A Visit to Lake Shikaribetsu

Lake Shikaribetsu is about 30km north of Shikaoi. Nestled up in the mountains, it is one of the highest elevation lakes in Hokkaido, and incredibly beautiful.

Lake Shikaribetsu

I was invited to go canoe-ing at Lake Shikaribetsu by my fellow Shikaoi ALT. I’m averse to nature (where the bugs live), or being trapped in a small boat in 300 ft deep water, but I decided to give it a shot! We also went with another new ALT from the nearby town Shimizu. We had a great time!

Me, in a canoe!

The drive up to lake Shikaribetsu is both terrifying and stunning. The road curves sharply, and at times has steep drops on both sides, but the scenery only gets more beautiful as you go on. As you might realize, this can be an especially dangerous combination.

Please keep your eyes on the road!

As you approach the main lake area, you will first drive through a long tunnel, before being greeted by three large buildings; the nature centre, where you can sign up for activities such as canoeing, or rowboat rentals; Café Mubanchi, and the gift shop, which are are located in the same Tudor-style building; and the hotel.

There is another restaurant at the hotel with a lake view, and on the drive to Lake Shikaribetsu, there are also a handful of other places to eat. Roadhouse Nest is about 20 minutes from the lake, and has the best pizza I’ve had in Shikaoi so far!

After registering for the 2pm canoe session, we went for lunch at Café Mubanchi, where we got our fill of stew, bagels, and awkward English printed on tiny decorative napkins.

The guides spoke enough English to teach us the basics of canoeing, and then sent us off on the water. I opted for the canoe with a guide, since we were an odd numbered group. Right away, the guide asked me if I was from Stony Plain, and then told me that his daughter is one of my students! What a small world! The relationship between Stony Plain and Shikaoi can be felt so strongly here.

The sky was cloudy, but thankfully we avoided any rain during our canoe trip.

For those in Stony Plain, please stop by the “20 Years of Friendship” mural in Shikaoi Park and look for Lake Shikaribetsu in the background!

http://www.waymarking.com/waymarks/WMDQF0_20_Years_of_Friendship_Stony_Plain_Alberta
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2019 Student Delegation to Shikaoi – Part 2

Aozora Kindergarten Class

The last week of our exchange was busy and exciting. On July 8 and 9, we split into 2 groups and started our school visits.  On Monday we went to Shikaoi Elementary, Shihoronai Elementary, Sasagawa Elementary and Shikaoi Junior High School, Urimaku Elementary, Tsumei Elementary and wrapped up at Urimaku Junior High.  We enjoyed lunch at Shikaoi Junior High, where we ate in the classrooms with the students. Lunch was delicious and it was interesting to see how the students at the school participate to serve lunch, and clean up afterwards. On Tuesday we visited Shikaoi High School where we met the students that will be travelling to Stony Plain in October. We also participated in a cooking class and made our own bento lunch of ginger pork, rice and salad. While at the schools we participated in traditional Japanese games, songs and dances. All the students we excited to teach us their culture and have us in their schools. After our visit to the high school, we toured the Shikaoi Fire Hall. It was really interesting to see how they handle emergency calls and what their fire trucks are like inside, being that they are smaller than ours in Stony Plain. We then headed to the Aozora Kindergarten class where we met the young students who delighted in showing us their games and having us play with them. It was so much fun!

First day in Sapporo

On July 10 we started our journey to Sapporo. We took the train from Shintoku to Sapporo where we arrived in a bustling station/huge shopping centre. We enjoyed lunch at “The Buffet” where we tried many different types of Japanese and Western cuisine. We walked to our hotel to check in and drop off our luggage and then enjoyed some free time checking out Sapporo and doing some shopping in the Tanukikoji Shopping Arcade, a 1.5 km long covered street filled with shops and restaurants . The next day we walked to the Sapporo TV Tower where we went up 90 meters and enjoyed seeing the view of the beautiful city. We then toured the Former Hokkaido Government Office Building and the beautiful grounds surrounding it. We found a cute little restaurant where we enjoyed lunch and then headed off to do more sight-seeing and shopping. The group enjoyed dinner where they cooked their food directly at the tables. The following day we toured the beautiful Hokkaido Jingu Shrine and then headed to the Shiroi Koibito Chocolate Factory. It was the grand re-opening, so it was quite busy, but interesting to see how the famous Shiroi cookies and cakes are made. We all got ourselves and our families some tasty treats from the gift shop. Then, it was back on the bus to start our drive back to Shikaoi. Once we arrived, we met up with our host families to spend the weekend with them.

