Akkeshi, coming from the word “Akkekeshi” (an Ainu word), means a place with lots of oysters, and hence, Akkeshi town, in eastern Hokkaido is well known for its oysters. As it lies halfway between Kushiro and Nemuro, Akkeshi is a good rest stop on a long drive between the two bigger cities. For oyster fans, Roadside Station Akkeshi Gourmet Park is a worthwhile and awesome place to visit. Located along Route 44 or a five minute drive from JR Akkeshi train station on the Nemuro main line, this Roadside Station is the only one in the area. Roadside Stations are government designated rest areas along highways and major roads. While providing places for resting, roadside stations are also intended to promote local trade and boost tourism.
Akkeshi Gourmet Park sits on a hill, and there is an observation deck on the third floor of the building where superb views of nearby Akkeshi Bay, Akkeshi Bridge and Lake Akkeshi can be seen in the distance. In the building, there is a restaurant on the second floor with more than half of the menu containing oyster dishes. Fried oysters, raw oysters, oyster pasta, oyster porridge, oyster salad, oyster rice bowl, oyster curry, and the list goes on and on. There are a few non-oyster dishes as well. Next to the restaurant, there is a barbeque area where fresh oysters and other seafood items can be barbequed or grilled and eaten on the spot. There is also a fish market selling live oysters, fish, scallop, prawns, sea urchin and a wide variety of live seafood.
As with all road stations, there is the usual souvenir shop with an entire range of oyster souvenirs. Oyster biscuits, various types of oyster sauces, oyster soy sauce, oyster instant noodles, oyster rice crackers, oyster soup, and even oyster ice cream, which had oyster sauce mixed in.
Visiting Akkeshi Gourmet Park is also a learning experience. You can learn about the history of the oyster town, the types of oysters available in different periods of the year, how to open the oyster shells, the many ways of eating oysters, and more. The only catch was that all the information was in Japanese. Even without the ability to understand profound Japanese, the oyster pictures on display were interesting as well.