The haskap berry is a tart, anti-oxidant-rich honeysuckle “native throughout the cool temperate Northern Hemisphere” (Wikipedia). In Japan, Hokkaido is a prime growing location for this relatively rare berry, and in early July, the haskap berry orchards open their gates to day visitors. In Atsuma Town (厚真町) just east of Tomakomai, for 500yen you can wander the orchards and eat as many berries as you like – a great excuse for a weekend cycle-camping tour.
This particular route guide is designed to make the most of train + bikes: first taking the train to the south coast, and cycling back to Sapporo from there via the haskap orchards.
Route GPS File
- Distance: approx. 120km
- Total climbing: approx. 500m
- Distance per day: 75km Day 1, 45km Day 2.
- Road surface: 90% paved
- Dates ridden on this trip: July 8th and 9th, 2017
- Haskap Season: Haskap berry season runs from the last week of June till the last week of July. Usually it is best to plan to do this trip around the end of the first or second week of July to ensure there are still berries around to pick.
- Haskap picking: Atsuma Town, about 60km southeast of Sapporo, is one of the more well-known haskap producing towns in Hokkaido. Each year they publish the orchards that have their orchards open to the public (http://atsuma-kankoukyoukai.jp/hasmap.html). Generally you’ll pay around 500yen to enter an orchard, and any berries you want to take home will cost you around 1,000yen/kg, which is extremely reasonable compared with buying them in the stores around Sapporo.
- Access to Mukawa Town on the south coast: As of July 2017, trains on the JR Nemuro Line only go as far as Mukawa Station, due to 2016 typhoon damage to the rails further along the coast. Taking a local train from Sapporo to Tomakomai, then Tomakomai to Mukawa, is the cheapest, most leisurely, and most stress-free option.
Last year, we’d done haskap berry picking in Atsuma Town (photos here), and signed up to one of the orchard’s notifications (one called Doi Farm – 土井ファーム) for when the berries would be ready again this year. As they promised, last week we received a letter in the mail telling us that the berries would be ready to pick around the beginning of July. So we arranged to make the most of a long-ish summer Friday evening by bundling our folding bikes onto a train after work, and heading down to the south coast of Hokkaido, to Mukawa Town, just east of Tomakomai. From there, we’d cycle to the closest campground (Onuma Campground – 大沼キャンプ場), and head to the orchard the next morning.
As chance would have it, we managed to choose a weekend that resembled a heatwave for Hokkaido. At 30deg C in the shade at 4pm, it was sweltering.
Because we were on a local train, we were able to get Mukawa JR Station with only one change at Tomakomai. For better or worse, the JR Nemuro Line is still closed past Mukawa Station due to last year’s typhoon damage (as of July 2017), so we were able to relax and just ride the train till it stopped.
From Mukawa Station, it is only a 10km bike ride to Oonuma Campground. We arrived at Mukawa Station at around 5:30pm, so we decided to have an onsen and meal at the Shiki-no-kaze hotel (here) before heading to the very basic campground. Make sure you have all the supplies you need for the overnight at the campground, because while it is a very lovely campground, it is in the middle of nowhere.
We ended up arriving after dark. We were warmly greeted by the rest of the group who had made their own way to the campground: Rick via train then bike from Numanohata Station, Sam on his bike all the way from Sapporo, and Kaydi and Ji-hoon by bike from Lake Shikotsu.
The next morning broke quiet and cool – a nice change from the previous day’s heat. It didn’t take long, however, for the sun to creep over the trees, and let us know that it would be another scorcher of a day. We all made the most of the trees, indulging in a nice long breakfast.
The first mission of the day was a short 15km ride to the haskap orchards. I’ll let some of our photos from last year tell the story, since this year it appears I was too engrossed in the picking to take any photos!
Between us, Haidee and I managed to pick just under 1kg of berries this year. We delicately put them into leak-proof containers, knowing full well that they’d likely get damaged anyway, and turn to a half-mush by the time we got them home the next day.
From the orchard, Ji-hoon went his own way, and for the rest of us it was onwards, up hill and down-dale towards Kuriyama Town, our destination for the night.
We stopped in at the massive Kuriyama MaxValue supermarket for some dinner supplies, and then headed for the campground. Kuriyama Campground turned out to be a curious spot, with most of the official tent sites on far too much of a slope to be practical. So we camped in an adjacent part of the park next to a pagoda.
Just over the road from the MaxValue is an onsen, so we headed there after setting up the tents for a wash.
The ride back to Sapporo the next day was a fairly laid back affair, with a visit to the Nanporo icecream store…
The Kuma-ichigo Cafe for lunch…
And then finally a ride through Nopporo Forest Park back into the Sapporo urban sprawl.
A great ride with a great team 🙂