Muroran: Awe-inspiring urban and natural views



 Muroran is an industrial port city in southeastern Hokkaido, Japan. With its stunning natural landscapes and lovely night view spots, Muroran is a hidden gem waiting to be discovered. Nestled between scenic mountains and the beautiful Pacific Ocean, Muroran offers a feast for the eyes. The city is known for its impressive coastline, which offers panoramic views of the vast ocean. From the vibrant blue hues of the water to the rugged cliffs and rocky formations, every view is like a postcard coming to life. Whether you’re strolling along the shore or admiring the view from a distance, the beauty of Muroran’s coastline is truly captivating.

 Muroran is an industrial city that has preserved its natural beauty despite its development. Usually, industrial cities are associated with pollution and concrete, but Muroran breaks the mold. Thanks to its forward-thinking approach to urban planning, Muroran has managed to maintain a harmonious balance between industry and nature. Also, the contrast between the city’s industrial landscape and its surrounding natural beauty is truly striking. The man-made part of the city also creates part of the famous Muroran night view, so the balance between nature and the cityscape is equally important for the Muroran scenery.

 In this blog post, you can read about Muroran city, its stunning coastal landscapes, and scenic night view spots. If you are interested in adding a tour of night views in Hokkaido to your travel plan, you might also want to take a look at our earlier blog post Hakodate: The City of Breathtaking Night Views.

1. What you should know about Muroran
2. The night views of Muroran
3. The spectacular coastline of Muroran
4. Tasty and fun Muroran

What you should know about Muroran

 Muroran (室蘭) is a busy port city in central southern Hokkaido, Japan, and the capital of the Iburi subprefecture. The city is located in Etomo Peninsula (絵鞆半島) that protrudes into the ocean at the border of Uchiura Bay and the Pacific Ocean, and the sandbar attached to the peninsula. Together they form a horse shoe-shaped landmass that is also a great natural harbor. The city is surrounded by mountains in the north. The total area of the city is 80.88 km2 and there were about 77,400 people living there in mid-2023, which makes the city the 11th largest city in Hokkaido in terms of population. The city is about 2-hour-drive (130 km/81 miles) from Sapporo—the main hub of Hokkaido—and about 1 hour and 15 minutes (94 km/58 miles) away from New Chitose Airport.

 The name Muroran, like most of the other place names in Hokkaido, comes from the Ainu language. Ainu are the indigenous people of northern Japan and they have their own distinct culture and language. One of the explanations of the origin of Muroran’s Ainu name is that it comes from mo ru eran i, ’the place where a small road descends’ or ’a small hill’. It is said that this small descending route or small hill refers to a slope going down from central Muroran to Sakimori town.

 Ainu have lived in Muroran for ages but the Matsumae clan, which was in charge of the early Japanese settlements in Hokkaido, took control over Muroran and made the city a trading post for Japanese-Ainu trade in the 16th century. After Japan annexed Hokkaido, the city was developed into an important transportation hub and was one of the international ports in Japan. In the early 20th century, the Japan Steel Works was founded by cooperation of 3 Japanese and British companies and since then the city has been known for its steel and chemistry industries.


 Besides its industries, Muroran is known for its breathtaking scenery. The outer rim of the Etomo peninsula (絵鞆半島外海岸/Etomo hanto gaikaigan) is a 14-km-long series of cliffs that have been featured in Japan Broadcasting Company’s (NHK) geographical TV program Bura tamori (ブラタモリ) and the cliffs have also been designated as one of the Pirka noka heritage sites of Hokkaido (ピリカノカ) (an outbound link, in Japanese only). Pirka noka is an Ainu language word and means ’beautiful form.’ The pirka nokas are unique landforms including sites appearing in Ainu legends and sites for praying to the kamuy, the spiritual beings all around us.

