An approximately one-hour drive from Hakodate on Route 227 going across the Oshima Peninsula to the west and over Mt. Tengu-dake and Mt. Sankakuyama leads you to Assabu Town. The town is located in the Hiyama area, which is comprised of the seven towns of Esashi, Kaminokuni, Assabu, Otobe, Okushiri, Imakane and Setana. Located in Southern Hokkaido, this area has a moderate and comfortable climate throughout the year characterized by few summer days over 30°C and an average lowest temperature around minus 3°C in the winter. Hiyama is historically known as the first place in Hokkaido where wajin (mainland Japanese) settled in the Heian period (794 - 1185), Japan's medieval age, and where the Matsumae Domain, a daimyo (feudal lord) with 10,000 koku of rice, was founded in the Edo period (1603 - 1868). Since Hiyama, unlike other areas of Hokkaido, sustained no damage from air raids during World War II, it is the only place with a long history where many old documents and historical structures still remain. Each of the towns has numerous distinctive hot spring sources and welcomes you with their own specialties from the sea and the soil. The highlight is evening views that can be enjoyed together with its deep history. The beautiful textured coastlines with fascinating uniquely shaped rocks formed by the wild waves of the Sea of Japan are pleasing to the eye.
You are sure to discover many things about Hiyama that no one has ever told you.
Many uniquely shaped rocks, including Nabetsuru-iwa, Oyakoguma-iwa and Sanbonsugi-iwa, line the coastline. Their shadows and the sun setting over the Sea of Japan create enchanting evening views that can only be seen in Hiyama. If this brings up a feeling of nostalgia unlike any other you have felt before, it may be due to the fascinating magic of the sunset showing you memories of the Hiyama of old. Hiyama has a history dating back as far as the Heian period, the medieval age of Japan. Archaeological sites have been found in some regions and it is said that the indigenous people settled in this area as early as the Jomon period (prehistoric age). The first settlement of wajin from the mainland down in Hiyama was in the Heian period. A family chased out by Minamoto no Yoritomo came to Hiyama, which was at the time the land of the indigenous Ainu. The offspring of the family were allowed by statesmen at the time to maintain Hokkaido as their territory and the family eventually founded the Matsumae Domain with an economic scale of 10,000 koku rice yields. During the long Tokugawa shogunate rule, Hokkaido, which has vast land and abundant resources, also entered an age in which it flourished. The boom came along with herring and the bustling atmosphere was even greater than that of Edo (currently Tokyo), home of the feudal government. Everyone had dreams and envisioned their own utopia in Hiyama. For merchants it was a promising land for prosperity, while for the “hidden” Christians (i.e., individuals who practiced Christianity in secret) oppressed by the government at the time it was a place where they could live peacefully in their faith. However, the prosperity brought with herring also left with herring. Hiyama had gradually fallen behind in keeping up with the times by the time of the arrival of the end of the Tokugawa shogunate. The Meiji government then moved the main access gateway from Hakodate to Sapporo for contact with the mainland and abroad. However, from another perspective, the way in which Hiyama concealed itself at a time not long before the First and Second World Wars, as if to save itself from air raids, can be looked at as being the momentum of the times brought on by a bigger power to protect the culture and natural environment of Hiyama. Hiyama is home to many historical structures that have been registered as national or prefectural important cultural properties. One of the reasons for this could be that Hiyama was one of the few areas that did not sustain damage from air raids. Amidst its abundant nature with blessings from both the soil and the sea is the desire of local residents to protect and pass down many memories of the times. Hiyama's fascinating charm, which has been aged like a vintage wine, has now awakened.
A town surrounded by the mood of excitement at the end of the Edo period and known as the birthplace of the culture of Hokkaido Esashi
A beautiful, dignified townscape surrounded by the atmosphere of the Meiji and Taisho periods
Esashi is the place where many elements of Hokkaido's culture, including internationally known Esashi Oiwake (folk music), originated. In Esashi, the unique Esashi culture created by merchants during the Edo period can still be experienced today. The three major festivals of Esashi held in July, August and September offer much to see. In particular, the Esashi-Ubabami Daijingu Togyo Festival, which is held by Hokkaido's oldest shrine and boasts the longest history of its kind in Hokkaido, is a powerful three-day festival during which 13 floats decorated with whipping windsocks and imperial standard banners run throughout the town along with flowing Gion-bayashi music. The town, which was involved deeply in the Boshin War, is also a place where you can feel the mood of excitement from the end of the Edo period. Culinary highlights of this region include fresh seafood such as squid, sea urchin and abalone. In addition, the town's specialty, nishin soba noodles, is an excellent dish visitors must try to truly understand life in Esashi.Read more
A town for remembering ancient times Kaminokuni
Experience the atmosphere of medieval times with all five of your senses against the backdrop of breathtaking views
The evening view in Kaminokuni that can be seen through a shrine gate at the top of a low mountain, Mt. Iozan, is tinted entirely in vermilion. The ruins of a medieval castle, which was built on a mountain and used as the base of the Matsumae Domain, and many historical structures existing in their original forms tell the long history of this town. August and September, in which the Ishizakiyakko Festival and the Kaminokuni Hachimangu Togyo Festival are held, have an especially wonderful atmosphere. The Buddha statues carved by Enku, which are housed at the Kaminokuni Kannon-do Hall, are also something visitors must see to experience history for themselves. The town produces a variety of marine and agricultural products and its specialty items are Atka mackerel, flounder, and podded peas. Black Silica stone, which is only produced domestically in Kaminokuni, is also recommended. Visitors can enjoy the unique harmony between the culture and intriguing nature of this region that has been created in its long history.Read more
Known as the northern limit of Hiba and the southern limit of Japanese beech, this is a town of agricultural products. Assabu
