Driving around Hokkaido // Shakotan Peninsula Day Trip

One piece of advice that my Japanese pottery teacher shared for our trip to Hokkaido was to rent a car and drive around, and that’s we did! On the day we left Sapporo to head to Noboribetsu where we were going to stay at a ryokan/onsen, we rented a car and drove all the west to Shakotan and then drove back south to Noboribetsu.

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Renting a car in Japan was pretty easy. I made a reservation online using Tocoo which I found was cheaper than getting it from Expedia or wherever else, and I could also determine where I would pick it up and drop the car off. C also got his international driving permit a few weeks before we left for the trip, so it was just perfect timing. Tocoo basically pools together all the other rental companies in the area, and gets you the best rate. So our car ended up to be from Honda Rent a Car and we picked it up at the Sapporo Station North branch. It was fairly easy, we went in, showed our reservation and the permit, they gave us an ETC card (this is the reloadable device they have for paying toll, so you didn’t have to converse with the toll person), and we bought a Hokkaido expressway pass so it covered wherever we went.

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Driving in the city is definitely a lot more hectic than the highway, so the transition to driving on the right side of the road was so peculiar there. But Sapporo is so different traffic-wise from Tokyo, so I thought we got out of the city way quicker. Check out those beautiful mountains!

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At our first toll gate. So easy – just like most toll gates around the world, where you just drive through it fairly slowly, and once you hear the beep and the gate opens, it’s time to go!

The road to Shakotan passes through Otaru, which is still a fairly busy area with tons of people, so check out these cute little houses on top of the tunnel!

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Once we passed Otaru, which took about half an hour, the road narrowed to a one lane (oh no!) and more tunnels to come!

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C and I were stuck behind this little car for a loooong time… and when we finally got to a spot where we could overtake the old lady, she turned off from the road. LOL!

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The scenery along the drive was just seriously amazing, like breathtaking, out of this world. You almost couldn’t believe you were still in the same country.

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Took a snap of this bridge because it reminded me our bridges here in Vancouver!

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Here we are closing in! Shakotan area is also fairly large, and Shimamui Coast + Kamuimisaki (Cape Kamui) were still further in that area. We passed through so many little towns with almost empty streets, it was quite fascinating. We followed the GPS on the car but it could only take in phone numbers and map codes, so we ended up relying on Google Maps on our phone, and the signs of course, which were thankfully in English.

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Once we hit the “end of the highway”, you could turn right or left – right to the Shimamui Coast, and left to the Cape Kamui. We went to Shimamui Coast first.

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Finally after about 1.5 hours of driving, we arrived in Shimamui Coast. You’re probably wondering, where’s the coast? Haha, through a little tunnel behind this picture. There’s a little restaurant + shop and washrooms and ample parking. Since we were here in April which is off season for them, there was barely anyone there. I kind of like this laid-back atmosphere for travelling, to be honest!

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And here was the tunnel I was chatting about!

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You walk through it, and on the other end…. is paradise.

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Hello, beautiful Shakotan! As some of you know, I absolutely love the sea and the smell of it was just like home. The waters, crashing waves, seagulls and all, were all music to my ears. We had been praying and monitoring the weather app for good weather and thank God for this wonderful opportunity to experience His creation!

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There were steps to walk all the way down to the beach, and with my half marathon 2 weeks away, I was like, let’s go for it! 🙂

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Couldn’t stop taking photos, every step down provided a different perspective of this beautiful place!

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Ze husband heading down to the coast… he loved it too!

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This is him throwing a rock onto the sea… he said he just had to do it! LOL!

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Afterwards we headed back up and drove to the left (south) towards Cape Kamui, which is just about 10 minutes drive. Another little shop/restaurant and a huge parking area.

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Love that there’s a vending machine in the middle of nowhere….

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Here’s a map of the place!

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I could totally imagine how much more beautiful it would be with all green hills, but I was already beside myself seeing this view! This little section towards the tip was closed, not sure why! Maybe the wind?

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I felt like I was seeing a dragon snaking all the way to the sea.

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And the view opposite the water was also just as beautiful…

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The tip of the peninsula! And honestly I didn’t want to leave. It was so beautiful and it just captured my heart. Such an amazing place!

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Then, we made our 2.5 hour trek south to Noboribetsu, surrounded by the beautiful sea, snow-capped mountains… ah! Life is good 🙂

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written by

Karla lives a life of commas and dashes - photography, graphic design, travelling, and more. Karla's goal for 2012 is to find a creative space for all those - and thus the birth of Shortcut Travels. Shortcut Travels is a local travel and food photography blog, showcasing short trips, adventures, and eats in and around Vancouver.

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