To celebrate its amazing sceneries, Muroran is promoting eight specific scenic sights called Eight views of Muroran (an outbound link, PDF file) or Muroran hakke (室蘭八景) in Japanese. The eight views are

 1. Night view of Muroran Harbor

 2. View from the Mt. Sokuryo observation deck

 3. Daikokujima

 4. Cape Etomo

 5. Kinbyobu and Ginbyobu cliffs

 6. Sea view from the Masuichi Beach

 7. View from the Cape Chikyu

 8. Tokkarisho

 Numbers from 5 to 8 on the Eight views list are part of Pirka noka. You can read about these views and many more in the next two sections, so keep on reading!

The night views of Muroran

 Let’s start with the night views. The scenery of the city drastically changes when the sun starts to set and when the first stars appear in the sky in the twilight. As the natural light wanes, the city lights are lit one by one and the city starts to glow like a jewel. There are several different spots to view from varying angles: bird’s view, eye level, and looking up. Here you can read about the specific spots that are worth viewing during the night and also about the different places to view those spots.

 Muroran harbor night scenery (室蘭港の夜景/Muroranko no yakei) is something you don’t want to miss when visiting Muroran. The lights of the factories surrounding the port and the illumination of the Hakucho Bridge create a beautiful night view that looks like a glittering jewel box. This spectacular view can be viewed best from Mt. Sokuryo Observatory (測量山展望台/Sokuryozan tenbodai). Another great way to view this scenery is the nighttime cruise. Some people even arrange their wedding on a night cruise in the port for a romantic atmosphere.

The Hakucho Bridge (白鳥大橋/Hakucho Ohashi) (an outbound link) that spans over the Muroran port is the largest suspension bridge in eastern Japan and it’s an impressive sight, especially during the night. This elegant white bridge was opened in June 1998 and has since become a symbol of Muroran Port and a landmark of the whole city. The bridge is 1,380 meters long and its main tower is about 140 meters high. The name of the bridge translates into Swan Bridge in English. The bridge is illuminated during the night with 228 lights on the main cable and 44 lights on the main tower, which are illuminated by wind power generation from sunset to midnight. The bridge can be seen from most of the locations in the city but there are several especially good spots to admire this graceful swan: The Hakucho Bridge Observatory (白鳥大橋展望台/Hakucho ohashi tenbodai) (the closest view), the Hakucho Bay Observatory (白鳥湾展望台/Hakuchowan tenbodai), Shukutsu Park Observatory (祝津公園展望台/Shukutsu koen tenbodai), Shiomi Park Observatory (潮見公園展望台/Shiomi koen tenbodai), and Mt. Sokuryo Observatory (測量山展望台/Sokuryozan tenbodai).

 Muroran industrial night scenery (室蘭工場夜景/Muroran kojo yakei) is one of the 12 best night views of factories in Japan. The idea of promoting industrial views for tourism started in 2011 at the first National Factory Night View Summit jointly arranged by Muroran city, Yokkaichi city, and Kitakyushu city. The nightscape of Muroran and its factories is unique to the manufacturing city—as Muroran is often titled—with its forest of large factories, including steel, shipbuilding, and chemical plants. The shining lights of varying colors create an unforgettably mesmerizing scenery of the port and the factories. There is a strange beauty in the form, presence, and beauty of the factories in addition to the beauty of the shining security lights.

Mt. Sokuryo (199.6 m) (測量山/Sokuryozan) (an outbound link) is a good spot for viewing the night view over the city and the port. The mountain was used as a survey point during road construction in the 19th century and the Japanese name of the mountain, Sokuryo, means ’surveying’. The mountain itself also is a beautiful spot to view. The six TV antenna towers on the top of the mountain can be lit up on request (and 4,000 yen payment) to celebrate births, weddings, or founding of new companies, or to remember lost loved ones, etc. In this way, the citizens can directly take part in the formation of the night view. This view is called Mt. Sokuryo Light-up (測量山ライトアップ/Sokuryozan raitoappu). The light-up was started by a citizens group to cheer up the Muroran dwellers in 2016 and at the start of the project, the light-up was on every night for 10,000 consecutive nights (except for three nights after the death of the Showa emperor). You can view the light-up of the TV towers from anywhere in the city but some special places to enjoy this night view are for example Mt. Sokuryo Green Space Park (測量山緑地/Sokuryozan ryokuchi), Onnasokuryozan Park (女測量山公園/Onnasokuryozan koen), and Shukutsu Park Observatory (祝津公園展望台/Shukutsu koen tenbodai).

