Thursday 7 June, 2018
Day 8 / Shakotan to Otaru
[Missed Day 7? Read the previous post here]
Today we awaken with the early sunshine at 6:30am, however we don’t get out of bed until about 9am. I decide to make use of the onsen one last time before packing up and we have a chat to the owner Kotaro before setting off at around 9:45am.
As there are no shops around the area we plan to have breakfast at Seico Mart, the convenience store we found yesterday in Shakotan which is about 20km away. As we head off, the road is lined with vending machines.
Cheye decides to buy an iced chocolate in a can.
We have a decent tailwind for the first half hour which is great. Riding the coastal road is such great feeling, with the sea next to you and the cool breeze passing you.
We hit a few tunnels as expected and it’s not long before the tailwind turns into a headwind.
There are also a few decent uphills which starts to slow me down and I start to feel a bit tired.
We arrive at Shakotan just before 11am and buy some sushi and bread for breakfast from Seico Mart.
We have a friendly chat to the lady at register and she tells us about the Yasakoi Festival in Sapporo, which we are already planning to head to.
It’s another 20km or so to Yoichi so we continue on into the headwind.
There are a few longer tunnels during this part of the ride but at one point we are diverted to a different route that I’m not familiar with.
There is yet another tunnel we ride through, and we stick to the path which is barricaded from the traffic. However a bit further down, the path becomes extremely narrow with barely enough space to squeeze our bikes through. I continue cycling as I’m afraid Cheye is right behind me and I don’t want to stop suddenly.
After what feels like an eternity I emerge in the daylight and come to a stop, only to see Cheye is no longer behind me. I peer back into the tunnel and can see his flashing headlight in the distance but I don’t see it moving.
I’m afraid something may have happened so I start walking back to get a closer look and finally see that it’s moving, although very slowly. Eventually he catches up and says he had to get off the bike to walk as it just got too narrow for him to cycle.
We get back on the bikes and carry on. The hills get bigger and it gets quite warm in the sun. We get to Yoichi and decide to push on, however I’m feeling a bit flat today and decide to stop at a nearby Lawson’s to grab something sugary as I’m starting to struggle on the bike.
It’s just over 20km to Otaru and there are a few more decent hills before we hit the centre of town.
We find our AirBnB pretty easily and message the owner. She tells us to wait and shortly afterwards appears from around the corner. She runs towards us while saying “Sorry! Sorry to keep you waiting!”
We enter the AirBnB, which is cute and quite spacious for an apartment in Japan, and we converse with her using our best broken Japanese. She has left some snacks for us on the table as well as a gift of these cute hand-sewn pouches. We thank her and she says she will return at 10am tomorrow to pick up the keys before we leave.
We settle in and I decide to wash my clothes for the first time during our trip as there is a washing machine. We shower then head out for some food. By this time it’s nearly 4pm and most Japanese kitchens usually close between 3-5pm so we decide to grab a few things from the convenience store and head out to a restaurant for second dinner later.
As we wander outside we notice the town has a similar feel to Suanbo in South Korea, both being popular towns during the ski season and dead quiet in the off season.
Whenever Cheye and I travel, especially during cycling trips, we tend to leave it too late to get a proper lunch so we have renamed our meals ‘first dinner’ and ‘second dinner’ (first dinner replacing lunch being around 3-5pm and second dinner being a bit later at 7-8pm).
‘First dinner’ often falls at that inconvenient time when restaurants and cafes normally close for staff break, so it normally consists of convenience store food or whatever we can find. We pick up some sushi, tamago and salad and I have a nap before it’s time to head out for ‘second dinner’.
We plan to go to a restaurant called Yabuhan as we hear they do a great vegan soba.
We find the restaurant and take a seat on the tatami mats.
Cheye orders the Jimonoko Yasai Tempura Soba…
…and I get the Atsu Nameko Mushroom Soba.
We also get some Rolled Tamago.
Cheye gets a Sapporo beer and I get a soba tea. We also get a small bowl of crispy fried soba.
The food is delicious and just what we need on a chilly night like tonight.
The waitress brings us a teapot and some teacups, telling us the pot contains soba water, and to mix it with our leftover soup in the teacups to drink after we have finished eating. We haven’t heard of this before and it tastes like a watered down soba-flavoured soup.
We wander home in the cold and although the temperature says it’s 19 degrees, it feels way colder! We try to stay out of the cold by walking through some of the shopping mall tunnels that have artworks on the walls.
We also stock up on a few things from the convenience store for the ride tomorrow before heading back to the apartment to plan our next few days. We are doing our final day of cycling to Sapporo tomorrow but apparently it’s going to rain so we will sees what happens!
Distance cycled: 64km (coastal roads and wide footpaths, undulating with some decent uphills and downhills up to 9%, around 7-8 tunnels up to 2.2km long)
Lunch: Seico Mart
Dinner: Yabuhan Soba
Japan Travel Tip #8
Cash is best! For a place that’s so technologically advanced it’s surprising that they are still such a cash heavy culture. Except for places like hotels, larger shops and the airport, expect to pay cash. And don’t be afraid to carry large amounts of cash around with you as it’s a pretty safe country.