Continued from: Hokkaido Self-Drive Trip (June 2016) Part 3: Sapporo, Otaru
After breakfast at Otaru, we drove to Asahikawa and arrived in time for lunch. I had made a reservation for the group for lunch at Tenkin Honten (天金本店), a popular restaurant in Asahikawa with more than 70 years of history.
Luckily we made a reservation because the restaurant was pretty packed even on the weekday afternoon we were there.
We came here for their uni (sea urchin) shabu, but they had quite an extensive menu on top of that. I enjoyed the lunch and service at Tenkin, despite the staff’s lack of ability to speak English.
After lunch, we drove on towards Sounkyo Onsen, spotting a Hokkaido fox along the way! I have a pretty good track record for spotting foxes on my Hokkaido self-drives.
Before reaching Sounkyo, we first made a stop at Daisetsu Asahigaoka a.k.a. Taisetsu Forest Garden (大雪高原旭ヶ丘).
It was raining pretty heavily, and we were pleasantly surprised to find umbrellas provided at the carpark. We grabbed a bunch of umbrellas and headed into the garden.
I drove to Daisetsu Mori no Garden not too sure what to expect. After all, mid June is not the best time to be visiting anything flower-related in Hokkaido. It's too late for Spring blooms and too early for Summer blooms. To my surprise, I found a whole garden full of tulips! I was so happy that I forked out the 800yen admission, despite the crappy rainy weather, to walk around the little garden. Everyone else just camped at the warm cafe and gazed through the glass window. #bumblebeemumtravels #bumblebeemuminjapan #daisetsuzan #daisetsuzannationalpark #kamikawa #sounkyo #tulip #japantrip #japantravel #hokkaido #hokkaidotrip #hokkaidotravel #sonya6000 #sonyimages #sonyalpha #sonyalphasclub #changirecommends #changiwifi #travelblog #travelblogger #iamtb #mondayescapes #traveltuesday #wednesdaywanderlust #travelthursday #citytripping #myfavouritetrip #familytravelhq #wanderlust #instatravel
When the weather is good, you can see the Daisetsuzan mountain range from the garden. But oh well, the weather was crap when we were there.
The flowers at Taisetsu Forest Garden are seasonal, so if you are here at a different time of the year, your view of the garden would probably be quite different from mine. You can find out what’s blooming from their facebook page or flower calendar.
There were tulips all over the garden when we were there, lucky!
After exploring the garden, we drove on through Sounkyo Onsen area, stopping first to take photos at Waterfall of Ginga and Waterfall of Meteor.
The waterfalls are located RIGHT NEXT to the carpark – which made it an easy photo stop even on a super rainy day.
A short drive further down route 39 brought us to O-Bako.
And from there, we drove on to our hotel at Kitami – Super Hotel Kitami.
Day 10: Kitami – Abashiri – Shiretoko
We spent 3 nights at Super Hotel Kitami and had 2 full days to explore the region. I planned to visit Shiretoko National Park on one day and Akan National Park on the other day. We checked the weather forecast and it said the first day was sunny but the second day was rainy. So we decided to go to Shiretoko on the first day since Shiretoko National Park required more walking compared to Akan National Park.
Before going to Shiretoko, we made a slight detour to check out Lake Abashiri.
If I had more time, I would have driven to Lake Notoro and Cape Notoro too, but we wanted to spend more time at Shiretoko so we skipped those and continued East in the direction of Shiretoko.
We checked out Abashiri Seafood Market – which was more of a souvenir shop than a market. There was a restaurant there overlooking the Okhotsk Sea which gets drift ice in winter. But the restaurant only opened at 10.30am.
So we decided not to wait for the restaurant to open and drove on towards Shiretoko.
The weather was so crazy awesome that we kept stopping to take photos any time there was anything remotely interesting along the way.
To a point where I felt like I was doing a car commercial.
But hmmm… Isn’t that the whole point of self-drive trips? To be able to stop as and when you like to take photos?
Our first more-than-just-hopping-off-the-car-to-snap-a-photo stop was Koshimizu Natural Flower Garden (小清水原生花園).
Apparently the flower garden would be covered with lilies in the right season. According to the poster we saw.
But we were there in the wrong season.
On the bright side, I did spot like… 5 lilies?
And the tower binoculars here were free! Woohoo!
The kid hogged the tower binoculars, so I just made do with my camera zoom lens.
Moving on… We continued our drive along Route 244 and came to a clearing. I just had to pull over to snap some photos.
And we spotted some horses in the distance!
We also passed by a roadside station (michi no eki) and again, I pulled over because the signs said there was an observation deck.
We found the observation deck, but the view was pretty crappy. It was obstructed by antennas!
We continued our drive through Shari Town and onto Route 334, finally reaching Oshin Koshin Waterfall – which indicated that we had arrived at Shiretoko National Park!
We had planed to visit Furepe waterfall next. But unlike Oshin Koshin waterfall which was a stone’s throw from the parking lot, Furepe waterfall required about 20 minutes walk per way from the carpark. And that’s without kids.
The good thing about the walk to Furepe waterfall was that you could see plenty of deers along the way, or even bears if you’re lucky (or unlucky – whichever way you see it), with the beautiful mountain range as the backdrop.
Okay. We never did the walk on this particular trip because we were kind of behind schedule with our too-many-to-count stops during the drive here. So the above photos were taken during a earlier winter trip – which explains all the snow and frozen waterfall. Gotcha!!
