As we moved on up Hokkaido’s Japan Sea coast, we checked a couple of michi no eki with a view to staying. The first was rubbish, second one had a big onsen (hot spring) and a rose garden but the parking spot was not good.
We were a bit spoilt by 21 Century Forest. So, we pushed on to the next possibility. this was Shosanbetsu, which has an onsen and a free campsite, near an observatory. This turned out to be a lucky choice.
At the Michi no eki ‘Shosanbetsu’ (R.232) we are directed to the top of the headland and there, sure enough, is an observatory and a tiny campsite, rather exposed, but with a wonderful sea view. There is a large car park also with a view of the sea and a restaurant opposite the observatory but this is already closed for the winter.
Lower down there is an auto campsite, but we decide to stay on top of the headland for the view even if it is a bit blustery. Apart from a couple of bikers in the campsite there is no one around. The campsite is free.
The Observatory on Moon Viewing Day
After we have eaten dinner and it has got dark, people start to arrive at the observatory. We debate going in but it is 200 yen and we remember seeing nothing at Nichihara observatory.
Reconsidering, we do eventually enter and find a handful of people plus a couple of kids surrounding a large telescope operated but a very enthusiastic gentleman.
We realize, coincidentally, it is moon viewing day as the window ledge is decorated with mochi (rice cakes) and susuki (Japanese pampas grass?) Everyone takes turns peering at the moon through the telescope and the man explains that, in fact, you see more detail on the surface if the moon is not full. We also see Vega but, more interestingly, the rings of Saturn and the Ring Nebular; neither of which either of us have seen before. Good value at 200 Yen.
Shosanbetsu Toyosaki beach
We breakfast in a handy picnic place with benches, table and view of the sea. It is a bit sheltered keeping us out of the worst of the wind and very close to the car so, practically, perfect.
For a walk, we descend from the top of the headland to a small, desolate, black, sandy beach with a small torii (shrine gate) in the water and another on the cliff face. Then we wander on to a small fishing port and watch fishing boats unloading. D. talks to one of the fishermen who tells her that the life in the area is wonderful in summer but in winter the white out blizzard conditions are so severe you cannot do anything.
We continue along the rather dismal, black, sand beach with shuttered toilets where we meet a man who has just bought a whole salmon from some fishermen. As he puts it in the boot of his car he tells us that he bought it as couldn’t catch one.
This becomes clearer as, further on down the beach, where a small stream joins the sea, we see a group of ten or twelve anglers fishing for salmon. As we watch, one of them catches a large salmon and bashes it on the stones to kill it.
We walk back up to the top of the headland past the michi no eki building and onsen. Here we notice a go-kart track and other unlikely attractions, all of which are closed for the winter.
We drive to the nearest town to buy lunch and supplies for dinner. Another walk in the afternoon and it is getting quite windy. After visiting the michi no eki onsen*, we cook dinner in our sheltered picnic spot. Just as we start to eat, it starts to rain heavily. We could see the storm approaching across the bay and made a timely dash for the car to eat in the dry. The storm intensifies becoming a regular thunderstorm; lightening flashing, the rain lashing and the wind buffeting the car so that it rocks. We sleep warm and dry but, as ever, I have to get up in the night which, in the circumstances, is a major drag.
*The onsen at Shosanbetsu (Misaki no yu) is big, clean and salty. 500 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.