Our Plan for the day
Our plan was to drive from Lake Saroma to Wakka Natural Wild Flower Garden then to Cape Notoro. After the cape we planned to visit a fruit farm before proceeding to Lake Tofutsu. The final destination would be our hotel in Kiyosato town where we would stay for two nights. The entire distance was estimated to be about 100 km.
We achieved all our targets!!!
Breakfast at Tsuruga Resort
Buffet breakfast at the Resort was very nice. There was a huge spread of food and we had a huge full breakfast. We would love to try everything but we were not big eaters so we did not do justice to the wide spread of food laid out on the counters.
Wakka Natural Wild Flower Garden (at Lake Saroma)
Immediately after breakfast we drove from our hotel to Wakka Natural Wild Flower Garden visitor centre. The journey was only 1.7 km so we did not take more than 5 minutes to reach the visitor centre carpark. It was about 9.00 am in the morning and there was no other cars around.
We were so surprised to see a huge wild eagle standing in the middle of the carpark. For a while we did not know what to do next, as the eagle and us were mutually staring at each other. Before I could whip up my camera the wild eagle flew off.
This garden was the largest wild flower garden in Japan and was on the Hokkaido Heritage List. This garden grew upon the sandbanks and surrounding grasslands near the seashore, extending approximately 20km in length with a total area of 700 hectares. It was located between the Sea of Okhotsk and Lake Saroma. This esplanade stretched the length of the coast and is called ‘Ryugukaido.’ There were woods, grasslands, sandbanks and swamps existing together all in one area providing the perfect habitat for over 300 kinds of plants, including Ezo-sukashiyuri/candlestick lily and naturalized plants.
The garden was too huge to explore on foot yet we were not allowed to drive our car beyond the carpark. To help visitors explore the wild flower garden the center rent out bicycle. The rate was ¥600 a day for a bicycle, there was no hourly rate. We rented two bicycles. Interesting the staff brought out a pink bicycle for me and a blue bicycle for my hubby (girl=pink, boy=blue 🙂 ) When they saw that we were carrying our Canon DSLR cameras they quickly pulled out two towels and used them to lined the metal wired baskets, so as to protect our camera. We were very impressed with their good service.
We cycled along a long “endless” tar road that ran along the entire length of the sandbank where Wakka Natural Flower Garden sat on. I was not a good cyclist so it was great fun cycling on a road where there was no other cyclist as I did not feel any pressure to get out of the way. Along the road we saw many walking paths that branched left and right from the road.
Whenever we felt like coming down for a walk, we would park our bicycles by the side of the road, near the start of a footpath that we wanted to explore. Walking down the path brought us into the bushes giving us a chance to see the flowers and birds up close. Most of these paths would end at the beach fronting the Okhotsk Sea.
Though July was not the best month to visit Lake Notoro as it was too early to see the spectacular red coral grass which would covered a huge area of the lake, we still decided to drive around the circumference of the lake to get to our our target destination, Notoro Cape.
The drive around Lake Notoro turned out to be very exciting. It was a huge bonus for us when we encountered two wild life sightings when we least expected them. The first encounter was a group of herons feeding near the shore. We were able to observe them for a short while before they realised our presence and took off.
The second encounter was an wild eagle hunting for fish on the lake. The eagle was not shy of human, though I was standing very near it, it ignored my presence. It swooped down to the lake a few times before successfully catching its prey.
Our next destination was Cape Notoro. This cape was one of the most famous scenic spots in the area whole year round. From afar we could already see the cape jutting out into the Okhotsk sea. It looked huge and majestic. We could see a solitary lighthouse sitting on top of it.
As I was wondering how we would be able to go up to the cape, the road instead of following the curve of Lake Notoro turned inland and we drove into a tunnel. In the tunnel I could feel that we were driving up a slight slope. The road continued to ascend even after we exit the tunnel. Shortly after we saw a road sign pointing left to Cape Notoro, we turned left into a side road that brought us up to a carpark on top of the cape.
The land on top of the cape was very large. It was rather flat and very easy to walk. Wooden railings were built all round the cape. It allowed us to go near the edge of the cliff and to look out into the Okhotsk sea without worries.
The place felt serene and peaceful and the wind very refreshing. Unlike the day before the sun was not very hot and we had a great time roaming and exploring the cape.
We walked from the carpark to the lighthouse which was not opened. We walk further along the edge of the cape and came upon a patch of wild beautiful flower. There was also a little garden with a statue of a fisherman.
Abashiri Fruit Farms
July in Hokkaido was a season for cherry, my favorite fruit. So it was definitely in our plan to stop at at least one fruit farm. Abashiri had a number of fruit farms it was just a matter of finding them. In my previous trips out of Singapore I had always found that fruits bought at fruit farms tasted many times better than the imported ones bought from supermarket back home. So whenever I had a chance I would stop at fruit farm to buy a few days of fruit supply.
There were some fruit farms on the north eastern side of Lake Abashiri. From Cape Notoro we drove to the nearest fruit farm Abashiri Sightseeing Fruit Orchard. It looked deserted but as we approached we saw a middle age woman standing in a shed selling cherries. We bought some, it cost ¥700 for 500 gram which was not very cheap. The farm lady invited us to go into her farm to pluck and eat as many cherries as we like for a fee of ¥1000 per adult (¥500 for a child). Takeaway would be charged separately. We declined and moved on.
I was not contended with the small bag of cherries, so we decided to drive further down the same road to search for Yokoyama fruit farm. I did not have the mapcode or the latitude/longtitude of Yokoyama Fruit farm so I just surfed the internet to get whatever information I could get in such a short notice. We drove around until we came to a x-junction and saw the signboard to the farm.
