Detour to Kushiro (5/6)

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Greetings. This is Nazrul from the Hokkaido Government Representative Office.

Map route (map source: Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism)

My next destination would brought me on a big detour to the eastern side of Hokkaido, so I had to take a domestic flight from Hakodate Airport. My flight was scheduled to depart at around 10:30 AM, and the Goryokaku Tower opens only from 9:00 AM onward, there was no way for me to go up the tower and be able to make it to my flight on time. Although I was disappointed, fortunately I could still pay a visit to the park around the tower since it opens from 5:00 AM onward. Waking up that early was a challenge, but I was determined to at least have a look around the park.

Entrance to Goryokaku Park
Elderly people having their morning workout
Statuettes found en route to the park

After the quick tour around the park, I made my way to the Hakodate airport for my flight to my next destination Kushiro. Apparently there are no nonstop domestic flights from Hakodate to Kushiro, so I had to make a quick stopover at Okadama, a domestic airport in Sapporo. It’s my first time transiting there, since it’s always New Chitose Airport for me every time I travel to Sapporo.

View of Hakodate from the air, with Mount Hakodate in the background
Lake Toya, with Nakajima island in the center of the lake
Mount Yōtei
By early November, many of the mountain ranges are covered in snow
View of Sapporo before landing at Okadama airport

It was not my first time coming to Kushiro; I first went there back more than four years ago during a familiarization (FAM) trip when I was still working for JTB Singapore. Hence, coming to Kushiro again after several years was a nostalgic trip for me, with visit to Kushiro Fisherman’s Wharf MOO bringing back some fond memories. Even if I had visited the city before, I still made some unexpected discoveries such as the Ever Green Garden (EGG) and the Nusamai Park Flower Clock.

Nusamai Park Flower Clock
Ever Green Garden (EGG, free entry)
Kushiro Fisherman’s Wharf MOO

The Kushiro Fisherman’s Wharf MOO is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Kushiro, and a lot of group tours include this in their itineraries. The peak travel season is usually in the summer, between May and July. One of the best selling souvenirs is the san-man-ma, which is grilled mackerel pike rice. There are also many other shops selling specialty goods such as seafood products caught from the bays of Kushiro, and sweets from other parts of Hokkaido.

San-man-ma (grilled mackerel pike rice) from SANMANMA UOMASA

Another popular destination in Kushiro is Washo Market. Just a stone’s throw away from the JR Kushiro train station, this market is a one-stop location for all the best seafood that Kushiro has to offer, from gigantic leggy crabs to bountiful heaps of fruits, all at really affordable prices.

Kushiro Washo Market
Live king crabs, which are in season from September to January
Train engine exhibit C58 106, a serendipitous find at the nearby Sawaicho Park

Kushiro is a fairly small and quiet city, and is mostly popular for foreign visitors during the summer. Apart from the Fisherman’s Wharf MOO and Washo Market, there are still some smaller finds littered throughout the city. One discovery I made is the Sennosuke Honten, a huge supermarket selling fresh seafood and various other products. Here is where visitors can find the PUKU PUKU Kushiro Aquarium, a delightful place to see marine life such as jellyfish and sardines.

PUKU PUKU Kushiro Aquarium

My accommodation for the night is based in Lake Akan, a lakeside hot spring resort hidden in the shadow of Mount Oakan. Visitors flock to Lake Akan for its relaxing hot springs and magnificent view of Lake Akan especially during sunrise and sunset, but more significantly it is also one of the landmark locations for the culture of Ainu. Here, visitors can pay a visit to the numerous shops that sells Ainu wooden handicrafts and souvenirs, all of which exude artistic ingenuity and profound heritage.

Ainu Kotan (Ainu Village)
Lake Akan’s manhole cover design

It’s very fortunate for me to arrive Lake Akan just before dusk, where I got to witness Lake Akan for the sunset right at the comfort of my own room at Hotel Gozensui. It’s both a trip down memory lane and journey of discovery, as Lake Akan is one of the few places that holds a special place in my heart.

Hotel Gozensui, my accommodation for the night
Lake Akan during sunset
A scene of Lake Akan I would never forget

For the next and final part of my journey in Hokkaido, I would be travelling westward to the city of Obihiro before my flight back home to Singapore. Stay tuned!

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