How to get to the Shiretoko peninsula: The access route from Abashiri and Kushiro to Utoro and Rausu

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

The Shiretoko Peninsula is one of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Japan. It is one of the best places to enjoy the nature of Hokkaido. I will share you the information about the access route to Shiretoko.

Overview

The base of Shiretoko sightseeing is Utoro or Rausu. Utoro is the largest town in Shiretoko and has hot springs. Rausu is the second town, but it is slightly more difficult to access than Utoro.

During the summer, a road that crosses the Shiretoko Peninsula is open and you can pass between Utoro and Rausu, but in the winter the road is closed and basically you can only stay in Utoro or Rausu.

In the summer season, you can enjoy sightseeing and various outdoor activities based on Utoro or Rausu. The drift ice watching is very popular in the winter time, and you can not only see the drift ice, but also enjoy activities such as going on the ice.

Access to Utoro from Abashiri via Shiretoko-Shari

Utoro, Shiretoko
Bird-eye view of Shiretoko

The route from Abashiri to Utoro via Shiretoko-Shari is the most common route because of more frequent service of buses than an access to Rausu.

From Abashiri to Shiretoko Shari, take the JR Senmo line local train, and from Shiretoko Shari to Utoro, ride on a local bus operated by the Shari Bus. It takes less than 1 hour on each train and bus, so the total time is about 2 hours.

At Shiretoko Shari Station, there is a bus terminal in front of the station, so a transfer from train to bus is very easy.

In February 2020, I went to Utoro from Abashiri via Shiretoko Shari just before Covid-19 outbreak in Japan. Please watch the movie below and you will find how to take a train and a bus from Abashiri to Utoro via Shiretoko-Shari:

From Sapporo and Asahikawa to Abashiri, the limited express Okhotsk and Taisetsu run on this segment. Please read the following article to find more information:

If you use JR Pass or Hokkaido Rail Pass, all train trips are covered. But you have to pay for a bus from Shiretoko-Shari to Utoro.

You can find the timetable of bus for Shiretoko-Shari to/from Utoro in the link below. Utoro is one of the bases in Shiretoko peninsula.

Shari bus timetable (PDF)

You also can find the timetable of tourist bus. This is a guided bus for overseas tourist. You can visit Shiretoko as day trip by this bus service.

Shari bus English information

Access to Utoro from Kushiro via Shiretoko-Shari

Kamuiwakka falls
Kamuiwakka falls cannot be accessed from the land. Only boat cruise is the way to see this falls.

You can take the JR Senmo line local train from Kushiro to Shiretoko-Shari. The trip time is more than 2 hours. And the number of train trips is much fewer than Abashiri to Shiretoko-Shari. You must check a timetable before you go. If you miss a train, you have to wait for a few hours.

After an arrival in Shiretoko-Shari, take same route as Abashiri to Utoro.

The limited express Super Ozora connects Sapporo and Kushiro. Please read the article below to find more information of this train:

Access to Rausu from Kushiro

Shiretoko five lake
Shiretoko Goko Lakes (Shiretoko Five Lakes) are located between Utoro and Rausu.

You can also take a bus from Kushiro to Rausu. However, the number of buses is very limited, and on weekends there are only two round trips a day.

Unfortunately the timetable of the bus service between Kushiro and Rausu is available in Japanese only. You can find it in the link below:

Akan Bus route between Kushiro and Rausu

The bus from Kushiro to Rausu takes about 4 hours. Since this bus service focuses on regional transportation rather than sightseeing, it stops at many bus stops and is very time consuming.

If you really want to go to Rausu, I think a drive is a more realistic option.

Summary

Shiretoko is a little bit hard-to-go destination, but it is worth to visit in my view. You can enjoy both summer and winter, so please try to include it in your travel plan.

I hope this article helps you to build your trip plan to Shiretoko.

32 thoughts on “How to get to the Shiretoko peninsula: The access route from Abashiri and Kushiro to Utoro and Rausu”

  1. Hi JR,

    Going to Hokkaido in early June.
    Planning to go to Siretoko for few days.
    Will be travelling with family and will not be driving.
    Since i will not be driving, should i go to this area? Some sites says driving required.
    And is June a good time to here or should i visit somewhere else instead.

    Thanks
    Nuve

  2. Hi there,
    I plan to use the Rhyhyo Train from Abashiri to Shiretoko Shari (945-1040) in Feb 14,2018. but I am not sure if it is worth going to Utoro. Not sure if the bus operates on an hourly basis during winter. I then need to go back the same day. Do you know if it would be worth it?
    Thanks!

  3. 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,

  4. 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.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JP Rail

  5. 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.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JP Rail

  6. 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 http://www.sharibus.co.jp/timetable.pdf. 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

  7. 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.

  8. 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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