Overview of Samani
Samani Town spreads out to the sparkling blue Pacific Ocean with Mt. Apoi and the Hidaka Mountains in the background.
The town's main industries are fisheries, agriculture and livestock farming, which have thrived thanks to the area's temperate oceanic climate and its vast tracts of fertile ground.
Samani has a rich history and tradition, and its magnificent mountains and coastline with oddly shaped rocks and cliffs create beautiful views that change with the seasons.
The town's name derives from the Ainu language, but its exact etymology is unknown. One published history of Samani Town states that the name may originate from the term samau-ni (withering trees) or esaman-pet (otter river).
Bounties of the sea
Samani has a long history of fisheries as a main local industry. Kombu kelp and salmon have been important products for the area since the Edo period (1603 - 1868).
The waters off Samani are home to rich fishing grounds where the warm Kuroshio current meets the cold Oyashio current, yielding a variety of seafood including salmon, Alaska Pollack and squid. Salted salmon processed by local fishermen using a traditional preservation method has enjoyed rising popularity recently. Sashimi made from the Samani specialty of whelks (neptunea polycostata) is exquisite and every bit as delicious as the similar but more highly prized abalone.
The Samani coast is known for its high-quality Mitsuishi Kombu kelp (Laminaria angustata). Kelp can typically be seen drying all over the town on clear summer days, and is shipped nationwide under the commercial name of Hidaka Kombu.
Kombu kelp harvesting
Kombu kelp drying
Hidaka Kombu kelp ready for shipment
Apoi Fire Festival
The name Apoi derives from a tale in which Ainu people made a large fire at a mountaintop altar as if to burn the sky and prayed to a kamuy (god) for success in their hunting of deer (part of the Ainu diet). To re-enact this legend, the Apoi Fire Festival - Samani's largest event - is held on the first weekend of every August.
The festival begins with a solemn lighting ceremony at the foot of the mountain and continues with a variety of events, including the lighting of a bonfire in the shape of the Chinese character for fire on Cape Enrumu, an Apoi drum performance, and the Nebuta Parade (a procession of gigantic lanterns).
The 146.5-km JR Hidaka Main Line extends southeastward along the Pacific Ocean from Tomakomai. Its unique blue and white KiHa 40-series rolling stock is popular with railway enthusiasts. The line is known for its scenic views, which include vast expanses of the Pacific Ocean, thoroughbreds grazing at leisure in fields, and the Hidaka Mountains. Samani Station is the terminus of the Hidaka Main Line as shown by the car stop at the end of the platform. Buses to Cape Erimo also leave from the station, making it both a terminus and a starting point for new trips.
The Oyako-iwa Rocks rising from the Pacific are a symbol of Samani. The area is popular with beachgoers in summer, but has a different appearance in winter with spectacular sunset views. As the sun goes down behind the rocks during the cold season, rays of light shine through the gaps between them onto the sea against a crimson sky, creating a truly awesome sight. The Oyako-iwa (meaning "parent-and-child rocks") are the subject of an Ainu legend about the strong bond between parents and children. Making a wish here during sunset is said to bring family happiness.