obon, I guess, so I am checking the public transportation options to Shire-toko for one day. As we have JR passes we will arrive to Shari Eki to get the bus to Utoro and the likes. Do you think this is possible in a one day excursion from Abashiri? And another question: Is there a free pass to use this buses for a day to be able to visit different spots with a single ticket?

    Once more, thanks in advance and congratulations for your site. It is so helpful.

    1. Hi Maria,

      It’s not impossible. If you take earliest bus and last bus, schedule is like this:
      Abashiri 06:41 – 07:22 Shiretokoshari 08:10 – 09:35 Shiretoko Gogo (five lake) 10:40 – 11:00 Utoro 17:00 – 17:50 Shiretokoshari 18:07 – 18:49 Abashiri

      You can add wherever you want. But only single ticket is available. There are some passes but it covers from Sapporo to Shiretoko. It it obviously too much for you trip.


      Takeshi / JP Rail

  4. This is such a handy site! Thanks for the updates re Hayabusa, by the way. I’m also trying to plan a fairly quick trip to Shiretoko at the end of May. Your info here is great. But I’ve been checking Looks like we just can’t get across the Shiretoko Pass by bus to Rausu then – or even from Utoro to Kamuiwakka Falls. Have I got this wrong?

    1. Hello Dave,
      Thanks for your comment.
      As you asked about the bus to Rausu from Utoto/Shiretoko-Shari, you are right. The summer in Shiretoko is so short. Shiretoko pass is closed during winter time. This is the reason why the bus is not operated during winter.
      You can go Shiretoko five lakes even in winter time. But you cannot go to Rausu and Kamuiwakka falls.
      I will revise my site and mention about the winter schedule.
      Takeshi / JP Rail

  5. Yes we did. We did a circuit which included Kushiro Marsh, Akan, lake Mashu, shiretoko and abishiri.

    The sea ice was truly beautiful. It was best at Shietoko, but we had to travel to Abishiri to take a boat out on to the ice. It was cold though.

    I notice you said you live in Canada, but I take it you were originally from Japan.

  6. Thanks for the Article. Love the Website.

    Shiretoko is one of those must see places. I have been twice both in summer and winter and loved it. Go to the 5 lakes and the hot spring waterfall. Truly wild and beautiful.

    Ive traveled in more than 30 countries, but I would have to say that Hokkaido is probably my favourite place.

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