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. Hello Takeshi San
    I am taking the JR train from Sapporo to Abashiri for the drift ice on the 19 Dec.
    Stay 1 night, then proceed to Shiretoko. Probably stay 1 night at Otoro or Kawayu.
    Wou,ld like to visit Lake Mashu. Then along the way back to Chitose Airport on the 25 Dec.
    Question : is there drift ice in December and walking around frozen Lake Mashu is possible in December?

  2. Hi Takeshi,

    If I plan to go to Shiretoko in early November, do you know any bus that I can take? From sharibus website, it only runs until the end of October. or do you have any idea where to go from Asahikawa in early November? I have 2.5 days in Asahikawa, plan to visit Sounkyo for day 1, Biei for day 2, maybe skip Furano because some website said that it’s not worth it to visit in November. which one better in early November, Shiretoko or Wakkanai? I don’t have any licence to drive, so a rental car without a driver is not an option, I really depend on public transportation. Do you have any idea?

    Thanks for your feedback.

    1. Hi Diana,

      The bus to Shiretoko runs in even winter time. The following link shows you the timetable of this past winter.
      http://www.sharibus.co.jp/pdf/2018_siretoko.pdf

      It’s hard to say about Shiretoko or Wakkanai. November is a transition season. It may be snowing in some area. It may be too late to see fall foliage in central, eastern and northern Hokkaido. Those are Asahikawa, Abashiri, Shiretoko and Wakkanai. Please expect that it will be winter. But it may be just cold and chilly, and you may not be able to see snow.

      Honestly Sapporo, Otaru, Noboribetsu, Lake Toya and Hakodate may be better to visit in November. Because you still may able to see some fall scenery in these places.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

      1. Hi Takeshi, thanks for the feedback 🙂
        Actually, I have this plan from Sapporo:
        31 Oct: Noboribetsu
        1 Nov: Lake toya
        2 Nov: Hakodate
        3 Nov: day trip to Otaru from Sapporo (is it worth to also include Niseko for my day trip?)
        4 Nov: around Sapporo, then go to Sounkyo onsen
        5 Nov: Sounkyo (Daisetsuzan national park)
        6 Nov: any idea?
        7 Nov: go to Biei and after that go to Shin Chitose airport

        so based on your opinion, before I decide to explore around Asahikawa – Biei – Sapporo, if I still want to visit Shiretoko five lakes, what’s the expectation that I can see there in early November? is it still worth to visit? because the train to reach Shiretoko nor Wakkanai from Asahikawa already takes more than 3 hours.

        Thank you once again 🙂

        1. Hi Diana,

          In my opinion, both Shiretoko and Wakkanai are too far to visit as day trip from Sounkyo or Asahikawa. Especially Shrietoko is way far. Even if you take the first train from Asahikawa, your arrival time in Shiretoko is late afternoon. You cannot go back. You can make a day trip to Wakkanai but I think it’s not worth spending 7 hours on the train. I think just staying in Asahikawa is the best option. Otherwise you may visit Biei on 6th and spending time in Asahikawa on the last day.

          Cheers,

          Takeshi / JPRail.com

  3. Hi Takeshi,
    I plan to visit Rausu for sea watching in coming mid February . Starting from KUSHIRO to RAUSU, I have JR pass. What would you recommend me The transportation.
    Thanks,
    Hung Hoang from California

  4. Hi, I’m planning to go to Shiretoko Five lake on this early October. I’ve booked a hotel in Shari. And I’m planning to go by public transport.
    Do you think is it possible to have a day trip using public transport bus from Shari to Shiretoko Five Lake and taking natural pathway tour then go back to Shari?
    Do you know how much the bus will cost me?

    Thank you very much,
    Arlene

    1. Hi Arlene,

      It is possible. If you take a regular tourist bus, it costs 1000 yen each for Shari to/from Utoro, Utoro-Five Lakes-Utoro. So it costs total 3000 yen.
      http://www.uu-hokkaido.com/corporate/sharibus.shtml

      If you want more flexibility, you can take a regular scheduled bus.
      http://www.sharibus.co.jp/pdf/2017-04-P1.pdf

      Bus fare is 1650 yen for Shari – Utoro, 700 yen for Utoro – Five Lakes and 2000 yen for Shari – Five Lakes. It is higher than the regular tourist bus.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

      1. Hi Takeshi,

        Thank you very much for replying.
        I’m really confused with all the public transport in Shiretoko. You are really helping me here.

        So you recommend the cheaper way to go to shiretoko five lake is by using the regular tourist bus?

        I’ve tried to open the http://www.uu-hokkaido.com/corporate/sharibus.shtml
        To be honest I’m kinda confused reading the website. So if I go with regular tourist bus do I have to take Course A (Shari > Utoro) then Course B (Utoro > Shiretoko Area > Utoro) then Course C (Utoro>Shari)? Correct me if I’m wrong. Because I kinda confused with the website.

        And I can’t find the timetable. Are there only one tourist bus per day?

        Are the people in Shari Bus Station and Utoro Station able to speak English?
        Are we able to buy a ticket in Shari Station? Or do we need to do reservation from the website?

        Thank you very much,
        Arlene

        1. Hi Arlene,

          I did not recommend you to use the regular tourist bus. If you take this bus, your schedule will be fixed. It is totally up to you.
          I gave two links. You can find the timetable of the regular bus (not regular tourist bus) in the second line. It is written in Japanese mostly but you can find the bus stop name in English.

          Cheers,

          Takeshi / JPRail.com

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