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