The best place in Japan to find “Uni!” A Shakotan Summer Uni Trip
Seafood like crab and squid are known to be abundantly available delicacies in Hokkaido, but something you might not know is that Hokkaido is also the most famous place in Japan to find soft, velvety uni (sea urchin, pronounced oo-nee). And with the summer finally here, the uni season has officially begun off the coast of the Sea of Japan! So let’s embark on a journey to find fresh and delicious uni in Shakotan.
The Uni-don Mecca
Located on the coast of the Sea of Japan, the Shakotan peninsula is known for the beautiful color of its clear waters, referred to as “Shakotan blue.” The Shakotan area is also known for being Hokkaido’s only ocean national park. The shoal below the clear waters look like a shining, translucent emerald, offering the kind of photogenic landscape that makes you think you’re on some gorgeous tropical island.
But even more so than Shakotan blue, the Shakotan Peninsula is known for being a hotspot for fresh, delicious uni. Near the best spots to see the beautiful ocean the area is famous for, Cape Kamui and the Shimamui coast, are several restaurants where you can try uni-don (uni rice bowl) at its best! Restaurants run by fishermen, like “Misaki” and “Uroko” are very easy to find in the area and some of them serve nothing but uni-don!
From June to August, restrictions on fishing get lifted and the uni season is officially on! Tons of people come to the area just to try the uni.
The uni in Shakotan are raised on the fine, sticky kombu (sea kelp) in the waters nearby and this is what is believed to give them their uniquely sweet, rich taste.
However, due to the fact that the uni caught in Shakotan are consumed almost entirely in the area itself before being able to be exported, the uni here are known as a delicacy only to be enjoyed locally
Now do you get why there are “Uni-Don Only!” restaurants in the area?
But for those of you who might be thinking “Sure, I do want to eat uni, but I want to eat crab and other seafood delicacies too.” Well, don’t worry. There are plenty of restaurants that also serve kaisen-don (the seafood rice bowls that Hokkaido is famous for).
Shakotan’s Delectable Uni-don Restaurants
Misaki is run by a fisherman, so you can expect to find only the freshest of uni here. And with no additives used whatsoever, you can savor the uni as though you had fished it out of the ocean yourself.
I definitely recommend trying the red uni-don (5,400 yen), a rare delicacy only available from June till August. Misaki only serves 20 bowls of this rare delicacy every day, so get one while you can!
The uni-don set (3,500 yen) in the photo below features delicious live uni scooped from the sea just down the street. The ultimate uni-don freshness!
Address: Osyokujidokoro Misaki 236 Hizukacho, Shakotan District, Hokkaido
Closest Station: 90 min by car from Otaru JR Station or 60 min by car from Yoichi JR Station
Hours: 9:45 – 16:00 (15:45 last order)
Closed: 2nd and 4th Wednesday of the month
Parking: Up to 20 spaces
2019 Season: End of April till October 31
http://http//osyokujidokoromisaki.com/ (Japanese only, so please use a translation tool)
Shakotan Cuisine Inn Rinkoso – Uroko
During the three months of the uni season, the owner of the Rinkoso Inn opens this restaurant, Uroko, but only on the days when he goes fishing! Because the owner only uses fresh uni that he catches himself, Uroko doesn’t open every day, so you’ll just have to check their website/Facebook (Japanese only, so use the translation feature!) or get a Japanese friend to give them a call and ask for you and find out if today is your lucky day.
With more than 30 years of catching uni under his belt, the uni served at Uroko has that unmistakably rich natural taste of uni caught fresh that morning. No added flavours or preservatives here!
The sweet, complex flavor of Uroko’s uni-don will have you wanting to slurp up the entire bowl in one gulp.
Pictured above: the uni-don set. Comes with a miso soup, a small side dish, and pickled vegetables.
Shakotan Cuisine Inn Rinkoso – Uroko
Address: 57-1 Irikacho, Shakotan-cho, Shakotan-gun 046-0327, Hokkaido
Hours: Around 12:30 till they run out of food
Closed: Undetermined holidays
Parking: 10 Space (Free) Large bus parking spots also available
2019 Season: From the middle of June till August
(each one is Japanese only, so please use a translation tool)
From Uni to Magnificent Landscapes
If you do take the chance to visit the Shakotan Peninsula, your taste buds as well as your eyes are in for a treat. The views overlooking the gorgeous translucent hues of the “Shakotan blue” ocean from Cape Kamui or the Shimamui coastline alone are worth the trip.
Even within an area known for bits of land jutting out into the ocean, undulating Cape Kamui, pictured above, is the most famous of the three major capes in the Shakotan area.
After countless years of being worn down by the harsh sea winds coming off of the Sea of Japan, the cape came to be its current shape, and offers a breathtaking 360° view of the surrounding ocean.
This is Kamui-iwa, a huge boulder jutting out from the ocean just off the coast of Cape Kamui. Clearly peeking out from the ocean, it’s said to resemble the shape of a woman.
And, while a clear afternoon’s Shakotan blue is a definite highlight, once the sun begins going down, this area also offers a sunset view that’s to die for.
Getting to the tip of Cape Kamui to see Kamui-iwa will take a good 20 minutes on foot, so I’d recommend you go in shoes that are easy to walk in, like sneakers.
This area was famous from the Edo period till the beginning of the Showa period (1700s – 1920s), where it was the spot of a herring fishing boom, like a fishing gold rush. And the traditional Hokkaido folksong, Soran Bushi, known by many from the Sapporo Yosakoi Soran Festival, also originates in the Shakotan area.
That’s right, this is that famous spot!
Pictured Above: In the Bikuni area of Shakotan is the Ogon Cape, Shakotan’s “Treasure Island.”.
It gets that name from the economic success the area saw from the herring boom.
But the reason this island is so famous lately is for its shape. When seen from above, the island looks like a heart! Maybe coming to visit this Treasure Island will bring you good fortunes?
A 500 meter walk brings you to an observation deck where you feel like you’re right in the middle of the ocean. Between the clear Shakotan blue waters, the majestic cliff-faces, and the aerial view of this heart-shaped Treasure Island, you’ll never run out of things to see in this gorgeous spot.
Now’s the time! Don’t miss out on your opportunity to catch fresh uni and these unforgettable landscapes!