Hokkaido trip report card

I took more photos of food than sights in Hokkaido, so that tells you something. Granted, i was there right smack in between flower blooming seasons of which Hokkaido is famous for.

After landing in New Chitose Airport, we picked up the rental car and headed to Mitsui Outlet Park. This was a last minute added-on itinerary. Food options were decent here. Thereafter, we went to Takino Suzuran Park.

I was imagining i could see the entire hillside full of flowers, but it as completely bare! I later found out from a poster that the flowering season ended just THE DAY BEFORE, on 11 June. All was not lost, thankfully, as there was a very interesting children’s playground within.

A disappointing sight. No flowers, Nada.

Two large bouncy blobs. Kids were attracted to it instantly.
Another interesting playground piece
Slides guaranteed to get adrenaline pumping, Helmet provided
Not your regular playground setup
Hillside with large red rubber balls provided for rolling about

Otaru was an hour plus drive away. It seems to be on everyone’s Hokkaido itinerary, but i thought the canals were a little underwhelming.

Pleasant but not spectacular
Another view
Sakaimachi street where i thought it was interesting to see some pretty old buildings

Enroute to Nikka Distillery at Yoichi, we caught the sight of snow capped mountain in the distance with the beach in the foreground. Now that was the FIRST time we’ve seen something like this. No photo unfortunately.

The reason for going to Nikka Distillery was, well, it was along the way, and they offer free whiskey tasting! You can read about it in my food review post.

Coal fired distillery
Pretty serene around the compound

Another slight-detour stop enroute to Hakodate from Otaru was Milk Kobo at Niseko. Not only do you get to enjoy fantastic dairy confectionary sweets, you also get one of the best views of Mount Yotei from here.

Mount Yotei with photo props provided

As we were making our way to Hakodate, i was discussing with my better half that maybe it was a good idea to bring home a sack of Japanese rice that we so love to eat. Well, what do you know, we happen to pass by a shop selling rice sourced directly from where it is grown!

We picked up a 5kg vacuum packed rice from here. Boy were we excited!

As i have mentioned in my itinerary post, the reason for going to Hakodate was simply to catch hold of the night view. The weather was perfect on our day of arrival. I would say it was worthwhile.

Magnificent view from Mount Hakodate

Here’s a little tip on how you can get a good shot taken with the night view: turn on your phone LED camera light and point at subject. If you’re using a DSLR, you might want to try the aperture mode and use as small an aperture as you can to capture sharp background.

This was the best shot, with pretty sharp foreground and background

Enroute to Lake Toya, we stopped at Onuma Park. It was actually more enjoyable than expected. The trails around the park were surprisingly manageable for the kids.

Mount Komagatake is the main sight around here, and it has an interesting pointed summit.
The boat ride is popular here but i felt walking the trail would be more interesting. Well, i don’t know, i didn’t take it.
One among the many island hopping bridges
The trail leading to a bridge
Perhaps the photo that summarizes Onuma Park – lake, forest trail, bridge and Mount Komagatake in the background

Lake Toya is quite a long drive away. We got to Sairo Observatory past 5pm, when most of the tour buses have left. Perhaps it was just the right timing.

An impressive view of Lake Toya from Sairo Observatory
Lake Toya from Lake Toya Onsen town

I timed my visit to Lake Toya such that i could catch the fireworks display which starts at 845pm. Having finished dinner, we had time to do some shopping at the pharmaceutical shop in the middle of town, and it was well stocked with all the items tourists go after.

Fireworks bursting forth from the water. The fireworks sightseeing boat can be seen on the right.
Fanciful enough for me. You get to see the fireworks up close and best of all, it’s free

I booked my hotel stay for the night at a hotel in Muroran, some 45 minutes drive away from Lake Toya. No, i’m not going to pay for the fireworks show thank you. The weather turned bad the next morning, and my visit to Cape Chikyu became an interesting encounter with one of the thickest fog i have ever seen. The drive through the foggy hillside housing reminds me of a scene from Miyazaki’s movie.

No more than 20 metres visibility
This is where you’re supposed to be able to see the sea

We continued towards Noboribetsu. When paying for the parking, i was told that the parking fee covers the other parking area in the vicinity. I didn’t plan for it, but since i paid for the parking, i thought, why not check it out. On closer inspection of the map, i found out that there was a foot spa at that other location.

Jigokudani or Hell’s valley
The hot spring lake which is the source of the hot stream for the foot spa
Piping hot stream
Kids loved it
A pretty cascade

There was actually yet another tab on the parking ticket that was meant for parking at Iozan (Sulfur Mountain). We decided not to miss it.

