Road Trip on Daisan Isasiri Railroad in Hokkaido (Part 2)

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Japan Hour - Autumn
Road Trip on Daisan Isasiri Railroad in Hokkaido

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Japan Hour (Synopsis Only):

Road Trip on Daisan Isasiri Railroad in Hokkaido (Part 2)

We continue our two-day trip along the South Hokkaido Railway line, which runs along the Gulf of Hakodate. We will visit more tourist spots recommended by the locals, while indulging in delicious food and enjoying scenic views. On the first day, while looking for lodging facilities near Kamiiso Station, we come across a cafe. The manager tells us about a local speciality of Hokuto city, Hokki dumplings. He also suggests we stay at a guest house called Abe. Furthermore, when we tell him we plan to alight at Oshimatobetsu Station the following day, he recommends we check out a Trappist monastery nearby.

We visit the shop which sells the dumplings filled with Hokki clams, a delicacy of the city. It is believed to be the only store in Japan which makes them. It took the owners 18 years to finalise the recipe and they started selling the Hokki dumplings 10 years ago. The shop sells 2,000 of these dumplings each day. 

We return to the cafe for dinner and tuck into a homemade special curry, which also includes Hokki. We then make our way to the Abe guest house, where a seafood dinner is served if one makes a reservation. The next day, for breakfast, the guest house prepares a feast of grilled salmon, seaweed miso soup, salmon roe, butterbur flower stalks and a type of yam called Jinenjo, grown by a local agricultural high school.

We are still keen to try some Garougaki grilled oysters. So we ask a hotel staff, who tells us about a restaurant named Fishery. Unfortunately, it only opens at 11am and we have to catch our train at 11.05am from Kamiiso Station. Nonetheless, we do visit the Taniyoshi Inari Shrine, which is also recommended by the hotel staff. What makes the shrine unique is that there is a sumo ring here, used for children's sumo tournaments and other festivals in summer. 

Unlike the first day, on the second day, we decide to alight at every other station. So we return to Kamiiso Station and enjoy the scenic ride as the train continues along the shimmering Gulf of Hakodate. We skip Moheji Station and alight at Oshimatobetsu Station. We check the train schedule and have over two hours till the 2.10pm train. We go to the Oshimatobetsu Post Office and ask for directions to the Trappist monastery. We walk to the monastery, which is situated on a slope. It is Japan’s first such monastery and was founded in 1896 by French monks. We seek special permission to enter the monastery as visitors need to make an appointment to get in. We also find out that only male visitors are allowed inside. It currently has 25 monks, who raise cattle, run a dairy farm and make butter, cookies and ice cream using milk from the farm. The monastery on the hill also commands a wonderful view of the sea. 

We head back to Oshimatobetsu Station to board the train, skip the next stop and get off at Izumisawa after 10 minutes. We only have to catch the train at 4pm, which gives us enough time to do some sightseeing. Residents recommend we go to a memorial park of the Japanese warship Kanrin Maru. They tell us about the park’s tulip garden, which boasts 50,000 tulips. So from Izumisawa Station, we walk for about half an hour to the park, which also has a Dutch windmill. Kanrin Maru was the ship that took Kaishu Katsu, Yukichi Fukuzawa and Manjiro Jon to the US during the Edo period. In 1872, it collided with a reef and sank in the offing of Cape Saraki. So tulips were planted here to honour the achievements of the Kanrin Maru. About 50,000 flowers can be seen in full bloom form April to May.

Next, we board the train at Izumisawa, skip one stop, and head to the terminal station of Kikonai. There is a huge Shinkansen station here; Kikonai is the southernmost station in Hokkaido and the Hokkaido Shinkansen heads north from here. A taxi driver near the station recommends we go to the Kyuko restaurant to try its famous fried noodles. The eatery used to be in front of the station for 57 years and it moved to its current location in October 2013. The famous dish features noodles which are used for Hakodate ramen and has several ingredients such as pork, fish cake and shiitake mushrooms.

The Kyuko restaurant is the final stop of our two-day trip along the South Hokkaido Railway line, during which we visited 10 tourist spots.

Tips:

1)    Some people believe one should walk along the side of a shrine as the middle path is reserved for the gods
2)    Only men are allowed to enter the Trappist monastery at Oshimatobetsu and one needs to make an appointment first

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