Wake up to a bright, sunny morning in Cape Kiritappu with panoramic views of the beautiful, blue bay dotted with small boats harvesting Kombu (Kelp seaweed). After breakfast (coffee, toast and yogurt – what else would you want?) We walk to a nearby lighthouse where the view of the ocean from the cliffs is magnificent.
Rakko sighting – sea otter
There are lots of cormorants and gulls but we are amazed to see a Sea Otter (Rakko). At first, we thought it was a seal but on closer inspection, through binoculars, we could clearly see it clashing shells together on its chest in classic fashion. I was not aware that these wonderful creatures were native to Japan. I had thought they were a feature of the California coast. Obviously not so. Later, from the same spot, we saw seals but they had lost their appeal by now.
On leaving the cape, we visit the small fishing community we could see from the headland. The people are spreading Kombu(kelp) and we note in this area, even quite far inland, there are large spaces cleared for spreading the seaweed out to dry.
Move on down the coast to Kushiro where, unusually, we have a hotel reservation. Our purpose here, apart from a change, is that shachuhaku (sleeping in the car) is problematic in cities and a night in a hotel gives us a chance to go to an izakaya(Japanese pub).
Arriving a little too early to check in, we go to a park to wander. Walking is an important activity when you are spending a lot of time driving. The park has some interesting features like a pirate boat and other appealing things for the very young and is quite busy with mothers and children, people walking dogs, fitness fanatics and lurkers.
Kushiro Super Hotel
As we check into our Super Hotel, parking is a bit of a problem. I am waiting in the road, hazard lights flashing as the front desk confirms to the car park man that we are indeed bona fide guests and he can shuffle his red and white cones and let us park. The hotel is ‘super’ only in its very low price but it is functional and clean. Its onsen bath is also very good as I have it to myself. Sadly, the same bath alternates between men and women according to time, so there is no time for D. to experience its warm mysteries. We have a date at an izakaya.
Izakaya in Kushiro
It is Kushiro so any izakaya is going to be heavy on the fish, which for me, is not necessarily a good thing. We choose a place that has braziers for you to cook on. We braze Ika(squid), sanma(pacific saury), salmon plus some Ikura (salmon roe) which we don’t braze. The food is good and we drink Sapporo Classic beer that is only available in Hokkaido.
Feasted, we walk along the dockside and look at the fishing boats. This is a serious fishing port. Some of these boats have huge arrays of lights arranged in banks along the sides. I had never seen other squid boats with such illumination power. Other less fantastically equipped boats were from Russia. On our way back to the hotel we buy beer and can chuhai (shochu highball) and otsumami (snacks) to help us through the night.
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.