Day 11: Akan National Park
Our good luck with the weather was short-lived. After ONE bright and sunny day in Shiretoko on the previous part of our trip, we were back to rain, rain and more rain.
For Day 11, we made a day trip to Akan National Park from Kitami. This was my third time in Akan National Park, but the previous two visits were done in winter. I was looking forward to see how different the national park would be in summer.
But once again, the rain and fog ruined most of our sightseeing plans. We drove through Bihoro Pass (Route 243 / Pilot National Highway), which was supposed one of Hokkaido’s scenic by-ways. But all we saw was fog. Reminded me of the drive to Shinsen-Numa in Niseko earlier in the trip.
When we finally arrived at our first destination, Lake Mashu (which I often mention is my favourite lake in the whole of Hokkaido), the whole carpark was shrouded in fog. We had to pay 500yen for parking there and decided it was going to be an absolute waste of time and money, so we drove off towards Io-Zan. Since I didn’t take a single photo of Lake Mashu that day, I shall insert a photo from a previous trip so you know why Lake Mashu is my favourite lake.
When we arrived at Io-Zan, which was at a lower altitude, we were well below the fog and could see the sulphur mountain ahead. So we paid for the parking there to do some sightseeing. Only to discover that the 500yen parking fee at Io-Zan also covered the parking at Lake Mashu. Basically the 500yen parking coupon covered both Lake Mashu and Iozan’s carparks. So much for trying to save that 500yen parking fee at Lake Mashu earlier!
We tried to make our parking fee worth by spending more time taking photos of the sulphur mountain, but it started to drizzle so that didn’t work out.
Next, we headed for our lunch destination, Sora, near the southern shore of Lake Kussharo. I was super looking forward to lunch, because when it rains during vacations, food is the only thing that can cheer me up.
But we were turned away because they were fully reserved for the day! Argh!! At least they didn’t have enough tables for our big group of 12. The couple behind us managed to get a table. I really wanted to try the food at Sora, so I made a reservation for the next day before leaving.
We drove on to Sunayu at the Eastern shore of Lake Kussharo and had lunch at the same restaurant we visited during our December 2014 trip. (PS: The hot pot in the photo below was for a tour group who came in later. On their usual menu, they had stuff like ramen, fried rice and curry rice.)
And after lunch, it was not raining so we seized the opportunity to check out Sunayu (砂湯). Sunayu means sand bath, so the idea here was to dig your own bath in the sand by the lake.
We watched some of the other visitors try digging their own sand baths and they didn’t seem too successful.
So we took the easy way out by using the free foot baths available.
If a foot bath is a bad idea for you because you have like 3 layers of socks and stockings on that are too troublesome to take off (that happens if you visit in winter), you can try the drinkable onsen instead.
Anyway speaking of winter, Lake Kussharo is a gathering ground for migratory swans during winter. We saw them during our winter trip, but there were no swans when we were here in June.
Since it was too foggy to do any more sightseeing around Akan National Park, we decided to go for desserts and drove on to Shiretoco Gelato at Nakashibetsu.
It was quite funny when a bunch of Mathematics-trained friends arrived at Shiretoco Gelato. We spent some time analysing their pricing:
- 300yen for single scoop
- 350yen for double scoop
- 500yen for triple scoop
And we were like, how come from single to double, it was 50yen more; but from double to triple, it was 150yen more?? So we decided to all get double scoops. LOL… Mathematicians. Actually, I wanted to get the 300yen soft cream, but they said they didn’t sell it here. The soft serve was only available at Kaiyodai (which we will visit later).
I was feeling much happier after our ice-cream stop at Shiretoco Gelato. If you are here, I do recommend their Hokkaido Milk and salt flavours, which were their two top sellers.
On a side note, if you want to have a buffet of Shiretoco Gelato (tub-style), try booking a stay with dinner at Hanayuuka Ryokan at Lake Akan. When we stayed there in December 2014, there was a freezer full of Shirecoto Gelato ice-cream during the buffet dinner! It was actually because of that experience that I hunted down the Shiretoco stores during this trip.
