Home >> Itineraries,Japan Travel >> Self-drive holiday to Autumn Hokkaido with kids (Part 2) – Itinerary for Autumn foliage, telephone numbers and map codes for GPS

Continued from Self-drive holiday to Hokkaido with kids (Part 1) – Flight, Hotel Mercure Sapporo, Toyota Rent-A-Car Sapporo

I was in Hokkaido with my parents and two kids from 15 to 19 October, which was autumn, and the main focus of the trip was to view autumn foliage – not particularly interesting to the kids, who spent most of the time just sleeping in the car and stroller.

Day 1: Sapporo

By the time we arrived at Sapporo, it was late in the evening. We had been awake since 3 am, taken a 7 hour flight from Singapore to Narita, followed by a 1.5 hour flight from Narita to New Chitose Airport, followed by a 1 hour bus ride from New Chitose Airport to Sapporo. So all we did was have a quick dinner at Matsuya near our hotel, Hotel Mercure Sapporo, and went back to the hotel to rest. Matsuya was not particularly kids friendly – no high chair or kids meal, but there was enough space to put our stroller so MY just sat in the stroller during the meal.

Day 2: Houheikyou Dam, Jozankei Onsen, Otaru

We woke up bright and early and went to Odori Park (about 10 min walk from our hotel) for a morning stroll. Odori Park was beautiful in autumn, with some trees turning bright red and many flowers still blooming.

We also popped by the Sapporo Clock Tower, but it was not open yet.

We only walked about half of Odori Park, before heading to Toyota Rent-A-Car Sapporo‘s Susukino Minami 4-jo office office to pick up our rental car. We drove through Jozankei Onsen town to Houheikyou Dam, which was a popular place for viewing autumn foliage.

The GPS map code for Houheikyou dam did not work very well.. It guided us to the middle of nowhere – I suspect it was guiding us to the dam itself, rather than to the carpark for the electric bus tour. Thankfully it was peak tourist season for Houheikyou dam and there were many cars and tour buses headed that way, so we just followed the main road where many tour buses were coming out from.

The were soooo many tourists there, the electric buses were all packed to the brim. It was not a very comfortable ride, with the kids and our bulky stroller and all. And we discovered that we could actually skip the bus ride and walk to the dam (about 30 min walk – stroller friendly) and save the 600 yen per pax bus ticket.

There was a mini cable car that you could take to the restaurant at the top, but there was a long queue plus a long flight of stairs to climb before that – not a good idea with kids and stroller involved, so we did not bother with that. We could have walked up to the restaurant instead of taking the cable car, but it was drizzling and we were kinda lazy, so we just walked around the dam area.

The view at the bottom was good enough. It was simply breathtaking, with autumn colours at its peak while we were there.

Although we purchased return trip tickets for the electric bus, we decided to walk out instead of queueing for the bus. MF had fallen asleep in the stroller and we did not want to take him out, so we just pushed the stroller and walked all the way out, passing by a waterfall along the way.

We proceeded to drive to Otaru, via the Jozankei lakeline.

The drive was extremely scenic – bringing us through Jozankei onsen town, pass Sapporo lake, Jozankei dam and Asari dam. The autumn colours along the way were simply beautiful.

When we arrived at Otaru, the first thing we did was to eat sushi! This was my third trip to Otaru, and every time I was there, I would definitely eat sushi – Otaru‘s sushi was the best! There was a sushi street in the heart of Otaru with many good sushi restaurants, but we chose to dine at somewhere less touristy (and hence cheaper): Toppii sushi, which was a short walk from Otaru canal. Toppii sushi had a free carpark for its patron, so it saved us the hassle of looking for a coin parking. There were high chairs available, and kids were entitled to the drinks bar – FREE!

When we finished eating, we sneaked off for a quick walk to the Otaru canal, leaving our car at Toppii. If you don’t wish to be inconsiderate, or if it’s peak dining hours, there is a Times open-air carpark (click here for location of carpark on Google Map) just next to the canal.

Beside Times carpark, you will find the famous ice-cream shop, Kita No Ice, in a small historic building. The ice-cream shop sells really strange flavoured ice-cream.. Like uni (sea urchin), squid ink and crab flavours.

After I had my fill of weird ice-cream for dessert, we headed back to our car and drove through Sakaimachi, the main street of Otaru. If it’s your first trip to Otaru, I would advise you to walk through Sakaimachi instead of drive, because there is so much to see, do and eat along the way! There are many shops selling intricate glass handicraft where you can experience glass-blowing, a candle workshop where you can make your own candle, and the famous music box museum at the end of Sakaimachi is definitely worth a visit. Along the way, there are cafes like Amato and LeTao where you can sit down and enjoy delicious Hokkaido sweets, and you can also find Rokkatei (六花亭) and Kitakaro (北菓楼) which are famous confectionery shops. In particular, Kitakaro has the most yummylicious ice-cream and cream puffs.

Since bringing kids (esp one with itchy hands like MF) to glass shops and music box museum sounds like a pretty bad idea, I asked my parents if they wanted to go and take a look, and I could drop them off at the music box museum while I chill out at Le Tao or take a drive to the Otaru Aquarium with the kids, but they passed. So we just drove through the street, stopping the car at the side of the road in front of Kitakaro while I hopped off to grab a cream puff, before driving back to Sapporo.

When we were back at Sapporo, we parked our car at the hotel and went to shop at Tanukikoji.

For dinner, we had ramen at my favourite ramen joint: Barikiya, located at Tanukikoji 4-chome.

The eatery was a little cramp and did not provide high chairs, you basically sit on stools along a counter to eat. But we managed to find a spot to leave our stroller (and MY just bummed there while we ate) and MF managed to balance himself on the stool and stretched his neck a bit to finish his noodles (I guess it helped that he LOVED the noodles here!). The shop had small bowls and children’s fork ready for kids.

Day 3: Furano

This was the day when Typhoon Wipha, Japan’s worst typhoon in a decade, hit. Although Hokkaido was spared the full brunt of the typhoon, it still brought heavy wind and rain (or snow in the colder regions). Being ignorant Singaporeans, we clearly did not understand how bad things would get when there was a typhoon, and went driving around anyway.

In the morning, the weather did not look too bad, so we decided to drive to Furano to see the flower fields. It was windy and rainy (not that we could feel it in the car) along the way. We made a brief stop at SA (i.e. service-area, referring to large parking areas with toilets, shops, restaurants and petrol kiosk) Sunagawa (SA 砂川)along the expressway, which was a nice place to take a break if you are driving from Sapporo to Furano. There was a cafe serving hot meals and a beautiful little park next to it.

There were also Gashapon machines for the kids, and we bought some gashapon toys to let MF entertain himself on the car before moving on. If you have time and weather is good, you can visit Kodomo No Kuni (子どもの国 – translates to mean ‘Children’s Country’) – there was an entrance to it from SA Sunagawa. From across the road, I saw some beautiful autumn foliage and playgrounds for kids there.

As we approached Furano, the rain became snow. We were actually pretty excited about it, because you know, we don’t get to see snow in Singapore.

We finally arrived at some flower fields belonging to Choei Lavender Park just before reaching Farm Tomita.  There were no more lavenders in autumn, but there were still those neat rows of colourful flowers. It was snowing and the kids were sleeping in the car, so we took turns to go down to take some photos.

We then drove on to Farm Tomita. It was snowing heavily, but we somehow managed to unload the kids and stroller and make a mad dash for the shelter from the carpark.

Since it was snowing heavily outside, we started by checking out the beautiful dried flower shop.

There was a balcony at the second storey of the cafe where we could see the flower fields without having to go into the snow.

It was time for lunch, so we had our lunch at the cafe there. We found a seat next to the window with a nice view of the flower field.

MF had a burger and MY had some potatoes and pumpkins (a nice change for him from cereal and food pouches), while I had some yummy lavendar-flavoured cheescake and drink.

The snow got heavier and heavier as we were eating, and we figured it was not going to go away anytime soon. So after eating, we got MF into the stroller and wrapped it up with a rain cover, and I wrapped MY in the carrier and, armed with our umbrellas, we made a mad dash for the greenhouse to see some lavender. It was so cold and my fingers were freezing by the time I reached the greenhouse!

After we were warmed up enough, and MF had ran enough rounds around the greenhouse checking out all the flowers, we dashed back to the dried flower shop. I made a slight detour to check out the autumn field.

Not that I could seem much in the storm… But at least I can say I’ve been here. Next challenge was how to get the kids and stroller back to the car in the storm. We decided to just ignore no-entry signs and drive the car all the way to the porch of the dried flower shop to load the kids in. A staff looked like she was about to stop us, but when she saw that we had a toddler and baby in tow, she let us go ahead.

By the time we left Farm Tomita, snow had covered all the roads and everything was just a piece of white. We couldn’t see the roads, and underestimated the difficulty of driving in the snow, and our car ended up in a ditch. Thankfully Toyota had an English-speaking emergency hotline. I called them to explain our situation, and they said they would call us back. While waiting for them to call back, a passer-by, who had a chain in his car, helped us pull our car out of the ditch. Toyota only called us back much later, so thank goodness for the good Samaritan, or we would have been stuck in the car for hours, in the middle of nowhere, in the midst of the snow storm and with 2 screaming kids. Lesson learnt: Never drive out when there is a typhoon.

Somehow, we managed to crawl back to Sapporo. We had dinner at Barikiya again (a piping hot bowl of yummy soupy ramen was the ultimate comfort food after our stormy ordeal) before calling it a day.

Day 4: Noboribetsu, Lake Toya

We were planning to go to Noboribetsu today. It was raining in the morning, and weather forecast said that it should clear up by the afternoon, so I suggested we visit Noboribetsu Marine Park Nixe until the rain stopped. As we drove towards Noboribetsu, the sky started getting nice and blue, and thanks for the snow storm from the previous day, we got to see beautiful snow-capped mountains amidst the autumn colours.

Since it was no longer raining, we skipped the marine park and resumed our autumn foliage viewing at Jigokudani (地獄谷 – translates to mean Hell’s Valley) instead.

The walk around Jigokudani was pretty stroller friendly. You could push your stroller most of the way. There were some stairs to the view points, but you could leave your stroller at the side for a while to go to the view point.

Next, we went to view Oyunuma (大湯沼), which was a short drive away. There weren’t much autumn colours yet, so we did not stay long.

Next stop was the Shinnoboribetsu bridge (新登別大橋). There was no map code or telephone number for the location of the bridge, so I asked for directions from the tourist information centre at Jigokudani. To get to the bridge, you drive out along the main road from Jigokudani, all the way until you see a petrol kiosk on your left. After the petrol kiosk, there is a traffic light junction where you can turn right. Take the right turn, then take the first left turn and you will be driving across the Shinnoboribetsu bridge. After you cross the bridge, there will be a carpark on your right. (Click here to see route on Google Map.)

After all the effort to find the Shinnoboribetsu bridge, sad to say, the autumn colours have yet to arrive in the gorge.

At least we saw ONE tree near the carpark that was a nice shade of red.

From here, we decided to drive to Mount Usu (or Usuzan 有珠山). The GPS gave us directions via the expressway, but we wanted to take the scenie route via Orofure pass (オロフレ峠), so we had no GPS help here and had to follow road signs directing to Lake Toya and Orofure pass. However, after about 10 min of driving, we saw a sign that said Orofure pass was closed due to accumulated snow! So we backtracked and followed the GPS instructions to get to Usuzan via the expressway.

It was not all in vane, because using the expressway, we got to stop at SA Usuzan (SA 有珠山), which provided beautiful panaromic views of the town below. We had our lunch there, which was quite yummy. And MF got to buy more gashapon toys.

A short drive from there and we arrived at Showa Shinzan / Usuzan.

We went to ride the Usuzan Gondola, which MF enjoyed a lot. There were beautiful autumn foliage around the ropeway station and along the ropeway ride.

We brought our stroller along and had no problem getting up to the ropeway with it – there were ramps all the way. At the summit, the lake toya observatory was just beside the station and we could see Lake Toya and Showa Shinzan from there.

We took the walk to the crater observatory, and we could push our stroller all the way until the very last part, where we had to climb the stairs to the top. We left our stroller at the bottom and climbed up.

After visiting Usuzan, we drove the nearby Lake Toya. MF found a playground along the lakeside and had a bit of fun there.

Lake Toya was actually worth a stay for the night, because one could go for a ride on the castle-like boat, and every night for a few months (between end April and end October), there was a 20 minute fireworks display at Lake Toya from 8.45pm to 9.05pm.

If you are planning to drive to Hakodate, Lake Toya is the perfect spot midway between Sapporo and Hakodate to spend the night.

But since we had a long drive back to Sapporo, and we were pretty traumatised with the snowy drive from the previous day, we decided to skip the cruise and fireworks and start driving back to Sapporo while there was still daylight.

Driving back from Lake Toya, the shortest route was actually via the Nakayama Pass and the GPS provided this route for us. However, since it was getting dark and we did not want to risk running into any road closure (considering the snow storm yesterday and our encounter with Orofure Pass), we chose to go back using the expressway. So, without the help of the GPS, we backtracked the same road we came from to get to the expressway.

Back in Sapporo, instead of driving back to our hotel, we drove to Sapporo station area. We parked at Daimaru and had our dinner at Tadumura (たづむら), a tonkatsu restaurant on the 8th floor. The restaurant was very child-friendly and welcoming to the kids. They brought out toys for the kids to play, high chair for MY and children’s utensils.

They had kids meals on their menu, and the kids meal came with a free toy (a windmill thingy).

If you drive and park at Daimaru and dine at one of the restaurants there, don’t forget to pass your parking ticket to the cashier when you are paying the bill for parking discount.

After dinner, we went to level 1 and exiting Daimaru, we found ourselves right inside Sapporo station. There was a large souvenir shop selling famous confectionary from different parts of Hokkaido there, where I grabbed a box of my favourite Snaffles cheesecake. After that, we headed to JR Tower, which was also connected to Sapporo station, directly facing Daimaru. We went up to the T38 Observatory, for stunning night views of Sapporo and to take a leak in the toilet with a view.

Day 5: Sapporo

In the morning, our original plan was to visit Takino Suzuran Hillside Park which was supposed to be holding an autumn festival and a pretty kids-friendly park with playgrounds and all. But, believe it or not, it was closed for a bear hunt! How unlucky. Hence, we went for a stroll at Hokkaido University instead.

Non-authorised cars were not allowed inside Hokkaido University, but there were plenty of coin carparks nearby. We just parked at a random public carpark near the main entrance of the university.

There were some autumn colours around the University grounds, but nothing really spectacular.

We had a hard time finding the gingko avenue, where the row of trees turn a beautiful yellow during autumn, and had to ask people for directions before we eventually found it. Disappointingly, only one of the trees had turned yellow.. Oh well, better than nothing.

Next, we drove on to Sapporo Beer Factory. The carpark at Sapporo Beer Factory was huge and free of charge, and the beer museum was free to enter too!

As I was still breastfeeding, I kept thinking whether I should help myself to some freshly brewed Sapporo beer. It seemed like such an injustice to go all the way to Sapporo Beer Factory and not drink any beer. Turned out, they actually had a non-alcoholic beer! Bottoms up!

After drinking up, we drove on to Sapporo TV Tower. The nearest carpark was the underground parking of Odori Park, which was huge but kind of expensive.

We went up the TV Tower for a bird’s eye view of Odori Park.

From the TV tower, we walked to Nijo Market for some shopping and lunch. On hindsight, we should have drove over, because there was a large public carpark just beside Nijo market which was cheaper than the Odori Park carpark. At least the walk was not entirely boring, as we walked through a small park which had some autumn leaves.

At Nijo market, we walked around looking at giant crabs and other seafood. Popular souvenirs to buy home included vacuumed packed corns, yummy Japanese melons (which will be packed nicely in a cardboard box) and dried scallops (much cheaper here compared to Singapore – great for cooking baby porridge). We had lunch at the kaisen don (seafood rice bowl) shop inside the market, and bought a big melon before heading back to Odori Park.

We hung around Odori Park for a while to admire the autumn colours and let MF run around for a bit.

Next, we drove to Makomanai Park, which was a popular spot for viewing autumn leaves. The telephone number we keyed into the GPS brought us to an isolated coach carpark, so we had to drive around the park a bit to find the road going into the centre of the park where there was a huge carpark in front of the stadium.

Unless it was autumn, I wouldn’t recommend coming to Makomanai Park because there was nothing much to do or see. But in autumn, it was absolutely beautiful!

From Makomanai Park, we drove to Mount Moiwa. You can drive up the Mount Moiwa sightseeing road, but we chose to take the ropeway up because MF wanted to ride the ropeway.

