Release | Takako Chiba
Locals recommend the hidden gem, Okushiri Island: Hokkaido Likers with Hokkaido Hiyama Promotion Bureau
You can choose between an airplane or ferry to go to Okushiri Island from Hokkaido. Hokkaido Likers took Heart Land Ferry for two hours from Esashi Port to discover everything about the hidden gem Okushiri Island: eating, staying, shopping, etc. There was a location shooting of the popular drama when we visited Okushiri Island!
Table Of Contents- Where is Okushiri Island in Hokkaido? How to get there?
- Why autumn, not the busiest season, is the best?
- Staying at Okushiri Island: Okushiri Island Onjuku Kikuchi and Okushiri Guest House imacoco
- Eating at Okushiri Island: Matsuya Shokudo and CAFÉ faro
- Shopping at Okushiri Island: Ritou Sennin and Umikan
- Meeting people at Okushiri Island: island exchange students at Hokkaido Okushiri High School
- Going with Okushiri Island: Okushiri Winery
- Bonus: extra episodes from our trip to Okushiri Island
Where is Okushiri Island in Hokkaido? How to get there?Okushiri Island is on the left side of a diamond-shaped Hokkaido map. It’s the island on Sea of Japan side of the curved Oshima Peninsula.
It was called “Ikushunshiri” in Ainu language and later called “Ikushiri,” then turned to “Okushiri.” “Iku” means the other way, and “Shiri” means island. Therefore, Ikushiri means “the island on the other way.”
▲Okushiri Island is where the arrow indicates.
It’s the second largest island in Hokkaido except for Northern Territories, following Rishiri Island, and the size is two times bigger than Hachijojima Island.
You can use an airplane or ferry to travel to Okushiri Island.
There is a regular route from Hakodate Airport to Okushiri Airpot by Hokkaido Air System. It takes approximately 30 mins.
The ferry leaves Esashi Port Ferry Terminal, which is in Esashi-Cho, the town on the other side.
▲Heart Land Ferry.
It takes 2 hours and 10 mins. You don’t have to make a reservation if you are planning to board without a car. Booking is required if you need to take your car with you.
●Access to Okushiri Island
- Hokkaido Air System
- Hear Land Ferry
Fees (one-way fare)
- First-class Island View Seat 5,740yen/adult
- 2nd-class Reserved Seat 3,510yen/adult
- 2nd-class 2,860 yen/adult
* Check the official website for details such as fares to carry vehicles.
Why autumn, not the busiest season, is the best?Abundant nature, beech forests, fresh seafood such as sea urchin and abalone, a beautiful ocean commonly referred to as Okushiri blue, and warm people on the island who welcomes visitors.
▲The ocean is highly transparent and commonly called Okushiri blue. Can you see there are many sea urchins under the water?
People often think that the busiest time of tourism in Okushiri Island is summer. In autumn, you can have a quiet time on the island.
▲Okushiri-Cho’s manhole cover design. It might be the first time to appear in Hokkaido Likers’ manhole cover design collections.
▲Even a street lamp’s shape is sea urchin in Okushiri!
▲The symbol of Okushiri Island is Nabetsuru Rock. It was named because it looks like a “tsuru (handle)” of “nabe (pot).”
In autumn, you can have a quiet and relaxing time without doing anything active. Explore beech forests. Watch Okushiri Island’s ocean for a whole day. Don’t you think it’s a sophisticated way to enjoy Okushiri Island?
▲Miku Goto from Okushiri-Cho town hall regional policy department tourism and commerce group. She, who was born and grown in Okushiri, showed the island to us.
Staying at Okushiri Island: Okushiri Island Onjuku Kikuchi and Okushiri Guest House imacocoAccommodations in Okushiri Island are Minshuku (B&B), ryokan, and guest house. There are no big hotels and resort facilities.
You will be treated well and able to feel at ease as if it was your own home at any place. Hokkaido Likers would like to recommend two places from such accommodations, especially:
●Okushiri Island Onjuku Kikuchi
“Okushiri Island Onjuku Kikuchi” opened in 2000. People on the island often call “Onjuku-san” instead of “Kikuchi-san.”
