Aug 14, 2011

Summertime in Hokkaido

Hokkaido! The second most popular honeymoon destination among my friends. Actually, Hokkaido is also my ideal honeymoon spot as well, since as you know, I love Japan. LOL

Hokkaido and Okinawa. Both are separated from the main Japan island, and need air flights to reach, yet, Hokkaido still feel very much like Honshu really. Very different from Okinawa, which really felt like overseas. Food and culture wise, Hokkaido is very similar to the Honshu, too.

Here are some pointers I would like to share on my own 5-day-4-nights DIY tour in Hokkaido:

When we talk about Hokkaido, usually 3 things will come to our minds: Seafood, snow and lavender.

The best season for Lavender is July, in summer. Early August is not bad, too. I visited Tomita Farm in early August, and the lavender is still in full bloom. The air carried a strong lavender fragrance. ;)

During this season, the special Lavender train station is in service, and the Noroco Train (富良野・美瑛ノロッコ号), which is part of the SL series. Steam-powered trains! By luck, I managed to catch one to the Tomita Farm.

Lavender station- only available during the lavender season

Noroco train

When visiting Tomita Farm, do not forget to drop by the melon farm next to it, do try the freshly harvested melons. They sell at 250yen per slice.

Perhaps you heard of the music-box museum? It is an icon in Otaru.

Music-box Museum, 小樽オルゴール堂

But that is not what I love about Otaru.

What made me fell in love with Otaru is this, 運河:

A very picturesque place. I would love to visit it in winter again.

To get to Hokkaido within Japan, you can consider taking Skymark. It is a domestic budget airline.


If you book your flight at exactly 2 months before, you may be able to snap up the cheapest early-bird specials.

Within Sapporo, besides JR trains, there are also the subways which we can take. There are 3 different lines I think.

To travel from Sapporo to other parts of Hokkaido, you can consider taking the highway buses instead of trains. Though time wise, it is longer, it is usually half the price of trains. And trains include transfer. To avoid the hassle of moving my luggages across platforms, I opted for highway buses. Chuo Bus and Donan Bus provide these long distance rides.

When travelling between Sapporo and Toyako (Lake Toya) consider taking the Donan Highway bus. It costs 4790yen two-way, and takes close to 3 hours. The scenary is very beautiful though, as it circles the lake on its way to the Toyako Bus Terminal.

After reaching Hokkaido, I realized that all my favorite food, well.. most, at least, are from Hokkaido! My favorite ramen- butter corn ramen, originates from Hokkaido.

Miso Butter Corn Ramen!

In fact, my favorite ramen place from 梅光軒 in Singapore is from Asahikawa in Hokkaido, I manage to locate the Japanese branch in Sapporo! ;D

Special shouyu flavoured ramen only at 札幌ら~めん共和国.

Located at the Esta mall (at Sapporo JR station), on the 10th floor is the Sapporo Ramen Street 札幌ら~めん共和国.

Hokkaido is also famous for corn and potatoes.

Steamed potatoes lathered with butter and a dash of salt... Yummy...

And of course, crabs..

And… sweets! Ok, I don’t mean candy. I mean desserts! The Japanese call desserts – sweets, though. I think I have gained about 1kg just from my Hokkaido trip from all the desserts I have been having. :P

Doraemon taiyaki with iced chocolate from Doraemon Skypark at New Chitose Airport. I would recommend to arrive earlier at the airport, so that you can explore the Doraemon Skypark, Royce Chocolate Museum, even onsen, etc at the airport.


Toyoko-Inn Hotel
I stayed in 2 Toyoko-Inn Hotels during my 5-day trip in Hokkaido. These are business hotels, very reasonably priced, especially after the member discount. Discount is about 1000yen for each stay. To be a member, pay 1500yen, a one-time payment at any Toyoko-Inn Hotels. You can get your membership card immediately, and use it right away.

What I like:
  • Accessible. Many branches near big cities or train stations.
  • Provides all basic amenities of a business hotel.
  • Clean
  • Internet access (cable)

What I do not like:
  • Depending on which hotel, the morning breakfast maybe very crowded, and not enough seats or room to accommodate all, since we eat at the lobby. Do wake up earlier to avoid the rush.
  • For one of the hotels, they mixed up my reservation and gave me a smoking room instead of a smoking room.

Sumire Ryokan
This is a cheap ryokan, or rather minshouku 民宿. Single one-night stay costs 4000yen without meals and 5000yen with breakfast.

What I like:
  • Close to Furano station. Very easy to locate.
  • Opposite a supermarket, so it is very easy to buy snacks and light breakfast.
  • Personalised service. The owner gave me a personalized map of the area as well as recommendations of where to eat and shop, etc.
  • The common area (toilets, wash area, etc) is very new and clean.
  • Internet access (cable)

What I dislike:
  • Maybe it is just my room? It has a musky smell. ;(

Grand Toya Hotel
I was looking for a onsen ryokan near the lake, where I can watch fireworks, and take a ferry ride. Grand Toya Hotel is the perfect choice. Besides they offer plans for single stays. (It is not common among onsen ryokans to take single stays, as they usually offer double rooms for single stays.)

What I like:
  • Accessible. About 2 minutes walk from the Toyako Bus Terminal, and is located right in front of the ferry dock.
  • The jaguzzi onsen pool! There are 4 pools in all and a sauna room. Quite a lot for a small onsen ryokan.
  • Cheap- 12,000yen for a single stay. But my room is actually for two.

What I dislike:
  • The hotel is quite old, the room is quite old as well.
  • Again, maybe I was unlucky? My room has a lingering cigarette smell. But it has one of the best view of the fireworks, so I resorted to airing the room.

Fireworks at Lake Toya is different from the fireworks I have been to in Hamamatsu. It is a “moving” fireworks. The speedboats will fire fireworks from different locations along the lake. But as it is a long-run fireworks event, it is only 20 minutes long instead of the usual 1or 2 hours fireworks event, common in Japan. The fireworks event in Lake Toya continues till October 2011, so do catch it if you are planning a holiday in Hokkaido!

Special ferry service to watch fireworks

Overall, Hokkaido is a very easy place to navigate, even for a single lady like me. In Sapporo (including Otaru), they have announcements and signs in English. Glad I spent my last lone adventure in Japan at Hokkaido. I wanna visit Hokkaido again in winter!

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