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.

Continue reading Hokkaido trip report card

Hokkaido food review part 2

Seafood

Although you can get seafood from any part of Japan, Hokkaido justifiably lays claim to having a special association with seafood. Prior to visiting Hokkaido, the seafood we ate, when visiting the other parts of Japan, were limited to Sushi and Bentos.

While in Hokkaido, we had the priviledge of trying a few things we never did before, such as Uni (sea urchin) and crab (see part 1). I just found out that the summer months actually fall outside of the sea urchin harvesting season, but you will still get to eat them since they are farmed.

Uni Murakami was the restaurant specializing in Uni that i chose to sample this interesting sea creature. The squishy stuff actually tastes pretty good! It’s like one of those wonder ingredients that a Michelin 3 star restaurant would use.

3 way seafood Don. Obviouly, this was cheaper than getting a bowlful of Uni.

Continue reading Hokkaido food review part 2

Hokkaido food review part 1

Part of many traveller’s motivation of travelling to Japan is to sample Japanese food. For me, you could say it’s half the reason I’m there. I know exactly what I want to eat and plan for each meal of my trip.

Hokkaido is choke full of food offerings. Here are the food I sampled in Hokkaido and what I thought of them.

Ramen

The first thing i have to say about Ramen is, it’s almost impossible to get Ramen of the same kind of quality outside of Japan. For one thing, it’s consistently served piping hot in Japan, whereas i often get Ramen with lukewarm soup in Singapore. To be honest though, i don’t eat Ramen much outside of Japan, because the price and quality is not justifiable. And i have even less reasons to now, the more i visit Japan. Continue reading Hokkaido food review part 1

#yenkaitravels #Hokkaido

Time flies and it’s almost time for my Hokkaido trip. To be honest, i have the feeling it will be anticlimatic in comparison to my Europe trip, but nevertheless, there is food and tranquility to look forward to, not to mention the extremely hot weather in Singapore that i’m so so happy to leave behind.

I spent much of the past week working out the final details, such as the shortlisted places to visit, the restaurants to visit for every single meal, and the corresponding GPS coordinates of all these places (the nearest parking lot). Having done these, i have some extra travel tips to offer for those of you travelling to Hokkaido. Continue reading #yenkaitravels #Hokkaido

Renting a car in Hokkaido

The rental car business is a very competitive one in Hokkaido, because the majority of visitors to Hokkaido will rent a car. This means plenty of choices and relatively low prices. I booked a rental car for JPY 32120 (S$405) for 7 days, which is only S$58 per day. This is inclusive of a one way fee of JPY 1500 (S$19) for returning the car at a different location (pick up at Airport but return in Sapporo), but excluding CDW, which would have cost an additional S$100.

Here are some findings that may be of interest to you. I basically tried getting a quotation from all the rental companies that are listed that may offer the Hokkaido Expressway Pass. Not all of them worked. Some of them are aggregator sites for which i have no interest. Some of them don’t allow one way rental. Here is a summary of the quotation for a compact car: Continue reading Renting a car in Hokkaido

Hokkaido 9 days itinerary

It took 3 days to work out this itinerary and book all the hotels, so you could say a trip to Hokkaido is actually not difficult to plan for. I do still need to work out details like where to go for meals, finding exact view points to see, as well as to book a rental car (that will be another blog post), but once the accomodation reservations are done, the rest are less worrying.

All my itineraries are planned with the same basic assumption – that i will never visit there again. This itinerary covers all attractions that are significant in Hokkaido, including places that seem less attractive, like Hakodate. I guess everyone has different preferences and pacing when it comes to how they do a trip, and few people will do it like i do. Nevertheless, i believe i have tips to share that may be useful for reference and consideration.

