We were the only people to spend the night at Sarabetsu michi no eki which is a fine place to stay, very quiet despite the proximity of ‘Tokachi Obihiro airport’. The morning is bright and sunny with a stiff breeze, so we take the opportunity to air the car a little before setting off for Cape Erimo.
After leaving Sarobetsu, but before hitting the coast, we spot a pair of Tsuru in a meadow. This is a surprise as we are some distance from the Kushiro wetlands and Tsuruimura.
Ogondoro or Gold Road
The coast, we find, is rocky and wild. The road is known as Ogondoro or Gold Road, a reference to the exorbitant expense of making it. This road, in its modern form, has some very long tunnels that take you away from the dramatic coastal views. This is a shame, but in places the older, original Gold Road still exists, and it is possible to diverge onto that.
All along the coast, people are collecting Kombu (seaweed). It is a little too early for the Kombu harvest and the large, flat, stony areas that are dotted throughout this area are devoid of drying seaweed.
We conclude that, due to the recent stormy weather, a lot of Kombu had been ripped from its roots so the people were salvaging what they could.
We noted that the train service, that serves this coast, was suspended and a bus service running instead. Another indication of severe weather.
Although the day started fine, it begins to cloud over and by the time we are approaching Cape Erimo it is raining steadily. The Cape is famous for being one of the windiest spots in Japan. Wind over 10m/sec. is recorded for more than 260 days a year and sometimes 30 m/sec is reached.
As we arrive, the large car park is swept with driven rain and the temperature has dropped to 10 degrees C.
We walk to the various viewing points and admire the grandeur of the cliffs and tempestuous seas. We cannot, however, see any of the seals that are reputed to inhabit these particular rocks.
Finally, the wind, rain and cold drive us into the “House of Wind” visitor centre. This, unusually, has been designed with some consideration of the natural beauty of the spot and is not intrusive. Inside, in the warm, there is a magnificent viewing room with tiered seating, like a theatre. It is equipped with powerful telescopes that are focused on the colony of harbour seals that we thought were not there. There is no need to put 100 yen in the slot either.
Along with the seals we could make out some black and white birds. The centre has these as Harlequin ducks, but they are winter visitors. The bird we saw looked like Auks to me, some of which breed in Eastern Hokkaido. But they were far away, and the focus and my eyesight were fuzzy so I cannot be sure.
We also entered the House of Wind to experience wind, of 25 m/sec. There were bars to hang on to and I was advised to remove my glasses. Breath-taking.
Niikappu, Thoroughbred Ginza 新冠
From Cape Erimo, as we continue along the coast the landscape suddenly changes. The rocks and rugged cliffs give way to dunes and sandy beaches and then there are horses. The windswept cliffs fade into verdant pastures and shady copses – the rain has stopped and there are horses everywhere.
This is the centre of Japanese racehorse breeding. The meadows are dotted with mares and foals, glossy, brimming with health and well-being. It is another world entirely from the rugged kombu harvesters 20 kilometres away, on the other side of the cape.
We make a detour through the area known as “Thoroughbred Ginza”, just to look at the beautiful horses.
From these gently, undulating meadows we move on towards Tomakomai and again the landscape changes until we are driving through rice fields. The young plants barely showing above the water. These rice paddies take us to Mukawa Shiki no Sato , our michi no eki for the night.
This place has a hotel and onsen as well as a michi no eki. The onsen is a fine with strong, salt water, but the outside bath has a view of aluminium siding. It might be enhanced by a mural of Mount Fuji.
＊Mukawa ‘Shiki no Yu’ onsen ; 520 yen / adult
The author is a long term resident of Japan who has and continues to travel the country extensively. Avoiding highways where possible, the author has driven from Kagoshima in Kyushu to Wakanai in Hokkaido covering 20,000 plus kilometres and counting.