Hokkaido is an island that continually surprises me with its bountiful nature and rustic beauty. While my visit to the Shakotan Peninsula was brief compared to other parts on Hokkaido, its dramatic coastline left a deep impression on me.
We had left Otaru earlier in the day and visited the Nikka whisky distillery in Yoichi en route to Shakotan Peninsula 積丹半島. It was easy finding our way as we followed the rugged coastline, driving through the many tunnels that were cut through the hills.
There are three notable capes in Shakotan: Kamui Cape 神威岬, Shakotan Cape 積丹町 and Ougon Cape 黄金岬. Between them lies the only designated marine park in Hokkaido.
Kamui Cape used to be off bounds to women due to an ancient legend about a capsized boat. There is an easy 770-metre trail that traces the back of the precipice that juts out into the sea. At the end lies a lighthouse together with a breathtaking panoramic view.
The sparkling blue waters – so distinct that they are described as “Shakotan Blue” – and the endless horizon of the Sea of Japan were mesmerising. The wind blew with wild abandon, tugging at the tall grass, making them sway back and forth. Perhaps there’s magic in the air, with the wind brushing away the worries of all who made their way to this western tip of Hokkaido?
To fully appreciate what Shakotan Cape has to offer, I recommend walking down the long flight of steps cut into the cliffside – of course, this is the only way back up – to the Shimamui Coast 島武意海岸. From above, the sea looked beautiful, dotted with dramatic rocks.
The perspective changed when we arrived below. Small groups of Japanese families and friends were scattered across the tiny grey rocks polished over years of corrosion. Some people were enjoying a picnic while young children played in the crystal clear waters chasing little fish that scooted between the rocks.
#1 This post is a continuation of my documentation of the self-driving holiday in Hokkaido with my family in the summer of 2012. While there are public buses that go to Shakotan from Sapporo and Otaru, the buses are infrequent so it is better to drive to the peninsula if you are able to rent a car.
#2 The Shakotan Peninsula is known for its uni, which is the edible reproductive organs of the sea urchin. I’m not a fan of the slimy uni but if you enjoy it, the sea urchin harvesting season is from June to August.
#3 Many people visit Shakotan on a day trip from Sapporo and Otaru. We had stopped by the peninsula en route between Otaru 小樽市 and Iwanai 岩内町. The main reason for going to Iwanai was because it was, sort of, on the way to the Noboribetsu hot spring resort and I didn’t want to drive too much in one day.
Iwanai is a small fishing town that predates the Meiji Restoration but there’s nothing particularly outstanding about it as most of the old wooden buildings were destroyed in a fire decades ago. What I found most interesting was the place where we stayed: Arisu no Sato アリスの里.
With the help of Google Translate, I had booked a chalet for my family at Arisu no Sato. When we finally arrived after driving up a hill, I was pleasantly surprised to find a cluster of cute wooden houses at the top. There were many young Japanese adults hanging out on the terraces and getting ready to start their barbecues. Amid the cheerful Japanese chatter, we figured out which hut was the ‘reception’. The people who worked there didn’t speak English but we were able to communicate with one another through lots of hand gestures and by writing (Chinese/Kanji characters).
Our chalet was a narrow three-storey house that was fully equipped with all one would need for a short holiday. There were even extras such as a massage chair and an outdoor jacuzzi looking out to the sea! While I never figured out if this is a standard/regular chalet experience in Japan, it was a comfortable and budget-friendly place to stay for a night.
Arisu no Sato アリスの里
Address: 〒045-0024 北海道岩内郡岩内町野束258-92番地 コテージ アリスの里
Map code: 398 721 154