My trip happens in mid June, and unfortunately, the timeframe is in between the Pink Moss and the Lavendar bloom. Some people might be going to Hokkaido specifically for these. If so, to catch the Pink Moss, you need to be there mid to late May, and for Lavendar, mid to late July. Continue reading Hokkaido 9 days itinerary

Now is the time to book your 2017 vacation flights

Thai Airways flights to Sapporo
Thai Airways flight to Sapporo

My brother-in-law alerted me to the availability of cheap flights on Thai Airways, which his friends found out through Skyscanner. Well, without hesitation, we went ahead and booked flights to Sapporo on the official Thai Airways website for next June, since it was a very good deal. S$1485 for 2 adults and 2 children. Sometimes it cost this much for 2 adults alone.

Well, i thought it was a good deal. I received a mailer from Cheaptickets which mentioned a S$30 discount on flights to Japan with the discount code “JAPAN2016 ” (valid until 11:59 PM on 31 October 2016), so i did a price check for the same flights to Sapporo just out of curiosity. Well, turns out that they’re even cheaper, by about $50 per adult. I don’t know why, but their child fares are always more expensive than the adults’. Even then, the overall price for the flights is about S$100 cheaper.

Cheaptickets Sapporo flights
Cheaptickets Sapporo flights before the discount code is applied

Standard disclaimer, i am not affiliated to Cheaptickets in any way. I am just a third time user of their website, and it looks like i will be using them more often.

Japan destinations – Fukuoka

Naka river
Naka river

Of all the Japanese cities we have visited, Fukuoka ranks among the top of our favourites, because it strikes a balance of being urban without being congested.

We arrived at Fukuoka from Yakushima around noon, and it took us a while to sort out our luggage storage. Since we would be flying from Fukuoka airport again, we left two pieces of luggage in a coin operated locker. The widespread availability of lockers and luggage forwarding service in Japan makes life a lot easier for travellers.

By the time we got to Chikae for lunch, it was past 2pm, and the restaurant was virtually empty. The waitresses kept emphasizing to us that the set lunch was no longer available. I suppose that’s the main draw during lunch time, a good value at 1300 Yen. We opted for the course meal, which starts at 4500 Yen, so as to get to sample more dishes. We might have done so anyway even if we got there in time for the set lunch. This would be my second Kaiseki meal (the course meal at Yunotakean in Yufuin being the first ever). Continue reading Japan destinations – Fukuoka

Japan destinations – Yufuin, Kurokawa Onsen and earthquake

The title was meant to be Yufuin, Kurokawa Onsen and Aso. Obviously, the Aso part didn’t happen. Read on to find out more.

There are practically only two attractions in Yufuin – Kinrin-ko lake (pictured above) and Yunotsubo Kaido, the food/shopping street. OK, my son kept begging for me to let him take a horse cart ride, which he saw on a tourist map, so that might count as a third plausible attraction. Continue reading Japan destinations – Yufuin, Kurokawa Onsen and earthquake

Japan destinations – Nagasaki

Nagasaki is small enough to be explored on foot, but taking the tram would help a lot. We arrived on an evening and did walking for the rest of the day. Fujiwara Ryokan, where we put up in, was a mere 10 minutes from Nagasaki station, though there was a bit of slope to negotiate. This was one of the best Ryokans i’ve stayed in.

Fujiwara Ryokan
The room with ensuite bathroom was super cozy. Hot green tea, fridge, Yukata, coin operated washing machine/dryer and super friendly owner. All check.

I love the minimalist Japanese style rooms. The room is so comfortably spacious, yet also functional. It makes me wonder about the rationale behind our choice, in our part of the world, to clutter our rooms with all kinds of furniture.

Meganebashi (spectacles bridge)
Meganebashi (spectacles bridge)

Meganebashi was along the way to our dinner place (i planned it so), and the Nakashima river over which it arches, reminds me of Cheongyecheon in Seoul. The river, like most rivers in Japan (check out Kamo river in Kyoto), is clean and organized. They are not treated as dumping ground, which is the fate of many rivers across Asia. The rivers need zero investment for beautification (the investment, if any, would have been made decades or centuries ago), unlike Cheongyecheon. I think the Japanese have a lot of wisdom in this – respect for the environment. Unfortunately, i don’t have more photos to show you because i accidentally deleted them! Continue reading Japan destinations – Nagasaki