Lake Saroma: Sunsets, Scallops, and Sushi

The majestic expanse of water that is Lake Saroma boasts a perimeter of some ninety kilometers, making it the largest lake in Hokkaido, and the third largest in all of Japan. Set on the island's northeastern coast within the borders of Abashiri Quasi-National Park, the lake borders on the Sea of Okhotsk, with a sandspit separating the two bodies of water.

From glassy deep blue waters on a summer's day to an endless stretch of icy white when the surface freezes over in winter, Lake Saroma offers spectacular scenery throughout all four seasons, with its sunsets especially breathtaking. Take a stroll or cycle around the lake's edge and discover the various colonies of rare plants that grow beside the lake, including a carpet of coral grass that dyes the landscape a vibrant shade of red.

With a mix of fresh and salt water, Lake Saroma is a brackish water lake and is the biggest of its kind in Japan. Known primarily as the home of delectable scallops, the mineral-rich waters also allow for active cultivation of oysters, shrimp, and seaweed, making the surrounding area an excellent destination for those looking to feast on sushi and bountiful fresh fruits of the sea.

Spectacular Sunsets

Time your visit to Lake Saroma to the late afternoon or early evening, and you may well find yourself privy to a striking natural display over the horizon. The setting sun treats viewers to beautiful vistas as it appears to plunge into the lake—from burnt orange clouds reflected on glassy waters, to skies lit up in shades of red, purple and hazy pink. During winter months, flocks of swans come to rest on the lake, elegantly silhouetted against the evening sky.

To enjoy sweeping views over the lake, head to the top of Mount Horoiwa which is situated near the shore. Here, at 376 meters above sea level, the Saroma Observation Deck offers visitors panoramic views of the surrounding splendor, including views out to the Sea of Okhotsk and even the Shiretoko Mountain Range on a clear day. A popular spot for photos, the observation deck also provides three telescopes free of charge so that you can enjoy a closer look at the area's singularly picturesque terrain.

Saroma Scallops

Reputed to be the birthplace of scallop cultivation, Lake Saroma boasts one of the largest catches in Japan. Whether you prefer your scallops chargrilled, buttered, or in the form of raw sashimi, be sure to try this local delicacy while exploring the area. Stop by Tokoro Michi no Ichi, which sells scallops and a range of other fresh seafood. You are welcome to cook and enjoy your purchases on the spot—simply head to the front of the store and make use of their charcoal grill.

The mineral-rich salt waters of Lake Saroma provide the ideal environment for cultivating scallops that are particularly large and succulent. Using a unique farming method , the shells are hung on vertical ropes and suspended in the water for four whole years. After the first year, some are transferred to the Sea of Okhotsk, while others are left to grow in the calm waters. Finally, the plump morsels  are harvested and ready for you to savor in a myriad of ways—from savory dried scallops bursting with flavor to fresh, juicy bites of sashimi and sushi.

Sumptuous Sushi

Taste the bounty of Lake Saroma and the Sea of Okhotsk in all its forms at a myriad of nearby eateries serving the freshest of local seafood—including scallops, of course! You’ll find more than twenty sushi restaurants in Kitami City, around one hour by car or bus from the nearby town of Saroma. Closer to the lake, try Matsu Sushi or Sushi no Yassan, both located in the small seaside town of Tokoro. Serving special Okhotsk sushi platters at reasonable prices, here diners are treated to a range of seasonal delicacies such as salmon roe, large shrimp, sea urchin, king crab, crab roe, and conger eel—not to mention seared, salted and fried scallops. Straight from the source to your plate, chefs carefully select the best of the day's catch, ensuring a superb gastronomic experience.

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