Onuma: Taking a Breather from Hakodate
Wifey and I walk a lot on our travels in Japan. While most of the walking is done within the cities we visit, every now and then, we take a side trip out to experience the surrounding area. Onuma was one such side trip we took when we visited Hakodate in the summer.
The Onuma area is most famous for the Onuma Park (大沼公園), and offers a welcome change of pace and scenery from Hakodate city. The park is known for its views of the island-dotted Lake Onuma and Lake Konuma, framed by the imposing Mount Komagatake in the distance. There are various walking paths which allow visitors to explore the 2 lakes and visit the numerous viewing spots for Mount Komagatake.
We reached Onuma Park in the morning and took the Island-hopping Trail (Shimameguri-no-Michi). As the name suggests, the trail runs through several of the islands on the lakes. Unfortunately, the weather was not very cooperative and Mount Komagatake was shrouded by clouds for most of our time there.
We completed the path within an hour and proceeded to take a break at the nearby visitor centre at the entrance of the park. Here, we tried the famed Onuma dango. The dango is served in a box with 2 flavoured sauces – soy sauce and red bean; this presentation is meant to symbolise Lake Onuma and Lake Konuma and the many islands dotting the lakes.
After the break, we proceeded to take a local train from Onuma Koen station to Onuma station. The train was quite infrequent, with only 1 train every hour; hence an important point for all visitors to the area is to plan the trip based on the train schedule for the day.
We arrived at Onuma station for the next item in the itinerary, which was the Yamakawa Farm. This farm produces the highly regarded Yamakawa Farm Natural Milk, which we have only seen in Hokkaido and not anywhere else. The walk to the farm took us through a quiet town and allowed us some time to soak in the greenery in the area.
We were greeted by the loud signage with the giant soft serve outside the entrance to the farm.
The key highlight at the farm is the farm shop, where they sell soft serve, cheese and yogurt made from the farm’s milk. Also available is the extra-thick (特浓) version of the milk. Too bad for me, I am lactose-intolerant and much of this was off-limits. 😛
Wifey had a good time eating the original flavoured soft serve; it was really thick and creamy. Apparently, it is so good that folks staying in the area will drive over just to have the soft serve.
We gave ourselves a quick tour around the farm, as there were no farmhands in sight. A big part of the farm is made up of cowsheds like this housing dairy cows. There were 2 types of dairy cows here, and the corresponding 2 types of milk are blended to produce the milk that is eventually bottled and sold.
The farm also bred dairy cattle and you could see these calves around the farm.
Yamakawa Farm Roast Beef Sandwich Shop
We left Yamakawa Farm to visit the Yamakawa Farm Roast Beef Sandwich Shop, which was further down the road from the station. Not to be confused with the previous Yamakawa Farm, this shop sells beef products from the other Yamakawa Farm which raises beef cattle. We found the discrete shop off in a small side road.
The shop was very cozy and was furnished with everything related to cows.
Needless to say, I had the roast beef sandwich. It was so good that I just had to order an extra portion for takeaway later.
Wifey had the tomatoes and mozzarella sandwich. It was unassuming but very, very good. The cheese used was again from Yamakawa Farm.
We had the chance to speak to the farm owner Yamakawa-san himself. He was very friendly and comfortable conversing with us in English, which allowed us to ask him a lot more questions than we usually could with other Japanese we met on our travels. He mentioned that while he ran the beef farm, his brother ran the cattle farm; hence both farms belonged to the same family. Through further discussion, he expressed hope that he could sell Yamakawa beef to other countries like Singapore; it was a shame that he did not have the capacity to do so. He also offered to give us a ride back to the train station after hearing that we were going to walk back. We really appreciated the kind gesture.
Later, we found a kind gesture of a different nature in the takeaway box when we got back to the hotel. Yamakawa-san’s wife (who was in the kitchen) packed in an upsized sandwich for me. It was an awesome (and delicious!) ending to the trip.
- Onuma Quasi-National Park
Access: By car or railway (JR Onuma Koen station)
Website: Onuma Park official website
- Yamakawa Farm
Address: 〒041-1354 628, Onumacho, Nanae-cho, Kameda-gun, Hokkaido, Japan
Access: By car or railway (JR Onuma station)
Website: Yamakawa Farm official website
- Yamakawa Farm Roast Beef Sandwich Shop
Address: 〒041-1354 889, Onumacho, Nanae-cho Kameda-gun, Hokkaido, Japan
Access: By car or railway (JR Onuma station)
Website: Webpage on Onuma Park website