We drove on to Shiretoco Factory, which was boring. Just a tiny factory with some staff making caramel inside and a small selection of confectionery for sale – which were repetitive from the Shiretoco Gelato store.
I thought I could buy some fresh Shiretoco donuts that they were famous for, but they only had frozen ones! And in prepacked boxes of at least 3. What a waste of time.. I could have just bought them from New Chitose Airport. But since we had driven all the way here, I just bought the smallest box of 3.
The donuts looked cute, but frankly they weren’t very yummy. I wouldn’t recommend them for eating, maybe more for taking photos. Haha… And here’s MF pretending to be a Shiretoco donut.
Next, we went to Kaiyodai which was supposed to be an observation point. This was what we would have seen if the weather was better:
And this was what we actually saw when we were there.
We planted ourselves at Cafe Kaiyodai, which was run by a super friendly elderly couple. I didn’t know that the cafe was most well-known for their honey. When I entered the cafe, I was coughing non-stop because the rain and cold weather was worsening my cough. The uncle immediately stuffed me a scoop of honey (FREE) and asked me to take it for my throat.
Later on I realised they sold tea with honey and milk with honey, so I ordered the tea for myself and milk for the kids. That’s the thing about Japanese hospitality. They always offer free stuff. Like really free with no strings attached and no hard-selling. But they are so nice about it that I always end up buying stuff from them.
We were far from hungry, but the elderly couple were so nice that I even ordered a jumbo hot dog. It looked so special, with three different toppings!
I think this visit to Cafe Kaiyodai has reaffirmed my belief that the best cafes in Hokkaido are those that are run by elderly couples. Think Sanai No Chaya Cafe Curve in Biei and Cafe IF in Niseko.
From Kaiyodai, we drove back to Kitami, stopping for a toilet break at the Roadside Station (Michi-no-eki) at Bihoro Pass (美幌峠).
We checked out the observation deck on the second floor, though we couldn’t see much in the bad weather.
Oh well.. At least there were some interesting exhibits.
Day 12: Kitami – Lake Akan – Kushiro
Our initial plan for the day was to start the morning with the Lake Akan sightseeing cruise. But alas, it was yet another crappy rainy day, so we ditched our sightseeing plan once again. And the back-up plan, as always, involved food.
We went to my favourite bakery cafe at Lake Akan, Pan de Pan, for breakfast.
Ooo.. How I missed the chou cream and miso pudding here.
MY looked like he missed the miso pudding too!
After breakfast, the rest of the group who has not been to Lake Akan before grabbed their umbrellas to go to the lakeside to take some photos. While I just bummed at Pan de Pan enjoying my coffee. So once again, let me entertain you with a photo of Lake Akan from our previous visit.
We had also planned to visit the Ainu Kotan at Lake Akan. But remember we missed our lunch at Sora on the previous day and pushed it to this day? Yeah, so we ran out of time to visit Ainu Kotan because lunch was more important (at least for me). Back to Sora we went!
It took me 3 visits to finally dine at Sora at #LakeKussharo. The first time I came in Winter only to realise that they close throughout winter. Yesterday I came and they were totally full. So I made a reservation for today and I FINALLY got to dine here! Totally worth the hassle. Especially since I had nothing better to do in this crappy weather than to drive to and fro for food. Spending an hour on the road buys me time to digest the food in my tummy for the next meal! #bumblebeemumtravels #bumblebeemuminjapan #kussharo #屈斜路 #akan #akannationalpark #salad #appetiser #japantrip #japantravel #hokkaido #hokkaidotrip #hokkaidotravel #japanfood #japanesefood #japanfoodgopan #hokkaidofood #foodphotography #sonya6000 #sonyimages #sonyalpha #sonyalphasclub #changirecommends #changiwifi #travelblog #travelblogger #iamtb
I super loved the lunch we had at Sora. This is another restaurant I plan to blog more about later on, so for now, I highly recommend the lunch sets here!
