Penultimate stop of this winter trip to Japan… step by step we are getting closer to the end, and I am getting emotional! And even more because almost a year ago I was actually exactly at the place I will tell you about today!
After our 2 days in Abashiri, here we are, heading to the Shiretoko peninsula located Northeast of Hokkaido, « where the hearth ends » (=the actual meaning of Shiretoko).
This part of Japan is registered on the UNESCO list of world heritage sites with its 5 lakes and this huge nature known to remain wild and preserved. One of my highlight of this trip, not only because of the atmosphere but also for its landscape… which apparently changes even more during summer time (maybe another time!). As for now, here are a few snowy memories of Shiretoko…
On board of the Ryuhyo Monogatari train
The train between Abashiri and Shiretoko is called the Ryuhyo Monogatari train and goes along the Okhotsk sea during about one hour. Through the window, we can admire the beauty of the sea and floating ice cubes, pretty much as we saw in Abashiri.
You can go toward the front part of the train to see the panoramic view behind the large window (as I recorded in my Instagram Story « Shiretoko »).
Half way, you can enjoy a 10-min stop at the Kitahama station to take pictures and admire the panoramic view from an observatory.
The ceiling and the walls of the train station are completely covered with papers/tickets: apparently tourists would like to leave a trace of their passage here! (an atmosphere a bit creepy as in « A Beautiful mind », isn’t it?)
Anyway, enjoy the view as time flies during this trip !
The Kifu club pension
Once arrived at the Shiretoko station, we took a bus to get to the small Utoro town, where we spent two nights in this very comfy and full of charm family pension called « Kifu club », a small Japanese style cottage.
Right after dropping our luggage, the owners of this hotel suggested us to relax and enjoy the outside onsen bath… they didn’t ask twice! It’s actually from this day that I started coughing like a Kobe beef and it continued over two months after… a reward of being brave to go naked outside when it’s -10 degrees to plunge into a 40 degrees hot bath.
I don’t regret this delicious relaxing moment of thermal shock followed by a cocooning session in the living room of the hotel.
During all the stay at Shiretoko, I had this feeling to be at a ski resort with an enjoyable Japanese twist.
A fondue yes, but not a cheese one!
We had to deep the food into a tempura dough (Japanese doughnut) and fry them into the boiling pot. What a good idea!
Talking about breakfast, here was the menu: grilled fish, salad, pickles… with only one sweet dish= cottage cheese and blueberry jam that you can see on the side of the picture. I think you can also choose a continental breakfast, if you don’t feel like eating fish early in the morning.
As for me, I didn’t mind having salty food… especially as it was very delicious.
This little city of Shiretoko isn’t really crowded but it’s the starting point of quite a few tours.
Besides, we took the opportunity to ask some information at the information centre (I purchased the shirt I am wearing here). We booked our snowshoe hiking day and night festival that you’ll see a bit after.
Thanks to a quick walk around our « cottage » we found this so called « Godzilla rock » due to his shape. Moreover, along the road, a nice view at a frozen sea and (cold) waterfall.
A snowshoe hike
There is no winter holiday without a quick sport activity, isn’t it? We decided to do a quick outing with snowshoes with a group of Japanese and Ken, our nice tour guide in love with nature.
I didn’t take much photos during this excursion as we were walking in the forest with the snow whipping around us but it’s a very nice memory.
Ken’s explanations about animal, fox footsteps, bears’ scratches on trees… and special encounter with Bambi passionated me.
This ambiance a bit strange like in the « The revenant » movie was not very reinsuring but quite exciting at the same time. Difficult to imagine a green and flowery summer over here!
Shiretoko Ryuhyo festival
The information center of Utoro also told us about a snow festival that is held every February, with hot chocolate and small igloos.
No need to tell us more, the following night we were there! Here again, the “winter holiday” ambiance was more than ever everywhere…. a bar in the middle of stalactites, hammocks, sparkling lights… the ambiance was very unusual and very nice. Have a look !
Yummy addresses in Shiretoko
And to finish this « Mako at the ski resort » chapter (=my own interpretation of « Martine à la neige »), here are two restaurants that we tried during outstay in Utoro, Shiretoko.
BON’S HOME (
We had a real crush for the first restaurant called Bon’s home (also has rooms apparently) because it offers meal such as « japanese tartiflette » made with potatoes and cheese from Hokkaido: so good ! The potatoes are melting, and sweet and go perfectly with the smoothness of the cheese.
The “potato cake” dessert made also with potatoes was good too.
KUMANOYA (187-11 Utoronishi, Shari-cho, Shari-gun 099-4354 Hokkaido)
The second restaurant in Utoro is located in front of the Shiretoko World Heritage center, on the other side of the road. We had a soup with noodle and a chirashi bowl with salmon and salmon eggs: quite classical but good !
We finished this penultimate stop of this unforgettable trip to Japan: next time, we will head south to reach Kushiro ! See you soon ! (English translation by Quiterie)