Just 20km west of Otaru, the engaging town of Yoichi (余市) is a gateway to the Eastern Shakotan Peninsula and on the route for Kutchan in Niseko area. The main joy here is tasting malt whisky, plus fruit picking and visit the old fishing houses. It is worth stopping to stroll if you are passing.
Highlights Nikka Whisky Yoichi Distillery, Old Yoichi Fukuhara Herring House, Yamamoto Sightseeing Orchard
Tourist Information Yoichi Tourist Association (余市観光協会): Tel 0135-22-4115 / In front of JR Yoichi Station, 8-4 Kurokawa-cho / 9am-6pm / yoichi-kankoukyoukai.com
Bike Rentals Elra Plaza (エルラプラザ): Inside JR Yoichi Station, 9am-6pm Apr-Oct / Closed Mon except summer / yoichi-cho.com
A four museums common ticket (共通入場券: kyotsu nyujoken / ¥880) covers entry to the Yoichi Fishery Museum, Old Fukuhara Herring House, Old Shimo-Yoichi Unjoya and Fugoppe Grotto. These sights are open from late April to early December except Monday.
01 HISTORIC DISTILLERY
Nikka Whisky Yoichi Distillery
ニッカウヰスキー余市蒸留所 / 7-6 Kurokawa-cho / 9am-5pm / Closed 25 Dec-7 Jan / FREE / www.nikka.com/eng/distilleries/yoichi
The Scottish-style Nioka Whisky Yoichi Distillery was founded by Taketsuru Masataka (Massan) in 1934. It is home to Japanese malt whisky. Massan was studied for whisky making in Scottland and married with Jessie Roberta Crown (Rita). Yoichi has the necessary conditions for distillery construction such as cool climate, peat, clean air and water. You can taste brands of whisky at the Nikka Kaikan (ニッカ会館).
Note that the distillery is regularly closed from 25 December to 7 January each year.
02 HISTORIC BUILDING
Old Shimo-Yoichi Unjoya
旧下ヨイチ運上家 / 9 Irifune-cho / 9am-4.30pm late Apr-early Dec / Closed Mon / ¥300
The Unjoya was a trading post between Ainu and Japanese during the late Edo period (19th-century), which has a household shinto altar and quaint garden. A ticket office is on the opposite side.
03 HISTORIC BUILDING
Old Yoichi Fukuhara Herring House
旧余市福原漁場 / Kyu Yoichi Fukuhara Gyoba / 150-1 Hamanaka-cho / 9am-4.30pm late Apr-early Dec / Closed Mon / ¥300
About 2km northwest of the town center, the Fukuhara Gyoba (herring house) amid the omoya (owner and fisherman’s home), archive and warehouses used until 1903. It has fishing gear, old photos and oil paintings. Very friendly volunteer staff (speak a little English) will guide you on weekends.
04 LOCAL HISTORY
Yoichi Fishery Museum
よいち水産博物館 / Yoichi Suisan Hakubutsukan / 21 Irifune-cho / 9am-4.30pm late Apr-early Dec / Closed Mon / ¥300
This outdated museum is situated on a hilltop across from the town hall (go up a steep slope). There are exhibits on old fishing gear, gorgeous platters and large paintings of the herring era drawn in the early 20th-century.
05 FRUIT PICKING
Yamamoto Sightseeing Orchard
山本観光果樹園 / Yamamoto Kanko Kaju-en / 1102-5 Nobori-machi / 9am-5pm mid Jun-early Nov / Admission ¥1200, incl take-away ¥2000 / www.fruits-yamamoto.net
Yoichi’s most foreigner-friendly orchard spread on a hillside overlooking the bay. You can fruit picking such as organic strawberries, cherries, peaches, grapes and apples. Take-away is available up to 2kg. It is about 4km southeast of the train station. A taxi from the station costs around ¥1200.
BUS: Chuo Bus Kosoku Iwanai-go (高速いわない号: hourly) and Niseko-go (高速ニセコ号: 3 daily) runs from Sapporo Station (1hr 40min) via Otaru Station (30min).
Chuo Bus 18, 20 and 21 runs every 20 to 30 minutes from Otaru Station (38min). Niseko Bus, runs between Otaru Station and Niseko Station, also stops here.