We went up in the late afternoon so that we could catch both day and night views and also see the sunset from the top of Mount Moiwa. There was a restaurant-cum-cafe at the top where we sat around and ate very yummy quiche while waiting for the sun to set. There was also a Star Hall with 3D movie screenings.

After the sun set, we took the ropeway back down and went to return our rental car. We walked around the Susukino area and went to a small shop called Go Tsubo (五坪)which is one of my favourite places to eat in Hokkaido. They served really cheap (105 yen each) and delicious grilled oysters. The shop was really small so we just ate from the window and left.

And since it was our last dinner in Hokkaido *sobs*, my dad suggested we ate somewhere nice, so we walked around and found a random restaurant with English menu and english-speaking waitress and dined there. It was tatami-style dining, so MY did not need a high chair and could sit with us – making him one happy baby.

On our way back to the hotel, we passed by Gindaco, and I couldn’t resist buying some takoyaki – It tasted pretty much the same as the Gindaco at ION Orchard, of which I was not a big fan. I have had much nicer takoyaki at Tokyo and Osaka.. Hokkaido was not the best place for takoyaki after all.

Day 6: Sapporo, Narita

Our flight to Tokyo was in the afternoon, so we had some spare time in the morning. We went for a stroll at Nakajima Park, which was about 15 min walk from our hotel.

There were some autumn colours there, and the pond at the centre of the park mirrored the buildings and plants around beautifully.

After our morning stroll, we went back to hotel and caught the airport limousine bus to Shin-Chitose airport. The airport was a destination in itself – it gathered all the famous food from all over Hokkaido and I happily stocked up on Snaffles and Kitakaro goodies to munch on during the flight. I would have bought more.. If not for MF making a big fuss about wanting to see Doraemon. There were lots of kids stuff on the 3rd floor, including a Doraemon Waku Waku Sky Park. Well.. We never made it there because we did not have enough time. By the time we found our way there (the airport was bigger than expected), it was almost time to head to the boarding gate. If I ever come to Hokkaido with the kids again, I shall make it a point to spend more time at the Shin-Chitose airport.

> Read More: Things to do with kids at New Chitose Airport

At Narita airport, we had a few hours in transit before our evening flight back to Singapore. So we checked in our luggage first, then hopped on the subway to Narita to visit the Naritasan Shinshoji Temple.

Ah well.. It was boring and MF slept all the way. Although the route to the temple was stroller friendly and we could push the stroller all the way, there were some pretty steep slopes which made it a tad tiring. If I ever have a few hours to bum at Narita airport next time, I shall go shopping at Narita Aeon mall instead (there is a shuttle bus running between Narita airport and Narita Aeon Mall).

And that ends our short trip to Hokkaido! If you have more time and want to make it more interesting for the kids, possible day trips from Sapporo include visits to Asahiyama Zoo (near Asahikawa), Maruyama Zoo (in Sapporo), Otaru Aquarium and Noboribetsu Marine Park Nixe. Within Sapporo, Takino Suzuran Hillside Park is also pretty kids-friendly and we would have visited if not for the bear hunt (we eventually visited it in June 2014 and it was awesome fun!). Despite the lack of child-friendly activities in our itinerary, MF did get to enjoy riding the gondolas at Usuzan and Mount Moiwa, and simply running around the parks and abundant spaces. I imagine in good weather, he would have loved running around the flower fields at Furano. Till next time, I am going to miss you Hokkaido

Telephone Numbers (For GPS):

Sapporo:
Daimaru, at Sapporo station (011-828-1111)
Vicinity near Hokkaido University’s main entrance (011-242-2220)
Odori Park underground carpark (011-231-3733)
Makomanai Park (011-581-1961)
Mount Moiwa (011-561-8177)
Takino Suzuran Hillside Park (011-592-3333)
Hitsujigaoka Observation Hill (011-851-3080)

Jozankei:
Jozankei Tourist Association (011-598-2012)
Houheikyou Dam (011-598-3452)

Otaru:
Food Hall beside Otaru Canal (0134 – 24 – 8002)
Music Box Museum (0134 – 22 – 1108)
Otaru Aquarium (0134 – 33 – 1400)
Toppii Sushi (0134-27-8111)

Furano / Biei:
Farm Tomita (0167 – 39 – 3939)
Furano Marche (0167 – 22 – 1001)
Shikisai No Oka (0166-95-2758)
Hokusei No Oka Observation Park (0166 – 92 – 4445)
Hill of Zerubu and Atom (0166-92-3160)

Noboribetsu / Lake Toya:
Noboribetsu Tourist Association (0143-84-3311)
Usuzan Gondola (0142-75-2401)
Sobetsu Fruit Village (0142-66-2333)

Map Codes for GPS

(forgive the crumples and torn corner.. That’s what happens when you drive with kids)

Free & Easy Self-drive holiday to Autumn Hokkaido with kids - Map CodesFree & Easy Self-drive holiday to Autumn Hokkaido with kids - Map CodesFree & Easy Self-drive holiday to Autumn Hokkaido with kids - Map Codes


More posts of my trips to Hokkaido with the kids:

Hokkaido in Autumn (October 2013)
Part 1: Flight, Hotel Mercure Sapporo, Toyota Rent-A-Car Sapporo
Part 2: Itinerary (with telephone numbers and GPS Map Codes)

Hokkaido in Summer (June 2014)
> Outline of Itinerary
Part 1: Chitose, Lake Toya, Hakodate, Niseko, Otaru
Part 2: Sapporo
Part 3: Furano, Biei, Tomamu, Obihiro, New Chitose Airport

Hokkaido in Winter (December 2014)
> Outline of Itinerary
Part 1:  Sapporo
Part 2: Asahikawa, Lake Akan, Lake Mashu, Iozan, Lake Kussharo
Part 3: Kushiro, Obihiro, Tomamu
Part 4: Chitose, Lake Shikotsu, Niseko, Noboribetsu, Lake Toya, Rusutsu
Part 5: Sapporo, Otaru, New Chitose Airport

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178Comments

  1. Karen says:

    is really nice to read your blog. What a great information.
    If im having Malaysia driving license, can I drive in Japan ?

  2. Eve says:

    Great blog. Tks for sharing

  3. Lynn says:

    Thanks for sharing your itinerary.

    May I know where can i get the map code? I am also going to do self drive holidays in Hokkaido.

  4. Casey says:

    very great sharing. Thanks!

  5. I am amazed that you managed to do all of that with 2 young kids in tow!! I think we were there also at the same time as you and we nearly cancelled our drive trip cos of the snow but thank God it eased up the next day. I’m sure it was a trying drive for you’ll.
    Juliana

  6. Jas says:

    Hi, had a great time reading ur adventure in Hokkaido! We are visiting Hokkaido end of Oct and thinking of self-driving too. Can I check how much you spend for petrol, toll and carpark for the 6 days? Since its just the 2 of us, Im thinking if its more worthy to take the JR pass but scenic drives are so irresistible especially the autumn folige along the way! Let me know please. :) many thanks!!!

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Hi, I can’t remember the exact costs.. But for 2 people, it will be more cost effective to use the JR pass. Depending on your itinerary, late Oct seems a bit late for autumn foliage. If you are visiting in late Oct, the main autumn foliage spot left should be Onuma Koen which is easily accessible by JR. If you are going to Onuma Koen / Hakodate, with 2 people, you should use JR.. It will be cheaper and faster. Toll along that route is very expensive and the drive is long and not particularly interesting.

  7. Alex says:

    Really great blog on touring Japan. Seem like you really love Japan :) We just came back from Kyushu last week. Now we’re planning again to self drive in Hokkaido from 6-9 Sept to enjoy the autumn foliage. This time round, my daughter will not be joining us, hence, only 2 adults traveling. With the thought and greediness of covering as many places/cities as possible within the shortest possible time (4 full day), where do you recommend our route of traveling? We don’t mind to check in/check out, short stay at places of interest, and long hours of driving since both of us can take turn to drive. Thanks in advance.

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Hi, sorry for the late reply.. I just got back from overseas.

      6-9 Sept is too early for autumn foliage.. Any way you can change your dates to late Sept? If you go 6-9 Sept, there is no autumn foliage, but you can spend your time enjoying the good food and onsens around Hokkaido instead. There will still be flowers to enjoy in the flower field of Furano, though lavender season will be over by then.

      Here is a suggested itinerary:
      Day 1: Start with Sapporo sightseeing, then drive to Tomamu, staying at Hoshino Tomamu resort. There are many restaurants there nestled in the forest where you can have dinner, and they have an open-air onsen which is open until 10pm iirc.
      Day 2: Wake up early in the morning to go up Unkai Terrace. Have breakfast and drive up to Furano. Spend the day exploring the flower fields (Tomita Farm, Flowerland Kamifurano etc) and various tourist destinations around Furano. You can spend the night at Tokachidake onsen.
      Day 3: Drive towards Biei and explore its famous panaroma road and patchwork road and flower fields (Shikisai no Oka and Hill of Zerebu). Drive on to Asahikawa and try their famous ramen. You can spend the night at Asahikawa if you think you’ll be tired, or if you don’t want to waste time, drive to Sapporo to spend the night. Stay around Susukino area and there will still be plenty to shop and eat at night.
      Day 4: In the morning, visit Sapporo’s central wholesale market. After that, head to Otaru where you can spend the rest of the day exploring the glassware shops, music box museums and many famous confectionary shops there. Take a romantic stroll along the canal in the evening and have sushi for dinner (Otaru has the best sushi imo!). If you get back to Sapporo early, you can drive up to Mount Moiwa.

  8. Cedric says:

    Hi,
    Where did you get all these map codes? I will be going to wakkanai but unable to find the map code.

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Hi, the list of map codes were given to me by the car rental company. If you are unable to get map codes, you can google for telephone numbers of your destinations instead.

  9. edith says:

    We are flying into tokyo on 2 oct and for a two weeks holiday in hokkiado. Will you suggest to go by rail in hokkiado? Only 2 adults and a 12 yrs old. Btw is there a reason why you didn`t pick up yr car at the saporo airport?

    • bumblebeemum says:

      The rail from Tokyo to Hokkaido takes very long, because there is no shinkansen (bullet train) to Hokkaido yet. I very much recommend taking a domestic airline instead. If you are on budget, try jetstar or Air Asia, it’ll probably be cheaper than taking a train and much much faster. The only reason I would recommend train is if you want to get a JR rail pass and visit places in Tohoku along the way. Otherwise, if you wanna go straight to Hokkaido, air is definitely a better option.

      I didn’t pick up the car from Sapporo airport because I can save one day of car rental. Furthermore my flight arrived at night at I didn’t want to drive in the dark.

  10. Jason says:

    Great blog, extremely informative!
    My wife and I have booked flights to Sapporo in 2 weeks time, but are undecided about car rental since it is only the 2 of us. We will be staying for 6 nights, and wonder if it makes more sense to drive or to use the JR pass. Would we be missing much if we don’t rent a car? Thanks!

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Hi, for 2 people, it may make more sense to use public transport since car rental and tolls are not cheap in Hokkaido. Since you’re travelling in summer, the main highlight will probably be the flower and lavender fields in Furano and Biei. You can get to Furano by train, and use the twinkle bus to get to the major sightseeing spots. You can also take the Norokko train that runs between Furano and Biei only in summer.
      http://www.furanotourism.com/en/static/pdf/jrpanflet.pdf

      As far as Furano and Biei is concerned, I don’t think you will miss much even without a rental car because the twinkle bus goes to all the famous sightseeing spots in the region. Just that you will need more time to get around the places because you need to wait for the bus.

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Alternatively, I would actually suggest taking the train between Sapporo to Furano, and rent a car from Furano to go around the Furano / Biei region. This way, you do not have to waste time waiting for bus and trying to figure out the bus timetables and worrying about missing the last bus back. Parking in Furano / Biei region is almost always free and you will be driving on local non-toll roads. Biei is especially beautiful and with rental car, you can just stop along the road and take photos anytime you want.

      I’m not sure what other places you have on your itinerary, but if Sapporo-Furano is the only long distance train ride you will be making, you may not need the JR pass and you can just buy single trip tickets. You can check the price of the train tickets on hyperdia and compare it with the price of the JR pass. I think the JR pass will be more worth it if you are intending to go, say, Hakodate as well.

      • jookeng says:

        Thanks for your reply :)
        Based on your recommendations, we have decided to stay 3 nights in Sapporo without renting a car. After that we will rent a car from Sapporo and drive to Furano and stay there for 3 nights to explore Furano/Biel. Our departure flight to Haneda is from Asahikawa airport, so this seems to work out pretty well.
        Thanks!

        • bumblebeemum says:

          Ah.. If you are going one way then you only use the toll road once.. But the car rental company will probably have a drop off charge. But it’s definitely convenient to have a car so you won’t need to lug your luggage around. :)

          If you want to save on toll, from Sapporo to Furano, I recommend you exit the highway at Mikasa and use National route 452. The two times I drove from Sapporo to Furano, the GPS recommended taking the highway all the way to Takikawa, but on the second occasion, I ignored it and exited at Mikasa. I found the drive via Mikasa to be faster and cheaper in toll.

  11. Angela says:

    Hi Bumble Bee Mum, thanks for such informative and detailed write-ups on travelling with your kids to Japan! My husband and I are bringing our baby with us to Hokkaido in late June. Baby will be 11 months old by then. Just curious what did you let your baby eat when travelling? It’s our first time travelling with baby and I am quite clueless how to settle his meals while we are overseas. Thanks!

    • bumblebeemum says:

      I brought cereal and those purees in pouches / jars. Along the way we also bought bread and fresh fruits for baby. If the restaurant serves potato (which is quite common in Hokkaido), you can also get one and mash up for baby.

      Depending on your comfort level and how well your baby can take solid food, you can also give udon / ramen (use water to wash off the salty soup first). When we visited sushi restaurants, I even gave baby little mouthfuls of egg sushi.

  12. serene says:

    Hi, we are planning a trip to Hokkaido with our 4 year old boy this mid June and saw your blog when I do the search. Thanks for sharing our trip details and the map codes.

  13. Nancy Leo says:

    Hi Bumblebeemum,

    I stumbled onto your blog while doing research for our Japan trip. Lotsa great information and really handy esp for first timer to Japan/ Hokkaido like us.
    We will be going to Hokkaido from the 23-30 Sep 15. It’ll be just both of us and we were planning to drive the whole time. However, seeing your recommendation for transport mode for Sapporo and its surrounding, we might ditch the car for a few days in Sapporo/ Otoru area.
    If it’s not too much to ask, may I ask for your feedback and/or suggestion for what we’ve plan thus far please.
    Am only at the initial stage of planning to book accommodation and car. As you can see, still lotsa fillers to put in.

    Day 1 (23 Sep): Arrive in New Chitose. Collect car. Head to Noboribetsu. Stay in one of the ryokan. Any nice ones to recommend?
    Zzz: Noboribetsu

    Day 2 (24 Sep): Sight seeing @ Noboribetsu and Lake Toya area. R&R in ryokan.
    Zzz: Noboribetsu

    Day 3 (25 Sep): Head to Hakodate. See Lake Omuna on the way there and/ or other interesting places.
    Zzz: Hakodate

    Day 4 (26 Sep): Hakodate and surrounding
    Zzz: Hakodate

    Day 5 (27 Sep): Hakodate > Sapporo
    Return car in Sapporo.
    Zzz: Sapporo

    Day 6 (28 Sep): Sapporo
    Zzz: Sapporo

    Day 7 (29 Sep): Sapporo
    Zzz: Sapporo

    With such itinerary, do you think we will need the Hokkaido Expressway Pass?

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Hi,

      For a 5 days car rental, HEP will cost 6700 Yen. A single Hakodate-Sapporo trip on the tollway, if you pay by cash, will cost more than 5000 yen already. So yes, you should get the HEP if the car rental office you are renting is a listed handling office. And you should return the car in Sapporo, because if you keep the car, you will have to continue paying for the HEP for those days even though you are not using the expressway.

      For Noboribetsu, I have only stayed in Hotel Mahoroba before. I enjoyed my stay there, loved their onsen and dinner.

      Usually for onsen hotels, I do not stay for more than a night. Because I will be using the same onsen, looking at the same scenery and eating the same food. You may want to consider staying Noboribetsu on Day 1 and Lake Toya on Day 2. That way you can try out different onsens and the scenery at Lake Toya is really beautiful. I really enjoy soaking in those open air rooftop onsen while looking out at the lake. It is something you do not get in Noboribetsu.

      As for your travel dates in September, would you like to consider visiting Daisetsuzan region? It is autumn foliage season and it seems a pity to visit Hokkaido during that time and not go to the autumn leaves spots. September is a bit too early for autumn foliage in the regions you are visiting, you would have to head to the Daisetsuzan region which is further North-east, opposite from the direction you are heading unfortunately.

