Hokkaido: An Unforgettable Summer (2nd of 3 Parts)

In this series:
Part 1.
Part 2.
Part 3.

See all my Japan posts here.

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Shakotan Peninsula’s Kamui Misaki (God`s Peninsula) or Cape Kamui is famed for having the best views of the Sea of Japan. Kamui means god in the language of the Ainu, Hokkaido’s indigenous people, and it’s said that the views here are “god-like.”

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From the parking lot, an almost 800-meter long esplanade weaves its way up, down, and through various viewpoints all overlooking the sea. Some physical endurance is required for the almost 20-minute trek – and comfortable shoes are highly recommended. It can also get very, very windy which makes taking pictures (and selfies!) a challenge.

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Clambering up the stony pathways, nature holds me in its thrall: enormous stone masses seem to jut up and out 80 meters above sea level.

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The mountains stand guard over a jewel-blue ocean, a blue so highly regarded it’s known as “Shakotan blue.”

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Along the esplanade, which is also called Charenka’s Path, there are tips to a historical intrigue, a signboard illustrating that until the 1850’s, women were forbidden to visit Cape Kamui. Legend has it that Charenka, a native Ainu chief’s daughter, was heartbroken over the sudden departure of her lover. Before throwing herself into the sea, she cursed death on any woman passing the cape.

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At the edge of Cape Kamui, our reward: breathtaking views of the sea. This colossal rock stretching to the heavens is called Kamui Rock, and was presumably cursed by Charenka. Whatever it may be, standing here transfixed by the view is truly awe-inspiring. How little we are compared to nature’s grandeur!

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After the exertion of traversing Cape Kamui and being whipped by the wind, we’re relieved at the respite afforded to us by lunch. Rejuvenated we are by the power of hot, healing miso broth bolstered with seafood. We slurp and savor, marveling. Between bites, the contrasting cool of sushi rice and uni perked up by spicy wasabi.

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In Otaru
On the way back to Sapporo, we take a detour to Otaru. A port city in the late 18th and 19th century, it’s famous for its canal built in 1923 that was used by barges to transport coal and marine products.

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The Otaru Canal runs through the city’s center. This photo, taken from the Asakusa Bridge, overlooks the canal district. The old warehouses lining the canal have been converted into shops and cafés. The walking path is perfect for strolling and the gas lamps are reminiscent of a bygone era.

I really recommend spending a whole day in Otaru, there’s so much to see. It’s a city known for its music boxes, glassworks, and sake distilleries. All of these can be seen on Sakaimachi Street, a nice walk from Otaru Canal.

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Sakaimachi (Sakaimachi Dōri) is a charming street in central Otaru. In the early 1900s when it was a port city, the trading and shipping companies conducted business in these Western-style buildings.

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Many of these structures have since become restaurants, glassware shops, souvenir shops, and museums. An old-time feel pervades and you’ll even catch sight of vintage buses and rickshaws.

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Adjacent to Sakaimachi Street is the Marchen Crossroads, a popular meeting point and where you can even see a steam clock.

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There are several pastry shops on Sakaimachi Street, selling green tea pastries and cream puffs and Japanese cheesecake. My sweet tooth is very happy.

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Because this is Hokkaido, the quality of their dairy is unmatched. The cows roam and feed on verdant pastures and breathe in crisp air.

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Soft serve ice cream or what’s more commonly known as soft cream, is sold everywhere – just look for the ice cream cone (above).

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Hokkaido dairy is of such high quality, breaching on legendary really, that there’s very little difference between one ice cream and the next. But soon we are experts and we have our favorites. Soft, cool cream swells like clouds in the mouth, a bouquet of vanilla blooming alongside sweet. You know when something is so good that a single serving is enough? Nah, neither do I. Another ice cream, please.

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There are almost too many sushi restaurants in Otaru, the selection is astounding. Look for Sushiya Dori, a street with more than 20 sushi restaurants.

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It’s just a snack, but oh how it satisfies. Seasonal seafood sushi eaten somewhere on Sakaimachi-Dori.

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My daughter’s newest obsession, unagi-don.

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