Local rider Noriko guides you through the Hokkaido Gourmet Road to Lake Kussharo.

Hello! I’m Noriko, a local rider from the Okhotsk region of Hokkaido.
As the drift ice recedes and the snow melts away, the cycling season is finally here!
This time, since it’s the beginning of the season, I’d like to take you on a route where you can feel the breath of nature while warping by car.

So let’s start right away from Memanbetsu Airport!

The aerial gateway to the Okhotsk region, Memanbetsu Airport.

In the pleasant seasons ahead, you can enjoy leisurely rides along the stretches of roads in Hokkaido, surrounded by the great outdoors. Passing by viewpoints like the ‘Märchen Hill Memanbetsu’ and ‘Märchen Hill Road Station,’ our first stop is ‘Gelateria Rimo’ in Yobito (Abashiri City).

Near Märchen Hill. The roads may be rough, but I’ll ride through typical Hokkaido farmland.
Gelateria Rimo (a popular shop with long lines on holidays).

This shop boasts the only Japanese Maestro who has achieved a double victory in the international gelato contest, the pride of Italy, the home of gelato.

Many more flavors will be introduced in the seasons to come.

I chose Chocolata, Milk, and Sakura (limited-time).

The Chocolata was light and delicious, with a rich milkiness and a refreshing aftertaste, featuring a subtle hint of cherry blossom flavor. Its fluffy and soft texture, along with its slightly small size, made it disappear in no time.

After refueling with some sugar, I’ll head towards my next destination, Mount Tentozan, riding towards the mountains.

This uphill stretch is about 6 kilometers long, ascending 200 meters.

It’s a gentle slope with a nice view of Lake Abashiri on the left. Traffic is light, making it easy to ride, but it’s still quite tough to keep climbing all the way to the top. However, the view from the summit is absolutely stunning!

Tentozan Okhotsk Drift Ice Museum

While it’s the season for cycling, in Tokoro on the Okhotsk Sea side, you can enjoy a ‘Drift Ice Ride’ using fat bikes. Also, there’s the delicious ‘Hairy Crab’ known as the ‘post-drift ice crab,’ which has absorbed plenty of nutrients such as plankton brought by the drift ice.
Moreover, the real ‘drift ice’ is exhibited here at the Drift Ice Museum. Every year, in mid-March, the drift ice is replaced, and the powerful drift ice is displayed year-round.

Also, here you’ll find soft-serve ice cream supervised by Gelateria Rimo. The limited edition salted caramel flavor here, reminiscent of the blue salt of the drift ice, has just the right balance of sweetness and saltiness, making it deliciously addictive. When you can’t visit Rimo, I recommend trying this drift ice soft-serve ice cream here.

The blue salt is colored with a natural pigment derived from seaweed.
The Hokkaido Museum of Northern Peoples is 0.8 km from the Drift Ice Museum.

It’s nearby, but the steep downhill with sharp curves and gravel requires careful riding. There’s a walking path, so it might be better to walk your bike.

Hokkaido Museum of Northern Peoples

It showcases the cultures of northern peoples, including the Ainu, as well as those from Okhotsk, Greenland, and Northern Europe. Focusing on clothing, food, shelter, and rituals, the museum displays a wide variety of tools, lifestyles, and beliefs of these regions. It’s the only museum in Japan dedicated to northern peoples.

I have received permission to park my bicycle here.

Next, from the Hokkaido Museum of Northern Peoples, we head towards the ‘Path of Emotion’ 9.2 km away.

Enjoy a comfortable ride with panoramic views of the mountains.
You can see the Sea of Okhotsk and the Shiretoko Mountain Range, truly savoring the quintessential Hokkaido scenery.

The Path of Emotion has gentle ups and downs. Ride through the open countryside to ‘Nonky Land Higashimokoto Road Station’ for lunch. This road station also has a hotel and is popular with hikers. Higashimokoto is famous for Shibazakura (Phlox subulate), cheese, and nagaimo. The ankake yakisoba I had included diced nagaimo, providing a nice crunchy texture.