      • Nancy Leo says:

        Thank you for the response.
        Make sense to stay in Onsen hotel no more than one night. We might heed what you said.
        I read about the Daisetsuzan National Park and the autumn foliage beauty in that area. We do a day trip there when we detailed the itinerary with a spare day to head North-East.

        Thank you again for your advise. Appreciate that.

  14. SC says:

    Hi Bumblebeemum,

    I enjoy reading in your blog. My family will be travelling to Hokkaido this June and your blog comes in handy.r
    With the Fukushima’s radiation incident, is it safe for children to drink boiled tap water in Hokkaido and Tokyo? Or do you get bottled water to drink during your trip?
    Also, is it still very cold in early June? I notice some night temperature can go into 6°c even in June? Do we need to bring along thermal wear?

    Best regards,
    SC

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Hi,

      I gave my kids bottled water throughout our trips to Japan. Hokkaido will be chilly in June. There is no need for thermal wear, long sleeves, a jacket and long pants should suffice. If you plan to go places with high altitude, especially at night, like Mount Hakodate or Mount Moiwa for night scenery, or Unkai Terrace at Tomamu, then just wear a few more layers when visiting those places.

  15. Mich says:

    Hi bumblebee mum

    I will be travelling to Hokkaido late sept with my parents and 2 kids. Is it cheaper using JR pass or by car? Also we intend to do a round trip from Sapporo to ASahikawa and then down to Hakodate and departing from chitose. Just wonder if it’s too much driving ?

    Thanks in advance for your advice

    • bumblebeemum says:

      It’s a bit hard to say whether it will be more expensive. It depends on what type of car you rent, and how old your children are (whether they need a pass or not). Use Tocoo to check the price of car rental for your travel period. Then compare it to the price of Hokkaido Rail Pass for your entire family here.

      Frankly, price is not the only consideration when I decide whether or not to drive or take public transport. When you mention parents and kids, my first concern would be their fitness and mobility. Taking public transport generally means having to do a lot of walking and transfers WITH LUGGAGE. How many pieces of luggage you have and how many people are fit enough to carry them up and down trains and buses is something you need to consider.

      With 3 adults, and especially with kids around, I will be more inclined to drive even if it is more expensive. But if you really find that driving is much more expensive after comparing the prices, what I advise is for you to base yourself in Sapporo. For Asahikawa, just do a day-trip so that you don’t need to bring your luggage on the train. For Hakodate, leave your large suitcases in the Sapporo hotel and just bring a small bag with 1 days’ worth of necessities to spend a night there.

      Asahikawa to Hakodate is quite a bit of driving. It depends on how many days you have. If it is a long trip, you can plan stops along the way and it won’t be so strenuous. If there is more than 1 person who can share the driving, then it is definitely doable.

      • Mich says:

        Thanks for the quick reply. We have 4 adults and 2 kids who are 5 & 2 so I think they don’t need to pay for JR pass but I understand they don’t get a seat. I was also thinking to do part drive and part rail to make it less stressful, which stretch do you reckon is best we use the train?

        We’ll looking at a 10 day trip. Also anything at furano / biei area in autumn? How abt Shakotan peninsular? Area looks tempting with fruit farms which my kids love

        • bumblebeemum says:

          The flower fields will still be blooming in Furano / Biei region in Autumn, though lavender will be gone by then. Personally I like the rows of colourful flowers more than the all-purple lavender, so yes, I would recommend visiting Furano and Biei region.

          For 10 days trip, it would probably be too rushed to go to Shakotan if you are going to Hakodate. You don’t need to go to Shakotan for fruit farms, there are fruit farms at Sobetsu near Lake Toya and it is mid-way between Sapporo and Hakodate.

          You will definitely need to drive for Furano / Biei region. If you want to do part rail part drive, you can take a train to Furano and rent a car from there to explore the Furano / Biei region. After that, take a train to Asahikawa and train back to Sapporo.

          The drive from Sapporo to Hakodate is long, but if you want to visit Lake Toya and Sobetsu Fruit farms, you need a car. You can plan a night at Lake Toya on the way there, and a night at Niseko on the way back. Late September is supposed to be a good time for autumn foliage at Niseko.

  16. veronica says:

    Hi. Thanks for your informative blog. Would like to dine at toppi sushi as recommended by you. Do you have toppi tel no so we can locate the place? Tks

  17. Lisa says:

    Hi Bubblebeemum, first of all your blog is amazing and so informative! Thumbs up :)

    We will be travelling to Hokkaido for the first time from 28th September to the 5th October. That would be 6 days.
    I read that for Late and early october the best places to see the foliage near Mount Daisetzu and Lake Akan.
    However I feel that Lake Akan is a bit too far and it would be very rush.

    1) what are the best place from your experience to go to see the foligage at that time and good photography places?

    2) I see in one of your posts, that you said that the Onsen resorts in Hokkaido are amazing, are there a few that you recommend? I wanted to treat myself on my birthday!

    3) Is it ok to book from tocoo, i see such a difference in price compared to toyota, however we do not speak japanese, we are worried about the emergency support.

    I have 2 itineraries below, please give your suggestion, we are two adults in our 20s who love nature, photography, good food:

    D1 Chitose – Sapporo
    D2 Sapporo- Furano(Farm Tomita)- Biei(Blue pond)- Stay over at Asahikawa
    D3 Sounkyo – Daisetzu – Lake Akan – Stay over at Kushiro
    D4 Kushiro – Obihiro – Stay over at Noboribetsu
    D5 Noboribetsu – Lake Toya – Stay over at Otaru
    D6 Otaru – Chitose

    OR

    Shorten version:

    D1 Chitose – Noboribetsu – Lake Toya
    D2 Noboribetsu – Otaru – Sapporo
    D3 Sapporo- Furono (Farm tomita) – Biei- Ashashikawa
    D4 Ashashikawa – Sonkyo
    D5 Sonkyo- Mount Daisetzu – Sapporo
    D6 Sapporo- Chitose

    Thanks a tons!!! :)

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Hi,

      You are right, Daisetsuzan is the best region for autumn foliage in late September. The other area with early autumn foliage is Niseko, but that would be too far from Daisetsuzan for a 6 days trip. Lake Akan is possible to be done with Daisetsuzan since they are all in Eastern Hokkaido. If you are into nature and photography, skip Sapporo.

      You can consider the following itinerary:

      D1: Chitose – Asahidake Onsen (dinner & onsen at hotel)
      D2: Asahidake Onsen (ropeway / hiking) – Sounkyo Onsen (dinner & onsen at hotel)
      D3: Sounkyo Onsen (Momijidani, waterfalls, ropeway) – Lake Akan (dinner & onsen at hotel)
      D4: Lake Akan (Lake Kussharo, Iozan, Lake Mashu) – Furano (Tomita Farm)
      D5: Day trip to Biei from Furano
      D6: Furano – Chitose

      It is a tad rushed and not an itinerary I would recommend for families with children or elderly. But given it’s just 2 adults in your 20s, I think it can be done. Just get up a little earlier every morning and hike a little faster. 😉

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Oh yes, regarding Tocoo, yup it’s fine to book with them. They are supposed to be the English-speaking middleman between travellers who cannot speak Japanese and the car rental companies. Toyota had an English hotline we could call in emergency. If all else fails, there is a telephone translation service (never tried it though). You can read about it here:
      http://www2.tocoo.jp/en/contents/info/tas

  18. Mich says:

    HiBumbleBee Mum

    this is my revised plan for Hokkaido from 25 Sept – 4 Oct. Is this the right time for Autumn?

    Our plan is as follows:

    Day 1: Arrive Chitose at noon. Drive to Lake Toya or Lake Shikotsu for overnight stay
    Day 2: Lake Toya
    Day 3: Lake Toya -> Hakodate
    Day 4: Hakodate
    Day 5: Hakodate -> Niseko
    Day 6: Niseko -> Shakotan -> Otaru
    Day 7: Otaru -> Sapporo
    Day 8: Sapporo
    Day 9: Chitose, evening flight back to Tokyo/Singapore

    How many days more do you think we need if we were to go to Furano/Biei? And how long is the drive from Furano to Chitose?

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Hi,

      25 Sept – 4 Oct is perfect for autumn in Hokkaido. But you are missing out the top spot for autumn foliage at this time of year in Hokkaido, the Daisetsuzan region.
      http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2014_where.html

      Autumn doesn’t reach Hakodate (Onuma Koen) until November.

      If you want to stick to your current itinerary, there should be autumn foliage at Niseko at that time. The following autumn spots are in the vicinity of where you are heading:

      http://www.hokkaidolikers.com/en/articles/763
      http://kouyou.sapporo-kokusai.jp/
      http://www.welcome.city.sapporo.jp/find/nature-and-parks/hoheikyo_dam/?lang=en

      Furano to New Chitose Airport is approximately 2 hours drive. You should spend at least 2 days in the Furano / Biei region. But if you go Furano & Biei, it seems a bit of a pity to skip Daisetsuzan region which is nearby. Daisetsuzan region reguires another 2 days or so.

      • Mich says:

        Thanks for your reply

        Btw we are taking ANA or JAL direct to Sapporo. I notice the connecting times are only 1.5 hours apart. Is that sufficient time or I should choose another transfer flight?

        Also any good hotels to recommend for my plan above? I may switch day 1 to overnight at Noboribetsu.

        • bumblebeemum says:

          If it is the same airline, I am guessing they will have arrangements to ensure you make the connection. For same airline, it is much faster because you would have checked in for the next flight and have the boarding pass with you already, and they should be using the same terminal. So if there is nobody waiting for you when you arrive in Tokyo, quickly head for immigration, grab your luggage and drop it off again at the domestic transfer counter and off you go.

        • bumblebeemum says:

          Oh yes, accommodation.

          For Noboribetsu, I like Hotel Mahoroba.

          For Lake Toya, I like Toya Sunpalace for a more budget option, or Lake View Nonokaze for a more modern and luxurious experience.

          For Hakodate, I like Hakodate Kokusai Hotel for its location. The other hotel with similar location is La Vista Hakodate Bay. Just compare and see which is cheaper.

          For Niseko, try Hilton Niseko. It is non-ski period so hopefully you can get a good deal for it.

          For Otaru, I stayed at Hotel Vibrant Otaru purely for its location between Otaru canal and Sakaimachi. The room was pretty small and date, but it was super cheap when I was there (less than SGD100 a night). Anyway the location was fantastic, I would definitely stay there again if I want to spend a night at Otaru.

          For Sapporo, my favourite hotel is Hotel Mercure Sapporo.

          • Mich says:

            Thanks for the detailed reply.

            Based on my itinerary, would you stay 2 nights at Hakodate or at Niseko ( ie moving on to Niseko by evening on day 4)? I see there are some summer activities which my kids may enjoy at Niseko area, but wondering if it would be too quiet / deserted given its end summer though most websites claim it’s open till Oct.

            Also do you know if there is additional charge to pick up car at chilies airport but drop off at Sapporo?

            Thanks in advance again!

            • bumblebeemum says:

              Hmm… If I’m not mistaken, some activities in Niseko run through autumn (October) while some will end its summer run because by September / October may be getting too cold for those activities or there is just not enough visitors to run the programs. So it really depends on which activity you are looking at. The Pure Pocket Guide states that their summer run this year will end 12 October. So you’re still in time.
              http://www.niseko-village.com/en/downloads/PUREPocketGuide2015.pdf

              I would expect Niseko to be pretty quiet and deserted at that time of the year. But isn’t that a good thing? Hahaha.. Sorry, that’s just me. I go to Hokkaido to escape from the city crowds. I have been to Niseko in summer (totally deserted) and winter (totally crowded), I found the area much more charming in summer, without all the people around. That’s when you can really appreciate its countryside beauty. Niseko’s scenery is highly under-rated, everyone just thinks of it as a ski resort. But there are many sightseeing spots in the area, many of which I have yet to explore. In fact, you are going at one of the best times because it should be autumn when you are there. Niseko is extremely beautiful in Autumn. Just google images of Niseko in Autumn and you will know what I mean. There is even a special steam train (SL Niseko) running through it. You can drive along route 66, it is supposed to be a very scenic drive, especially in autumn.

              With that said, I would definitely opt for 1 night Hakodate and 2 nights Niseko.

              For pick up at CTS and drop off at Sapporo, it depends on car company. Some companies charge a nominal fee (less than 1000yen), some waive it since it is such a common thing for travellers to do.

  19. Anonymous says:

    Hi,

    Ran into your blog while doing research on my Hokkaido trip this Oct. extremely useful!,,

    Thanks :)

  20. Gerad says:

    Hello there,

    I am now planning to rent a car to drive around in Hokkaido during early November period. I was wondering if during that period would there be alot of ice/snow on the ground that a 4WD vehicle with snow tyres would be suitable/practical? I am planning this trip on a budget and would of course, like to select a normal car, but safety is a priority and rather unsure. It is my first time driving in Hokkaido or in Japan (!), but I have driven overseas before and with left hand drive.

    Many thanks in advance!

  21. Mat says:

    Hi BBM,
    Am planning to do a F&E drive trip to Hokkaido on the 4-13 Oct with my parents. It will probably be just my dad driving (so only 1 driver). Activities we like to do are visiting food markets, flea markets (any you know of? I can’t seem to find any), visiting onsens, eating good seafood and going fruit picking.
    Would appreciate your comments and advice on my planned itinerary below.

    Day 1:
    Leave Tokyo Narita 11am
    Arrive New Chitose 2pm
    Spend day exploring Sapporo
    Spend night at Sapporo (Mercure)

    Day 2:
    Spend day in Sapporo
    (Would you recommend taking a day trip to Otaru on this day so I can remove it from the later part of the trip? Or is there more in Sapporo to see/do?)
    Spend night at Sapporo (Mercure)

    Day 3:
    Collect rental car at 9am
    2 hr drive to Furano
    (Would you recommend giving Furano/Biei a miss since it will be past the flower bloom/lavender season?)
    Spend day at Furano + Biei visiting farm, winery, pond etc
    Spend night at Asahikawa
    (Is staying here recommended over the more expensive Furano/Biei? Which hotel would you suggest?)

    Day 4:
    Drive to Mt Kurodake
    Hike up and have a picnic lunch
    Waterfalls + Oobako
    Onsen and spend night at Sounkyo (Choyotei)
    (Hotels here are really expensive! Choyotei goes for about $400 a night w breakfast + dinner. Any similar hotels you would recommend?)

    Day 5:
    Drive to Otaru (may skip if already seen in the second day at Sapporo?)
    Lunch + explore Otaru
    Fruit picking at Yoichi
    Spend night at Yoichi
    (Can’t really seem to figure out how best to plan this portion. Otaru doesn’t seem worth spending an entire day. And Yoichi (or even Shakotan if I look further) doesn’t seem to have many hotels. Any suggestions?)

    Day 6:
    Fruit picking in the morning (if didn’t get to do it the day before)
    Drive to Shakotan
    Onsen at Misaki no yu
    Uni lunch
    Coastal drives to Cape Kamui and Iwanai
    Sushi dinner at Iwanai
    Drive and spend night at Niseko
    (1. Is driving after dark not ideal? There aren’t any hotels in Iwanai.
    (2. Any recommendations on where to stay in Niseko?)

    Day 7:
    (Have allocated a day for activities in Niseko. Not exactly sure what to do as it is mainly a ski village. Any suggestions? Otherwise should I move on to the next leg immediately?)
    Spend night at Niseko

    Day 8:
    Drive to Yakumo (1.5hr) for lunch
    (is this drive break necessary? Or can I attempt to drive straight to Hakodate?)
    Drive to Hakodate
    See Hakodate
    Spend night in Hakodate
    (accommodation to recommend?)

    Day 9:
    Hakodate market
    Onuma Park
    Drive to Toyako
    See Lake Toyako
    Dinner and fireworks
    Spend night in Toyako (lake Toya?)
    (accommodation to recommend?)

    Day 10:
    (what activities can we do here at Toya?)
    Fruit picking at Sobetsu Farm
    Drive to Noboribetsu
    (not exactly sure what to do here. Was planning to use it as a rest/stopover. Should I instead drive straight to the airport?)
    Drive to New Chitose Airport and return car
    Flight back to Tokyo at 7.30pm

    After all’s been said and done… would you recommend taking the JR instead of drive? And if driving is better, should we get the HEP?

    Thanks for all the help!

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Regarding flea market, the only one I have stumbled across was at the open-air carpark next to Sapporo Clock Tower. I tried to find more information about it online but couldn’t find any. If you are in Sapporo during a weekend, you can try your luck there. After all it was right smack in the city centre.

      Day 2:
      You probably won’t be able to explore much in Sapporo on Day 1 because sun sets pretty early, plus fatigue from the flight. So maybe just take it easy and go around Sapporo on this day.

