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.
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.
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!
Once we passed Otaru, which took about half an hour, the road narrowed to a one lane (oh no!) and more tunnels to come!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!
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. 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.
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.
inally 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!
You walk through the tunnel, and on the other end, is paradise....
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!
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! I really couldn’t stop taking photos, every step down provided a different perspective of this beautiful place!
The husband had enough energy to go down, so I was definitely a happy camper. How can you not praise God about something like that??
Afterwards we headed back up and drove to the left (south) towards Cape Kamui (also knows as Kamui Misaki), which is just about 10 minutes drive. Another little shop/restaurant and a huge parking area. Since we went in April which is not peak season at all, it's really nice to be able to explore this area without a lot of people.
And of course, in true Japanese fashion... there were vending machines galore! I just think this is so awesome. I wish we had our own fun vending machine by our house!
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?
I felt like I was seeing a dragon snaking all the way to the sea. And the view opposite the water was also just as beautiful…
This was the tip of the peninsula, isn't it just so breathtaking?
And honestly I didn’t want to leave. It was so beautiful and it just captured my heart. Such an amazing place! Then, we made our 2.5 hour trek south to Noboribetsu, surrounded by the beautiful sea, snow-capped mountains… ah! Life is good :)
If you wanted to see a little bit more of our trip, check out our little video that C made!