The spectacular coastline of Muroran

 While the night views of Muroran are spectacular, so are the day views on the rugged coastline. There are several famous sceneries along the coastline that can be enjoyed both from ashore and from the sea as well. Here is an introduction to the most important sites.

Cape Chikyu (aka. Cape Cikiw)

 When visiting Muroran City, there are several must-visit attractions that showcase the beauty and culture of the area. One of the top attractions in Muroran is Cape Chikyu (地球岬/Chikyu Misaki) (an outbound link). The name comes from the Ainu language name: poro cikep, which means ’the parent steep cliff’ or literally ’a large steep cliff,’ of which the word poro ’big’ is dropped off and the remaining part is further distorted into cikew. The Japanese name, Chikyu Misaki, comes from that mispronunciation but sometimes the form Chikiw Misaki (チキウ岬) is also used. The Japanese word chikyu (地球) means ’Earth,’ so sometimes the place is called the English name ’Cape Earth’. Many names for one place, eh? Anyway, as the name suggests, Cape Chikyu’s cliffs offer breathtaking panoramic views of the ocean and surrounding landscapes.

 Standing atop the cliffs, you’ll be treated to unobstructed views of the sea and rugged coastline. In clear weather, you can see Mt. Komagatake and Cape Esan on the other side of Uchiura Bay from the cape’s observation deck. The mesmerizing sight of waves crashing against the cliffs and the sound of seagulls overhead creates a truly serene atmosphere. There is also a white lighthouse standing on the edge of this 120-meter-high cliff, which makes a beautiful contrast with the dark ocean. Perched on a cliff overlooking the ocean, Cape Chikyu offers unrivaled views of the surrounding landscape. Many Japanese like to visit Cape Chikyu in the morning on New Year’s Day to see the first sunrise of the year.

 On the west side of the cape, the Cape Chikyu Nature Trail (地球岬森林浴コース/Chikyu misaki shinrinyoku kosu) offers an opportunity to enjoy the sceneries while strolling on a forest path. The sunset view of Cape Chikyu is especially beautiful viewed from the nature trail. In addition to the nature trail, on the west side of the cape, about 20 minutes on foot, there is another observatory deck called Charatsunai (チャラツナイ展望台/Charatsunai tenbodai). Here you can look over Charatsunai Beach, which has a unique view of the coastline of Muroran. To the east of Cape Chikyu (about 10 minutes by foot), there is yet another observatory, namely Kin-byobu Observatory (金屏風展望台/Kinbyobu tenbodai). The Observatory overlooks the Kin-byobu Cliff, one of the eight views of Muroran (you can read more about Kinbyobu a bit later in this blog post). By the way, the small cape seen from the observatory is called pon cikew or ’child steep cliff’ (literally ’small steep cliff’), so here is the ’child’ of the ’parent cliff’ Cape Chikyu.

The Tokkarisho Scenic Area

 Another beautiful spot close to Cape Chikuy is Tokkarisho Scenic Area (トッカリショの奇勝/Tokkarisho no kisho). This includes Tokkarosho observatory in the southeastern part of Muroran and the wonderful views from the observatory to Tokkarisho beach below, Cape Tokkarisho, Itanki beach, and all the surrounding mighty cliffs. The name of the place comes from the Ainu language tukar isho, ’seal rock’. This refers to the Tokkarisho beach, where many seals used to gather during the winter.