      Day 3: Lavender and sunflower season is over, but many flowers will still be blooming in October. You will still be able to see the colourful flower fields, so don’t miss Furano & Biei.

      The photo below shows a flower field we passed by in Furano in October. Sorry I don’t have a proper photo because there was a TYPHOON that day. But still you can see that the flowers were blooming beautifully that time of the year.

      You will not have time to do everything you want due to short daylight hours, plus the need to collect the car and drive all the way there from Sapporo. Do prioritize what you want to see / do. And I would spend the night in Furano rather than Asahikawa to give myself more time for sightseeing in the region. The most popular hotel in Furano is the New Furano Prince Hotel, which is where Ningle Terrace is.

      But I guess if you want to save money and are prepared to drive after dark, then Asahikawa’s hotels would definitely be cheaper. You would probably need to check with your hubby if he’s up for the drive. Sapporo – Furano can take up to 3 hours, Furano to Biei 1 hour and Biei to Asahikawa another 1 hour. You will be spending more time on the road that actually sightseeing.

      You know what, I would recommend you pick the car up the night before and set off early for this day. There is really a lot to see in Furano / Biei and a lot of distance to cover if you end the day at Asahikawa.

      Day 4:
      Hotels in Sounkyo are very expensive in October because it is their peak season for autumn foliage. Sounkyo is one of Japan’s top autumn foliage spots and many locals flock there this time of the year, driving up accommodation costs. But I wouldn’t miss it if I’m in Hokkaido in early October. Google for images of Sounkyo in autumn and you will understand. It is not something you can see at other times of the year. But if cost is your concern, then you can go Sounkyo for a day trip and return to Asahikawa for the night.

      Day 5:
      Hmm… You are planning to drive all the way to Otaru & Yoichi till Shakotan from Sounkyo? That’s too far.

      And yeah, there’s no accommodation in Yoichi. There are a few hotels in Shakotan though. But it is too much distance to cover if you are coming from Sounkyo. I would say stop at Otaru for this day. By the time you reach there from Sounkyo, you only have half a day left. Don’t rush it, Otaru is a beautiful town and there is lot of eat and see along Sakaimachi. Go Yoichi / Shakotan the next day.

      Day 6:
      Yes, you should do the fruit picking at Yoichi on this day.

      You should have enough time to make it to Niseko before dark if you leave Cape Kamui by 2.30pm. I would say skip the sushi dinner at Iwanai. It seems too close to lunch time at Shakotan to have dinner at Iwanai anyway.

      Day 7:
      You may want to do sightseeing. It is again autumn foliage season in Niseko, so go around to the scenic spots to admire the autumn scenery.

      Day 8:
      If you are having breakfast at Niseko, you can drive straight to Hakodate after that.

      For accommodation at Hakodate, I recommend Hakodate Kokusai Hotel or La Vista Hakodate Bay for their location, which is between morning market and red brick warehouse district.

      Day 9:
      For accommodation at Lake Toya, I like Toya Sunpalace.

      Day 10:
      Activities at Lake Toya include:
      – Silo Observatory near Lake Hill Farm
      – Famous gelato at Lake Hill Farm
      – Fruit Picking at Sobetsu
      – Cruise on Lake Toya
      – Usuzan Ropeway
      Damaged town from volcanic eruption

      I would just drive straight to CTS from Lake Toya, there are lots to shop and eat at CTS.

      Driving is definitely better. I don’t think you need the HEP. Just rent an ETC card would do.

      • Mat says:

        Thanks for such a comprehensive reply!

        1. Noted, shan’t skip Furano then! New Furano Prince is in Furano (very much down South).
        – Is driving after dark not recommended? I hear Hokkaido roads are pretty safe.
        – Since I would like to try to head as far up North toward Sounkyo as possible where we would head to the next day, are there any good value hotels further up North? (Biei area maybe, if Asahikawa is too far)

        2. My mom wants to stay at Choyotei in Sounkyo, so I guess we’ll have a splurge night. :) Room goes for $408 on hotel booking sites. We tried to navigate their very frustrating website (google translate not helping very much) and seem to have found that booking directly through them is cheaper at ~$320. Not entirely sure if you’re able to read Japanese, but could I trouble you to take a look?

        3. Any recommendations on where to stay in Niseko?

        4. Currently I am planning to follow the route shown on Google Maps. Would you recommend deviating from any of them in order to save time/ on tolls?
        Is there anywhere that I can find out where are the tolls and the amount I would incur?

        Thanks alot, you’ve been immense help!

        • bumblebeemum says:

          1. If it is not snowing, driving after dark is actually okay. It is more about the stamina of the driver, especially since you mention your dad is the only driver. If you start off from Furano, I would say no problem, you can go all the way up to Asahikawa after dark. But you are starting from Sapporo, and the Sapporo – Furano drive is quite long. Driving in the dark makes one doze off easily, and want to speed to get to the destination faster. The roads around Furano and Biei and pretty rural and winding. If your dad has the patience and stamina to drive slowly and safely without dozing off, then it can be done. Because if it’s me, I am pretty experienced with driving very long distances and I can safely say I am able to do the drive all the way to Asahikawa after dark just to save money from accommodation. But you really need to speak to your dad, because I know if my dad is the driver, he would say no, let’s just end the day at Furano.

          The best value for money accommodation is in Asahikawa. Biei has very few accommodation options, though yes, Biei is nearer to Sounkyo than Furano. But price wise, I don’t expect Biei to be much cheaper than Furano. Asahikawa will be much cheaper.

          2. hmmm.. Choyotei has an English website right? Doesn’t work?
          http://en.choyotei.com/

          You can also try Rakuten. Usually for onsen resorts, if I cannot get past their Japanese websites, I will try Rakuten instead.
          http://travel.rakuten.com/hotel/Japan-Hokkaido-Kamikawa_Sounkyo_Choyotei/5502/

          3. You can try Hilton Niseko Village.

          4. Tocoo website has a toll simulator, but it can be quite confusing to use because you need to know the name of the expressway and entrance/exit names.
          http://www2.tocoo.jp/en/contents/highway_sim/main

          You can always compare routes and toll fees on the spot using the GPS when you are there. See this post for instructions:
          http://bumblebeemum.net/2015/07/07/how-to-use-japanese-gps-to-avoid-tollways/

  22. Adelyn says:

    Hi BUMBLEBEEMOM,

    You have such a helpful blog for clueless travellers like me. I find myself visiting your site over and over again for tips and such.

    I’m planning a trip to Hokkaido with my sis from 12 – 18 October. Just the 2 of us and we’re planning to rent a car for 3 days and spending the other 3 days in Sapporo. I’ve only got so much so far –

    Day 1, Monday
    Arriving CTS at 8:20am, pick up car and head towards Noboribetsu; planning to visit jingkokudani the. Drive to Oyunuma foot bath, possibly drive to Lake Kuttara if time permits. I’ve allocated 2 hours to cover these few areas. Do you think Lake Kuttara is worth the time?
    After that, drive to Lake Toya, may visit Usuzan rope way/ Lake Hill Farm for gelato then check in at Lake View Nonokaze Hotel for the night.

    Day 2, Tuesday
    Drive to Hakone Farm for lunch (any other good recommendations?) and then drive to Furano, planning to visit Tomita Farm, Furano Marche, Ningle Terrace and check in New Furano Price Hotel. Dinner at Kumagera. Can’t wait to sink my teeth into the beef sashimi don! The pic you posted of it looks so good!

    Day 3, Wednesday
    Drive to blue pond then to Asahiyama zoo and Sapporo, check in at Mecure Hotel and return car. Walk around the areas near the hotel.

    Day 4, Thursday
    Take the train to Otaru, visit the lovely cafés, music box museum, Otaru canal, Sakaimachi street and back to Sapporo in the evening

    Day 5, Friday
    Visit Curb market, Shiroi Koibito Park, Odori Park, Tanakikoji shopping street and Mt Moiwa

    Day 6, Saturday
    Visit Nijo market, Stellar place, Esta mall, Daimaru or should we. Is it the outlet malls instead?

    We’re leaving on Sunday morning, taking the airport limo bus at 6am as our flight is at 9am.

    We were thinking of renting a portable wifi dongle, would you recommend it? If you do, which company would be good?

    Appreciate if you can share any thoughts on the above. Any suggestions or recommendations will be much needed! Thanking you in advance!

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Firstly, I think your itinerary for the first 3 days is way too rushed. I recommend you just skip Noboribetsu and Lake Toya and just head East to Furano / Biei region from CTS. It doesn’t make sense going to and fro, since Noboribetsu + Lake Toya is the the West and Furano + Biei is to the east of CTS. Going both ways means spending a lot of time on the road. For short trips like yours, try not to spend so much time on the road to have more time for the scenery and cuisine. By October daylight hours will be quite short.

      Looking at your dates, I would recommend you keep your rental car 1 more day to head to Jozankei Onsen + Houheikyou Dam + Otaru. That route is extremely scenic in mid October due to autumn foliage. Similar to Day 2 of this trip we did:
      http://bumblebeemum.net/2013/10/30/self-drive-holiday-to-hokkaido-with-kids-part-2-itinerary-for-autumn-foliage-telephone-numbers-and-map-codes-for-gps/

      So here is my recommendation:

      Day 1: CTS – Hakone Farm – Furano

      Day 2: Furano – Biei + Shirogane Onsen – Asahikawa

      Day 3: Asahiyama Zoo – Sapporo

      Day 4: Sapporo – Jozankei Onsen – Houheikyou Dam – Otaru – Sapporo

      Day 5 – 6: As per your original itinerary. I don’t think you have enough time for outlet shopping, so just stick to the shopping areas within Central Sapporo.

      Usually for Singaporeans, I recommend getting a WIFI router from Changi Airport for convenience. (No need to waste precious time picking it up / returning it / figuring out instructions after you reach Japan.) You can read more about it from this post by Life’s Tiny Miracles who used one for their Tokyo trip:
      http://www.lifestinymiracles.com/2015/08/changi-recommends-overseas-wi-fi-routers/

  23. Adelyn says:

    Thank you very much for the kind and detailed reply. I’ll look into it and probably make the changes that you’ve suggested. You’ve been super helpful!

  24. Anonymous says:

    Hi! Im going to hokkaido from 28th sept to 8th oct alone and wish to find fellow travellers to save costs on renting a car. If you dont mind having an additional travelling companion or wish to find out more about me. Feel free to contact me at forgotten_forests111@hotmail.com.

  25. Wendy Wong says:

    Hi BumbleBeeMum,

    What a great blog on your Japan trips, I manage to convenience my hubby to bring my 6mo baby to go to Hokkaido next Jan. Thanks to the tips, manage to get a good fare deal by flying thaiairway from SIN-Saporo.
    Would need some advise from you as we are planning to have F&E self drive, 4Adults(2A is my parents in early 60’s) & 9mo baby by then. Our travel date will be 17th – 26th jan 2016, omit the travel we have 8D in Hokkaido. Will you be able to advice some itinerary which is feasible for us? For driver we have 3 drivers but only worries is if snowing n wet road which will limit us. Places I can think of is only otaru and Hakodate and we wish to tryout at least one onsen too. Hope you will be able to help wif some tips and advices. Esp what to take note bringing a 9mo baby.
    TIA.
    Regards
    Wendy(your IG follower?)

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Hi Wendy,

      Thank you for following me on IG. :)

      The roads will definitely be snowy and slipper at that time. Please read my winter driving tips on this post:
      http://bumblebeemum.net/2015/08/29/free-easy-hokkaido-winter-trip-essential-travel-tips/

      Generally, I do not recommend going to South to Hakodate in winter. Eastern Hokkaido is more interesting during that time, with Tomamu ice village in full swing, cranes gathered at their feeding grounds and Icebreaker cruise starting. There is also a chance that you can catch Chitose Ice Fesitval at Lake Shikotsu (the exact starting date is not out yet it seems):
      http://www.welcome.city.sapporo.jp/event/winter/lake-shikotsu-ice-festival/?lang=en

      Hence I wouldn’t spend my time on the long drive to Hakodate. What I recommend would be round-trips as follows:

      CTS – Tomamu – Tokachigawa Onsen – Kushiro / Tsurui – Lake Akan – Abashiri or Monbetsu (for icebreaker cruise) – Asahikawa – Sapporo – Lake Shikotsu – CTS

      You may not have time for Otaru because 8 days is pretty short for winter and Otaru is a bit off this route.

      If you do go for the ice-breaker cruise, I would not bring the baby on the cruise because it is extremely cold out in the open sea. I recommend you go to Monbetsu, where there is an indoors observation tower where the ice-breaker cruise departs (you need to ride an electric car over from the point where the cruise departs to the observation tower). So while the rest of your entourage goes for the cruise, you can still observe the drift ice from the tower with the baby in the warmth. You can read more about my visit to Monbetsu Drift Ice Observation Tower on this post (Day 8):
      http://bumblebeemum.net/2010/03/04/self-drive-trip-to-eastern-hokkaido-february-march-2010/

      • Wendy Wong says:

        Hi BumbleBeeMum,

        Thank you very much for your rely, just to check if we would like to some factory visit like Sapporo beer, ishiya chocolate factory all these places do we need to have more days in Sapporo? And if we wish to go to otaru any place we can cut short or how long the journey can be. I will discuss with my family on the proposed itinerary :) thank you.

        • bumblebeemum says:

          One day in Sapporo is good enough to visit Sapporo Beer Factory and Ishiya Chocolate Factory.

          If you really want to visit Otaru, then you can do the classic loop of:

          CTS – Sapporo – Otaru – Lake Toya – Hakodate – Noboribetsu – Lake Shikotsu – CTS

          • Wendy Wong says:

            Thank you, meaning the classic route will defeat the purpose of going in winter to experience the Ice breaker Cruise right? Just to check how about the Penguins parade? Which route is abt to get to see it? I’m sorry if there’s too much question as is kinda hard to make decision. Thank you.

            • bumblebeemum says:

              That is right. Personally, I feel cities like Otaru and Hakodate can be visited in any season. It seems a bit of a waste to go these places for a winter trip. If you do the Eastern Hokkaido route, the penguin parade is at Asahiyama Zoo (near Asahikawa). If you do the classic route, there is also a penguin parade at Noboribetsu’s NIXE Marine Park. However, I very much prefer Asahiyama Zoo because admission is much cheaper and I think the penguins at Asahiyama Zoo are bigger and cuter.

              Don’t worry about having too many questions. When I plan my trips, I change my mind every other day about where I want to go too! It’s like I want to go everywhere, but don’t have time to go everywhere and just cannot decide.

              • Wendy Wong says:

                Really appreciate your help. I myself have been to Hokkaido 10yes back with your group.. Totally understand what u mean.. Is just too many nice place n not enough time to spend within a week. I will discuss with family on their likings and update again, thank you. Have a nice day

                • Wendy Wong says:

                  Sorry to side track, where did you get the long-John for ur 9mo during then?

                  • bumblebeemum says:

                    I borrowed from a friend. But just last weekend, I was at Traveller World at Vivocity. They were having sale for their wool wear and winter pants for kids and I picked up some for my boys. They have a good selection for babies there too. You can get those one-piece winter jumpsuits. The Hokkaido babies are usually dressed in those, look very nice and warm.

                    • Wendy Wong says:

                      Hi,
                      Thanks for the recommendation. I will try to drop by this weekend to check out. May I check with you, if I were to stick to the eastern route that you have suggested but I do not wish to go for the ice breaking cruise can I omit any place and add on to go otaru?i think the trip we mainly wish to be a gourmet route n do some sightseeing and asp dropping by wholesale market and outlet. I read ur earlier post tat you actually pre book a hotel room and check in to rest at Sapporo after an overnight flight. Is it necessary as I have an infant? Please advice does the car rental company provide a car seat or we have to rent it as well? Thank you.

                    • bumblebeemum says:

                      My kids have an uncanny habit of puking on the planes (sometimes on me), so I like to go to the hotel once we land to bath everyone before heading out. It is not absolutely necessary really, especially if you are running on a tight schedule. You don’t need to worry so much about the baby if you are driving, because you can put the baby into the infant seat on the car and the baby will just continue to sleep if he or she is tired. It’s the adults that probably need the rest and shower sometimes.

                      If you scrap Abashiri, I guess you can drive directly from Lake Akan to Asahikawa to buy you some time to visit Otaru. But be prepared for a very long drive between Lake Akan and Asahikawa. You can also consider scraping the stay at Tokachigawa Onsen.

