After leaving our unbearably hot studio apartment in Niseko behind, we followed the highway 75km to Cape Kamui. Where the road hugged the coastline, we lowered our car windows to let in the cool, salty sea breeze. Where we spotted a fleet of Japanese fishing crafts with their colourful flags flapping in the air, we stopped to stretch our legs.
Our plan for the day was to take a leisurely trek up Cape Kamui to enjoy the coastal scenery, have breakfast at Cape Shakotan, spend the afternoon at Otaru before returning to Sapporo in the evening. A chock-a-block day indeed.
Cape Kamui was virtually deserted when we got there. Delighted to have the place to ourselves, we made our way up the cliff with a spring in our step. Unfortunately, our happiness was short-lived. At that time of the morning, the area was shrouded in thick mist, ruining the view we had hoped to capture through our lenses.
We were done at Cape Kamui by 0930 hrs. We hadn't eaten all morning, and were impatient to get to Cape Shakotan for some freshly picked sea urchin (uni) for breakfast. Misaki and Nakamura were 2 very popular uni restaurants in the area. Even though we arrived at Cape Shakotan before 1000 hrs, both restaurants already had phenomenal queues! We were famished after our walk up the cliff at Cape Kamui and didn't relish the idea of standing in line forever for a bowl of uni don.
We walked around the area and came across a quiet restaurant called Sato Shokudo Shakotannabe. They served uni, had tatami seats, and we were the only non-Japanese customers that morning. Hubby ordered a mix of uni, crab meat and salmon roe on a bed of rice, whilst I opted for the version without the salmon roe. Both of us find uni too "jelak", so it was good to pair it with crab meat at least. The uni at Cape Shakotan was sweet and succulent, and we were glad we had the opportunity to taste the summer delicacy, albeit not at the most popular of restaurants in the area.
After breakfast, we explored Cape Shakotan on foot. We found the coastal views from Cape Chikyu more impressive than those from Cape Kamui and Cape Shakotan. Perhaps it was the weather or the time of the day that we went, the blue of the sea was just dull and unremarkable.
We continued with our journey to the picturesque city of Otaru. The 60km drive took about an hour and a half. Otaru was packed with tour buses and other vehicles that afternoon, and we struggled to find a car park lot.
We circled the city and ended up parking and starting our exploration of the city at Sankaku Market. The market was small, but interesting nonetheless. They sold freshly picked uni as well, and the price was similar to what we had paid at Cape Shakotan.
Parking space got increasingly scarce as one neared Sakaimachidori Street, the main shopping area of Otaru. The 900m long one way street was lined with chocolate and cookies stores giving out free samples, dessert stalls selling multi-tiered soft-served cones, shops selling curious knick-knacks and collectibles like intricate music boxes and glasswares. We eventually found a parking lot at Uniqlo's store outside the main shopping area and explored the city on foot for the rest of the day. We felt really bad for using Uniqlo that way, so we made up for our guilt by buying several t-shirts there at the end of our day!
Aside from the city's vibrant shopping district, Otaru Canal was also a major tourist draw. Visitors could cruise down the canal in a boat, dine and drink at the many restaurants and bars lining the canal, and explore the myriad of interesting alleys and streets in the area. We even stumbled upon a Japanese summer rock festival of sorts when we were there. An assortment of Japanese rock bands jammed on stage, with the Sapporo beer chugging crowd watching the show on foldable chairs.
We hadn't eaten anything (aside from the free samples at the chocolate and cookie stores!) since breakfast and were very hungry by 1630 hrs. Before leaving Otaru, we stepped into Victoria Station for some hamburg steaks. It's a family-style western fare chain and they had an all-you-can-eat salad, desserts and drinks bar. Reminded me of Ponderosa and Sizzler in Singapore. It was a welcome change from all the Japanese food we'd been consuming the past week.
We left Otaru for Sapporo at 1730 hrs. Sapporo was only 39km away, making Otaru a very popular get-away for day-trippers from Sapporo. Quaint Otaru was certainly one of the highlights of this trip.