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Fine Food and...Steam Locomotives!? 3 Quirky Rest Areas in Japan

Fine Food and...Steam Locomotives!? 3 Quirky Rest Areas in Japan

Date published: 4 December 2019
Last updated: 15 October 2020

Hokkaido is really big! When on long drives, the Michi no Eki, the Japanese phrase for "road station", open 24 hours a day, are welcome rest areas that provide restrooms and free public wifi. Recently, a lot of local facilities have sprung up and many of these not only offer local dishes but also are scenic to boot often having a theme-park atmosphere offering various types of entertainment.

Here, of the 120 road stations spread across Hokkaido we will take a look at those in the central Hokkaido region that can be enjoyed on a day-trip from Sapporo.

1. Road Station Abira D51 Station: Cool railway exhibition

1. Road Station Abira D51 Station: Cool railway exhibition

It takes about 30 minutes to get there by car from the New Chitose Airport. Roadside Station Abira D51 Station in Abira Town is one that just opened in April 2019. Since the Oiwake district, where the facility is located, developed as a railway hub, now there is a railway museum there highlighting its history with exhibitions and displays. Along with the steam locomotive “D51 320”, an express train of the “Kiha 183 series” having Hokkaido specifications is on display outdoors.

Mokumoku soft ice cream

The Mokumoku D51 soft ice cream (380 yen including tax) is popular. The ice cream contains bamboo charcoal to give it color so as to evoke an image of smoke and it is noted for its refreshingly sweet flavor.

Abira is famous for its cheese as it is the place where in 1932 Japan's first full-fledged cheesery was built. Camembert cheese from Cheese Factory Kakuya (on left in photo, 730 yen each including tax). “Process Group Muuminsha” cream cheese (front right side of photo, 600 yen including tax) is popular for its mild taste. Be sure to visit this shop selling local specialties.

  • Abira D51 Station
    • Address 49-1, Oiwake Kashiwagaoka, Yufutsu Gun Abira Cho, Hokkaido 〒059-1932
    • Phone Number 0145-29-7751
    • Open: April ~ October 9:00 a.m. ~ 6:00 p.m., November ~ March 9:00 a.m. ~ 5:00 p.m. [Agricultural products direct sales office] April ~ October 9:00 a.m. ~ 5:00 p.m.
      Closed: December 31 ~ January 3 (excluding parking area and restrooms)

2. The Nordic Winds of Michi-no-Eki Tobetsu: In the town neighboring Sapporo

2. The Nordic Winds of Michi-no-Eki Tobetsu: In the town neighboring Sapporo

Tobetsu, a town neighboring Sapporo, is about a 40-minute drive from the center of Sapporo. The Nordic Winds of Michi-no-Eki Tobetsu was built in a Scandinavian style that reflects the town's deep friendship with Sweden.

Tobetsu is an agricultural community that is known for its quality vegetables, rice, and livestock products. There are two shops here: one that sells confections made from local Tobetsu ingredients and the other that sells food and handicrafts unique to the area.

Mazerudake Kuromame Gohan no Moto (540 yen per can including tax) contains Tobetsu black beans, chicken, and vegetables which go well when mixed with rice. It is the most popular local product sold here.

There are also several restaurants in the facility where you can enjoy local cuisine. One restaurant in particular worthy of note is one where you can enjoy creative Italian dishes. Trattoria Pizzeria Terzina, one of Hokkaido's leading Italian restaurants, offers cuisine created by Chef Hideki Horikawa using local ingredients. You definitely should try the grilled risotto that has a spicy sauce made with stewed Hokkaido beef tendon (photo, A Course 1,500 yen including tax).

  • The Nordic Winds of Michi-no-Eki Tobetsu
    北欧の風 道の駅とうべつ
    • Address 774-11, Tobetsubuto, Ishikari Gun Tobetsu Cho, Hokkaido 〒061-3773
    • Phone Number 0133-27-5260
    • Open: April 25 ~ late November 9:30 a.m. ~ 6:00 p.m.; late November ~ late April 10:00 a.m. ~ 6:00 p.m.; [restaurant] 11:00 a.m. ~ 6:00 p.m. (L.O. 5:00 p.m.): [agricultural products direct sales office] April 25 ~ late November 9:00 a.m. ~ 5:00 p.m. *Closed from late November ~ late April
      Closed: December 30 ~ January 3 (excluding parking area and restrooms)

3. Road Station Ishikari A’i Road Atsuta: Magnificent view of setting sun

3. Road Station Ishikari A’i Road Atsuta: Magnificent view of setting sun

National Route 231 heading north from Sapporo Station via National Route 5 is a popular drive route that runs along the Sea of Japan from Atsuta-ku, Ishikari City. About 70 minutes by car, A’i Road Atsuta is located in Atsuta Park, a spot from where you can get magnificent views of the evening sun as it sets behind the Sea of Japan.

Atsuta Monaka

A popular local product that makes a fine gift is the Atsuta Monaka (120 yen including tax each) that is fashioned in shapes of such local products as shako [mantis prawn] and hatahata [sandfish]. Lumpy bean jam made with small beans is used for the monaka in the shape of the mantis prawn while white bean jam is used in the monaka in the shape of the sandfish.

Fumiichi Pressed Herring Sushi

A local food item we recommend is the pressed herring sushi (1,000 yen including tax) made with Atsuta herring and herring roe of Ishikari Fumiichi. It contains six slices; enough for a meal for two people. Note that Ishikari Fumiichi and other dining areas on the second floor are closed during winter. It is best to check the latest information before heading to here because the Hours at the road station change depending on the time of the sunset.

  • Road Station Ishikari A’i Road Atsuta
    • Address 98-2, Atsutaku Atsuta, Ishikari Shi, Hokkaido 〒061-3601
    • Phone Number 0133-78-2300
    • Hours:
      April 1 ~ August 31: 9:00 a.m. ~ 7:00 p.m.; September 1 ~ 30: 9:00 a.m. ~ 6:00 p.m.; October 1 ~ 30: 9:00 a.m. ~ 5:00 p.m.; November 1 ~ January 31: 10:00 a.m. ~ 4:00 p.m.; February 1 ~ 28: 10:00 a.m. ~ 5:00 p.m.; March 1 ~ 31: 9:00 a.m. ~ 6:00 p.m.; dining area - April 1 ~ October 31: 10:30 a.m. ~ 4:00 p.m. *Closed November 1 ~ March 31
      Closed: December 29 ~ January 3 (excluding parking area and restrooms)

Include road stations in your itinerary

Road stations are great places to stop, take a break, eat, and shop especially for travelers who don't have a lot of time. As we have endeavored to show in this article, road stations each have a unique character. And that character is often a reflection of the atmosphere of the area where it is located. In all of them, though, you are certain to discover something of interest among the rich selection of local products offered. If you plan to rent a car, be sure to stop by these road stations while heading to your other destinations, something that will give added pleasure to your travel experience!

Text by:minna no kotoba sha

*This information is from the time of this article's publication.
*Prices and options mentioned are subject to change.
*Unless stated otherwise, all prices include tax.

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