                      For markets, Washo Market at Kushiro is along the route. For gourmet, Obihiro is along your route (between Tomamu and Kushiro), do stop by for the buta don. Rokkatei main store is also at Obihiro. At Lake Akan, there is a fantastic cafe called Pan de Pan. Then at Asahikawa, you can visit Asahikawa Ramen Village. So there’s no lack of good food in Eastern Hokkaido. :)

                      As for car seats, you must put in a request for one during booking.

                    • Wendy Wong says:

                      Thank you so much…
                      Please advise if following route is feasible?
                      CTS-TOMAMU-Kushiro-Lake Akan-ASAHIKAWA – OTARU- Sapporo-CTS
                      I’m not sure if I should stay more days in Sapporo or continue to Lake Shikotsu.
                      As we would like to go to mitsui oulet as well. Normally does it takes up whole day for the outlet?
                      If we stay more days in Sapporo do we take public shutter or continue to have car rental?

                    • bumblebeemum says:

                      If you have 8 days, your route will probably go like this:

                      Day 1: CTS – Tomamu
                      Day 2: Tomamu – Kushiro
                      Day 3: Kushiro – Lake Akan
                      Day 4: Lake Akan – Asahikawa
                      Day 5: Asahikawa (to visit Asahiyama Zoo)
                      Day 6: Asahikawa – Otaru
                      Day 7: Otaru – Sapporo
                      Day 8: Sapporo

                      Do you all like to shop? I know people who can spend entire days at outlet malls, I also know people who will be done in 2 hours. It’s all a matter of preference. I personally find winter not a great time for outlet shopping, because they will be selling mostly winter wear which we don’t have much use for.

                      If you do not want to visit Lake Shikotsu, you can return the car when you return to Sapporo. I don’t think you have time for that many days in Sapporo anyway, so if the rental difference is not that great (bearing in mind some companies may charge drop off fee, and going to the airport by public transport will cost about 1000 yen per adult), I may consider keeping the car for convenience.

                    • Anonymous says:

                      Yes the itinerary sounds good for us. So for Asahikawa we will need to spend two nights there? Any recommendation for the stay? In fact we not really shopper but would like to take a look and see if we can get any stuff from there. Is it possible for us to take a day trip to lake shikotsu from the outlet if we are done within 2hrs?

                      Another things is the Otaru stay.. Any idea if grand park Otaru is really far from Otaru canal? Since we are driving , there should have area for us to park nearby the canal?

                      One last thing is for the shoe,…in notice from ur blog u do wear high cut snow boots, is it necessary? Please advice.

                      Thank you so much.

                    • bumblebeemum says:

                      For Asahikawa, you can try Asahikawa Grand Hotel. I remember they have quad rooms that are good for families. You will need to spend 2 nights there to avoid driving in the dark. Lake Akan to Asahikawa is a very long drive, by the time you reach Asahikawa, you won’t have time to visit the zoo. So you will have to visit the zoo the next day. Following that, your next drive is from Asahikawa to Otaru is again a very long drive. So if you attempt that drive after visiting the zoo, you will definitely be driving in the dark.

                      There is nothing much to shop or see in Asahikawa frankly. I recommend you have a relaxing breakfast at Lake Akan, stroll around the lake a bit before driving on to Asahikawa. You can stop for sightseeing in between at Sounkyo region. There are two waterfalls there. If weather is good and you are ahead of time, there is even a ropeway at Sounkyo you can ride. You can also kaypoh and see them setting up the Ice Festival at Sounkyo. It should be more or less set up already, because the festival is scheduled to start on 23 Jan 2016.

                      If you are driving, distance shouldn’t be a problem. Parking is the problem, because parking is expensive near the canal area. But with a baby and so many adults, I would just pay for parking. Alternative is to find a hotel that is right smack at the canal area, like Hotel Vibrant Otaru.

                      Yes, high cut boots are necessary since you are going Tomamu. If the boots are not high enough, snow will fall in from the top of the boots when you trample into deep snow, whether deliberately or accidentally. They are not absolutely necessary in the cities because you will be walking on pavements where snow has been cleared. Anyway high cut boots help keep your legs warm, so I do recommend them.

                    • Wendy Wong says:

                      Appreciate your prompt response BumbleBeeMum, if tats the case will just plan accordingly.
                      I’ve discuss with hubby and he would like to stay in Sapporo a day before traveling to tomamu and stay for a night there. The only diff is just longer traveling journey right.
                      So we plan to do the following
                      Day 1: CTS – Sapporro
                      Day 2: Sapporro Tomamu
                      Day 3: Tomamu – Kushiro
                      Day 4: Kushiro – Lake Akan
                      Day 5: Lake Akan – Asahikawa
                      Day 6: Asahikawa (to visit Asahiyama Zoo)
                      Day 7: Asahikawa – Otaru
                      Day 8: Otaru – Sapporo
                      Day 9: Saporro – CTS airport.

                      Just one last thing is regards on the tollway. I read trough u mention we need to loan a seperate unit for the tollway. Can we just get it from car rental?

                    • bumblebeemum says:

                      For the first day, it depends on what time your flight arrives. If your flight arrives late, I recommend you spend the night at Air Terminal Hotel within the airport, NOT Sapporo. Going to Sapporo and then later on to Tomamu is going in the wrong direction. If you stay at Air Terminal Hotel, you save one day of car rental, some tolls and petrol fees and time. The downside is that there is nothing to do at CTS at night.

                      For the toll, it works pretty much like Singapore’s IU + cashcard. Many rental cars come with the ETC DEVICE (which is like our in-vehicle unit). But it is useless without and ETC CARD (which is like our cashcard) to be inserted into the device. So what you need to try to rent is not just the device but also the card. Not many car rental companies rent the card – just the bigger ones like Nippon and Nissan. Alternatively if you rent a car through Tocoo, you can rent an ETC card from Tocoo. It is not mandatory – if you fail to get an ETC card, you can always pay tolls with cash. Just that the toll fee is more expensive for cash payment compared to ETC payment.

                    • Wendy Wong says:

                      My flight arrive at CTS is 0820, which is in the morning. One of the reason is becos the resort at tomamu do not have room available one 18th when I check last night. The only available is on 19th. That’s why we thought we can just take our time to collect the car and go to mitsui outlet then drive to Sapporro and check in hotel. Then only travel to tomamu the following day. Or do you have any other recommendation stay in tomamu area? Or any feasible way can work ard? Or I reverse the route from last day to first?
                      Now I understand the card n unit system, will check with Tocoo when we book for the car.

                    • bumblebeemum says:

                      Neh, I think you should go to Tomamu first and leave Sapporo / Otaru / Asahikawa till the end for the festivals. I wouldn’t miss the festivals if I was in Hokkaido at that time.

                      If you want to go outlet shopping, you can go Chitose Rera outlet which is nearer to CTS and spend the night at Lake Shikotsu. That way you are not detouring as much and the road between CTS and Lake Shikotsu is toll free. Again, you can kaypoh and see them setting up the Ice Festival on Lake Shikotsu. I think 18th is a bit too early for the festival, which usually starts end Jan.

                    • Wendy Wong says:

                      Ok I will take your advice if that’s the case, for Lake Shikotsu any recommendations for stay? I will need to start making room reservation to avoid disappointment or mess up the plan. Thank you…

                    • bumblebeemum says:

                      I have not stayed at Lake Shikotsu before, but a reader stayed at Lake Shikotsu Tsuruga Resort and told me it was very good.

                    • Wendy Wong says:

                      Alright I will go look out for it. Thank you very much for all the planning ?

                    • Anonymous says:

                      Hi Bumblebeemum,

                      My Hokkaido Trip itinerary is & hotel booking is done. But I still have not select the booking of car. I remember u did mention in one of the blog referring to the car insurance is not needed if we have travel insurance which covered something. May i know the details of it? can specify which Provider you get it from?
                      Another Q will be for the infant car seat, do we need to inform earlier when we make reservation? Any thing to specify?

                      Thank you.

                    • bumblebeemum says:

                      The insurance term is called Collision Damage Waiver. If you have a trusted friend who does travel insurance, you can ask them for insurance plans that covers collision damage waiver for rental cars.

                      Basically when you rent a car, if you do not purchase additional insurance, the car rental company will not pay for the first few hundred dollars of damages in the event of accident. E.g. If the waiver is $500 and you get into an accident *touch wood*, if the damage cost $100, you need to pay that. But if the damage is $1000, you need to pay the first $500 and the car rental company pays the rest.

                      What insurance does is to cover that first $500. So if your travel insurance covers CDW, in the event of accident, the insurance company will pay for that $100 or $500 in the above examples.

                      Yes, you always need to inform the car rental company in advance if you need an infant or child seat. I usually reserve them together with the rental car. Most companies charge a fee for them which will be added to the rental total.

                    • Wendy Wong says:

                      Thank you so much for all the information.

  26. Wendy Wong says:

    Hi bumblebee mum,

    Thank you for all ten information, just one side note, how did u manage to sign up for the membership for the car rental for time decade rents? I trod but required japansnese address etc. only manage to found some offer for international visitor, http://rental.timescar.jp/lp/international/index.html?ua=i please advice, if not I will just take the 20% for foreigner . Thank you. Have nice weekends

  27. ALLAN says:

    Hi Bumble Bee Mum

    Thank you for sharing on your Hokkaido trips’ itineraries and experiences. It has been very informative and useful especially for first timer visit to Hokkaido like us.

    We (group of 4 paxs in our 50s & 60s) are planning for a self-driving trip to Hokkaido next year from 5-17 Oct 2016 to experience the autumn season and viewing of koyo. We will be flying from Singapore and into and out of Sapporo Chitose Airport (via Tokyo).

    We need your kind review and comment on our draft travel plan and itinerary on whether the routing sequence is alright or need to re-arrange as well as whether it is too rush or just nice as follows:

    Day 1: Singapore-Sapporo (arrive in the morning)
    Day 2: Sounkyo (stop over at Asahikawa for lunch)
    Day 3: Biei-Furano
    Day 4: Furano-Tomamu
    Day 5: Unkai Terrace-Tomakomai-Jigokudani-Noberibetsu
    Day 6: Lake Onuma-Hakodate
    Day 7: Hakodate
    Day 8: Niseko-Lake Toya
    Day 9: Rurutsu-Jozenkei-Hoheikyo Dam-Sapporo
    Day 10: Sapporo (day trip to Otaru City)
    Day 11: Sapporo
    Day 12: Sapporo-Singapore

    Some additional questions as follows:
    1) Based on my travel plan, do we need to have both HEP and ETC cards for the vehicle?
    2) Which are the above route(s) that we can avoid toll that have a more scenic drive?
    3) We tried checking on the availability of accommodation at some locations (such as Sounkyo/Furano/Lake Toya) and there are no rooms available. Are they too early to book or already sold-out?

    Thank you for your time and we await for your valuable feedback and guidance before we proceed to book the air-ticket and accommodation.

    Regards,
    Allan

    • bumblebeemum says:

      1) Yes, you can consider getting the HEP. It looks like you will be on the toll road quite a bit.

      2) For your itinerary, I would stick to the recommended GPS route and use the toll roads as recommended.

      3) It is too early to book for October 2016 now. Try again 6 months before your travel. :)

  28. Allan says:

    Hi Bumble Bee Mum

    Thank you for the prompt reply. We have a few more questions and need your advice as follows:

    1) For Day 1 to 4, we are looking at an alternative travel routing and whether it is a better plan than the first one:
    Day 1: Sapporo (arrive in the morning)
    Day 2: Furano and Biei (overnight at Asahikawa)
    Day 3: Sounkyo
    Day 4: Biei-Furano (overnight at Tomamu)

    2) Understand that there is only 40% chance of seeing the nice sea of clouds at Unkai Terrace. Will Oct (autumn) be even slimmer chance as compare to Jun or Jul (summer)?

    3) On our Day 9, we will depart from Lake Toya for Jozenkei/Hoheikyo Dam. Would like to know whether it will be too rush to visit Saporo Beer Factory and Shiroi Koibito Park prior returning to Sapporo City and returning the car? Will it be easy to visit these two places if without a car?

    Thank you for your time.

    Regards,
    Allan

    • bumblebeemum says:

      1) I think your initial route was better. Why would you want to keep going to and fro Furano and Biei?

      2) Not too sure if there’s a difference between Autumn and Summer. It’s all about luck eventually. :p

      3) It does seem a bit rushed to squeeze in Sapporo Beer Factory and Shiroi Koibito Park. For Sapporo Beer Factory, you need to take a bus (the Factory Loop 88 bus). As for Shiroi Koibito Park, you need to take subway to Miyanosawa Station, from which it is a 750m walk to Shiroi Koibito Park.

  29. Allan says:

    Hi Bumble Bee Mum

    Thanks for the advice.

    If we are to take the Sapporo Beer Factory Loop 88 Bus, where will be the nearest bus stop near Susukino? We are planning to stay at Mecure Hotel.

    Also, how do we get to Mount Moiwa Ropeway by public transport?

    Thank you.

    Regards,
    Allan

  30. Allan says:

    Hi Bumble Bee Mum

    We are still in the midst of planning the travel routing/schedule and need your advice whether the plan is workable as follows or too rush:

    DAY 2 SOUNKYO
    We will be travelling to Sounkyo from Sapporo on Day 2 with stop-over at Asahikawa for lunch. As we expect to arrive Sounkyo only around 2 pm, it may be too crowded to take the Kurodake ropeway. Instead, we plan to visit the two waterfalls and enjoy the onsen before dinner and take the rope way to visit Mount Kurodake early next morning on Day 3 around 7 or 8 a.m. to avoid the crowd.

    DAY 3 FURANO
    Kurodake ropeway- is morning view better than afternoon view in term of less glaring sunlight? How much total time is needed to visit this scenic spot including taking chair lift further up for a higher view and return?

    Stopping over at Biei to take in the sight at Patchwork Road, Panorama Road and Blue Pond. How much total time is needed at this location?

    Can we make it to Furano before it get dark? We plan to stay at New Furano Prince Hotel and visit Ningle Terrace.

    DAY 4 TOMAMU
    Visit Tomita Farm, Melon House, Cheese Factory, Winery and Jam Factory as well as lunch before heading to Tomamu.

    Please help us to re-route where necessary. Thank you very much for your guidance and time.

    Regards,
    Allan

    • Lisa says:

      Just came across your comment and wanted to share my own experience. :)

      I went to Asahikawa and Sounkyo on the 29th September and 1st October 2015 and it was already heavily snowing at both peaks. Winter came unexpectedly early. By heavily snowing, I mean extremely strong wind + snow, you would not last more than 15 minutes out there.They even had to close the ropeway for 1 whole day at Sounkyo due to the weather condition.

      Do check the weather forecast before going to Kuradoke(since there is nothing much to do apart from taking the ropeway) and do bring winter gear.

      However we did see the beautiful foliage at the foot of the mountain, it was still quite an experience to be face a snow storm.

      • bumblebeemum says:

        Thank you for sharing your experience! Indeed Hokkaido’s weather can be pretty drastic and viewing autumn foliage can require a bit of luck and Mother Nature’s favour! I was pretty bummed to be stuck in a snow storm when I thought I could be visiting the beautiful flower fields in Furano in autumn. Oh well…

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Regarding Kurodake, I would definitely opt to go in the morning rather than afternoon. Taking a chairlift in the afternoon sun doesn’t sound very fun to me. If you are planning to do the hike, the website says the basic hike would take 3 hours:
      http://www.rinyu.co.jp/modules/pico01/index.php?cat_id=5

      I do not think you have enough time to do so many things on Day 3. I could easily spend a whole day at Biei. It is a very scenic area and with a lovely cafe at Sanai no Oka (Sanai No Chaya Curve) and a nice restaurant at Chiyoda Farm. You can read about them in the posts below:
      http://bumblebeemum.net/2015/03/30/hokkaido-best-food/
      http://bumblebeemum.net/2015/04/15/hokkaido-best-sweets-cafe/

      I would allocate a full day for Biei (Patchwork + Panorama Road) and Shirogane Onsen (Blue Pond).

      If you really want to do Kurodake and Biei on the same day, you may have to give blue pond a miss. Blue pond is a bit of a detour from the main road.

  31. Allan says:

    Thank you very much to both of you for sharing your experience and the advice given are well noted. The information has been very helpful to us in our planning.

    As for Day 3, we will re-look into the timing and schedule and will consider to stay a night in Biei instead of Furano. This may give us more time to take in the beautiful sights in Biei as well as visiting Blue Pond the following morning. Thereafter, we will visit Tomita Farm, winery and cheese factory as well as lunch before moving on to Tomamu for an overnight stay. Hope it is workable and not too rush !!!

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Yeah, that sounds workable. We didn’t stay in Biei because we found the accommodation in Biei very limited. But a reader recommended Hotel Park Hills in Biei – you can check it out! :)

  32. Allan says:

    Noted. Thank you for the information and guidance. Appreciated.