We went into the farm and saw a couple paying for two huge bags of cherries. The cherries looked so transparent so pinkish, so delicious. We enquired about the price and was told by the lady owner that she did not do direct sale of cherries. We had to pay an entrance fee of ¥700 (for an adult) to go into her farm to pluck cherries. We were welcome to eat as much as we could in the farm as for those cherries that we would like to take home we would need to pay ¥100 for each 100 gram.
I tried to persuade her to just sell me some cherries but she just said no. We were very disappointed so we left the farm. I really did not understand the rationale of no direct sale of cherry, could it be that she did not have workers to pluck cherry?
Just outside Yokoyama fruit farm, across the road was a beautiful paddy field. The paddy grass had turned golden and the sight was absolutely stunning. We could see golden glow coming from the stems of the padi.
From Yokoyama fruit farm we drove another 15 km to the start (west end) of Lake Tofutsu. Around Lake Tofutsu there were several places of interest and we intended to visit only three.
- The Waterfowl and Wetland Center,
- Koshimizu Wild Flower Garden and the
- Furetoi Observation Platform.
Tofutsu Waterfowl and Wetland Centre
Well we did see some interesting resident birds. There were three particular birds (two spoonbills and one heron) that seemed to always stay together. Even when we looked at the various many photo blowouts that were displayed in the center we kept noticing the three birds staying near each other regardless of whether it was spring, summer, autumn or winter.
In the main hall of the centre the windows stretched from ceiling to floor to provide visitors with an unobstructed view of the lake. Several telescopes were also set up near the windows for visitors’ use. Far away in the lake we could see several birds and the staff pointed out two of their three resident birds, those two spoonbills that we kept seeing in the photo blowouts.
Koshimizu Wild Flower Garden (at Lake Tofutsu)
This wild flower garden was sandwiched between the Sea of Okhotsk and Tofutsu Lake. We parked our car at a huge carpark just in front of the garden. From the carpark we could see a quaint little wooden house. On walking closer to the wooden house we realised that it was actually a train station, Genseikaen Train Station.
Beside the station were steps that lead up to the garden. We did not spend much time in the garden, because it looked ordinary just like a well kept garden. This garden was considered one of the most beautiful spots in Japan and designated as part of Abashiri National Park. The best time to visit the garden was between June and August when some 40 species of flower colored the ground by blossoming separately. We could see mainly yellow flowers probably yellow lilies among the greenery. In fact we saw more green leaves than flowers. Somehow the garden did not seen interesting and we left shortly.
Furetou Observation Platform
After the garden our next destination at Lake Tofutsu was The Furetoi Observation Platform. We drove past the lake and still could not find the Observation Platform. We felt that we could have missed a turn so we backtracked. Then we saw a tall triangular structure on a high ground on the seaward side which we thought could be the observation platform.
We drove toward it and found a side road that seemed to lead up to the platform. We crossed a railway track and came to an empty land where we parked our car. We had to walk up some steep steps to reach the observation platform. From the platform we could see the lake on one side and the sea on the other. In between them was a stretch of land which was the natural flower garden. Nothing spectacular.
After Furetoi Observation Platform, we drove on and came upon an interesting sight. A couple of eagles was circulating in the sky. They would occasionally stop and land on a particular lamppost. After a while one eagle would flew off and another eagle would fly in and land on the same lamp post again. It was very exciting to see wild eagles at such proximity.
We drove to Kiyosato Town where we had booked a room, the drive was about 24 km from Lake Tofutsu.
As usual after we dropped our luggage and backpacks in our room, we asked the hotel staff to recommend a nice place for dinner. There were a number of restaurants just a couple of streets away (about 500 metres).
We drove in the direction that was given to us and ended up at a BBQ restaurant. We went in and saw that the place was partition into several small rooms, each room had a half height curtain at its doorway, its wooden floor was raised and the room had a low table and several square sitting cushions.
The setup was so Japanese. We took off our shoes and got into a room and ordered a bbq dinner. The evening air was very cool, it went nicely with hot bbq which we ate leisurely. While eating I could see though the half height curtains the people in the next room, there were 3 men and woman (all locals), they were dressed very casually and were eating and laughing. The atmosphere made us felt very local too. The dinner costed us ¥2268.
Accommodation for the Night (two nights)
Kiyosato town was not my first preference. I would have preferred to stay in the town of Utoronishi for two nights, as it will be nearer to Shiretoko National Park, our destination for the next day. Unfortunately all the hotels in that town that met my minimum standard were too costly. So I settled for Kiyosato Onsen Hotel Ryokuseisou in the town of Kiyosato (50km away).
I booked a double room at Kiyosato Onsen Hotel Ryokuseisou, the cost was ¥13600 ( about $150 SGD ) a nite. It came with ensuite bathroom and breakfast in the morning.
The room was big and the ensuite bathroom was also big. The hotel looked new, bright and spacious. Our stay at this hotel would have been perfect if not for a pungent ammonia smell. The smell was quite obvious in the big hallway near the staircase and elevator that lead to the rooms on the second level. I had to walk past that hallway several times a day and I always smelled that pungent smell.
My husband was not very conscious of that smell, though he did confirm that he smelled the same thing whenever I mentioned to him about it. On the first night, I was woken up by the same smell in my room, it did not have any impact on my husband though because he slept through. The smell was gone the next morning. I did not tell the hotel staff about the smell because of language barrier, so I just bear with it and walked away quickly.
Wifi was only available at common area like reception, dining area and hall.