Shikaoi High School Festival Performances

Our last weekend in Shikaoi was spent with our host families, enjoying pancakes at the Heisei Hall, and participating in the Shikaoi High School Festival. Due to the rain, the parade was cancelled, but the presentation that the students put on were fun and exciting to watch. Even the teachers were involved! After the presentations, students participated in games and activities, while others did some shopping and toured around the Town. On Sunday the High School students were making and selling treats and snacks in their classrooms. The atmosphere was fun and you could hear laughter everywhere.  It was also great to see the Stony Plain students involving themselves in all the activities. That night, the teachers and chaperones spent time together over dinner and then enjoyed some fun Karaoke singing. Monday was the national holiday, Ocean Day, so there was no school and a lot of host families did not have to work. Our host families took us shopping, out for a round of golf, and for a final authentic Japanese dinner. Our last night was spent with our new families and cherishing the time we had.

Farewell to our Shikaoi friends

Tuesday was our farewell breakfast. The Town of Shikaoi presented the Town of Stony Plain with a gift of a Celadon pottery jar. After breakfast and many tears, we got on the bus and sadly waved goodbye to our new and old friends and families. We waved out the windows until we could no longer see them and started our long, 9700 km journey back home. We were excited to see our families after two weeks away, but sad to leave a town and the people in it we had all come to love. Until next time Shikoai, mata oai shimasho.

2019 Student Delegation to Shikaoi

Kelly Maluta, Community Services Coordinator for the Town has Joined the 2019 student delegation. This is their experience thus far:

“We arrived in Tokyo an hour behind schedule. All the students were really excited to be off the plane to begin their new adventure. We traveled by bus to the Haneda airport, where we checked into our hotel and then went out for dinner. It was fun to try new foods in Japan. We all went to bed early, for all of us were very tired and adjusting to the 15 hour time difference. “

“The next morning we took a flight to Obihiro, where we were picked up by the kind Town of Shikaoi staff. We rode on the official town bus to Shikaoi and were immediately greeted by residents and staff. We toured the Town Office and met the new Mayor of Shikaoi, Mayor Kii. We enjoyed our time visiting with him and meeting the rest of the Town Office staff. We then walked to the new International Exchange Centre where we enjoyed a coffee, juice and some homemade deer shaped crackers. Afterwards, we went back to the Chomin Hall (Stony Plain Hall) where we got ready for the welcome reception with Mayor, Council, board of education officials and our new host families. We enjoyed a wonderful dinner of local foods and then headed home with our host families.”

“The next day (Friday), we visited the Shikaoi Shinto Shrine, Kanda Nissho Memorial Museum, tried our hand at Park Golf. We then drove up the mountain to see Lake Shikaribetsu. It was so foggy we couldn’t actually see the lake, but we still enjoyed ourselves and the footbath in the natural hot springs. We then went to the Shikaoi Tokachi Geo Park where we learned about the Tokachi area from hundreds of thousands of years ago. It was really interesting to learn about the volcanos that were in the area as well as how the river was created. We returned to the Chomin Hall where we ended our day and went home with our host families.”

“Our weekend was spent with our new families and friends. Each of us did something different; helping to get projects ready for the upcoming High School Festival, shopping in Obihiro, working in the garden and planting vegetables, attending the White Snake Festival at Lake Shikaribetsu, and touring the lavender fields of Furano.”

Welcome to the New Shikaoi Travel Blog

The Town of Stony Plain has been a Sister Town to Shikaoi, in Hokkaido, Japan for the past 34 years – quite a milestone! From the Shikaoi Exchange Long Stay Volunteer Program to the Student Delegation, Shikaoi and Stony Plain are always connecting through unique travelling opportunities. Many memories have been made and there are more to come.

This is the first post on the new blog. Long Stay Volunteer Program and Student Delegation participants will now have the opportunity to share their adventures and stories on this blog during their Japan stay. Make sure to subscribe to get notified when we post new updates.