    • Allan Lim says:

      Hi Bumble Bee Mum

      It’s me again. Need some further advice and guidance from you on questions below.

      Our group (6 pax) travel plan & routing is almost finalized for the coming 6th-18th October autumn trip as follows:
      Day 1: Sapporo (arrive at noon)
      Day 2: Sounkyo
      Day 3: Biei
      Day 4: Furano
      Day 5: Shintoku/Tomamu
      Day 6: Unkai Terrace/Tomakomai/Jigokudani/Noberibetsu
      Day 7: Sobetsu/Niseko/Hakodate
      Day 8: Hakodate
      Day 9: Lake Onuma/Lake Toya
      *Day 10: Shinsen Marsh/Cape Kamui/Cape Shakotan/Otaru
      *Day 11: Otaru/Shiroi Koibita/Sapporo
      *Day 12: Jozankei/Hoheikyo Dam/Sapporo
      Day 13: Sapporo-Singapore

      Q1) Is the above overall travel routing workable?

      Q2) We are still thinking hard on which will be better plan for Day 10/11/12 as follows and need your advice on it:

      Option 1:
      Day 10: Shinsen Marsh/Cape Kamui/Cape Shakotan/Otaru
      Day 11: Otaru/Shiroi Koibita/Sapporo
      Day 12: Jozankei/Hoheikyo Dam/Sapporo (return car)

      Option 2:
      Day 10: Shinsen Marsh/Cape Kamui/Cape Shakotan/Otaru
      Day 11: Otaru/Jozankei/Hoheikyo Dam/Sapporo (return car)
      ***our concern is if we depart Otaru at noon, do we have sufficient time at Jozankei/Hoheikyo Dam before sunset? Being a Sunday, will it be very crowded?
      *Day 12: Shiroi Koibita (by train)/Sapporo

      Option 3:
      Day 10: Shinsen Marsh/Cape Kamui/Cape Shakotan/Sapporo (late arrival in Sapporo)
      Day 11: Jozankei/Hoheikyo Dam/Otaru/Sapporo (late arrival in Sapporo & return car)
      Day 12: Shiroi Koibita (by train)/Sapporo

      Q3) What will be the minimum time needed at Jozankei/Hoheikyo Dam to view autumn foliage (including walking both ways via the tunnel if electric bus is crowded with long queue)?

      Q4) What is the name of bus & cost of ticket from Chitose airport to Mecure Sapporo? Is the bus drop-off location similar to pcik-up location when we depart from hotel to airport?

      Q5) Planning to rent Estima with HEP from Toyota Car Rental @ Susukino Minami 4-jo.
      a) Is this the correct outlet nearest to Mecure Sapporo?.
      b) If the travel insurance already covers the rental vehicle access, do I still need to purchase CDW from Toyota?
      c) Where will be the nearest petrol station to re-fill before returning car to same location?

      Apology for the many questions as this is our first time to Hokkaido and also driving in Japan.

      Thanks & Best Regards,
      Allan

      • bumblebeemum says:

        It seems you will only arrive at Otaru pretty late on Day 10. Which means you probably need pretty much the whole day on Day 11 for Otaru. So I won’t squeeze in Jozankei for Day 11. But I think the drive from Otaru to Jozankei is pretty scenic in autumn, so what I would do is to spend 1 more night at Otaru:

        Day 10: Shinsen Marsh/Cape Kamui/Cape Shakotan/Otaru
        Day 11: Otaru
        Day 12: Otaru – Jozankei/Hoheikyo Dam – Shiroi Koibito Park – Sapporo (return car)

        Your itinerary could be fine-tuned a little. Sobetsu should be together with Lake Toya and Shinsen Numa should be together with Niseko. This is what I suggest:

        Day 1: Sapporo (arrive at noon)
        Day 2: Sounkyo
        Day 3: Biei
        Day 4: Furano
        Day 5: Shintoku/Tomamu
        Day 6: Unkai Terrace/Tomakomai/Jigokudani/Noberibetsu
        Day 7: Sobetsu/Niseko/Noboribetsu – Onuma Koen – Hakodate
        Day 8: Hakodate
        Day 9: Hakodate – Lake Toya (+ Sobetsu)
        Day 10: Lake Toya (set off right after breakfast) – Niseko – Shinsen Marsh – Cape Kamui – Cape Shakotan – Otaru
        Day 11: Otaru
        Day 12: Otaru – Jozankei (+ Houheikyou Dam) – Shiroi Koibito Park – Sapporo

        Q3) I would say 2 hours is sufficient. If you want to take the little cable car to the restaurant at the top, then maybe 3 hours.

        Q4) It’s the airport limousine bus. The drop-off and pick-up location is different. Ask the hotel staff to show you exactly where the bus stop to board the airport limousine bus is when you’re leaving.

        Q5)(a) There are quite a few Toyota around Susukino. For Toyota, there is Toyota Rent-A-Car Sapporo and Toyota Rent-A-Car Shinsapporo. A bit confusing. But anyway, this branch is super near Mercure Hotel:
        http://www.rent-a-lease.com/english/shop/shop/susukino_ekimae.html

        This branch is slightly further but walkable. This is the one I rented from:
        https://www.toyotarentacar.net/english/shop/susukinominami4/

        (b) No need to purchase CDW if your travel insurance already covers it.

        (c) The car rental branch will tell you where to top up the petrol before returning.

        • Allan says:

          Hi Bumble Bee Mum

          Noted and thank you for your time, guidance and advice.

          Just one clarification on car rental. We have just booked via Toyota Sapporo and the online booking automatically included the CDW without any option to exclude.

          Can we inform them that we would like to exclude CDW at point of pick-up or must we inform them in advance via e-mail?

          Regards,
          Allan

          • bumblebeemum says:

            You may want to drop them an email to ask. Some companies have campaigns where they rent out the car with a promotional price, but on the condition that you opt in for CDW.

            • Allan says:

              Hi Bumble Bee Mum

              With regards to the limousine bus from Chitose airport to Susukino, may I know where is the location to buy and board the bus at the airport. Also, what is the name of the limousine bus? Thanks.

              Regards,
              Allan

              • bumblebeemum says:

                You can refer to CTS website for bus information:
                http://www.new-chitose-airport.jp/en/access/bus/

                You pay to the driver when you board the bus. There are two companies: Chuo Bus and Hokuto Kotsu. You can board either bus, as long as the sign in front says Sapporo City Centre (札幌市中央).

                • Allan Lim says:

                  Hi Bumble Bee Mum
                  Thanks for all the guidance and advice given which has been a great help to my trip planning. Time flies and we will be heading to Hokkaido next week from 6-18 Oct. I have some last minute questions that need your advice as follow:
                  1) Taking limousine bus from Chitose airport to Mecure Sapporo hotel and return transfer, is there any restriction on the numbers of luggages?

                  2) Will collect rental car from Toyota on 7 Oct (0800 hrs) and heading to Sounkyo for Autumn foilage viewing. Enroute, plan to visit Asahidake Ropeway or Ginsendai for koyo viewing and Kurodake Ropeway the following morning before heading to Biei late morning.
                  Need your advice on whether the enroute plan on 7 Oct is practical and which option is better taking into consideration the travel time:
                  A) Sapporo-Asahidake Ropeway-Sounkyo or B) Sapporo-Ginsendai-Sounkyo

                  Thank you.

                  Regards,
                  Allan

                  • bumblebeemum says:

                    1) Nope, no restriction on luggage.

                    2) Sounds very rushed. Asahidake and Sounkyo look very near each other on the map, but the drive between them is like 2 hours? It looks to me that you are too late for autumn foliage at Asahidake. You can check reports on their Facebook Page:
                    https://www.facebook.com/asahidakeropeway/

                    For Sounkyo, you can check their reports on Twitter:
                    https://twitter.com/rinyu_kurodake

                    So for your date, I would skip Asahidake and head straight for Sounkyo. My suggestion is for you to pop into the tourist information centre at Sounkyo once you arrive to check where are the places where autumn foliage is currently at the peak and go to those places. And please dress warmly if you are going up the ropeway, it is close to zero degrees at the top of the mountain and you may encounter snow.

  33. JJ says:

    May i know what is the best time should I go up to Mt. Moiwa to catch both sunset and nightview?

    Ropeway cable car will stop at a station before heading to top of the mt.Moiwa?

    Thank u :)

  34. wawa says:

    HI bumblebee mum,

    im going to visit hokkaido on this mid of june for 6 days (self drive)

    Would appreciate your comments and advice on my planned itinerary below.

    day 1 sapporo
    day 2 Asahikawa
    day 3 furano
    day 4 bei
    day 5 sapporo
    day 6 sapporo – otaru

    i plan to drive to Asahikawa directly from Sapporo, should i use express way OR normal road.
    Should i collect my rental car in airport or hotel Dome tokyo? would it be any charges different?

    • bumblebeemum says:

      From Sapporo to Asahikawa, I would just use the expressway.

      For Day 3 and 4, you should swap Biei and Furano. Because coming from Asahikawa, you will arrive at Biei first. And you can drive back to Sapporo from Furano via Mikasa without having to go back up North.
      > Click here for Google Map route from Furano to Sapporo

      You don’t really need a car from Sapporo and Otaru, so you can pick up the car on Day 2 and return it on Day 4 or 5 when you return to Sapporo. If you pick up on Day 2 morning and return on Day 4 evening, it will be considered 3 days rental. If you pick up and return to airport at the start and end of the trip, it will be 6 days rental.

      • wawa says:

        I will be arriving morning in Chitose Airport on day 1. Is there any direct bus to send us to hotel dome in sapporo? On the last day. I have flight departure at 8.30am, if I return the car on day 5. I probably will have problem for transferring to airport . What’s your advise? Tq

        • bumblebeemum says:

          Is it Tokyo Dome Hotel Sapporo? Yes there is a direct bus from the airport:
          https://www.tokyodome-hotels-sapporo.com/english/access/

          If your departure flight is that early, I would advise staying at Air Terminal Hotel on your last night. You can move Otaru forward:

          day 1 sapporo
          day 2 sapporo (day trip to Otaru)
          day 3 sapporo – Asahikawa
          day 4 Asahikawa – biei
          day 5 bei – Furano
          day 6 Furano – CTS
          day 7 Morning flight back

          • wawa says:

            So I need to pick up car on day 2 and return on day 6 at CTS. I know from sapporo to Otaru can be easily access by bus or train but need long walking distance right? I’m bringing my 2 parents ( 60plus).

            • bumblebeemum says:

              Yes, Otaru can be accessed by train but you are right. It is quite a long distance. If you planning to drive to Otaru, then you can just pick up the car at the airport on Day 1 and return it on Day 6. Although it is one extra day of rental, you have a much wider option in terms of car rental for round-trip from CTS compared to one-way rentals.

  35. Pam says:

    Hi Bubble Bee Mum!!

    I found your blog while searching for a self drive holiday in Hokkaido, from 15 oct to 22 oct. I went to Hokkaido in 2009 (but have not been to hakodate), on a tour package with my mum and her sisters (6 of us), now we intend to head to Hokkaido on a self-drive holiday with the men. There’s going to be 10 of us, all adults so likely going to drive 2 cars.

    It will be really great if you could advise us on the itinerary? I am kinda stuck and unsure on where exactly to visit. Would it be worth visiting Furano? I’m concern about it snowing and if driving would be difficult if it did? We are looking at going to Hakodate, Lake Toya, Noboribetsu, Sapporo, Otaru.

    Here’s the rough plan thus far:

    Day 1, 15 Oct, Sat: Arrive in Hakodate (910am)
    Collect vehicle from airport? then travel to hakodate. Go to Hakodate morning market, Visit Mount Hakodate, sight-seeing. check into hotel

    Day 2, 16 Oct, Sun: Hakodate -> Lake Toya
    Breakfast at Hakodate morning market, then head out to lake toya. Any sights to visit in between there? Stay a night in Lake Toya

    Possible things to do either on this day or next day:
    – Fruit picking
    – Mt Showa (for food..)

    Day 3, 17 Oct, Mon: Lake Toya -> Noboribetsu -> Sapporo
    From Lake Toya, to proceed to activities not done on day 2.
    Then proceed to Noboribetsu to Date Jidai Mura (Edo Wonderland), then head to Sapporo for 2 nights stay.

    -> Alternatively, I was wondering if I should stay a night at the onsen in Noboribetsu. Then next day go to Shiraoi, and Chitose, then stay 2 nights in Sapporo?

    Day 4, 18 Oct, Tues: Sapporo -> Otaru -> Sapporo
    Breakfast in Sapporo @ Nijo Market,(or is the Sapporo Central Wholesale fish market better?) do some sightseeing; visit beer factory, shopping maybe..
    Visit the white lovers chocolate factory, then to otaru for food and sight seeing. Not sure if there’s time to visit the Nikka Whisky Yoichi Distillery? Then back to Sapporo for the night.

    As for the rest of the days, I do not really know where to go, or if we should visit Furano. Will really be great if you could advise us? Or whether we should go to sappora on the last 2-3 days of our trip?

    Day 5, 19 Oct, Wed:

    Day 6, 20 Oct, Thurs:

    Day 7, 21 Oct, Fri:

    Day 8, 22 Oct, Sat: 1:55PM flight from Sapporo – Chitose airport -> Narita

    Can the car be returned at the airport? Or do we have to return in Sapporo and take a bus to the airport?

    Thank you!!!

    • bumblebeemum says:

      I don’t think it usually snows in October. We were just unlucky to encounter a typhoon which brought snow with it when we were there.

      Day 1: With a large group like yours, getting a car from the airport would probably be more convenient.

      Day 2: In between Hakodate and Lake Toya, you can visit Onuma Koen.

      For your dates, I would actually recommend visiting Jozankei Onsen for autumn foliage. It doesn’t look like you have enough time to visit Furano.

      This is what you can do:

      Day 1: Hakodate
      Day 2: Hakodate – Onuma Koen – Lake Toya
      Day 3: Lake Toya – Noboribetsu – Lake Toya (i.e. spend 2 nights at Lake Toya, you can visit Edo Wonderland as a day trip from there)
      Day 4: Lake Toya – Jozankei Onsen
      Day 5: Jozankei Onsen – Otaru
      Day 6: Otaru – Nikka Whisky Yoichi Distillery – Shiroi Koibito Park – Sapporo
      Day 7: Sapporo
      Day 8: Sapporo – flight back

      You can book a one-way car rental, picking the car up from Hakodate airport and returning it to CTS.

      • Pam says:

        Thank you Bubblebee Mum for the reply! Thank you for the itinerary too.

        I had a chat with the group, and the ladies in my group will like to visit Furano. and then men is thinking of going fishing in Otaru. LOL.

        I think maybe we will stay 1 night in Lake Toya, then a night in Furano, and a night in Otaru, and probably 2-3 nights in Sapporo.

        So sorry for the trouble, but do you think the bottom itinerary is do-able?

        Day 1: Hakodate
        Day 2: Hakodate – Onuma Koen – Lake Toya
        Day 3: Lake Toya – Noboribetsu – Furano
        Day 4: Furano – Nikka Whisky Yoichi Distillery – Otaru
        Day 5: Otaru – Shiroi Koibito Park – Sapporo
        Day 6: Sapporo (jozankie/lake shikotsu/chitose outlet mall)
        Day 7: Sapporo
        Day 8: Sapporo – flight back

        • bumblebeemum says:

          Fishing in Otaru! I’ve never tried that.. Haha…

          If you want to fit in Furano, I suggest you omit Noboribetsu and Lake Shikotsu / Chitose Outlet Mall. You can do something like this:

          Day 1: Hakodate
          Day 2: Hakodate – Onuma Koen – Lake Toya
          Day 3: Lake Toya – Jozankei – Yoichi – Otaru
          Day 4: Otaru
          Day 5: Otaru – Shiroi Koibito – Sapporo
          Day 6: Sapporo
          Day 7: Sapporo – Furano (set off early)
          Day 8: Furano – CTS (flight back)

  36. Yenni says:

    Hi Bumblebeemum,

    I’m planning to go Hokkaido on 16-22 oct 16. But basically we only have 5 nights.

    My plan itinerary as below:
    17/10: CTS-Lake Toya (overnight)
    18/10: Lake Toya – Otaru – Sapporo (Overnight)
    19/10: Sapporo City Tour (Overnight)
    20/10: Sapporo – Furano (Overnight)
    21/10: Furano – CTS Airport hotel (Overnight)
    22/10: Morning flight back to KL

    Do you think the above good to go?

    Thanks.

  37. Amanda says:

    Hello Bumblebeemum, may I ask if the following itinerary is okay? I’ll be going to Hokkaido on 21 – 27 September with my mom and 2 of her friends who can’t walk for too long.

