Trip Report

Southwest Hokkaido Cycle Tour Day 2 – Assabu to Taisei

Posted on May 3, 2015
44 5

Posted on May 3, 2015

This year’s Golden Week in Hokkaido was warm. The warmest it has been for 90 years, apparently. This played out in our cycling today; we might as well have been on our annual summer vacation cycle trip. The day started with a chilly morning, however. Multiple layers and a good wind-breaker were required equipment to get breakfast on the go. As always, breakfast was a healthy dose of warm porridge with chopped apples, washed down with some hot coffee.

Last updated Oct 12, 2018

A chilly campsite in Assabu, Hokkaido, Japan

Guiding us on our way were some of Japan’s political election hopefuls. The current opposition leader Okada looked dapper in green (and positively decades younger than he looks in real life), promising straight-ball politics…

Japanese political posters near Assabu, Hokkaido, Japan

Japan’s current ruling party’s leader Mr. Abe looked a little more determinedly wistful, and we couldn’t quite figure out whether it was really his first at the bottom of the poster or that of someone younger and more smooth-skinned…

Japanese political posters near Assabu, Hokkaido, Japan

Although to be honest, I thought Mr. Osaka below should run for prime minister. He comes across to me as the benevolent accountant, ready to honestly and humbly steer the country back into the black. I guess it must be the glasses and graying hair…

Japanese political posters near Assabu, Hokkaido, Japan

Locals seemed oblivious to the political campaigning. An old man, hunched over, shuffled out of his house as we were stopped on the side of the road. He gave us a cursory glance as he bent down to pick up a stone off the ground. His frail body seemed so stiff that he was teetering on the verge of toppling over. He righted himself again and hurled the stone at a stray cat in the vacant plot next to his house. His missile fell well short of its intended target. The old man sneered at the cat, turned and shuffled back to his house. Mr. Osaka with the glasses and graying hair wasn’t given a second thought.

While Japan springtime is well known for its voluptuous cherry blossoms, sakura, Hokkaido in particular has a less known but arguably more dramatic sakura that blooms around springtime: the shiba-zakura, or the ‘lawn’ sakura. A well-tended plot of land with this specimen bursts into a low covering of deep purples and pinks.

'Lawn blossom' (shiba-zakura) near Assabu, Hokkaido, Japan

Paired with the more traditional sakura over head, these make for a springtime delight.

Cherry blossom sakura near Assabu, Hokkaido, Japan

Of course early May is not only about springtime. One of the days that makes up the string of public holidays called Golden Week is Children’s Day. Around this day, many families will fly carp-themed windsocks; the more one ventures into the countryside, the larger and more substantial the carp become. Generally, there will be a large black carp at the top (representing the father of the family), followed by a slightly smaller red or pink carp (representing the mother), followed by different colored carp of decreasing sizes, representing children in the family in order of oldest to youngest.

Karp flags at Otobe, Hokkaido, Japan

As if to supply us with a constant stream of novelties today, we stumbled upon a guy who has been walking around Japan for the last three years. He’s visited most of the prefectures in the country, and pushes all his belongings around on a large industrial cart. He generally walks on the road where it is smoothest, so we wondered what he does in the seemingly ubiquitous shoulderless tunnels dotted around the country. I admired his tenacity.

Japanese guy walking around Japan (near Toppu Cape, Hokkaido, Japan)

We were now on the Japan Sea coast. Further on in Otobe Town, a prominent rise in the road allowed us expansive views north towards the Kariba mountain range, and across a mostly glassy and crystal clear sea.

Toppu Cape, Hokkaido, Japan

Route 229 near Otobe, Hokkaido, Japan

Route 229 near Otobe, Hokkaido, Japan

I wasn’t expecting the sea around this area to be so beautifully clear. It would have been a perfect spot for snorkeling or spear-fishing…so long as the wetsuit was thick enough to ward off the cold.

Due to an early 7:30am start in Assabu, we arrived at our destination, the Taisei Campground, at just after 12 noon. At a convenience store earlier on in the day, we had been told that the hotel on the seaward side of the campground had a cafeteria serving meals, so had held off on buying supplies for lunch. Inexplicably, however, despite (or perhaps because of) it being one of the busiest seasons for tourists, the cafeteria was closed. We had to make do with some pieces of fruit, some rice crackers, a croissant, coffee and a protein shake.

Spring time cycle touring camping at Taisei Campground, Hokkaido, Japan

The campsite was cheap enough though: 220yen for each tent pitched, and 220yen per person for entry to the campsite. The campsite came prepared with dandelions and cherry blossoms in full bloom, and to top things off, our German friend Dirk caught up with us as planned, as a third member for the Golden Week ramble.

Spring time cycle touring camping at Taisei Campground, Hokkaido, Japan

Our favorite campsites are those with hot springs close to the campground. Tonight it was just a short walk down to the hotel for a natural hot spring which included an outdoor bath overlooking the river. However, biting flies were out in force, which made things tricky when trying to relax and take in the scenery, but it was well worth the 400yen entry fee.

Dusk at Taisei Campground, Hokkaido, Japan

Comments | Queries | Discussion

5 thoughts on “Southwest Hokkaido Cycle Tour Day 2 – Assabu to Taisei”

  1. Thanks for the info and the invite! We’re on our way out today (sadly) from Memanbetsu so won’t be able to meet up this time, but I definitely want to come back here, it’s amazing 🙂

  2. Your camping photos are gorgeous! I’m also admiring the tarp you have over your tent – looks like it would make a great cooking area on rainy days. What kind is it? Thank you 🙂

    1. Hey Mila, thanks for the question. And thanks for sharing stories from your journey (! It looks great fun (although I see on Instagram that you’ve been encountering the delightful coolness of eastern Hokkaido!)

      As for the tarp, it is a Montbell MINI TARP HX. We love it for those rainy mornings/evenings in the tent. It is also good in summer to give a little extra shade. It is very good value also (around 7,700yen). The one thing we have done is replaced the heavy steel pegs that come with it with some aluminium ones, which are much lighter. Including poles (which you have to buy separately), the whole setup is around 1.6kg. I don’t mind the extra weight 🙂

      And by the way, we live in Chitose City, so if you’re passing through this way on your way out of Hokkaido, please feel free to stay a night or two or drop by!

    2. By the way, I just had a look online, and it looks like the newer models of the MINI TARP HX are lighter…more like 1.3kg with poles included…

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Southwest Hokkaido Cycle Tour Day 2 – Assabu to Taisei Difficulty Rating





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GRADES range from A (very difficult) to D (easy). Hazards include exposure to avalanche and fall risk. More details here. Rating rubric adapted from Hokkaido Yukiyama Guidebook 北海道雪山ガイド.