How to Experience Minshuku: Authentic Local Seafood in Shiriuchi Town

When choosing a place to stay around Hakodate, what criteria do you use? If you’re open to options beyond just price or location, we have a recommendation for you. We highly recommend “Kaikyo no Yado Zen,” located in Shiriuchi Town, about an hour’s drive southwest of Hakodate.

This accommodation is not a hotel but a “minshuku,” a type of family-run lodging traditional to Japan. Recently, it seems that more and more foreign visitors are choosing to stay in such places.

In the spring of 2024, we stayed at this minshuku while visiting Hakodate and Matsumae to see the cherry blossoms. The meals we had there were some of the best we’ve ever experienced.

Cuisine You Can Only Experience Here

The meals served here are made exclusively from 100% locally sourced ingredients. Why? Because the owner of this minshuku is a fisherman. The inn owns a fishing boat, and the owner goes out to sea every morning, bringing back fresh fish that end up on your table. What makes this place truly exceptional is that you get to eat rare, fresh fish that are not typically available in the market.

Many of the fish are served as sashimi, and as expected from a fisherman, the sashimi is absolutely superb. He knows the best way to prepare the fish, ensuring an exceptional dining experience. During our recent stay, we had a type of flatfish called “kusa-karei.” I had never heard of this fish before, but I was completely captivated by its delicate flavor.

We were also amazed by the size of the hokke (Atka mackerel), a fish well-known in Hokkaido. The owner mentioned he was also surprised by its size when he caught it. This fish was served simmered. Usually, I’m not a big fan of simmered fish dishes, but this hokke was an exception. Seasoned with soy sauce and miso, it was elegant, not overly salty, and the richness of the hokke was unforgettable.

The meals include sashimi, simmered dishes, hot pots, rice, chawanmushi (savory egg custard), and more—so much that even an adult man might struggle to finish everything. I can eat quite a bit, but I began to worry about how much more food would come as the meal went on. However, I managed to finish everything without leaving any leftovers.

If you have a large appetite, you might still feel a bit hungry, but for a typical Japanese meal, the portions are quite generous.

Inside the Rooms

The layout is typical for a Hokkaido minshuku, with rooms about 8 tatami mats in size. It doesn’t have the old-style house design often found in Honshu. However, the rooms are neat and tidy. The toilets are shared but clean. The bath is also shared and not a hot spring, but it is large and well-maintained.

At night, you will lay out your own futon, allowing you to sleep at your own pace.

The View and Strolling

Across the Tsugaru Strait, you can see the Tsugaru Peninsula in Aomori Prefecture. On a clear day, it feels surprisingly close. The sea right in front of you is incredibly clear and beautiful, giving you a good sense of how fresh and delicious the fish caught here are.

Early in the morning, you can see anglers on the rocky shore. You might wonder what they catch. The fishing port is right in front of the inn, and from here, boats depart for the popular Blue Cave tour. You can ask the inn for help with tour reservations. There’s a beautiful cave that can only be reached by boat, and on calm days, it promises an unforgettable experience.

If you walk a little to the left from the inn, you’ll find an observatory. From this high vantage point, you can get a panoramic view of the small port village of Shiriuchi. Below the observatory is a large rock formation with a parking lot called Ikarikai Parking Park. From there, you can descend to the sea, where you’ll see a small island called Ikarikai Island just ahead. It looks close enough to swim to, but you must never swim here. The currents are very strong, and even skilled swimmers should avoid swimming.

To the right of the inn, there’s a port and then a residential area. This area is called Kotaniishi, though it was originally named Yagoshi. The locals still refer to it as Yagoshi, which in Ainu means “the place that goes inland” or “the place that has collapsed.”

An early morning walk in this area is a pleasant way to start your day.

This Inn is Recommended for the Following People

  • Those who have financial and time flexibility.
  • Those who want to enjoy truly delicious local food.
  • Those who want to relax in a quiet place.

And importantly, those who can speak Japanese. The reason is that reservations can only be made in Japanese.

The landlady mentioned that sometimes foreigners call speaking languages other than Japanese, but since she can’t understand them, she has to apologize in English and hang up. This is understandable—it’s impossible to take a reservation if you don’t understand what the caller is saying.

However, if you can speak Japanese, or if you’re traveling with someone who can, and if you’re accustomed to Japanese food like sashimi, then this place is highly recommended. If you pride yourself on being a Japanese food connoisseur, you’ll surely appreciate how wonderful the cuisine here is.

Let me reiterate: Only those who truly want to savor fresh seafood should try this place. You won’t find the same quality of cuisine in other parts of Japan, not even in high-end Japanese restaurants in Tokyo.

This inn is very popular and has been featured on TV and in magazines multiple times. After staying there myself, I can see why.

For those heading towards Matsumae from Hakodate, or from Matsumae towards Hakodate, or those touring around Hakodate but not fixated on staying within the city, this inn is a great option. It only takes about an hour by car from Hakodate, making it a viable choice for accommodation.