    Day 1 – CTS-Sapporo
    Day 2 – Sapporo
    Day 3 – Sapporo – Otaru
    Day 4 – Otaru – Lake Toya & Noboribetsu
    Day 5 – Noboribetsu – Furano – Biei – Asahikawa
    Day 6 – Asahikawa – Asahidakeonsen & Mt Asahidake OR Sounkyo area – Asahikawa
    Day 7 – Asahikawa – CTS

    We’re probably going to rent a car on Day 3 onwards, to Otaru. But I’m unsure whether we should make it a day trip or overnight there and drive to Lake Toya/Noboribetsu on the next day.

    Is it possible to do a day trip to Noboribetsu and Lake Toya from Sapporo? I’d love to stay in an onsen resort but my mother and her friends aren’t so keen because the prices are expensive.

    Also, will it be too rush to go from Noboribetsu – Furano – Biei – Asahikawa? Or should we make an overnight stop at Furano or Biei? We don’t plan to see much in Asahikawa.

    Thank you so much for your time.

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Looking at your itinerary, staying in Otaru makes sense since you can drive straight to Lake Toya from there. No need to go back to Sapporo.

      A day trip to Lake Toya and Noboribetsu sounds pretty rushed in Sept. Daylight hours should be getting shorter by then. I recommend spending the night on Day 4 in Noboribetsu. It will be worth the money.

      Yes, Day 5 does look a bit rushed. But if you want to save money, then it makes sense to spend the night at Asahikawa. So let’s say you spend the night of Day 4 at an onsen resort in Noboribetsu, then next 2 nights at a cheaper hotel in Asahikawa. It should average out the accommodation prices nicely. There’s nothing much to see at Asahikawa, you just go there to sleep at the end of the day.

  38. JJ says:

    Dear bumblebeemum,
    Good day. May I know what is the best month to travel to Hokkaido for autumn foliage? October seems the month which snowing month and typhoon season.

    If for just a 7 days trip, which part of hokkaido/japan will you recommend? Thank u very much.

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Depends on the region. For Daisetsuzan region, you can go in end Sept. For Jozankei region, you can go in early – mid October.

      For a 7 days autumn trip, I would probably plan end Sept to explore Furano, Biei, Asahidake and Sounkyo.

  39. kenny says:

    hi, I am planning a self drive trip to Hokkaido for 10 days in mid Oct.

    wish to go to these places:

    ​Lake Shikotsu (1 day)
    ​Lake Toya (1 day)
    Noboribetsu (1 day onsen)
    Jozankei (1 day)
    ​Hakodate (2 days/ 1 day onsen)
    Shakotan/​Otaru (1 day)
    ​Sapporo (3 days)

    i am not really sure if going to Lake Shikotsu and Lake Toya require 1 day each, or it can be done together within a day.

    This is my 1st time to Japan. I am flying by scoot and only reached Hokkaido around 5pm, not sure if it is too late to drive around or is better to rest somewhere first

    Any advice or recommendation of budget city hotel?

    • bumblebeemum says:

      I usually do Lake Shikotsu and Lake Toya together in a day and spend the night at Lake Toya.

      You can consider spending the first night at Air Terminal Hotel at CTS to rest well before beginning your travel the next day.

      For budget city hotels, you can try Super Hotel group. The rooms are pretty small, but I like their super room (double room with bunk bed) for extra bed space and free breakfast.
      http://www.superhoteljapan.com/en/

      • Kenny Toh says:

        thank you for your reply, was looking forward to it.

        my trip is 13 Oct (arrive 5pm) till 22 Oct (flight 730pm)

        this is what i plan so far, not sure if it is workable

        13 Oct > Air Terminal Hotel (1 night)

        14 Oct > Lake ​Shikotsu & Lake Toya (1 night)
        ​- Bike riding, underwater sightseeing boats, speedboats, swan boats, and water skaters
        – Koke no Domon (Moss Canyon), Kyoboku-no-Mori (Gigantic Forest trees), Mt. Tarumae, Lake Okotanpe
        – Ishiyama Open Space
        – Usuzan West Craters
        – Usuzan Ropeway
        Qns: Onsen ​Toya Sunpalace or Lake View Nonokaze?

        15 Oct > Noboribetsu
        – Noboribetsu Onsen
        – Shiraoi Ainu Museum
        – Jigokudani [Hell Valley]
        – Lake Otunuma scenic trail
        – Demon’s fire trail
        Qns: wonder if this require whole day and need to stay here or can just drive down hakodate straight?

        ​16 – 17 Oct > ​Hakodate (2 nights/ 1 night onsen?)
        – Mount Hakodate
        – Fort Goryokaku
        – Hakodate Morning Market
        – Lake Onuma park
        – Goryokaku Tower
        Qns: will consider the super hotel group or any others? if onsen overnight, any recommendation?

        18 Oct – Shakotan & ​Otaru
        – Shimamui Coast
        – Kamui Misaki [Cape Kamui]
        – Cape Ogon
        – Port city with beautifully preserved canals
        – Sakaimachi Street
        Qns: to stay overnight at Otaru or back to Sapporo?

        19 – 21 Oct​ > Sapporo (3 nights, mercure hotel)
        ​- Moerenuma Park
        – Historic Village of Hokkaido
        – Nijo Market
        – Curb Market
        – Odori Park
        – Susukino
        – Clock Tower
        – Mount Moiwa
        – Shiroi Koibito Chocolate Park/Ishiya Chocolate Factory
        – Hokkaido Jingue
        – Sapporo Beer Museum and Biergarten
        – Sapporo Dome
        – Nakajima Park
        – Takino Suzuran National Park
        – Hokkaido University

        22 Oct > Airport back to SG

        Qns: i dont know where to put Jozankei – ​Hoheikyo Dam in…a side trip out of the period in Sapporo or?

        Qns: is there a need to travel to Niseko during Autumn along the way?

        Qns: for onsen (Lake Toya, Hakodate), does all come with private onsen? or any recommended ones?

        Not sure if I missed out any places of those locations that is recommended to go…

        I noticed the hotel price reflected in agoda etc is much more expensive than the price listed directly from the hotel website.

        Thanks you so much, hope you can give some feedback and advice

        • bumblebeemum says:

          14 Oct > Sounds like a lot of things you want to do! Don’t think you can complete everything in a day. You may want to prioritise what you want to do.

          ​Toya Sunpalace or Lake View Nonokaze depends on your budget. If you can afford it, Nonokaze would be a better experience. But for something cheaper, go for Sunpalace.

          15 Oct > Maybe you can shift the Lake Toya stuff you planned for 14 Oct to this day. After that go to Noboribetsu and stay at Noboribetsu.

          ​16 – 17 Oct > ​Near Hakodate, you can go to Yunokawa onsen if you are looking for an onsen stay.

          18 Oct – Are you planning to drive from Hakodate to Shakotan to Otaru? That’s an extremely long drive. Definitely you shouldn’t go all the way back to Sapporo on the same day. You should spend the night at Otaru. Most likely you will have to visit Sakaimachi the next day because the shops there close pretty early.

          If you want to visit Jozankei / Houheikyo Dam, you can go there between Otaru and Sapporo. i.e. on the way back to Sapporo from Otaru.

          Your date looks a bit late for autumn foliage in Niseko. I will give it a miss. Your itinerary looks packed enough as it is.

          Most onsen only come with public baths, not private ones. Usually only the more upmarket ones (like Lake View Nonokaze) would have private baths.

          Not sure if I missed out any places of those locations that is recommended to go…

          Some hotels are cheaper if you book through booking sites. Some hotels are cheaper if you book direct. Just compare and go with whichever is cheaper.

  40. Kenny Toh says:

    thank you for your recommendations…

    ya, i have been thinking whether 14 oct is enough to finish Lake ​Shikotsu & Lake Toya, and did thought of continue lake toya on 15 oct early morning.

    Onsen is really very expensive, doubt can afford another onsen night stay at Noboribetsu.

    was worried about 15 oct and 18 oct, too packed worried not enough time, and long hours of drive. Sakaimachi closes around 5pm, was thinking dinner later on and walk around the canal before heading to sapporo (45mins drive)

    for self drive, anything i need to take note beforehand? like expressway exit sign?

    below is my new planning…

    13 Oct – train from airport to Sapporo for 1 night stay
    14 Oct – Rent car and move down to Lake Shikotsu> Lake Toya, check in Nonokaze
    15 Oct – continue lake toya> drop by Noboribetsu for awhile> 3hr drive to Hakodate night stay (Superhotel)
    16 Oct – move around Hakodate, night stay (Superhotel)
    17 Oct – move to Yunokawa Onsen and night stay (Heiseikan Shiosaitei)
    18 Oct – morning from Hakodate 4hr drive to Shakotan > Otaru > Sapporo night stay (mercure)
    19 – 21 Oct – move around Sapporo > short trip to ​Jozankei > mercure night stay
    22 Oct – Singapore

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Rental cars in Japan come with GPS so it’s pretty easy to navigate. But you need to prepare telephone numbers or map codes of your destination to key into the GPS. You can read more on the following posts:

      http://bumblebeemum.net/2015/07/07/how-to-use-japanese-gps-to-avoid-tollways/

      http://bumblebeemum.net/2015/03/31/japan-map-code-search/

      For your new plan, I still find 18 Oct pretty impractical. You’ll just be spending the whole day on the road. Daylight hours are starting to get short in October. I would recommend skipping Shakotan and just go to Otaru directly from Hakodate.

      • Kenny Toh says:

        thanks alot for the GPS info, save my trouble googling how to get the map code or phone number

        ya, 18 Oct is a big headache for me…with so many places to cover and in the end still have to rush to my night stay at sapporo.

        actually i am more interested for scenery view at Shakotan, but i know leaving hakodate in the morning and by the time i reach there will be noon. which can only reach otaru in the evening time.

        for Otaru, i am only keen for the canal night view and dinner/ice cream. ​not so interested for Sakaimachi Street (4 – 5 museums) which closes at 5pm…

        Qns: unless Sakaimachi Street is really good to go?

        or should i arrange another day for side trip to either otaru or shakotan since 19, 20, 21, 22 Oct (flight at 730pm) i will be at sapporo.

        Qns: is it too much days allocate for sapporo?

        alternately should i go for:

        option 1: morning leave hakodate to shakotan, then to sapporo; another day side trip from sapporo to otaru

        option 2: morning leave hakodate to otaru, then to sapporo; another day side trip from sapporo to shakotan

        option 3: morning leave hakodate to ​Jozankei, then to sapporo;
        another day side trip from sapporo to shakotan and otaru

        Qns: which option will be better? or is fine with my original hakodate to shakotan then otaru if i give up sakaimachi and just go for dinner and canal night view

        greatly appreciated your help!

        • bumblebeemum says:

          Actually, doing a day trip to Shakotan and Otaru from Sapporo sounds like a great idea. I think Shakotan and Otaru should be done on the same day since they are in the same general direction. If you set off from Sapporo early, you should have enough time to cover both places in a day. i.e. I would go for Option 3. :)

  41. Kris says:

    Dear Bumblebeemum,

    I’m planning to travel to Hokkaido from 6-15 Oct’16.
    As this is my first self-drive trip to Hokkaido with my hubby and son 21 years old.
    Appreciate it if you could adv us on the itinerary, as I’m still not clear on the sequence where to start and end.
    Time is running short, am afraid I do not have time to plan this trip. Trying very hard to figure where I should go
    I’m planning to visit the following places. Do you think I have enough time please ? Also appreciate if you could also adv us if we should change hotel on the places of interest or a day trip is good enough ?

    1. Arrive Chitose airport on 6 Oct abt 5 pm
    Should we take the airport bus to Sapporo and stay in Mecure Hotel (as recommended) OR
    Should we rent the car from airport and head to the next destination pls ?

    2. Asahikawa
    3. Biei
    4. Furano
    5. Tomaru
    6. Noboriebetu
    7. Hakodate
    8. Lake Toya
    9. Otaru
    10. Chitose. Depart Singapore 7.30 pm 15 Oct

    Thank you in advance.

    • bumblebeemum says:

      It’s going to be dark when you arrive at CTS. My advice is to spend the first night at Air Terminal Hotel and pick up the rental car from the airport the next morning.

      You won’t have enough time to go all the way to Hakodate. And yes, you would need to keep changing hotel if you want to cover more places. This is what I would suggest:

      6 Oct: Arrive, stay air terminal hotel
      7 Oct: CTS – Tomamu
      8 Oct: Tomamu – Furano
      9 Oct: Furano (Day trip to Biei and Asahikawa)
      10 Oct: Furano – Sapporo
      11 Oct: Sapporo
      12 Oct: Sapporo (day trip to Jozankei and Otaru)
      13 Oct: Sapporo – Lake Toya
      14 Oct: Lake Toya – Noboribetsu
      15 Oct: Noboribetsu – CTS

  42. Angeline Chua says:

    Hi Bumblebeemum

    I am reading your Hokkaido blog with great interest! There are simply too much information to digest :) Anyway, I will be visiting Hokkaido from 1 – 6 Oct with my hubby and 13 months’ son (We are flying from Beijing as hubby is currently working there and that week is the golden week in China)

    Read your blog post on the Autumn self drive holiday which you had done with your parents and 2 kids in 2013 (Yes, we intend to rent a car too). Very inclined to follow your itinerary as detailed since we only have 4 and a half days so to speak (reaching 1700 hrs at Chitose airport on 1 Oct and departure flight on 6 Oct at 1810hrs).

    Is your itinerary then suitable for us (esp with a young toddler)? I am hoping to include the Sapporo beer factory as one of our must visits as hubby loves beer. As yours was a 6 days’ trip then, I can’t follow them all…hehe…So which places of interests do you recommend we visit in those short 4 days’ trip?

    Also, I reckon it will be better for us to stay at just 1 hotel (Mercure Sapporo as per your recommendation) instead of moving to different hotels right?

    Really appreciate your advice! Thanks.

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Your dates are a bit earlier than mine, so if it’s autumn foliage you are after, I suggest you head to the Daisetsuzan region instead.

      Staying in one hotel is convenient, but it also means spending more time on the road. If you are willing to change hotels, you can definitely cover more sights. I would suggest you spend 2 nights at Sapporo and 3 nights in Asahikawa.

      Day 1: Arrive CTS at 1700, stay Sapporo
      Day 2: Explore Sapporo
      Day 3: Rent a car, drive to Asahikawa, visit Asahiyama zoo
      Day 4: Explore Daisetsuzan region from Asahikawa
      Day 5: Explore Furano & Biei region from Asahikawa
      Day 6: Drive Asahikawa – CTS

      • Angeline Chua says:

        Thanks for your advice! I will definitely look into your suggestion as hubby is into staying at different hotels too :)

        Anyway, keep up this interesting blog!

  43. Paul says:

    Hi BumbleebeeMom,

    First of all i really enjoy reading your blog, found it informative for hokkaido self drive.
    I am planning a self drive trip for a hokkaido self trip with some friends and hope that i can get your opinion on the itinerary that we currently have.

    We will be there during the autumn on the 25th Oct to 5th of Nov and we have only one driver, i guess we’ll reach new chitose on 11am if no delays

    Current itinerary:

    New Chitose -> Noboribetsu (Hell Valley / Onsen)
    Hakodate
    Hakodate ( Day trip to Matsumae Castle )
    Lake Toya / Jozankei Onsen ( undecided )
    Asahikawa ( Otokoyama sake / Ramen village )
    Asahikawa (Museums)
    Akan Lake
    Obihiro
    Sapporo ( Day trip to Otaru )
    Sapporo (Return of rental vehicle)
    Sapporo
    Sapporo -> Singapore

    Question:
    Which area would you suggest we stay ? Lake Toya or Jozankei Onsen
    Will it be long drive from Asahikawa to Akan lake as i plan to travel from the Biei / Furano and Obihiro route
    Is there any other thing we need to take note while driving in hokkaido during autumn
    With the itinerary above, do you think that it will be very tiring for one driver ? do i need cater more rest days / stops.
    Any suggestion or changes do you think we should make ?

    Sorry in advance if i am asking questions that have been previous asked, as i still haven cover all the commentaries in your blog.

    • bumblebeemum says:

      The drive from Asahikawa to Lake Akan is pretty long, though there are places you can stop for sightseeing along the way so it’s not too bad. You can refer to our recent drive from Asahikawa to Kitami for reference:
      http://bumblebeemum.net/2016/07/26/hokkaido-self-drive-trip-asahikawa-sounkyo-shiretoko/

      It is the drive from Lake Toya to Asahikawa that I feel is more of a pain. I would recommend using Tomamu or Biei to break up that drive. i.e. Use this route:
      https://goo.gl/maps/wEi5sWVA1Pp

      Autumn is generally pretty safe to travel, though for your dates, I wouldn’t be surprised if you encounter snow around Daisetsuzan region especially. If you do encounter snow, just drive slow. You can read more about driving in snow on this post:
      http://bumblebeemum.net/2015/08/29/free-easy-hokkaido-winter-trip-essential-travel-tips/

      You do have more than a thousand km of distance to cover, so if possible, have more than one driver to take turns.