 Tokkarisho is an incredible destination that offers a stunning combination of natural beauty and serenity. The cliffs, covered in lush bamboo grass (クマザサ/kumazasa in Japanese) but no trees, create a mesmerizing backdrop against the calm sea. One of the highlights of Tokkarisho is its beautiful observation stage which provides tourists with breathtaking views of blue skies meeting the dark ocean. For those looking to explore further, there are (steep) pathways that lead to both Tokkarisho Beach and Cape Tokkarisho. These spots allow visitors to fully immerse themselves in the tranquil surroundings while enjoying picturesque coastal panoramas. A visit to Tokkarisho promises not only scenic delights but also an opportunity for relaxation and peace amidst nature’s wonders.

Itanki Beach

 From the Tokkarisho observatory, you can catch a glimpse of the beautiful Itanki beach (イタンキ浜), which stretches for 1.7 kilometers. It offers a unique perspective of the coastline and the ocean. The name itanki is derived from the Ainu language and means ‘a bowl’. Some believe that the name comes from the shape of the beach and its surroundings. The soft sandy shore is perfect for a leisure stroll, while the crystal-clear waters and ocean breeze provide a refreshing experience. Unfortunately, swimming is not permitted due to the increasing number of rip currents, which led to the beach’s closure in 2017. Nevertheless, the beach is still worth a visit for other reasons.

 One of the highlights of Itanki Beach is the ‘singing sand’ (鳴り砂/narizuna). The sand produces a squeaking sound when you walk on it due to the friction between the sand grains. While there is friction on any sand when stepped on, the sand in Itanki Beach contains a lot of quartz, which amplifies the sound. Other Ainu names for the beach are haw an ota (sand with voice) and hum us ota (sand with sound in it).

Kin-byobu Cliff & Gin-byobu Cliff or Golden Cliff & Silver Cliff

 Kin-byobu Cliff & Gin-byobu Cliff (金屏風・銀屏風の断崖絶壁) or Golden Cliff & Silver Cliff are two steep cliffs on the Etomo peninsula by the waters of the Uchiura bay. The Japanese word kin (金) means ’gold’ in English, gin (銀) means ’silver’, and byobu (屏風) means ’folding paper screen’. The name Kin-byoubu refers to the reddish-brown, nearly 100-meter-high cliffs, which look like a series of golden folding screens in the morning sun. Similarly, the 80-meter-high and 1.5-km-wide Gin-byobu looks like a silver folding screen in the evening sun. These cliffs offer a breathtaking display of nature’s artistry, with their vibrant colors and dramatic formations.

 The Ainu called the Kin-byobu golden cliff a-tukan i (’the place we shoot (arrows) at’) and Gin-byobu silver cliff cinuye pira (’carved cliff’). The latter name is quite obvious but the reason for the Ainu name of the Kin-byobu is that it was a very difficult place to get in, so it was thought to have some magical powers. When Ainu passed this spiritually strong place, they had a habit of shooting arrows at it for protection from evil.

Masuichi Beach

 Masuichi Beach (マスイチ浜/Masuichi hama) is located on the Pacific Ocean side of the Etomo peninsula, between Gin-byobu Cliff and Mt. Sokuryo. The place is known for its wonderful view across Uchiura Bay to Mt. Komagatake and many interestingly shaped rocks, for example, Seagull rock, Candle rock, and Sazae rock. The name of the beach comes from the Ainu language name masuy cise, ’the nest of black-tailed gulls’. You can indeed see many kinds of birds here, such as the already mentioned black-tailed gulls, but also cuckoos and rare peregrine falcons, to name a few.

Cape Etomo

 Finally, at the tip of the Etomo peninsula, you can find Cape Etomo (絵鞆岬/Etomo Misaki), a great lookout spot to view the scenery close and far. Also, the Ainu people noticed that the place is optimal for surveying the area around it, so there has been an Ainu casi or a fortress/lookout post for ages. The name of the place comes again from the Ainu language, enrum, which simply means ’a cape’. This was also the place where the Japanese established their first trading post in the area. From Cape Etomo, you can see all the way to Mt. Usu, Mt. Showa, and Mt. Yotei as well as the Oshima Peninsula, and Cape Esan on the other side of the Uchiura Bay. If you look a bit closer, you can see Daikoku Island (大黒島/Daikokujima) just about 1.5 kilometers (about 1 mile) at the harbor entrance of the Muroran port. The name of the island comes from one of the Japanese seven deities of good fortune (七福神/Shichifukujin)—Daikokuten (大黒天)—that was enshrined on the island. The island is sometimes referred to as Olsson Island because a Danish sailor called Hans Olsson was buried on the island in 1796. The public can’t enter the island, so you have to contend just to view it.

