The cold marine air that moves in and around the port city of Kushiro and mixes with warmer spring temperatures can create unpredictable weather patterns. I awoke, climbed out of bed and pulled back the curtains on my ninth floor hotel room overlooking the harbor to see, well, nothing. The fog had rolled in and enveloped the city reducing visibility to less than 20 meters.
Lucky for me, I'm staying nearby a large fish market and shopping center – the Marine-Our-Oasis building (commonly referred to as MOO). It seemed appropriate that I visit Kushiro’s version of fisherman’s wharf on a foggy morning. The weather pattern itself has become synonymous with San Francisco, a city known for its similar wharf-side tourist attraction — and its infamous cool and foggy weather (even in the middle of summer).
The multi-leveled building has commercial and administrative offices on its upper floors, so it’s best to ignore them completely. You should restrict your visit to the main level and the second floor.
The main floor has a number of fresh seafood dealers and a small vegetable stand. Past the retail fish market is the heart of the center, lined with individual kiosks selling everything from wood carvings to carousels of candy. There is also a relatively large bakery with a good selection of pastries that sit next to the ubiquitous stack of trays and tongs you find in any Japanese boulangerie. There are also a few food stalls that offer western-style breakfasts and lunches and a stand called Sanmanmauomasa that sells delicious Pacific Saury (fish) layered upon rice and grilled over charcoal.
At the far end of the building is an egg-shaped building glass building appropriately referred to as “EGG” (Ever-Green-Garden). The building is temperature-controlled to ensure that visitors can access a green space no matter the weather is like outside. When I arrived, a number of locals were sitting on park benches and eating their lunches while escaping the office for a few moments.
On the second floor, you can enjoy a light or full meal for lunch or dinner at one of the several restaurants. There is even a small food court that offers a variety of options such as ramen, tempura and sushi.
The main draw of Kushiro and the surrounding areas are the marshlands of the nearby Kushiro Shitsugen National Park. But, with the bulk of the city’s hotels located south and in between the main train station and the Kushiro River, you’re bound to be looking to explore the riverside area. MOO could almost be described as The tourist attraction in the city of Kushiro and on an inclement day of exploration, it was nice to duck inside, escape the fog, and enjoy some grilled fish.