The Shakotan Peninsula is a gorgeous microcosm of the spectacular Hokkaido scenery. There’s pristine blue water, dangerous sea cliffs, plenty of wildlife, and some fantastic cuisine along the way.
Whether you’re skiing in Niseko, sipping whisky in Yoichi, or stuffing yourself with the freshest seafood in Otaru, the Shakotan Peninsula is a great addition to any trip. And we tell you everything you need to know for a wonderful day trip.
- How to Explore the Shakotan Peninsula
- Shakotan Peninsula: the Route
- Things to See Along the Shakotan Peninsula
- Candle Rock
- Cape Ogon
- Shimamui Coast
- Cape Kamui
- Eat Uni-don (sea urchin)
How To Explore the Shakotan Peninsula
Located in western Hokkaido, around 50km from Otaru, the Shakotan Peninsula is an easy day trip by car from Niseko, Otaru or Sapporo.
WEE TIP: to rent a car in Japan, you must have an International Driver’s Permit (IDP). It’s easily obtained but needs to be arranged before you arrive in Japan (for UK citizens, it’s around £6 from most Post Offices).
There are plenty of rental places around Sapporo, Niseko, and Otaru. If you don’t have the permit (or a designated driver), hitchhiking is pretty easy in Japan (so long as there are no global pandemics in town).
However, the roads can be quiet in the winter months, so we would only recommend trying this once there are more people around (from April onwards).
It is also possible to complete the road trip using the public Chuo Bus between Sapporo, Cape Kamui, Yoichi, and Iwanai. That being said, bear in mind the buses run infrequently – especially in low season.
Be sure to check your route using the Chuo Bus Planner.
Shakotan Peninsula: The Route
Since the majority of the things you want to see are located along the northern coast of the Shakotan Peninsula, it makes sense to start your Shakotan Roadtrip via the town of Yoichi.
You might also consider stopping in for a dram at the Nikka Whisky Yoichi Distillery on route: don’t tell the designated driver!
This means the road trip begins at Cape Ogon. From there, you’ll pass through the Simamui Coast and finish up the day with sunset at Cape Kamui.
Thankfully, all of the main spots are on Google Maps. You can view our Shakotan Peninsula route below:
Things To See Along the Shakotan Peninsula
Standing an impressive 46 metres high, Candle Rock pretty much does what it says on the tin. It looks like a candle. Sticking out the sea.
There’s a car park that you can pull into to view this masterpiece. But it’s around 700m from the coast, and in all honesty, if you don’t have a super-strength telescopic camera lens, just have a look out your window as you drive past.
Around 25km northwest of Yoichi Town, you will arrive at Bikuni Port, your second stop of the day.
During the summer months, activities such as Blue Cave Snorkelling and the Shakotan Underwater Cruise Ship leave from here. In February, however, the town is deserted. Trust us.
Cape Ogon is open all year round and admission is free. Park at the Shakotan Tourist Information Centre, grab a map and from there it’s around 10-15 minutes walk up to the Ogon-Misaki observation deck.
From the tourism office, take the road on your right until you come to the sign above.
When we visited, there was still a lot of snow on the walk up. Take care, and mind your step as it was pretty narrow in places.
From the tower, you can see Bikuni Port, the impressive Mt. Shakotandake, Takara Island, and Gome Island.
Regularly voted as one of Japan’s best beaches, make your way through the hobbit-like tunnel and prepare to be amazed by the Shimamui Coast.
Literally translating as “rocky inlet”, take a wander down the steep stairs to get a closer look at the brilliant blue water of Shimamui. Parking and admission are free, and during the summer months, the onsite Rinko Restaurant is worth a visit for some fresh seafood.
The final stop on your road trip will take you to the Sea of Japan. Cape Kamui is arguably the most popular attraction on the Shakotan Peninsula, with a panoramic view of the brilliant blue waters, earning the sea its “Shakotan Blue” name.
There are plenty of trails that you can take from the (free) car park. However, the Nyonin Kinsei Gate that leads to the lighthouse at the tip of the peninsula will only be opened when weather conditions allow.
The trail – named the Path of Charenka – is completely closed during the winter months (usually until April). But you can still get a view if you hang right and follow the path before the gate.
The gate, rather strangely, states “woman is forbidden.” Rest assured, this is no longer the case and everyone can enter the gate for free (if it’s open).
From here, you’ll also be able to view your second ‘candle rock’ of the day. Kamui Rock tells the story of a heartbroken woman drowning and turning into the rock (yes, really).
Plan to spend around 1-2 hours exploring Cape Kamui, hopefully in time for a beautiful sunset over the Sea of Japan to end your day.
Eat Uni-don (sea urchin)
No visit to the Shakotan Peninsula would be complete without trying the area’s specialty: uni (sea urchin).
Impressive water quality matched with generous amounts of seaweed means that Shakotan seafood is up there with the best in Japan. The harvesting season is between June and July, and the uni is served over rice.
The two most famous restaurants in the Shakotan Peninsula area are Osyokujidokoro Misaki and Osyokujidokoro Naramuraya. Both serve freshly caught uni every day during the summer months, from late April to October.
So get out there and enjoy your road trip! Leave us a comment below if you enjoyed your time on the coast, or if you have any new recommendations.
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