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 Niseko. 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.
The following sights (except Nikka Whisky Yoichi Distillery) are open from late April to early December except Monday.
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Sleeping in Yoichi
You could see Yoichi on a day trip from Otaru or Niseko, however there are several cozy rental houses and cottages in the rural areas and fishing villages.
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This outdated museum is situated on a hilltop across from the town hall (go up a steep slope).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.
For Yoichi, local trains run from Otaru (25min), Kutchan (50min) and Oshamanbe (2hrs 40min).