▲Okushiri Island Onjuku Kikuchi
Yuto Kikuchi, the owner of the inn, was originally a cook in Hakodate. He came back to Okushiri Island, where he was born, and established this inn. Satoko, his wife/Okami, is from Miami-Kayabe Cho (currently Hakodate City) and moved to the island after the marriage.
The attraction of “Okushiri Island Onjuku Kikuchi” is delicious food offered by the cook/owner!
The content depends on plans. The most popular plan is the one that comes with sea urchin hot pot and abalones.
▲I know it is a bad manner, but I think I cannot resist hovering my chopsticks back and forth over dishes!
▲Okushiri Island Onjuku Kikuchi is proud of its sea urchin hot pot. I heard many people visit the island just to have this hot pot. I understand it very much!
They serve fresh sea urchins until August, but they freeze sea urchins so that they can offer sea urchin hot pot throughout the year. Many people who tried sea urchin hot pot at Okushiri Island Onjuku Kikuchi add sea urchin hot pot even if they come back to the island for a business trip.
The Kikuchi couple runs the inn, but the owner does not come out to see guests that much once he is in the kitchen. However, okami, the wife welcomes guests with full hospitalities.
The bright and cheerful okami tells everything about the dishes and the island.
▲Yuto and Satoko Kikuchi. The tired bear welcomes guests at Okushiri Island Onjuku Kikuchi.
“Okushiri Island Onjuku Kikuchi” is seven minutes by car from the ferry terminal. There is a mountain at the back of the inn, and the beach is just a few minutes away on foot. There are only houses around the inn. It was quiet already during the day, but it was surprisingly quiet at night.
“You don’t have to come here to be busy visiting tourist destinations. Please come here just to relax. I want people who have busy lives to come here and relax.” Satoko told me.
Okushiri Island Onjuku Kikuchi
Azamiyatsu-11-6, Okushiri, Okushiri-gun, Hokkaido
Capacity: 25 people
Number of rooms: 8 Japanese rooms (every room comes with air conditioning)
No smoking, refrigerator, and air conditioning equipped in every room.
Free pickup from the ferry terminal (reservation required)
Business plan - 7,500 yen (includes tax)
Sea urchin and abalone plan - 12,420 yen to 18,930 yen (includes tax) (available from mid-June to August)
Abalone sashimi and sea urchin hot pot plan (no fresh sea urchin) - From 11,610 yen
Abalone sashimi, grilled fresh abalone, sea urchin hot pot plan (no fresh sea urchin) - From 13,630 yen
* The fees are as of September 2019.
●Okushiri Guest House imacoco
The newest accommodation in Okushiri Island as of September 2019 is “Okushiri Guest House imacoco,” which opened on April 2018.
▲Okushiri Guest House imacoco
The owner, Yuto Sotozaki, who was a teacher before, is from Sapporo. He moved to Okushiri Island with his family.
I was surprised to hear his story about opening imacoco. It was so dramatic and speedy!
▲He is the owner, Yuto Sotozaki. He was very friendly, that made me want to call him “Yuto-san” from the first time we met.
He took two years off from university. During that time, he pulled rickshaw and traveled overseas. He felt that no tourist destinations and sites could surpass the encountering with people from that experience, and concluded to build a guest house to make such space.
He had already decided to establish a guest house in the future when he was 21 years old. However, he also had a dream to become a teacher, so ha made that dream come true first. He worked as a teacher for five years at a high school.
Eventually, he quit his job at school because his father-in-law got sick. He helped to farm at his father-in-law’s rice field in Fukui Prefecture, his wife’s hometown.
▲He thought really hard what was missing in Okushiri. Then he reached the theme “playing and interacting on the island.” The catch phrase of imacoco is “An interacting style accommodation which provides fun.”
He came back to Hokkaido in October 2017. He was thinking of starting a guest house in Taiki-Cho, where he has put his eye on. However, he recalled that an inn in Okushiri Island, where his father visited every year to fish, decided to end the business. So he visited Okushiri Island with his father in November.
