- Mayuka Ueno
5 Most Fascinating Experiences in Yoichi, the Hometown of Whisky
If you love whisky, then you have to visit Yoichi in Hokkaido. Located near Otaru, Yoichi is a town of whisky that is surrounded by the ocean and mountains. Aside from whisky, however, there are other must-see spots in this town. Here are some of the things you can do when you’re in Yoichi.
1. Tour of the Yoichi Distillery of Nikka Whisky
Opened in 1934, the Yoichi Distillery of Nikka Whisky was put in Yoichi because Masataka Taketsuru, founder of the company, thought that the town had the same climate and atmosphere as Scotland, the home of whisky. This distillery is one of the rare distilleries in the world that has been making whisky using a direct coal-fired distillation process since the time it began operating. When you tour this place, you will get to see the pot stills that are used for the direct coal-fired distillation, the storage warehouse, and other facilities, as well as sample pure whisky that you can only buy here. Now with the aroma of other whiskies in the air, you will surely be soothed by just walking inside this vast site that is overflowing with nature.
2. Enjoy Kaisendon at Kakizaki Shoten Kaisen Kobo
Kakizaki Shoten Kaisen Kobo is an extremely famous eatery in Yoichi. Starting with kaisendon (seafood bowl) that is loaded with a wide array of toppings, this restaurant serves set meals focusing on seafood. Here, you can eat delicious food from the seas of Hokkaido to your heart’s content, including kaisendon with 7-8 types of toppings, itokodon that is overflowing with salmon and salmon roe, and unidon with a heaping serving of fresh sea urchin, although this dish is quite expensive. Kakizaki Shoten Kaisen Kobo is directly run by a seafood merchant, so everything here, except the unidon, are reasonably priced at just about 1,000 JPY per dish. Further, it is just about a five-minute walk from the Yoichi Distillery of Nikka Whisky, so you might want to eat here before or after touring the plant.
3. Tour the Yoichi Winery
Yoichi is popular not only in the production of whisky, but of wine, too. Believe it or not, this town has the largest output of wine grapes in all of Hokkaido. Yoichi Winery, which produces wine under the Yoichi Wine brand, is a complex facility that houses the factory, as well as a gallery and atelier, a restaurant and other establishments. The restaurant there is famous for having various kinds of Yoichi wine, as well as for serving pizzas, pastas, Salisbury steaks, and other dishes that use Hokkaido’s select ingredients. There is also a cafe and bakery that serves freshly baked breads, coffee and soft-serve ice cream (not available during winter) that uses wine grapes, among other products. So, if you visit Yoichi it would be best to check out not only the whiskies, but also the wines.
*Photo is for illustration purposes
The restaurant at Yoichi Winery's famous offering is the Winery Special (2,138 JPY (incl. tax)). This special comes with Salisbury steak that uses Hokkaido-bred beef only, as well as sausages and other dishes.
4. Be moved by the sunset at Shiripa Misaki
Shiripa Misaki (Shiripa Cape) comes from the Ainu term “shiripa” that means “top of the mountain.” Also called “sunset diamond head”, the sunset in this place is known as one of the symbols of Yoichi. Sometimes, the sun sets in the sea, and sometimes in the mountains, but if you capture the scene of the mountain jutting from the deep blue sea of Yoichi and the sunset from along the coast, it becomes a power spot that emits a mystical glow. Try going for a drive during sunset and be touched by the dynamic nature of Yoichi. During summertime, there is a high probability that you will get to see a crimson sunset.
5. Go on a “kofukuun meguri” trip from Yoichi Shrine
There is a legend in Yoichi about “kofukuun meguri” that says that good fortune will be brought to oneself by going around five spots in the correct order. It even has a stamp rally in this order: Yoichi Shrine → Machishitei Kiseki Kodarohan Kuhi (a stone slab engraved with haiku) → Kunishitei Kiseki Kyu-Yoichi Fukuhara Gyojo (Former Yoichi Fukuhara Fishers Residence) → Kunishitei Kiseki Juyo Bunkazai Kyushimo-Yoichi Unjoke (Moire Shrine) (Old place for trade) → Miyoshi Shrine. They say that some people who have actually gone around those spots ended up finding a good match or even winning the lottery! So, how about going sightseeing and then making a petition to the gods through “kofukuun meguri”?
Yoichi has a lot of nature-rich spots and delicious foods and drink such as whisky. You have to go there and check it out!
*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.
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