Trips from Niseko: A Day in Shakotan

  • By Clarence

Ocean blue waters, breathtaking panoramic views, and home to some of the best seafood is the town of Shakotan, just an hour and a half drive away from Niseko. Located in Western Hokkaido and facing the Sea of Japan, Shakotan boasts of scenic coastal routes and cobalt blue waters so clear it earned its own nickname, Shakotan Blue. 

The Three Capes and Shimamui Coast

Cape Kamui
Photo Credit: Hokkaido Travel Navi
Cape Shakotan and Shimamui Coast
Photo Credit: Hokkaido Love

Being at the tip of the Shakotan peninsula, it’s not surprising that Shakotan has some of the most beautiful capes in Hokkaido. Arguably the most popular one is Cape Kamui, which just  out into the sea and is accessible via a walking trail. The whole trail is a 40-minute round trip stroll that allows you a sweeping view of the steep cliffs and bright blue waters of the Sea of Japan. Once you reach the end of the trail, you’ll see the Kamui Rock, a unique rock formation standing straight in the middle of the sea. 

20 minutes away from Cape Kamui is Cape Shakotan where you get a wonderful view of the sea, as well as a closer look at the Shimamui Coast, selected as one of Japan’s 100 most beautiful beaches. Choose to get an overlooking view from the viewing deck or access the shoreline through a set of steps going down from the deck. 

Drive for another 20 minutes or so and you’ll reach the third cape, Cape Ogon. Its name, Ogon, means gold and was said to come from the schools of herring gathering around the cape that would flash gold in the setting sun. From the cape’s observation deck 30 metres above sea level, witness as the sea reflects the orange and crimson hues of the setting sun - creating what is believed to be the best sunset views in Japan. 

Go Under the Sea

Sea Sparkle Tour
Photo Credit: Ocean Days

Shakotan Underwater Observation Boat
Photo Credit: Hokkaido Love

The Shakotan Peninsula is Hokkaido’s only marine park and one of the best activities to do in the area is to witness the rich marine life that exists beyond the surface of the water. There are tours in the area that let you go snorkelling or ride a kayak with a transparent bottom which allows you to observe the sea life of Shakotan’s waters. If you’re feeling a little brave, go on a snorkelling tour at night where you can witness the sea sparkle (夜光虫), a one-celled organism that lights up the water like the stars in the sky.

If you prefer not to go for a dip in the water, you can ride a boat in Bikuni Port that has an underwater bottom with windows, allowing you to go under the sea and get up close and personal with the marine life without getting wet. Above water, interact and try feeding the seagulls that would be following the boat.

Try a Bowl of Uni

Shakotan's Uni Don
Photo Credit: Hokkaido Love

When it comes to food, Shakotan is particularly famous for its sea urchin or uni. From June to August, the harvest season for sea urchins, people from various places purposely come all the way to Shakotan just for a fresh rice bowl of uni. While sea urchins are not a rare delicacy, the ones harvested from Shakotan are sweeter and creamier due to the warm climate and mineral-rich waters it grows in, making it to be one of the best. 

Several restaurants serve uni rice bowls during the season. However, we recommend trying them out at the fishermen-run restaurants, who harvest the sea urchin personally, such as Misaki and Uroko.

Attend the Festivals

If you happen to be visiting in the summer, don’t miss out on the local summer festivals in the area. Every June, the town holds the Shakotan Soran Mikaku Festival which coincides when sea urchin fishing officially starts. The festival is the perfect opportunity to try out the best seafood delicacies Shakotan has to offer in one place - from sea urchins to fishes to scallops and shrimps. 

Meanwhile, a more special festival in July happens: the Shakotan Fire Festival. Fire festivals are quite common in Japan but what makes Shakotan’s unique is their Tengu Fire Dance where a person (dressed as a tengu) walks through a pillar of flames, creating a fiery and particularly shocking sight for the visitors. 

Shakotan Fire Festival
Photo Credit: Nippon Matsuri

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