And he decided this is the place he should do the guest house right after he arrived on the island.
He moved with family soon and opened the guest house in the next year, 2018. His life on the island started very speedily like a linear motor train.
▲The living/dining room of imacoco. Guests who met each other at imacoco often continue the friendship and meet again at different places. “It is my pleasure to become a hub between people,” Yuto said.
He had a hard time getting enough guests at first. The number gradually increased by word-of-mouth and social network sites, which Yuto posts frequently. There is a repeat customer from Kanto Region who visits five to six times to imacoco in a year.
▲imacoco provides many fun activities.
“People on the island say the ocean of Okushiri is beautiful, but it is totally different when we go out to offshore. I can’t imagine how many people know the real beauty of the ocean in Okushiri. So I want people on the island to experience my activities such as SUP and kayaks. People on the island should play more! Of course, tourists are welcomed, too!” Yuto said.
Okushiri Guest House imacoco
100 Azayunohama, Okushiri-Cho, Hokkaido
Capacity: 24 people
Number of rooms: 7 Japanese rooms
Price: 4,000 yen/one night, no meals
Eating at Okushiri Island: Matsuya Shokudo and CAFÉ faroOkushiri Island is famous for fresh seafood such as sea urchin and abalone. However, locals on the island gave me a stylish cafe and a restaurant that every person who visits Okushiri Island must visit as recommendations.
●Oshokuji Dokoro Matsuya Shokudo
This restaurant has 50 years of history. Locals and visitors alike say that every person who visits Okushiri must visit this restaurant.
▲“Matsuya Shokudo” is nine minutes walk from the ferry terminal.
▲There is a total of 25 table seats and tatami seats.
Many people get addicted to dishes made by a professional mother such as “Ganso Okushiri Shio Ramen” and seasonally limited “Uni Ramen.”
▲Matsuya Shokudo’s Fusako Matsudaira.
If it were a sea urchin season, I would have had sea urchin rice bowl, but today I had a whelk rice bowl.
▲The 2,000 yen set comes with a whelk rice bowl, five side dishes, fruit (I had melon!), pickles, and miso soup. (As of August 2019) *The dish is sold at the current market price
▲Sweet and salty whelk and onions make me want to have rice! I could have an unlimited amount of rice!
I saw customers come in as soon as the restaurant opened and a long queue was formed outside before I notice!
You should visit early or expect to wait during the lunchtime.
Oshokuji Dokoro Matsuya Shokudo
Azaokushiri-772, Okushiri, Okushiri-gun, Hokkaido
Hours: 11:00 AM - 6:00 PM
Holidays: Irregular holidays
CAFÉ faro is a stylish cafe opened in June 2018.
▲CAFÉ faro is the only place that bakes homemade pastries in Okushiri Island.
“faro” means lighthouse in Italian. Ayumi Kamuro, the owner of the cafe, used the lighthouse in Inaho District on the north side of the island as a motif. Ayumi was born in the district.
She opened the cafe on the island because she loved coffee and the space of Kissaten and cafe. She started to dream of creating a space like that in her hometown, Okushiri, as she worked for cafes in Tokyo.
▲The cafe looks stylish.
▲Ayumi Kamuro, the owner of the cafe, has a gentle smile. She was born in Okushiri Island, worked in Tokyo after graduating high school, and came back to the island. She is also a mom of three children.
Locals visit her cafe many times, no matter the generations. “I am grateful that older people in our local shopping street support me,” Ayumi said.
There is a private room with kids’ space at the back, and parents with children can use the cafe without disturbing others. This cafe is being an excellent place for mothers in the islands.
▲Cafe mocha ice cream smoked duck salad casse-croute and banana chocolate cake. You should definitely visit here If you are looking for cafe style dishes in Okushiri Island.
She also offers pasta and curry for meals. Sandwiches and drinks are available for takeaways.
I asked what kind of cafe she want to create in future.
“I want this cafe to be rooted in the local community. I wish this cafe would be a place useful for everyone, depending on their needs.” Ayumi told me.
