Hokkaido/Wakkanai Day 1: Exploring Sarufubetsu & Soya Hills

Already looked through my introductory post to Wakkanai, Hokkaido as well as checked out the brief itinerary rundown on this blog post here? Let’s delve into the details, starting with Day 1!

Day 1 – Wakkanai – Sarufutsu – Wakkanai

Arrive at Wakkanai Airport, Pick up car
Drive to Sarufutsu Village
Lunch & Soba Making Experience
Shell Scallops Experience
Drive to Cape Soya
Visit Northernmost Point in Japan Monument
Walking Tour of Soya Hills with Tour Center "Base Soya"
Drive to Downtown Wakkanai
Check-in at Surfee Hotel Wakkanai
Dinner at Uroko-Tei (Japanese Seafood BBQ)

We landed at Wakkanai Airport at around 12.30PM, and set off straight away for the first item on the itinerary – Soba-making experience at Sarufutsu Village.

A little trivia about Sarufutsu Village – It is known to be one of the richest towns in the whole of Japan, thanks to the bountiful harvest of scallops from the Sea of Okhotsk, the biggest international export from Hokkaido!

Soba-Making Experience

The village is small and quiet, and this tiny soba shop called “En” only serves up 15 bowls of soba and 10 bowls of udon a day, all lovingly handmade by Miura-Sensei.

Miura-sensei closed the restaurant for the afternoon, instead hosting us in his homely space for a lesson of soba-making!

We started right from the basics, with just a mixture of wheat, flour and water. Needless to say, Sensei made it look SUPER easy, but after getting down and dirty with the soba-making, I am ashamed to say that I had absolutely no talent for making soba – It was most definitely not as simple as it looked.

After posting a series of comical videos on my Instagram Stories, I received so may hilarious replies from followers, commenting that my soba looked more like linguine than soba LOL, and I can’t say I disagree ๐Ÿ™ Also, I now know why soba has to be so thin and fine! The cold dipping sauce did not coat the thicker strands of soba noodles as well – the noodles I “made” tasted much doughier and blander.

Thick VS Thin soba! Lol

Nonetheless, our lunch was extremely enjoyable, with the delicious freshly-made soba noodles paired with scallop kakiage (scallop on a bed of vegetables and onions, deep-fried!) and made a memorable first meal after touch down!

After my hands-on experience, I can say for sure that the entire process of soba-making is so much more challenging and delicate than I thought it would be. Even the simplest task like massaging and kneading the flour and water mixture into dough took so much finesse. I was completely mind-blown with sensei’s precision and speed!

Nonetheless, it was such a fun and interesting experience, and really shows how much pride the Japanese take in perfecting their craft. Iโ€™ll never look at a bowl of soba the same way again, for sure!

Shelling Scallops Experience at Sarufutsu Park

Just a short drive away at Sarufutsu Park is Seafood Store Sarufutsu Marugotokan, where we stopped for some fresh scallops, so fresh indeed that we got to shell them and clean them ourselves before grilling them straight away!

Shelling my own scallop!

The scallops were SO huge! If I remember correctly, for just 700 yen, you get to have two scallops, as well as learn how to shell and clean them. A fun and easy activity even for the younger ones who can handle simple knife skills!

Fresh scallops on the grill, Sarufubetsu Park
Now, on to the grill!

We simply placed the fresh scallop shells onto the grill with a little bit of butter – Don’t overcook these babies, the scallops taste best just a little on the side of undercooked because the sweetness really comes through. They tasted AMAZING. Sweet, tender and chewy. I wish I had more of these!

By the way, Sarufutsu Park also has a bunch of other eateries, a museum and even a camping site ๐Ÿ™‚ There is quite a lot to explore there.

Exploring Cape Soya

Northern-most Point of Japan Monument

Moving on to one of the most popular tourist spots in Wakkanai! Cape Soya is the northernmost point of Hokkaido , and therefore of Japan. Close to the city of Wakkanai , the cape is a popular stopping point for bikers and tourists and has quite a few monuments, gift shops, a windmill, and a lighthouse. If the weather is good you can see Sakhalin, a Russian island once part of Japan, from the lookout point.

