Sangaitaki park and Cape Kamui and an Octopus

Finding a reasonable hotel or other place to stay outside the big cities can be quite difficult so our only option was to sleep in Sapporo. We crossed the Sangaitaki park while driving from Noboribetsu’s Hell valley to Sapporo and enjoyed the snow covered playground located on a hill with a ropeway and funny-looking totem poles. The park is the result of an intercultural exchange between Kitayuzawaonsen and the Canadian town of Lake Cowichan.

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As so often during the winter months we were the only visitors and had all the park to ourselves. It isn’t a spot you need to see no matter what but if like me you’ve never seen a totem pole it may be a good place to do so. The best part was obviously that ropeway which surprisingly withstood my and my boyfriend’s weight although we both almost touched the ground.

sangaitotemmetwo totemchinesan
The park’s name, “Sangaitaki” was due to a pretty waterfall with three steps hence the meaning of the name “three steps waterfall”. Right before reaching the waterfall there’s a little shrine with figures. Some of them are wearing a red cape and are called Jizo. They are among other things protectors of travelers and are therefor often found along walking trails. I gave them a butter cookie and a peanut but maybe they’re more used to having rice and sake.

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It was about time to get away from the snow so our next destination after the night we spent in Sapporo was Cape Kamui on the Shakotan peninsula located on the west coast of Hokkaido. Since I couldn’t decide on which side to stay, our road trip switched often from the east coast with the Pacific and the west coast with the Sea of Japan and there were days where we would see snow on one side and warm places on the other side with huge changes in temperatures.

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The road from Sapporo to Cape Kamui was partially along the coast and we crossed many small fishermen villages with tin huts and bizarre rock formations on the sea shore. When we finally reached the vast and empty parking area we once again realized that we would be the only visitors again. After climbing the stairs and panting our way up Cape Kamui which was covered in tall grass blades we were rewarded with an amazing view. The final trail though, leading to a light house was closed due to strong wind probably and unlike with many other occasions, we decided not to trespass for once.

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It was the 24th of December and although there wasn’t any snow we had planned on celebrating Christmas Eve in Otaru. Somewhere on the way back we had to stop because I felt like putting on some makeup before reaching the city. We were about to drive off again but then I spotted some big octopi hanging on a line. I couldn’t help but satisfying my curiosity and had to take a closer glimpse of the scene. At first the fishermen were rather skeptical because he may wondered why some random foreigner would stop to take pictures of them and ask them questions but the situation loosened eventually and we got to see how they sterilized the octopuses in a barrel of boiling water before selling them to retailers of restaurants. Seeing those huge sea creatures was sad and fascinating at the same time but the situation was to get even weirder when one of the fishermen grabbed a tinier octopi, cut off two of the tentacles and hold them out to us. We were supposed to be eat them and so we did. At least some of it. He happily put the rest of the octopus in a plastic bag and gave it to us. We didn’t really know how to react but not receiving the gift would probably have offended them so we showed our gratitude for this generous gesture and decided not to eat the rest of it raw but to try to get some street cook in Otaru to grill it for us.

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I’m sorry if I shocked any Vegetarians or Vegans but that’s the way these fishermen earn their money to live and I thought it was worth a look. Octopus are very cute animals and highly intelligent and we didn’t want any of it go to waste so we made sure its death wouldn’t have been in vain by eating every piece of it. It was afternoon when we arrived in Otaru but more about that and the end of the octopus story in a next entry.

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