View Larger Map
Saturday, May 29, 2010
16th October. 2006 - After a day and night out on the town, T-chan's family had organised to go on a bit of a tour... for a great new Apple product that had not even hit the stores yet. However, this wasn't the sort of product you'd find in downtown Yodobashi or BIC Camera howerver... We had to go a little further afield. In fact up the western coast of Hokkaido to a small little town called Mashike (population around 5,000). It's about 115km away, and most of that is on windy coastal road. By the way, here's an interesting link for some helpful hints of driving holidays in Hokkaido.
View Larger Map
View Larger Map
The trip is primarily along the coastline, and there's a few vantage points on the way to look back. The coastline towards Sapporo is not that interesting however (see above). The further away from Sapporo the more attractive the scenery. One of the nice little breaks is at Shiragane-no-taki.
The sun is low at this time of the morning. It may be a small waterfall, but it's faint cool mist and beautiful sound is still good for the refreshing the senses. That rock looks old - yet much of this land is actually geologically quite young.
The one thing that you definitely see a lot of on the drive to Mashike is tunnels. From memory we drove through over 20 tunnels along the coast. Most of them are small, but some take upwards of a minute to drive through.
It's at times like these that I think about all the seismic activity in this neck of the wood (long tunnels would not the best place to be, I imagine, when an earthquake hits). Man am I paranoid about tunnels! T-chan just reminded me that a few years before this trip one of these tunnels had collapsed (due to an engineering fault) killing quite a few people. Perhaps I wasn't so paranoid after all...
Still, it's not all coastline and tunnels. The countryside around here feels (despite the netting of electrical and fibre optic) very raw and untouched. This is quite different to the countryside around Jozankei for example (where you know that it's on a well-traveled route to a tourist town). I'm not sure how many people get out into these hills.
And here we are - eventually... in Mashike... to buy one of the best Apple products around. No that's not Apple with a (TM). It's the real thing. (Not an IPad in sight). That's right, we've driven for about two hours to buy apples!
Ok - we're not actually in Mashike, but rather an apple orchard just out of town. And yes - the apples are delicious! T-chan's parents have come here before and this has become a sort of annual pilgrimage for them. The apples are so good that not only will T-chan's parents bring a whole heap back home for themselves, but they'll use them as a sort of omiyage for many of their friends (these are presents for thanking and consideration). And these are always well received as Mashike apples are quite famous in Hokkaido. Not sure what type of apples are grown but they are amazingly crisp and juicy. Here's another link I found to some very funky looking docos on apple-growing in Hokkaido.
It's certainly a beautiful and bounty land to grow produce in. This area grows a lot of different fruit and vegetables. Yumm-o... but T-chan couldn't taste any of it. And she was also starting to suffer from morning-sickness.
After buying apples we headed back to Mashike where we popped into the Kunimare Sake Brewery... which was established in 1882 and is reasonably well known around Hokkaido at least. Don't ask me why the people in Hokkaido love their stuffed bears, but you will find them every where. It's a little degrading... but apparently not enough that I would refuse to have myself photographed with it.
As for the brewery itself - I'm not much of a sake drinker, but it seemed quite reasonable... The brewery looked very much like that. Very business-like (and by that I mean it's all brewery, and only a very small back room for tasting). Don't expect a totally awesome tour, but it's not everyday that you can have a look around a working sake brewery. Sorry - can't recall the prices.
On the way back to Sapporo, we stopped off at one of the many river outlets along the coast. It's spawning time for the Salmon here now, and sure enough we see quite a few salmon heading up-stream... trying to jump up the regulators along the way.
It's a somewhat sad sight... and a little confronting if you've not seen it before. There's a raw desperation and energy about the salmon struggling against current, barrier and ultimately fatigue to reach their goal in order to spawn. This however, is nature at it's most raw...
And I have to say... seeing all that salmon makes me hungry. I just love to eat'em. T-chan's mother makes the best salmon dishes. ?;^)