Tuesday 5 June, 2018
Day 6 / Sapporo to Yoichi
[Missed Day 5? Read the previous post here]
The company we have booked our bikes through, Spark Cycling, meet us at 9am that morning to drop our bikes off. We meet Dai and his assistant who adjust our bikes and gives us a repair kit for our trip. After a quick chat we discover that Dai studied English in Melbourne. After they leave we sit down to have a quick bite of sushi before setting off towards Yoichi.
The great thing about cycling in Japan is that everyone does it. One of the first things we notice is that the footpaths are very cycle friendly – they’re smooth, wide and both pedestrians and cars are accustomed to having bikes around.
No one is even using helmets but I’m so used to wearing one that I won’t go without as I’ve seen the damage that can happen when there is an accident.
We alternate between the footpath and road depending on the cars and human traffic. We also pass through several tunnels – some of them feel like they are a good five minutes before we emerged at the other end.
I’ve read that tomorrow’s cycle towards Cape Kamui will include some long tunnels over 2km in distance!
We follow the main highway for a bit until we reach the coast and can see the ocean.
We then veer off and start navigating our way through the back roads but this very quickly becomes tedious as we have to keep stopping to check for directions.
We come to a sign that warns us of bears in the woods and decide this is as good a reason as any to back track and return to the highway.
Our first rest stop is in Otaru town, where we will stay on our way back in two days times. We grab a few things for a quick feed (sushi again) before continuing the remaining 20km to Yoichi.
The scenery is pretty awesome along the way. The weather conditions are great with a cool breeze. There are a few decent uphills as well as a few long downhills.
Upon arriving in Yoichi we decide to stop into the Nikka Whisky Distillery and spend a good 90 minutes there.
Cheye, being the whisky lover and expert, decides to be my tour guide as they don’t offer tours in English.
Even if you have no real interest in whisky or are a non-drinker like myself, it”s a pretty interesting place.
At the very end of the distillery is the complimentary tasting hall where you can try up to three types of whisky but we both decide to pass on the drinks…
…although Cheye pays for a sample of some of the more premium stuff at the bar.
Afterwards we continue riding towards our accommodation at Yoichi Guesthouse.
We arrive and check into our traditional Japanese style room. After sorting our stuff out we head out to find some dinner.
As we leave, there are a dozen older Japanese guests having a big seafood BBQ outside the guesthouse. They are starting on the sake and we can tell they are going to get loud as the night goes on.
Yoichi is a pretty small town of about 20,000 people. We hear most towns in Hokkaido specialise in seafood, so rather than searching for a place that can make us a vegetarian dinner we decide to go the convenience store option and pick up some noodles and sushi.
During our walk, we see a road sign that says Space Apple 0.6km. We’re curious and decide to follow the sign to see exactly what the Space Apple is. We continue walking until we see a children’s playground with a sign at the front with an apple symbol. We assume it’s the Space Apple playground and are confused and disappointed. (Note: I looked this up later and turns out Space Apple is actually a rest area containing facilities such as a space-themed memorial museum, farmers market and kids activity area. I believe we missed the turn off but looks like we’ll cycle past it tomorrow).
On the way back we pass a giant supermarket and pick up a box full of goodies – noodles, salad, reduced to clear sushi and loads of snacks. We also pick up breakfast for tomorrow to save us time in the morning.
As we arrive back at our guesthouse the Japanese group have started getting drunker and louder. We say konbanwa to them and they say hello back, followed by lots of laughter.
Not long after we start eating dinner we hear they have moved to the karaoke room where they are drunkenly singing Japanese songs. It continues for a while longer into the night as we plan our next days cycling to Cape Kamui.
Distance cycled: 57km (paved roads and highways, cycling mostly on the footpaths which are smooth, wide and very cycle friendly!)
Accommodation: Guesthouse Yoichi
Distillery: Nikka Whisky Distillery Yoichi
Lunch: Local 7-11
Dinner: Local Grocery Store
Japan Travel Tip #6
Convenience stores in Japan are very different to those in Australia. They’re cheap, plentiful and offer great food options such as bento boxes, noodles and sushi. As vegetarians, we would sometimes struggle to find places that offered dishes without meat or fish, so convenience stores were always a quick easy option to grab a snack or meal.