From Sora, we drove on to our next destination, Kushiro. It was raining very heavily in Kushiro, so we just rested in our hotel, Super Hotel Kushiro, for the rest of the afternoon. Good thing Super Hotel Kushiro had a little onsen and we could go and enjoy the onsen. Well, at least the guys could. They only had one small onsen with allocated timings for males and females. Afternoon time was for males and evening time was for females.
And if there was anything that would make me get out of the hotel in the rain, it was food. We ventured out to Washo Market for an early dinner. Washo Market is famous for Katte Don (勝手丼), where you buy a bowl of rice and go around to the various stalls to choose your own ingredients.
We reached Washo market at about 5pm and only two stalls selling Katte Don ingredients were still open. My husband went to one and I went to another. The store that my husband went to put the ingredients on a separate plate, which I thought defeated the whole purpose of Katte don.
I think mine, with the ingredients on top of the rice, looked a lot more appetising… No?
Here’s my friend’s Katte Don from the same store as mine. Argh, I feel so hungry now just looking at all our Katte Don!
Another of my favourite food in Kushiro was zangi (friend chicken). We had a delicious zangi don at Fisherman’s Wharf MOO when we last visited Kushiro. Under normal circumstances, I would have made the walk to Fisherman’s Wharf MOO just for my zangi. But to make the walk with the kids in heavy rain was out of question. So I decided to check out the zangi shop, Daichan Honpo Kushiro Zangi (大ちゃん本舗・釧路ザンギ), near Kushiro station which I read about on Kimi Tour Guide (one of my favourite Hokkaido online references) instead.
Because of the rain, my husband decided to bring the kids and his parents back to the hotel first while I went with my friend to pack some zangi back to the hotel. Daichan Honpo was super easy to find – it was right outside North Exit of Kushiro station. However, it was closed when we arrived!! My friend spotted an izakaya along the same row of shops and it also said ‘Daichan’, so we went in to ask if we could buy zangi there and they said yes!
The zangi came in two flavours: Original and with sauce. Needless to say, I bought both. Luckily they had an option for half original and half sauce.
Packing fried chicken back to the hotel on a cold rainy evening was NOT a fantastic idea. You can imagine, after the walk back to the hotel in the heavy rain, the zangi was not exactly piping hot anymore. But still, it was quite tasty and juicy in spite of the walk in the rain. Though I’m pretty sure it would have been a lot nicer if we had ate it at the izakaya itself.
My husband preferred the original zangi while I preferred the zangi with the sauce. So no conclusion here on which was better.
Day 13: Kushiro – Akkeshi – Ikeda – Obihiro
The bad weather continued to torment us as we left Kushiro and made our way to Akkeshi (厚岸), a town further East from Kushiro that is famous for its oysters. If you follow my blog, you would know I love visiting this hole-in-wall joint at Sapporo Susukino district called Go Tsubo. They specialise in selling grilled oysters, and they get their oysters from Akkeshi. So I decided to hunt down the oyster source and found this useful guide on visiting Akkeshi on Kimi Tour Guide.
We started with a visit to Akkeshi Seafood Market, hoping to grab some fresh oysters on the cheap.
While the oysters there were cheap, they charged a preparation fee if we wanted to eat the oysters on the spot, which added up to be not so cheap.
There were some insanely beautiful and cheap salmon on sale at Akkeshi Seafood Market which the locals gathered around to pick out.
There were also a wide selection of oyster omiyage (souvenirs) on sale, but nothing that you cannot also find at the Roadside station, Akkeshi Gourmet Park, which I will mention later.
Of course, we couldn’t leave empty-handed, or rather empty-stomach, so we just grabbed some small snacks that we could eat on the spot.
I concluded Akkeshi Seafood Market was more for the locals to buy seafood home to cook than for tourists like us.
We went on to Cape Aikappu for some sightseeing. Getting to Cape Aikappu required a 550m walk each way from the parking lot. Thankfully the rain had reduced to just a very light drizzle which made the walk a bit easier for us.
Halfway along the walk between the parking lot and Cape Aikappu, we spotted an Aikappu Museum of Natural History. It was kinda creepy frankly. There we were, walking along a super deserted forested walk.