Tasty and fun Muroran

 Besides all the wonderful views, Muroran has also other things to enjoy, too. The most well-known culinary experience in Muroran City is probably Muroran yakitori (室蘭焼き鳥). Yakitori (焼き鳥) literally means ’grilled chicken (skewers)’ but in the case of Muroran yakitori, the meat used is pork. Muraran yakitori are charcoal-grilled skewers of pork and onion brushed with a delicious sweet barbeque sauce (each yakitori shop has its own secret recipe). It is often served with mustard and togarashi chili spice. When you come to Muroran, be sure to indulge in the mouthwatering flavors of Muroran yakitori, a local specialty that will leave your taste buds craving more! There are about 65 yakitori restaurants in Muroran City, so you have many options to choose from.

 You might have heard that there are three famous tastes of ramen in Hokkaido: Sapporo miso ramen, Asahikawa soy sauce ramen, and Hakodate shio ramen. Muroran is trying to introduce the fourth taste to the list: the Muroran curry ramen (室蘭カレーラーメン). Muroran curry ramen has been sold in Muroran since 1971 and it has established its reputation among the locals. Now it is also used as a tourism resource. Each ramen shop selling curry ramen has its own recipe but in general, the curry ramen has a thick, spicy curry-flavored soup garnished with pork, vegetables, and wakame seaweed and of course, there are plenty of tasty Hokkaido-made noodles. In the Muroran area, there are about 50 ramen shops and 60% of them sell curry ramen, so again, you have many places to choose from.

 Another kind of Muroran culinary experience is something quite fun and interesting: Fiery poison steamed buns (炎の毒まんじゅう / Hono no doku manju). These steamed buns are sold as a souvenir at Cape Chikyu Shop Shinada which is right next to the parking lot of the Cape Chikyu observation deck. The thing is that there are six buns in the pack but one of them is super spicy! This is kind of a Russian roulette played on food: Who will get the hot bun and who will get a normal bun? It of course depends on your taste buds which one you prefer: the hot bun or the normal bun, so it’s up to you to decide who is the winner and who is the loser of this bun game.

 Other fun activities you can combine with your landscape viewing are viewing tours of different local animals. If you choose to view the amazing coast of Muroran from a boat, the boat trip has also another function: dolphin and whale watching. Uchiura Bay is relatively protected from strong winds and it is a quite calm sea area. That’s why dolphins and whales like to go there to raise their young. The probability to see dolphins here is quite high and the lucky ones might also be able to do some whale watching. The boats run from the end of April to mid-August. Another great way to enjoy both the views and the local fauna is to do some birdwatching at Mt. Sokuryo. You can watch here migrating birds and summer forest birds depending on the season, such as Northern Goshawk (オオタカ/otaka), Pacific Swift (アマツバメ/amatsubame), Crested Honey Buzzard (ハチクマ/hachikuma), and Peregrine Falcon (ハヤブサ/hayabusa).

 If you want to see and experience other intriguing places in Hokkaido near Muroran, visiting the western neighbor of Noboribetsu and Noboribetsu onsen is a good choice. Read more about Noboribetsu in Noboribetsu: The City of Onsen Hot Springs and On the Traces of the Past in Noboribetsu Onsen and Shiraoi.

 Hokkaido is especially famous for its beautiful nature and scenery, and one of the representative Hokkaido sceneries can be seen in Muroran. I day-trip or 2-day-trip to Muroran can be easily combined with a holiday in Sapporo or you can have a longer tour on the coast of Uchiura Bay in southeastern Hokkaido. If you want to know more, you can reach us from the ’contact us’ button below.