Home to the Abashiri Prison which used to house political prisoners during the Meiji eria, Abashiri is to the Japanese what Alcatraz is to the Americans. Except that this is just one aspect of this tiny coastal city.
The largest town on the Okhotsk Coast of northeastern Hokkaido, Abashiri is an important port in the region and has a thriving fishing industry. Here, you will find an abundance of seasonal seafood coupled with breathtaking natural beauty, be it the striking coat of coral grass over Lake Notori-ko every September, the wild flower preserve at Koshimizu Gensei-kaen bursting into colour in spring and summer, or the impressive ice floes drifting in the sea in winter.
What brought us there?
Long story short, I wanted to go to Shiretoko Peninsula, which is on the remote northeastern corner of Hokkaido. But I didn’t want to stay in Utoro (marked in pink in the map below), a small fishing port that also serves as a base for visitors to the Shiretoko Peninsula National Park and seemed too touristy for my liking. We were travelling from Kamifurano (green place marker) and it would have taken us around five and a half hours of non-stop travel to cover the 300 kilometres to Utoro, which seemed daunting as I wasn’t used to driving long distances.
Abashiri (cyan blue place marker) popped up as a more viable stopover for a night between Kamifurano and Shiretoko Peninsula as it would have taken around four hours of non-stop driving across some 230 kilometres. We would also have time to stop by a few places en-route to Abashiri and have a more relaxing drive.
Before arriving at Abashiri, we drove to Cape Notoro / 能取岬, as I wanted to see the mountains on Shiretoko Peninsula from afar. Alas, it was too misty that day to see anything in the distance. But we got to admire a picturesque scene of grazing cows and horses with gentle green mountains in the background which was really nice.
Moving on, it was time for a late lunch. It took us a few rounds of driving up and down a particular coastal stretch of road in Abashiri before we found Oyaji Crabs かにの大内. By the time I parked the car, we were famished and were hoping that the restaurant was still open for lunch. It was. Hooray!
The restaurant owner and us didn’t speak a common language, but after some pointing and gesturing, we selected a live king crab that was weighed so that we could agree on the price. Our crab cost slightly below 20,000 Japanese Yen, which was around S$230 / 140€, making it the most expensive crab that any one in my family has ever eaten.
Simply cooked in boiling water and served with no added seasoning, the crab arrived on our table in its crimson glory. We were provided with scissors and chopsticks. This was going to be a hands-on meal.
There was collective gasps and moments of silence when we started to eat. The crab was ‘meaty’ and the flesh was succulent and sweet. Unbelievably good. Oishii!
Oyaji Crabs かにの大内
Address 〒093-0086 北海道網走市字二ツ岩173−2 北海道網走市字ニツ岩168番地