Speaking of winter, most of Shiretoko National Park is inaccessible in winter. Which is why Shiretoko National Park is best visited during summer or autumn. In winter, it is frankly quite a depressing place to visit imo. They try to attract tourists with ‘Aurora Fantasia’, which is a laser show simulating aurora, but even that didn’t warrant the looooong drive to Shiretoko in the cold bitter winter I felt.
But to be fair, I probably found Shiretoko National Park depressing in winter because there was no drift ice when I was there. If there had been drift ice and we actually got to do our swimming in drift ice activity, it may have been a whole different story.
Image Source: Veltra.com
Okay, back to the trip! So we skipped the walk to Furepe waterfall this time round and ended up at Shiretoko Saihate Ichiba for lunch.
No prizes for guessing what I had for lunch.
They also served cooked food here for those who did not eat raw food.
And like any other ichiba, you can shop for local produce here.
After lunch, we drove on the Shiretoko Five Lakes, which has like the most scenic carpark in the whole of Shiretoko National Park I think. Cost 500yen per vehicle to park there though.
Since we were visiting in ‘Bear Aware Season’, which required us to join a guided tour (which cost 5000 yen per pax) if we wanted to use the ground walkway to visit all five lakes, we decided to go for the free elevated board walk that only brought us to Lake 1.
MY was still not feeling very well, so it was a good thing that the board walk was stroller-friendly! He just sat in the stroller and enjoyed the view along the way.
And at the end of the board walk, we were rewarded with a view of Lake 1 with the mountain range as the backdrop.
When I visited Shiretoko many years back on a gloomy winter day, it was frankly pretty depressing. Back then, I told myself that the loooong drive to Shiretoko, on the Northeastern tip of Hokkaido, was an absolute waste of time. Today, I checked the weather forecast beforehand and it promised good weather. So off to Shiretoko we went, and WOAH! What a difference it was from my last visit! This was definitely worth the 2.5 hours drive there (plus another 2.5 hours back). Shiretoko is now one of my favourite places in Hokkaido! At least in Summer. I still think it's a depressing place in winter where much of the scenic areas become inaccessible. #bumblebeemumtravels #bumblebeemuminjapan #shiretoko #知床五湖 #知床 #unesco #japantrip #japantravel #hokkaido #hokkaidotrip #hokkaidotravel #sonya6000 #sonyimages #sonyalpha #sonyalphasclub #changirecommends #changiwifi #travelblog #travelblogger #iamtb #mondayescapes #traveltuesday #wednesdaywanderlust #travelthursday #citytripping #myfavouritetrip #familytravelhq #wanderlust #instatravel #instapassport
After we completed the elevated board walk, we drove on the Shiretoko Pass – a mountainous road that cuts across the peninsular.
We stopped at the viewpoint at the centre of Shiretoko Pass – which divides Shari Town from Rausu Town. I was super amused by the road sign which said ‘Shari Town’ on one side and ‘Rausu Town’ on the other!
Driving along, we next arrived at Rausu Visitor Centre. Check out the cool skeleton of a killer whale (I think) hanging in the middle of the visitor centre!
The visitor centre was pretty kids friendly, with a little kids play corner.
And a short walk from the visitor centre, there was a geyser which spouts approximately every hour in summer (less frequently in winter).
You can find out from the visitor centre exactly what time the geyser is expected to spout. So no, we didn’t camp there for an hour waiting for the geyser to spout to take the video above. We just went over about 10 minutes before the expected spouting time and stationed there with our cameras to catch the action. I must say the prediction was pretty accurate!
As we drove on to Rausu town, our good luck with the weather came to an end. While it was bright and sunny over at Shari, Rausu was totally shrouded by fog!
We visited Rausu Kunashiri Observatory Deck (羅臼国後展望塔), and this was what we were hoping to see from the observatory:
But this was what we actually saw. Gua gua gua…
We had actually planned to do some sightseeing around Rausu until dinner time, then have dinner at Shiretoko Syokudou Rausu at the roadside station (michi no eki). However due to the poor weather, we ditched our plans for further sightseeing around Rausu and made the long drive back to our hotel in Kitami.
When we were back at our hotel, we found some coupons from the lobby for free drinks at a nearby restaurant. So we decided to go there for dinner.
Cheers to free drinks!
Not sure what are map codes? > Click here! <
- Tenkin Honten Asahikawa (Map Code: 79 343 798)
- Daisetsu Asahigaoka / Taisetsu Forest Garden (Map Code: 623 459 391)
- Waterfall of Ginga and Waterfall of Meteor (Map Code: 623 177 759)
- O-Bako (Map Code: 743 692 824)
- Abashiri Seafood Market (Map Code: 305 531 177)
- Koshimizu Flower Garden (Map Code: 958 080 604)
- Oshinkoshin Waterfall (Map Code: 894 727 262)
- Furepe Waterfall (Map Code: 757 632 609)
- Shiretoko Saihate Ichiba (Map Code: 757 571 373)
- Shiretoko Five Lakes (Map Code: 757 729 081)
- Shiretoko Pass (Map Code: 757 493 152)
- Rausu Visitor Centre (Map Code: 757 410 503)
- Rausu Kunashiri Observatory Deck (Map Code: 757 352 687)
- Shiretoko Syokudou Rausu (Map Code: 757 353 735)