Healing power that can be exhibited only by primeval forests that have survived for 600 years
Once you are surrounded by the dense forests, take a deep breath. Assabu is a place where you can feel a sense of relief simply by doing so. Here you will find a vigorous natural environment formed by clear rivers and forests, including primeval forests of Hiba (cypress family) from the Edo period, potato fields with faint pink May Queen flowers and a gigantic tree dating back more than 500 years called Hiba Jii-san. The national highway is dotted with numerous direct vegetable sales stands. May Queen potatoes, a variety that originated in this town, are recommended. In May, when the cherry blossoms are in bloom, the Tatejo Castle Ruins Festival retelling the harsh battle between the Matsumae clan and the former Shogunate forces is held and allows visitors to experience the atmosphere of the end of the Edo period. Experience a peaceful journey by listening to the birds sing in Assabu, the namesake of the grey starling in the Ainu language.Read more
The deep blue Sea of Japan. A town embraced by Mt. Otobe-dake. Otobe
Uniquely shaped rocks and an endless horizon evoking myths of medieval times
The landscape overlooking Cape Tatenosaki, which is known as the Grand Canyon of the East, is as picturesque as a painting of the Mediterranean Sea. The surrounding natural environment enables visitors to feel the atmosphere of the original Otobe landscape from the time when wajin first settled here. In July, go to the Gennadai Marine Festival held in the Umi-no-Pool (a swimming area in the sea with the highest water quality) of the Gennadai Seaside Park to experience catching sea urchin by hand. For souvenirs, a sweet made using edible lily bulbs that has won the first prize in a domestic contest is recommended. A leisurely time can be enjoyed with mythical views of nature created by uniquely shaped rocks, which have difference faces, and the coastline along the endless sea.Read more
The seafood town floating on the southwest edge Okushiri
Sky blue and ocean blue Okushiri blue - a symbolic color for the island's deep culture and fun activities
Okushiri offers an abundance of marine products such as sea urchin and abalone that differ slightly from those of other places - the taste of which can only be enjoyed on this remote island. Fully restored from the earthquake and tsunami in 1993, Okushiri has much to offer, with everything from seasonal marine products to fine wine from a local winery, hot springs and power spots. Okushiri blue - the color of the Sea of Japan, which encompasses the island, is a unique greenish blue that can never be seen anywhere else. In summer, a wide range of marine sports can be enjoyed on the beach and scuba diving is also very popular. The view overlooking the Nabetsuru-iwa Rock created by nature is indeed stunning. Unlike other places, you can have the view all to yourself on this remote island. The Sai-no-Kawara Festival in June, at which paper lanterns are floated down the intriguing sea coast, is a great opportunity to experience the town's elegance.Read more
A town where you can truly experience slow life Imakane
Spend a blissful time and relieve your mind in this utopia everyone dreamed about
A utopia blessed with beautiful clear rivers and fertile land - this is Imakane. There are many rivers and lakes of high water quality that were once a place of dreams for many miners who came to pan for gold long ago. Gold panning can still be experienced free of charge at the Shiribeshi-Toshibetsu River, which has been selected as Japan's clearest river many times. Different varieties of seasonal river fish can be observed at Pirika Dam, which is the largest dam in Hokkaido. The beautiful natural surroundings here are like the Garden of Eden, of which Christians who landed here long ago once dreamed. Ginko Ogino, Japan's first female doctor, was one of them. The Imakane Iitokoro Festival in August is lined with stalls selling local specialty items, allowing visitors to enjoy the local tastes all at once.Read more
A town that values friendships Setana
Charge your mind in this town that seemingly changes every time you visit.
Setana Town was formed in 2005 by the merger of Setana Town of Setana County, Kitahiyama Town of Setana County, and Taisei Town of Kudo County. This new town full of attractive features of the sea and mountains has many powerful and attractive spots. Such spots include its many coastlines lined with uniquely shaped rocks, which look different depending on the occasion, Otasan Shrine (Hokkaido's oldest mountain holy ground), and plateaus where seasonal flowers bloom. Kazamidori windmills, Japan's first wind power generators built on the sea, keep watch over the town's nature. Strong winds blowing against Setana are now creating the future for our children. In this town rich in fruits from the sea, the evening market, which is held on the fourth Sunday of the month and where ship captains directly sell the marine products they catch that day, is also very popular.Read more
Waiting for you at the Sea of Japan dressed in rich, vibrant colors
What leaves the biggest impression about Hiyama from a trip through the area is the harmony between the natural surroundings and the sky, which has a different atmosphere in each town. Large panoramic views of the sunrise and sunset glow display breathtakingly beautiful seasonal colors. The sky is different each day and the view at that moment is just for you. The culture and long history of Hiyama add depth to the amazing view and make the moment you saw the view dear to your heart.
Hiyama does not have the latest amusement parks. The only things Hiyama has to offer are attractive natural surroundings and a peaceful time for rediscovering yourself that cannot be found anywhere else. Eat agricultural and marine products while appreciating the blessings of the soil and the sea. Find and remember the seasonal scent in the winds while listening to the birds sing. All of this can be experienced in other places in nature-rich Hokkaido, but the experience is different here. Awaiting you is an atmosphere unique to Hiyama.
Hiyama is currently engaged in a number of projects aimed at living in harmony with nature while preserving its history, which include the use of environmental energy sources (e.g., wind power) and the development of organic foods for which profit is not the priority. Hiyama is working to protect the future for generations to come by recalling the lifestyle of the good old days to live in harmony with nature. This will give visitors to Hiyama an important opportunity to think about what is really important to them. Hiyama is the first place in Hokkaido where wajin moved in from the mainland. By traveling here, you will come to know the real charm of Hokkaido.