Spotted on the way to Iozan, the Ezo Red Fox! What a precious sight! What a blessing to see it in real life and not just on traffic signs cautioning drivers of wildlife. I have no idea what it was biting, but it was obviously quite used to human beings.
Iozan
This steam vent is not baricaded and you can actually see it up close

A long drive ensued as we made our way to Kushiro to stay for the night, stopping at Obihiro for a late lunch. It rained most of the way, and we were thankful that our main objective for the day was simply to cover distance.

The following day, we set out for Shiretoko, making a brief stop at Lake Mashu.

There’s a cloud hovering above lake! Not something you will see often in other parts of the world.
View down the valley from Lake Mashu

The Shiretoko Peninsula is one of only two UNESCO World Heritage sites in Hokkaido, and that was the only reason i chose to go there. I decided not to join the guided tour as i wasn’t sure if the kids could take the 3 hours long walk.

The boardwalk that was protected by an electrical fence
Cloud sweeping over the coast in the distance
The only lake (out of five) one gets to see from the board walk. The Shiretoko mountain range was shrouded by clouds. Although the weather wasn’t too good, it was interesting to see the wispy fog floating above the lake.
The human height shrubs are unique

Abashiri was supposed to be just a cheap place for me to layover after visiting Shiretoko, but turns out it offered much more. I was able to sample the Japanese long legged crab here for cheap, and visit the most awesome cafe. Be sure to read my food review to find out more.

There are also very interesting landscape around Abashiri. The train track runs almost just next to the sea, and Genseikaen Station might be an interesting place to stop for photos. Well, we drove past it as it was getting late. Kitahama Station is the more-famous one, though it doesn’t look as pretty.

We set out for Mount Kurodake the next morning, with a short visit to Cape Notoro first.

The beautiful meadow at Cape Notoro

The Ginga and Ryusei waterfalls are on everyone’s itinerary who visit Mount Kurodake. Coming from Abashiri or Lake Akan, it is immediately to the left after exiting the tunnel, so do slow down or you will miss it.

Ginga and Ryusei waterfalls

I guess we were at Mount Kurodake at the wrong time of the year, again. The snow hasn’t melted and there is just a very small area open for exploration after taking the ropeway up (Tip: payment for the ropeway tickets is cash only). We took the chair lift up to the 7th station just for for the sake of taking it. The forest trail up there was closed and, obviously, the trail to Mount Kurodake summit was closed as well.

View of the Soundkyo Gorge from the 5th station ropeway station
I guess the consolation is you get to enjoy the view all by yourself around this time of the year
The kids were really nervous when taking the chair lift, but i saw it as a way of training for courage
No way through for sure

Asahikawa was the logical place to layover for the night before heading to Biei and Furano the next day. There are plenty of food options in Asahikawa.

Basking under the golden evening sun. Rice paddy fields extend from Asahikawa as far as the eyes can see.

Biei is probably the highlight of a Hokkaido trip, and i would agree that it is rightfully so. Here are some hightlights:

The sight along the patchwork road is reminiscent of Tuscany, but unique in its own right
Rolling hills and flowers
The choice of colour for the flowers is decidedly Japonesque
The flowers probably won’t start to bloom for at least another month
The photo that coincides with the impression i had of Hokkaido before i had gone there

 

Almost the only patch of flowers that is in full bloom at Shikisai no Oka mid June
From a different angle.. it’s beautiful indeed
The Blue Pond is usually included in the itinerary around Biei and Furano

Final stop of the trip, Sapporo.

Susukino, the nightlife district

The main sights of Sapporo are around Odori Park. I didn’t plan for it in my original itinerary, but since we were in the vicinity after having breakfast at Rokkatei, i decided to check out the Botanic Gardens.

Some of the very old buildings in the Botanic Gardens. The one on the right was a museum and continues to be an exhibition hall.
As close as you can get to a brown bear
Vintage urinal
Ancient looking tree
Swampy area
Obviously you should expect to see some flowers in the Botanic Gardens. These look like Orchids.
Beautiful colours
Good for strolling
The Prefectural Government Office is just a stone throw away from the Botanic Gardens
There was a performance by the Hokkaido Police Band in front of the Prefectural Government Office and it was unbeliveable!
Yeah, i could sit here all day. The garden around the Prefectural Government Office.
Sapporo Clock Tower
Double decker horse pulled cart! Poor horse
When in Sapporo, you wouldn’t miss the TV tower and the meticulously maintained Odori Park
One of the many fountains in Odori Park

I suppose Sapporo was more about food and shopping than sightseeing. Will i be back to Hokkaido? i’m not sure really. Those other parts of Japan i haven’t been to gets higher priority naturally. I would love to visit Japan during autumn some day.

If you get to the airport early enough, you might be able to snag these leftover Royce bread and pastry sold at 90 yen apiece.
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