Yoichi and Akaigawa Overnight Fruit-picking

Posted on Jul 15, 2017
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Posted on Jul 15, 2017

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37 0
Reading time: 3 min
60km

Distance

2 days

Time

600m

Ascent

269m

Highest point

2/10

Difficulty

100%

Paved

Akaikawa is a narrow corridor of lush stone-fruit producing land near Otaru City, just northwest of Sapporo City in Hokkaido, Japan. From early July till late August, Akaikawa offers a veritable feast of roadside stalls selling fresh fruit and vegetables. We decided to make a very leisurely weekend tour of the area, taking our folding bikes on the train to Yoichi City and staying at the newly opened Akaikawa Tomo Campground. The trip coincided with a couple of work social events – a BBQ at the campground and a cherry-picking event.

Last updated Oct 26, 2018

Route Map

Need to know details

Location

This Yoichi to Yoichi loop cycle tour takes in some of the area’s best stone-fruit growing areas northwest of Sapporo City. It first heads south from Yoichi direct to Akaigawa, one of Japan’s most beautiful towns (according to the signs). On the way back it goes via the Nikki valley, past cerry orchards for as far as the eye can see.

General notes

This route is best enjoyed at prime cherry season, around mid-July. An autumn tour would also be fun, as the Nikki Valley is a big apple-growing area too. The cherries need to be tasted to be believed though, so treat yourself to an all-you-can-eat cherry picking session (you may not want to look at another cherry for a few weeks after).

  • Stone-fruit season: The stone-fruit season runs from around mid-June till late August.
  • Access to Yoichi City: There is a local train that runs from Sapporo Station to Yoichi Station direct with no transfers. The earliest train (around 6am) will get you there around 7:30am. Check timetables on Google here: https://goo.gl/maps/sziSfZi3tKm

Route markers

Plenty of road signs, but this is not an official cycle touring route, so you’ll be navigating on your own.

Route Timing

Distances are somewhat short to allow for transport from Sapporo to Yoichi Station on the first day, as well as plenty of time for fruit-picking on the second day. Allow about 3 meandering hours from Yoichi to the Tomo Akaigawa Campground, and then about 2 hours from there back to Yoichi via the Nikki Valley.

Physical maps

Explore the official Japan topomaps online for the area around Akaigawa here. Follow these instructions to print out the area you would like as a hardcopy.

Route safety

Weather forecast

Windy.com weather forecast for Akaigawa
Other resources
Do you know of any? Let us know in the comments.
Onsen nearby

There’s a nice onsen in Akaigawa; the Akaigawa Caldera Onsen (赤井川カルデラ温泉 – here), about 9km from the Akaigawa Tomo Campground.

Photo Gallery

Show Full Route Notes Close Route Notes

Route Trip Notes

Haidee and I work at Hokusei Gakuen University in Sapporo, and we try to get to as many work social events as we can to get to know others outside of our respective departments. One group we’re involved in is the work outdoor recreation group, and the other is a much larger school-wide staff social group. On this long weekend, the outdoor group was planning a camping trip to Akaikawa, and the school-wide social group was planning a cherry-picking event in Yoichi, only 30km from the campsite. That made our weekend cycling plans easy – cycle to the campground on Saturday, lounge about on Sunday, and go cherry picking on the Monday.

We weren’t keen to cycle the gauntlet from Sapporo to Otaru, so we opted to catch a local train from our nearest station – Atsubetsu Station – all the way to Yoichi station. Taking almost 2 hours it was a slow journey for only 50km, but it was relaxing enough. The main road from Sapporo to Otaru can be busy and noisy, as we’d found out a few years ago.

We arrived bright and early at 7:30am, and we were unfolding out bikes alongside at least a couple of other cyclists who had clearly had the same idea as us. They didn’t have as much luggage however, so it appeared they were heading off on either a daytrip around the area, or were planning to cycle back to Sapporo – both perfectly nice options.

We stocked up on some snacks at a convenience store in town, and regretted it no less than 10km from the station, where we came upon at least a few road-side stalls selling cherries, strawberries, water melons, and a selection of vegetables. Many were honesty-box style stalls, where customers would drop the required payment into a box.

Never has the inside of my handlebar bag looked so good!

The route we took from Yoichi to Akaikawa went over the Resisui Pass, which culminates in a long downhill tunnel. It is a Hokkaido-standard tunnel with no walkway on either side. But the tunnel spits you out into one of Hokkaido’s more pretty villages, Akaikawa, nestled in the bottom of a massive ancient caldera. The aptly-named Caldera Park in the middle of the village would make for a nice free camping spot if there at the right time.

We had a quick lunch at the park and carried on via the Akaikawa michi-no-eki (roadside stop with local produce) to Tomo Campground. The campground itself has been there for a number of years, apparently. It was closed over the last few years, and only this year re-opened under new Singaporean ownership. The lodge at the entrance has to be seen to be believed. Extremely tastefully done rustic-style. Apparently the plan is to open the lodge up again in the winter also for accommodation – think upscale backpackers with individual rooms.

The campground itself is a little overpriced for what you get – 1,000yen a night. For that, I’d expect at least coin showers available. But I do expect that they’ll be improving the services as the years go by. Most of the others from our work’s outdoor club were already there when we arrived at 1pm. We quickly settled in for a night of eating and chatting.

The next day, Sunday, after our workmates had left, we lounged around inside our tent all day. This was not difficult owing to the torrential rain. We did, however, discover that our Montbell Minitarp HX was no longer 100% waterproof. We’d bought the tarp second hand a number of years ago, and it seems as though the silicon-impregnated nylon had now lost most of its silicone. We made a mental note to order a new tarp once the weekend was over.

Dinner was fresh sweetcorn on the cob plus a tomato stew with pasta.

The following day we packed up and headed back to Yoichi, via the Nikki valley. This gorgeous valley also offered roadside stalls with melons and plums. If only I’d had more room on the bike…

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