And suddenly this museum popped out in the middle of nowhere with a ‘We are Open’ sign in front to entice visitors to go inside. It was like something out of a horror movie.. Know what I mean?
Like all characters of horror movies, curiosity got the better of us and we went in to take a look. Well, the place was safe. I think we horrified the lone staff working inside more than anything. I don’t think she was expecting visitors on this gloomy morning and I literally made her jump when I tried to reach for the souvenir chop at the window near where she was stationed. Can’t blame her when she was working alone in a building like this.
The museum was actually very interesting, if natural history is your cup of tea. There were so many exhibits and I was impressed that it was totally free! Considering I paid quite a fee for Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum in Singapore. But there were no dinosaur fossils here, so I guess you can’t really compare.
We had actually quite a number of other sightseeing spots planned for the Akkeshi / Kiritappu area. Because of the gloomy weather, we ditched all of them. But in case you are here on a better day, here’s the list of other places I marked out for our drive around the region:
- Ayamegahara 厚岸あやめヶ原 (Map Code: 973 261 156)
- Cape Namida 涙岬 (Map Code: 614 241 819)
- Marshland 藻散布沼 (Map Code: 614 362 170)
- Biwase Observatory 琵琶瀬展望台 (Map Code: 614 458 145)
- Kiritappu Observation Deck きりたっぷ展望台 (Map Code: 614 589 626)
- Cape Kiritappu 霧多布岬 (Map Code: 614 560 804)
Don’t ask me whether the above places are worth visiting, I really have no idea since we never made it there. But I tell you what is definitely worth visiting: Akkeshi Gourmet Park Conchiglie (厚岸味覚ターミナル・コンキリエ).
Akkeshi Gourmet Park was AWESOME. At least for oyster fans. Really, I need to write a whole post just on this place. It was one of the highlights of the trip for me.
I mean, just look at what we ATE!
Oysters, oysters and more oysters.
And more oysters.
And more oysters.
Souvenir shop with all things oysters.
Okay, enough of oysters. There was even a mini aquarium on the ground floor!
And a view to boot.
So if you are an oyster fan, I totally recommend visiting Akkeshi as a day trip from Kushiro.
After we were absolutely sure we couldn’t stomach another oyster, we left Akkeshi and drove towards Ikeda. Our first stop was Ikeda Wine Castle.
The weather was finally getting better. Check out the view from Ikeda Wine Castle!
We spent quite a bit of time here just letting the kids roam around because we haven’t had such good weather in a while.
I checked out the vineyards to see if there were any grapes, and awwww… look at those baby grapes!
Within the wine castle, there was also a pretty cool play area for kids. Where instead of sand, they filled the pit with wine corks.
Of course, not forgetting wine tasting. There was only one type of wine for free tasting here though. You need to pay for the rest.
From Ikeda Wine Castle, it was a short drive to our next destination, Happiness Dairy. I’m SO glad it was not raining and the kids could play in the outdoor playground at Happiness Dairy!
While I enjoyed my ice-cream inside. hee hee…. I loved the soft serve here. Super rich and creamy!
And from Happiness Dairy, we drove on to Obihiro for the night.
Not sure what are map codes? > Click here! <
- Lake Mashu (Map Code: 613 781 491)
- Iozan (Map Code: 731 713 770)
- Sunayu at Lake Kussharo (Map Code: 638 148 559)
- Shiretoco Gelato (Map Code: 429 777 468)
- Shiretoco Factory (Map Code: 429 777 600)
- Kaiyodai (Map Code: 976 104 477)
- Pan de Pan (Map Code: 739 342 639)
- Sora (Map Code: 731 546 439)
- Washo Market (Map Code: 149 256 361)
- Daichan Honpo Kushiro Zangi (Map Code: 149 256 554)
- Akkeshi Seafood Market (Map Code: 637 162 597)
- Cape Aikappu (Map code: 637 040 468)
- Akkeshi Gourmet Park Conchiglie (Map Code: 637 191 592)
- Ikeda Wine Castle (Map Code: 369 595 881)
- Happiness Dairy (Map Code: 369 626 713)