      This is how I would recommend you plan your stops:

      25/10 New Chitose -> Noboribetsu (Hell Valley / Onsen)
      26/10 Noboribetsu – Hakodate
      27/10 Hakodate ( Day trip to Matsumae Castle )
      28/10 Hakodate – Lake Toya
      29/10 Lake Toya – Biei
      30/10 Biei – Asahikawa ( Otokoyama sake / Ramen village )
      31/10 Asahikawa (Museums)
      1/11 Asahikawa – Akan Lake
      2/11 Lake Akan – Obihiro
      3/11 Obihiro – Sapporo
      4/11 Sapporo ( Day trip to Otaru )
      5/11 Sapporo – CTS

  44. Paul says:

    Thanks for the advice and suggestions ~!

  45. Miyako says:

    Hi Bumblebee,

    Two of us are going to Hokkaido for the first time for 7 nights and would appreciate some advise on our itinerary. I thought it would be a cool idea to try driving in Japan, but we would be staying in one hotel in Sapporo throughout. Is it still feasible? Or should I just stick with local day tours for the first 3 days and doing free & easy around Sapporo for the last 3 days?

    It would also be nice to stay a night at a hotel that comes with private outdoor onsen. Do you know if there is any private outdoor onsen that is the most convenient to go to/drive from Susukino? Thanks in advance.

  46. Miyako says:

    Hi just to add on to my above post, please advise if my proposed itinerary from 20 – 27 Sept is feasible:

    Day 1, Chitose – Susukino (Stay overnight)
    Day 2, Susukino – Asahikawa: Collect car and drive to Zoo, Snow Museum & Ramen Village
    Day 3, Asahikawa – Furano: Tomita farm including melon farm, Biei, Blue Pond
    (Stay at Asahikawa for 2 nights)
    Day 4, Asahikawa – Sapporo: Lake Shikotsu, Lake Toya and Yukyu no Yado onsen, Shiraito (Onsen)
    Day 5, Sapporo – Otaru: Otaru Canal, Musical Box Museum
    (return rental car at 8pm)
    Day 6, Sapporo – Susukino: Nijo market, Shiroi Koibito Park, Sapporo Beer Museum, Salmon Museum
    Day 7, Sapporo – Susukino: Curb Market, Odori Park, Clock Tower, Sapporo JR Tower T38

    I will be renting a car from for 4 days from Weds – Sat.
    1) Where can I park at Otaru that is the most affordable and accessible? Is it worth to spend a whole day there or are there any places nearby that I can go to?
    2) Is it worth to go to both Lake Shikotsu and Lake Toya? Are they near to each other? Any interesting places nearby?
    3) Lastly, I am spending 2 full days at Sapporo/Susukino to explore the city. Is my itinerary too packed?

    Thanks.

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Day 2: I dont think you have time for snow museum. Asahiyama Zoo + Ramen Village would be about it for a day.

      Day 4: This day looks very rushed. I would end the day at Lake Toya.

      1) I recommend driving to Shukutsu Peninsular and have a meal at Minshuku Aotsuka Shokudou. You can read about it here:
      http://bumblebeemum.net/2016/07/19/hokkaido-self-drive-trip-sapporo-otaru/

      In general coin parking around Otaru is not that cheap. The most accessible ones (like the one opposite Otaru canal) are also the most expensive ones. You can drive further away from the canal to find a cheaper coin parking – usually the further you go, the cheaper it gets.

      2) They are about 1.5 hours drive apart. You can use Lake Shikotsu as a rest point to break up the long drive from Asahikawa to Lake Toya. Lake Toya itself is pretty interesting – you can ride the Usuzan Ropeway, have gelato at Lake Hill Farm, go fruits picking at Sobetsu, take the Lake Toya cruise or check out the earthquake wreckage.

      3) It looks doable.

  47. Miyako says:

    Hi thanks for your reply. I have made the revision to my itinerary; please advise if it is good to go?

    Day 1, Chitose – Susukino (Stay overnight)
    Day 2, Susukino – Asahikawa: Collect car and drive to Zoo & Ramen Village
    Day 3, Asahikawa – Furano: Tomita farm including melon farm, Biei, Blue Pond
    (Stay at Asahikawa for 2 nights)
    Day 4, Asahikawa – Sapporo: Snow Museum first before driving to Otaru and watching sunset there
    Day 5, Sapporo outskirts: Lake Toya and Yukyu no Yado onsen, Shiraito (Onsen)
    (return rental car at 7pm)
    Day 6, Sapporo – Susukino: Nijo market, Shiroi Koibito Park, Salmon Museum & T38 Observation Deck (for sunset)
    Day 7, Sapporo – Susukino: Curb Market, Sapporo Beer Museum, Odori Park, Sapporo Clock/TV Tower.

    I was tempted to go to the Minshuku that you recommended but as we are thinking of going to Kani Honke too, hence not sure if we want to splurge on seafood twice? How much is the average cost per pax at Minshuku? We like crabs, oysters, clams, etc.

    We decided to skip Lake Shikotsu as Lake Toya is so much beautiful. However, you suggested to use it as a rest stop in between Susukino to Lake Toya, If I travel via this route instead of direct from Susukino to Lake Toya, how much more travelling time do I need?

    Do you know how much exactly is the parking (full day/hourly) near Otaru canal and those further from canal? Do you have the name of the places that we can park cheap?

    Also does the places that we drive to for the first 4 days provide free parking or surcharge parking is required too?

    As it is our first time to Hokkaido and during autumn, what kind of outer clothes do we pack – Is a jacket or sweater enough to keep warm on top of the tees? I looked online that it is about 20 degrees on average?

    Looking forward to your advice.

    • bumblebeemum says:

      The minshuku is not really a place for crabs and oysters. I recommend them more for their Nishin fish which is not very expensive.. Maybe 1000+ yen per pax? For oysters, I would go to Go Tsubo in Susukino – at 105 yen per oyster, I haven’t found a cheaper place for them in all of Hokkaido.

      If you are driving from Sapporo to Lake Toya, to detour to Lake Shikotsu would increase your driving time by about half an hour.

      Hmm.. I cannot remember the exact cost of the parking in Otaru. I think the ones near the canal are about 400yen per hour? Then further maybe it goes down to 200yen per hour.

      Around Furano, Biei and Lake Toya, parking is generally free.

      Weather in Hokkaido is erratic. It can feel quite warm when the sun is out, but once it rains it’s going to be very cold. You do need quite a thick jacket for night time. Day time, at least a sweater and long bottoms. The key is to bring layers. If it is bright and sunny, maybe just one or two layer would do. But if it rains, don’t be afraid to put on a thick jacket.

  48. Miyako says:

    Hi thanks for your quick reply.

    Can I know if is it cheaper to do coin parking or parking at carpark space in the buildings? For normal parking, do I pay by cash or is there any cheaper alternative like paying by card (somewhat similar to cash card)?

    If we were to park further down the canal, how many km is it from where the main attractions like the musical box museum is? I do not want to encounter a situation whereby we have to walk very far from one end to the other just to retrieve the car after a long tiring day.

    Appreciate your recommendation of the onsen hotels, however we are looking at private outdoor onsen only and not rooms as it has already been taken care of. Do you know of any?

    Regarding our car rental, how does the ETC work? I have selected it in the online reservation to the company, however not sure if it comes with the card or just the device only? Where can I top up? Also are the toll gantries like the ERPs here or there is a toll booth to pay up before we can proceed?

    As for the other days that we are taking trains/bus, which transport card do can I get at Chitose airport? Will there be a refund for the deposit? I already have an Icoca; I suppose I can use it in Hokkaido too?

    It seems like September is a rainy season, but hopefully it won’t rain that much.

    Looking forward to your kind advice.

    • bumblebeemum says:

      It usually makes little difference whether you park at coin parking or say, inside the parking lot for a department store. Just that if you part at department stores, they usually give you parking rebate if you spend above a certain amount.

      Sakaimachi is not a short stretch of road, so yes, if you park at one end, it will be a long walk back to retrieve your car. Ideally I would just park at one of these carparks:
      https://goo.gl/maps/Btkgo8wBnMu
      https://goo.gl/maps/rMWdLfRKtpN2

      Oh.. You are looking for day use onsen? You can try Lake View Nonokaze at Lake Toya. They have a private bath there, but from the picture it looks like it’s indoors rather than outdoors.
      http://nonokaze-resort.com/spa#kashikiri

      You have to check with your rental company whether the ETC option you checked is for ETC device or it includes the card as well. If they rent you a card, there is no topping up required as the ETC card works like a credit card. The toll fees will be credited to the card and you pay the total to the car rental company at the end of the rental. If you have an ETC card, the ETC lanes work pretty much like our ERP gantry. You don’t need to stop to pay, you just drive through. BUT you need to slow down because there is a gate which will open automatically when it detects your ETC card.

      I don’t use public transport a lot so I always buy train tickets as and when I use the trains, but I would think Icoca can be used in Hokkaido too since it’s supposed to have the same coverage as Kitaca, just issued in a different city.
      http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2359_003.html

      But if you are planning to use public transport in Sapporo extensively, then you can get the Sapica instead because it gives a discount on fares.

      • Miyako says:

        Hi, it’s me again. How do you determine how much yen to bring there? Is money changer widely available in Hokkaido? Perhaps you can provide a guideline? I can use credit card but I suppose the rates will be very poor and not worthwhile. Thanks in advance.

        • bumblebeemum says:

          I have never used a money changer in Hokkaido actually. We will bring enough to cover accommodation that needs to be paid to the hotel, car rental, about 20,000yen per day to cover petrol / tolls / parking, and about 10,000yen per day for food. We don’t really shop, but if you do, maybe you want to bring a bit more for shopping.

  49. ST says:

    Hi BBM
    Hv read your blog on self-drive Autumn to Hokkaido with keen interest. My family and I will arrive be in Hokkaido for a short holiday arriving Chitose on 08Oct noon and leaving on 15Oct. Our planned itinerary is as follows:

    Sat,08/10 – Pick up rental car (yet to book) and set off from Chitose to Noboribetsu (1 night stay)

    Sun, 09/10 – Noboribetsu to Hakodate (1 night stay)

    Mon, 10/10 – Hakodate >> Lake Toya >> Niseko (1 night stay)

    Tue, 11/10 – Niseko >> Otaru (1 night stay)

    Wed, 12/10 – Otaru >>Jozankei >> Sapporo (return car and stay 3 nights)

    Sat, 15/10 – Leave in the morning for New Chitose Airport via Train or Limousine Bus.

    Would like to seek your advice on the above itinerary and the approx. toll fees payable, plse.

    Since it is autumn and the daylight will be short, what would be the time to set off from the point of stay to the next location, taking into account the stops in between for sight-seeing etc etc?

    Appreciate your advice. Thanks

      • ST says:

        Thanks, BBM.
        Understand in Autumn, the daylight is short and sunset around 5pm. May I know, from your experience, at what time in the morning I need to set off for the next destination each day?

        • bumblebeemum says:

          It depends on your itinerary? I don’t set off at the same time every morning. But usually if you stay at ryokans, their check-out time is 10am, so you will need to have breakfast, pack up and leave by 10am. If I’m staying in the city, it depends on how many places I plan to visit that day and how far I need to drive? Some days if I see that I really have a very packed itinerary, I would buy buns for breakfast the night before, pack everyone into the car at like 7am and drive off while the kids continue sleeping and we just eat the buns in the car for breakfast – that kind of thing. But if I just have a short distance to cover for the day and not that many stops planned, we will just leave when everyone wakes up naturally.

  50. vivian chin says:

    Hello, i am visiting hokkaido this coming mid october. May i ask you isit still worth going to furano during mid october? Cause i am going with my family (4 of us) but no children, i was thinking whether i should rent a car or take the public transport, and if i am going to furano, renting car seems like a cheaper option. So i want to ask whether its worth going during mid october? because the peak season is mid july and i wonder if there are any fllowers left during october? Thanks alot :)

    • bumblebeemum says:

      How much time do you have? Yes, a rental car is the most convenient way to visit Furano. Although it’s way past the peak of the flower season in Furano, there will still be autumn flower fields in bloom around Furano and Biei in October. So if you have the time, it is still a beautiful place to visit.

  51. Evelyn says:

    Hi BBM, I am trying to plan a trip with 4 adults and 2 kids at 4 n 2 yo. I am dillema whether to choose travel on mid to late June or mid Oct. As looking at the weather history both month also rain quite a lot and typhoon in Oct too. Can you suggest which month shd opt for? I am planning for a 10 days trip. Thanks a lot

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Yeah.. You’re right, June is pretty rainy and Oct is typhoon season. But I think Mid-Oct is a more beautiful time to visit because of autumn foliage, so I would go for mid-Oct.

      • Mark Lim says:

        Dear Bumblebeemum,

        Thanks for keeping a record of your family journey to Japan and freely sharing your experiences. It was very informative and helpful. Wish I read your blog earlier as we will be heading to Hokkaido on 18th Oct (23:30pm flight) and arrive next morning around 8:30am.

        I have already book through Airbnb for four night stay in Sapporo thinking it will take us sometime to settle down. Wish i could shorten the stay in Sapporo but I cannot cancel it as I have already paid up.

        So here are our plans for a couple and a 6+ old son (first trip to Japan)

        Hence would appreciate your suggestions and tips :):):)

        19 Oct (Wed) arrive CTS at 8:30am

        Spend the day in CTS and make our way to Sapporo around 2pm as we are allowed to only check in after 3pm.

        Explore the neighbourhood and rest.

        20 Oct (Thur) Sapporo

        Spend the day exploring Sapporo city

        21 Oct (Fri) Sapporo

        Spend the day exploring Sapporo city and vicinity area of interest. Have yet to decide is it worth renting a car for the day only.

        22 Oct (Sat) Sapporo

        Pick up a rental car for the day only and travel to the following:

        Otaru (Breakfast) & visit town – Cape Kamui – Neseko (Lunch) – Houheokyou Dam back to Sapporo via Jozankei lake line – return the car so to save on the overnight parking.

        23 Oct (Sun) Pick up the car from Sapporo to Kamifurano

        24 Oct (Mon) Kamifurano

        (may extend another night if we like the place and explore the surrounding)

        25 Oct (Tue) Kamifurano – Asahiyama Zoo (day trip) – Sounkyo

        (may stay in Asahiyama instead and travel to Sounkyo the next day)

        26 Oct (Wed) Sounkyo

        27 Oct (Thur) Sounkyo to Shari

        28 Oct (Fri) Shari – Visit Shiretoko Nature Park

        29 Oct (Sat) Shari – visit Lake Masu – Kushiro

        30 Oct (Sun) Kushiro to Noboribetsu

        31 Oct (Mon) Noboribetsu to Lake Toya

        1 Nov (Tue) Lake Toya – ???

        That is the plan for now, we are still not sure if it is worth travelling to Hokadate after Lake Toya and in between are there any place worth visiting.

        We are deciding to either catch the flight from Hokkaido to Tokyo on the 4 Nov(Fri) or 7 Nov (Mon). Our flight from Tokyo to home will be on the 15 Nov (Tue) 23:30pm. Again we are yet to plan anything yet for Tokyo except two days in Disneyland.

        Would appreciate any suggestions….tks lots :)

        • bumblebeemum says:

          22 Oct: This day is too rushed. You will have to drop Cape Kamui and Niseko. Daylight hours are pretty short, so you will probably only have time for Otaru + Jozankei for a day trip from Sapporo.

          25 Oct: I would stay in Asahikawa. It should be getting dark by the time you’re done with Asahiyama Zoo.

          30 Oct: Kushiro to Noboribetsu is a terribly long drive. I suggest you break up this drive with a night at Tomamu which is kind of mid-point.

          Generally, I find any trip that involves BOTH Hakodate and Shiretoko would be too much driving. Between Hakodate and Shiretoko, I would recommend that you choose only one of them. For your dates, I would head South to Hakodate because there’s a better chance of catching autumn foliage there (particularly at Onuma Koen) and the weather is a bit milder in the south than in the North. You may find yourself caught in snow if you head North.

  52. Josh says:

    Hi BUMBLEBEEMUM, need your help. I’m arriving in NRT on October 28th and need to be in TYO on 2nd November. I would love to visit Hokkaido but not sure where to go as I’ve 5 days and would love to see autumn foliage. I’m flexible and can rent a car. Any suggestions? Thanks.
    PS: you have a wonderful blog

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