* She does not bake pastries every day.
792-2 Okushiri, Okushiri-Cho
Hours: 11:00 AM - 5:30 PM (dining space is available until 5:00 PM)
Holidays: Thursdays and Fridays
Shopping at Okushiri Island: Ritou Sennin and UmikanThe most standard souvenir from Okushiri Island is seafood. They offer various fresh seafood sourced in Okushiri Island, such as sea urchin, abalone, Atka mackerel, octopus, seaweeds, etc. I will introduce two shops that you should visit if you want to buy souvenirs on Okushiri Island.
“Ritou Sennin” is approximately 4 mins from the ferry terminal. It is faced to the road but located in the residential area, so be careful not to miss.
“I couldn't just quit a job and play around after retirement when I was 60 years ago. Fishing has been my hobby, so I came to thought, why don’t I go fishing and sell fishes that I caught. That was the beginning.” Hirotsugu Edamatsu told like he was a carefree man.
▲He is Hirotsugu Edamatsu, the president of Ritou Sennin. I was expecting a sennin, a hermit, but he was an ordinary island man with an attractive chatting skill.
His wife was against beginning the business at first, but he made her admit in the end. He got a marine products processing license, and now he processes and sells fish he stock from fishermen’s cooperative, etc.
“My wife gets mad when I went back from fishing too many fishes, and I also got mad when I was denied about my hobby. So I thought she would not have anything to say if I sold fishes I got. However, I could not catch much fish since then.” He told me as he laughed. The wife, who was against starting the business at first, began to help him from three years ago.
▲He offers approximately 20 kinds of marine products.
All of them are handmade by Edamatsu: dried fishes such as squids caught in the morning, stewed whelk which cooked for 6 hours on a wood stove, soy sauce marinated alpine leek which he took from the mountains in Okushiri, etc.
▲“Itanori” has many fans. It blends kannori and funori.
You can also purchase some products from Ritou Sennin at the souvenir shop in Okushiri Port Ferry Terminal. However, you have to basically visit Okushiri or order directly by telephone of FAX to purchase products from Ritou Sennin.
He said he has many repeat customers who had Ritou Sennin’s product once.
He manufactures and sells marine products now and thinking of providing some experiential activities for tourists and children who visit the island.
“But I am too busy.” He looked like a carefree man, and that made him look like a sennin a little bit.
Azaokushiri-19, Okushiri, Okushiri-gun, Hokkaido
FAX: 01397- 2-2477
●Hiyama Fishermen’s Cooperative Youth Department Shop “Umikan”
Hiyama Fishermen’s Cooperative Youth Department Shop “Umikan” is located in front of Okushiri Port Ferry Terminal.
▲Hiyama Fishermen’s Cooperative Youth Department Shop “Umikan”
It opened in March 2019 by using a national island revitalization grant.
▲Inside of Umikan
They offer around 15 kinds of frozen seafood sourced in Okushiri.
▲She is Anri Takeuchi from Hiyama Fishermen’s Cooperative Youth Department Okushiri Team. She moved to the island with her wife from outside of Hokkaido. “My first impression of the island was that there was no person on the island. (laughs) But people are nice, the food is good, there is onsen. I am enjoying my life on Okushiri Island.”
Umikan does not only sell products but also teaches how to best enjoy it.
▲Takeuchi makes the recipe. You can take the recipe card home with you.
The most popular product of Umikan is “Octopus.” “Abalone” and “dried atka mackerel flavored with mirin” follow.
“Octopus is really delicious, and it’s soft when eaten as sashimi. So please try Okushiri’s octopus.” Takeuchi told me.
They don’t sell products online, and you have to visit Okushiri to buy directly or order by telephone or fax.
There is another product I want to introduce.
Okushiri Island’s local specialty “High Sorbet,” which has been loved by locals for a long time.
▲This is “High Sorbet,” Okushiri Island’s local specialty.
Hiyama Fishermen’s Cooperative Youth Department Shop “Umikan”
309 Azaokushiri, Okushiri-Cho
Meeting people at Okushiri Island: island exchange students at Hokkaido Okushiri High School“Hokkaido Okushiri High School,” which became a town high school since April 2016, is the only high school on the island.