Trivia: Did you know that the island Sakhalin (now part of Russia) used to be under Japanese rule? In fact, you will find that public signs in Wakkanai has Russian writing on them, this is due to the influx of Russian autodealers and fishermen that visited Wakkanai frequently in the past.

There’s a famous scallop ramen place here called Mamiyado that we went to for lunch on our last day, just around the corner!

Walking Tour of Soya Hills

Wind turbines on Soya Hills

We booked a tour with “Base Soya” Tour Center to check out the Soya Hills, just inland of Cape Soya. The Soya Hills are famous unique periglacial landscapes that were formed during the Ice Age and the area is designated as a Hokkaido Heritage. There are also 57 wind turbines installed on these hills, which makes for some stunning scenery.

The wind turbines make up Japan’s largest wind farm

The lush rolling hills were so beautiful ๐Ÿ˜ You almost feel like you’re no longer in Japan, but some foreign part of Amsterdam/somewhere in Europe!

There is a path along the Soya Hills where you can walk along towards the sea, called the White Path. It’s a very scenic and picturesque walk – the distinctive white colour of the path comes from crushed scallop shells that are supposed to have anti-microbial properties!

The White Path
Such a beautiful path leading into the direction of the ocean!

We spent a good 30-45 minutes just strolling down this path. The weather was so windy and cool that no-one was breaking out into a sweat. It was a really nice feeling.

Check In at Surfeel Hotel Wakkanai

We drove back to the city area and checked in at Surfeel Hotel Wakkanai for the night. Surfeel Hotel Wakkanai is located just a 3-minute walk from JR Wakkanai Station. PS. If you’re looking to bring home souvenirs and snacks, the souvenir shop at JR Wakkanai Station sells plenty of them!

I had no complaints about the hotel room, it was very comfortable, clean and well-maintained. My room even had a lovely sea view!

Dinner at Seafood Grill Uroko-Tei

Super hungry and all ready for our last stop of the day: Dinner time at Seafood Grill Uroko-Tei restaurant! This restaurant is located just a stone’s throw away (a very short drive or perhaps a slightly longer walk) and serves up a variety of the seafood that Wakkanai is famous for.

Ask for the English menu – They have one, fortunately ๐Ÿ˜€

The live seafood was really good!! It was my first time having live abalone and the texture was so soft and chewy.

Wakkanai black cow

Soya black beef is also a specialty of Wakkanai (Remember the black cows in the earlier part of this post?) and we tried some as well. It was delicious, not as fatty as Kobe beef but just as tender. So good!

We called it a night after dinner to rest up for the next full day of activities – From Wakkanai to Rishiri Island! More in the next post! ๐Ÿ™‚

Day 2 โ€“ Wakkanai โ€“ Rishiri Island

Drive from Hotel to Wakkanai Port and travel to Rishiri Island via Heartland Ferry with car
Park car at port
Take bus tour by โ€œSoya Busโ€ around Rishiri Island to cover interesting landmarks
Return to port
Lunch at Shokudo Kamome (sea urchin bowl/uni don)
Visit Kamui Kaigan Park
Sea Urchin Uni Experience
Rishiri Seaweed Kombu Experience 
Drive to Shiroi Koibito no Oka (Observatory)
Check-in at Hotel Ayase
Dinner at hotel

How to book any activities or tours

As this entire trip was arranged and planned by a Japanese travel agency in conjunction with Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO), they have informed me that they can offer their services for those who require assistance in making any bookings!

Wakkanai and the Soya region is still relatively new to foreigners and many of the locals can’t speak very good English, you may find that you need help booking any of the above I mentioned. (From rental car, to ferry tickets to the various activities, experiences or even a translator!) Please don’t let the language barrier stop you from having the best time of your life in Wakkanai because the locals there are all so very friendly!!

For any inquiries or booking help for this itinerary at all, please email in to tours@fsight.asia in English or Chinese ๐Ÿ™‚

I will go into a day-by-day breakdown as well – Stay tuned and as always, you know where to look for me on Instagram!

Read previous Japan blog entries below!

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