Ankake yakisoba with nagaimo

Also, I recommend the fresh dorayaki from ‘Sugano Kashi Tsukasa.’ There’s a store nearby, but you can also find it at the road station’s shop.

The handmade dorayaki, with bean paste cooked from scratch, hand-grilled dough, and mixed with fresh cream, is fluffy with a light sweetness. Both the filling and the dough are delicious.

7.6 km from the road station is Shibazakura Park, famous for its moss phlox.

Higashi Mokoto Shibazakura Park (Image excerpted from the Shibazakura Festival flyer)

The Shibazakura Festival runs from May 3rd to May 31st this year. Throughout the festival, various events are planned, and the road leading to the park can get very crowded. Please be cautious, as some parts of the road are narrow.

From here, it’s an uphill climb all the way to the summit of Mokoto Pass. Once you crest the top, there’s a viewpoint at the Mokoto Pass Observatory Parking Lot.

The view from the Mokoto Pass Observatory Parking Lot

It’s breathtaking!!!
While I’m accustomed to seeing Lake Kussharo from Bihoro Pass, the view from Mokoto Pass reveals the lake’s vast expanse, giving a sense of its overall size and doubling its grandeur. The white area in the distance is where we’re heading next, Mount Iou. As we’ve reached the pass, it’s downhill from here, so naturally, we’re heading down, down, down. Time for some brakes on this descent.

Altitude is 512 meters. We’ve arrived at Mount Iou, designated as an active volcano.

At the foot of Mount Iou, there’s a rest house called ‘MOKMOK Base.’ Inside the building, there’s a ‘MOKMOK Terrace,’ and a ‘MOKMOK Theater’ where you can enjoy the breathtaking views of Mount Iou, presented like paintings or movies. Here, you can experience the power, smell, and smoke of nature in a way you can’t anywhere else. You can also enjoy treats like ‘Kawayu Onsen Steamed Eggs’ and ‘Non-Caffeine Soy Coffee.’

MOKMOK Terrace
The view from the MOKMOK Theater

After leaving Mount Iou, a 2.8 km ride will bring you to our final destination, Kawayu Onsen.
When strolling through the hot spring town, you’ll notice many closed buildings, but the ‘Kawayu Visitor Center’ stands out with its stylish design. Inside, you’ll find numerous exhibits, including stuffed bears. Although we didn’t have time to visit the café on the second floor this time, I hope to come back again.

Finally, we’ll conclude this ride at the foot bath near the Visitor Center.

Recover from fatigue with negative ions, 16 times higher than in the city center!
A sulfuric acidic hot spring containing clear and greenish sulfur, with a rare volcanic characteristic in Japan.

The great scenery makes cycling in Hokkaido enjoyable, whether on flat roads or with altitude changes. As we head towards October, the weather will only get better. Please come visit Hokkaido and Okhotsk!

🚲Today’s ride:
Total distance: 77.8 km Elevation gain: 1,358 meters
Total time: 7 hours and 30 minutes, including detours and sightseeing. Additionally, there was some traveling by car, so if we calculate at an average speed of 15 km/h, the riding time would be 5 hours and 32 minutes.
*I brought sneakers with us as we entered the buildings.


Text_Noriko Sugano

Noriko Sugano

Born and raised in Kitami City, Hokkaido. As my family had a farm, I started commuting to school by bicycle from the fourth grade of elementary school. It was a 10km round trip to elementary school, 11km round trip to middle school, and for high school, I commuted by JR train, which was an 8km round trip to the nearest station.
I got married to my husband, who had a similar lifestyle, and we had a child. To my surprise, our eldest son expressed his desire to ride a road bike when he was in middle school! On his own!? Riding a road bike!? With various concerns in mind, we decided to have my husband accompany our son and act as his bodyguard. My husband, who initially said, “I’m done with cycling,” was impressed by the exhilaration and excitement of riding a road bike, exclaiming, “A road bike is completely different from any bicycle I knew before!”
We started with local rides, and also enjoyed driving to different destinations with our bikes loaded in the car, going for rides at those locations. We even went on rides where I would meet my husband, who had already set off on his road bike, to accompany him on the journey. We have been enjoying a cycling lifestyle as a family.

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