▲Hokkaido Okushiri High School
There is “Okushiri Middle School,” which merged Okushiri Middle School and Aonae Middle School in April 2017, built together in the property of the high school. They offer cooperative and consistent education, combining middle school and high school.
If you find students with plaid skirts or pants with jackets and ties in Okushiri Island, they must be from Okushiri High School.
The school has 64 students (as of May 31, 2019) in Okushiri Island with a population of 2,603 (as of May 31, 2019). 34 students among 64 students came from outside of the island and called “island exchange students.”
Island exchange students are students who crossed the boundaries of prefectures and came to Okushiri High School from outside of the island by the “Chiiki Mirai Ryugaku” program.
“Why did you come to Okushiri High School?”
I got really curious, so I visited the school to see people who came to Okushiri Island by using the program.
▲Three island exchange students who agreed to meet me.
●Hikaru Urayama: the scuba diving class was attractive
Urayama got interested in Okushiri High School when she saw a TV program about Okushiri High School.
▲Hikaru Urayama from Bibai City is in the second year of high school. “I noticed the poster put up in my middle school, and among anything, the scuba diving class looked attractive.”
She is a member of the “Okushiri Innovation Business Club.” She succeeded in crowdfunding two years ago and created T-shirts and towels with original designs. She uses the profit for expenses needed to run the clubs in school.
“We have many unique classes, and I am actually quite busy. (laughs) I have many opportunities to think rather than teachers tell us what to do. Now I have wider views, and I can analyze myself objectively.”
She is willing to become a physiotherapist and interested in community-based health care and team healthcare.
“I might want to go back to the island when I become a physiotherapist.” She told me.
●Ayato Sato: He chose to refine his sensitivity in nature
In Sato’s case, his father gave information about Okushiri High School to him. He compared filming specialized high school in Saitama Prefecture or Okushiri High School. “I can study about filming later. I should refine my sensitivity in nature first.” He thought like that and decided to come to Okushiri Island.
▲Ayato Sato from Tokyo is in the second year of high school. “I had never been to Hokkaido, and I was purely curious about Hokkaido, too.”
He got homesick and did nothing since school started until September. However, he got stimulated by a student from the National Institute of Technology Hakodate College who he met at an event. He shot the sea of Okushiri for a film contest in Hokkaido in 2019 and got awarded for encouragement award.
“I assume I had been passive if I was in Tokyo, where an infinite amount of information flows. However, because I don’t get much information in Okushiri, the value of information rises, and I should choose what’s important by myself. Doing something and being active makes me improve my communication skills, too.”
Sato told me that he wants to involve in video related industries in the future.
“Videos have powers to say thousands of words in one minute. I want to make videos as a weapon to tell something, and to do that; I would like to see the broader world.”
●Takumi Iijima: He wanted to do his favorite activity, fishing
Takumi Iijima’s parent is fishermen, and he wants to become a fisherman himself, too, in the future.
He chose Okushiri High School because there was beautiful nature, and the ocean was impressive. And because he was not good at communicating with people, he thought he could spend a relaxing school life on Okushiri Island while he enjoys fishing.
▲Takumi Iijima from Noboribetsu City is in his first year of high school. “I go fishing every day after school and cut fish myself to eat.”
Urayama and Sato live boarding houses, and Iijima lives in Matsukaze Dormitory, which was built recently in 2019.
Each student has private rooms, and students decide the dormitory’s rules to manage the dormitory by themselves.
“There were so many temptations in my hometown. Here, I could become independent that I have to do everything by myself. Teachers keep teaching until I get it, and I feel teachers are very close. This environment makes me focus, and my grade raised very much that I was surprised.”
When he arrives at Esashi Port to go back to his home on holidays, he feels the air is entirely different. The clean air of Okushiri Island dominates his body.
“I dreamed of becoming fishermen together with my father in my hometown since I was a child. However, after I came to Okushiri, I met people in Okushiri and began to think that it might also be nice to become fishermen in Okushiri. I don’t know how it would be, but I would like to do something fo Okushiri in the future.”
