The NHK documentary program “Nippon Kiko” recently aired an episode featuring one of the many hills in the city of Otaru, Hokkaido, called “Hagemashi no Saka.” The name means “hill of encouragement” (meaning it’s so steep you’ll never get up it without encouraging one another). Actually, the same hill was spotlighted last year by another NHK program, Ohayo Nippon, and I’ve found references to it on the Otaru city website dating back to at least 2006.

The hill is not long, but it gets VERY steep at the end —though there’s some disagreement as to how long and how steep. This program said the hill is 600m long and the last 60m is a 13.5% grade. The Ohayo Nippon program says 900 m long (starting from a place further down?) and maximum grade of 22%. The Otaru city website says 904m and 24% grade.

Whichever is correct, it appears to have become a popular cyclist destination in recent years due to a certain inn near the top —not named in the program, but appears to be Tomaya (3000 yen per night w/no meals - HP For the past six years, with the encouragement of the family operating the inn, young people in particular have come from all over Japan to try to cycle up to the top. The rule is that you must cycle all the way to the top without resting and without your feet even touching the ground until the very end.

I haven’t done this since I didn’t know about it last summer when I was in Hokkaido. But it’s certainly something cyclists should probably put on the list of things to do in Otaru.

There appears to be no information on “Hagemashi no Saka” in English. There are some photos of it here:

Your best bet is either to ask at the inn or get the city tourist people to point it out on the map to you. And, obviously, you’ll only be able to cycle it in the warm months.

As of this writing, Youtube links to the NHK Nippon Kiko program split into two parts (in Japanese, no subtitles) are here:

(Part 1)

(Part 2)

As far as I know, NHK doesn’t normally allow its programs to be youtube-d, so I’d advise viewing these sooner rather than later.

The transcript (in Japanese) for the earlier Ohayo Nippon program is here:


“Hagemashi no Saka”

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