To the west of the island of Hokkaido, after a beautiful tour of Shakotan Peninsula (subject of a future article), you’ll perhaps be thinking it’s time to head back to Otaru city. Think again, there’s a spot where I recommend losing yourself on the way.
By taking a different route through the village you’ll eventually find yourself stuck in a creepy dead end street. But turn your head to the right and there’s a surprise: the handsome rocks of Ebisu and Daikoku basking in the Sea of Japan. Drawing a fine line between bucolic, romantic and baleful (you need at least that to balance the scale), look for the centre of gravity of the triangle so created, and there we are. Feet in the water.
These two deities seem to have been forgotten here. There are no combini, let alone shops or food stalls. With any luck, you’ll find two or three cats with fur flying scuffle over the remains of a fish.
These two rocks – iwa – are shintai: the physical entities harbour spiritual beings. They’re known as Ebisu Iwa (恵 比 寿 岩) and Daikoku Iwa (大 黒 岩) because of their striking resemblance to the gods of that name.
To the left, Ebisu, the god of fishermen. He’s chubby, holds a fishing rod in one hand and a rather hefty red seabass in the other. To the right, Daikoku, the god of wealth. He’s often depicted with a golden mallet. Both will bring you good fortune even if that doesn’t seem to be true of the nearby village.
It’s an ideal place to visit when the sun is highest in the sky (the rocks are often in the shade) or indeed at sunset. I also came across a magnificent picture showing the rocks covered with snow: here. So why not go there in winter?
How to get there?
– By car, 30 minutes from Otaru.
Where to stay?
– Dormy Inn Premium Otaru: Unprepossessing outside but there’s a very nice thermal bath (onsen) inside! Moreover, the breakfast is buffet-style with loads of choice and even seafood (if you love ikura as I do it’s a joy …). Right next to Otaru station.