The three island exchange students I met had their opinions and concrete vision of the future.
They may leave islands for higher education and work after graduation, but they may come back to the island with friends and families someday.
The curriculum and island exchange sounded very attractive… I want to become a high school student again…
Hokkaido Okushiri High School
Azaakaishi-411-2, Okushiri, Okushiri-gun, Hokkaido
Chiiki Mirai Ryugaku
Going with Okushiri Island: Okushiri WineryThere is “Okushiri Winery” in Okushiri Island, where they manufacture Okushiri Wine.
Okushiri Winery was built by a local construction company as their new business to protect employments. Many people lost jobs when 10 years of the reconstruction business from the Hokkaido-Nansei-Oki Earthquake ended.
They started from ground-zero: there were no grapes for wine, no wine culture, and no specialists.
The only hope was that there were wild grapes. They started planting young plants of wild grapes in 1999.
They started growing wine grapes in earnest from 2001.
At first, they ordered other companies to make wines for testing. They built a factory in 2008 to produce wines by themselves.
▲Hitoshi Sugawara is the Managing Director of Okushiri Winery. He knew nothing about wines before but studied about wine making by himself for a year from 2007 and became the brewing manager. Sugawara has brewed all wines from the establishment of Okushiri Wine to today.
“I was told it is okay to fail, and so far, I came here. However, I had no experience, techniques, and knowledge. I kept encountering many challenges, really.” Sugawara said.
▲You can participate in the winery tour with a prior reservation. It takes about 15 mins to see around the winery.
▲Okushima Winery uses an environment-friendly jacket tank to decrease the loss of energies.
“It’s 11th year since Okushima Wine has born. I sometimes feel the power of wine is amazing. I assume the reputation of Okushima was different if there was not a winery on the island.”
▲You can sample Okushiri Wines at the winery, and some of them are not available outside of Okushiri Island.
* Drivers are not allowed to drink alcohol.
The characteristics of Okushiri Wine is that they have a taste of mineral from sea breeze as the ocean surrounds the island. Sugawara told me that it’s a refreshing and minerally wine.
It’s not salty like salt, but I felt a slight saltiness and rich mineral flavor when I had a sip. This is the characteristic of Okushiri Wine!
▲The symbol of the island, Nabetsuru Rockwas printed on the label of Okushiri Wine.
I asked Sugawara for his recommendations.
“White wine made with merlot for red wine matches very well with sea urchin. This is very rare to see in Japan. We are going to have a hot pot often in the coming season. For hot pot, I’d also recommend white wine made with pinot noir for red wine. You can feel the saltiness of Okushiri Wine pretty strongly, and it matches with dashi and soy sauce very well.
Many shops outside of Hokkaido started to stock Okushiri Wine. I asked for his goal from now.
“We make approximately ten wines now, but we plan to reduce kinds to raise quality. We would like to create our signature wine that makes the core of Okushiri Wine.”
Grapes are growing very well in 2019, and he said that we could expect high quality and amount if typhoons don’t hit in October. They start shipping 2019 wines from April 2020.
Azayunohama-300, Okushiri, Okushiri-gun, Hokkaido
- On-season (Late April to late October): Irregular holidays
- Off-season (Early November to mid-April): Closed on Sundays
Hours: 9:30 AM to 5:00 PM
Winery tour: a phone reservation by the day before the visit required
Bonus: extra episodes from our trip to Okushiri IslandWhen we are visiting Okushiri Island, the location team of the famous TV series was also shooting at Okushiri Island. Whenever we visited places, they were there, and I felt like we are chasing each other.
They were shooting for the new season starting from this autumn, so check out if you are interested. I guess many beautiful landscapes of Okushiri Island appear. By the way, the drama is about a detective who loves teas and his buddy.
Related Links- Okushiri Tourism Association
- Hokkaido Hiyama Promotion Bureau
- Heart Land Ferry
Hokkaido Likers writer Takako Chiba
Photo: Rumiko Ito