Home >> Itineraries,Japan Travel >> Hokkaido Self-drive with kids (June 2014) Part 1 – Chitose -> Lake Toya -> Hakodate -> Niseko -> Otaru

I finally got down to blogging about my June vacation! In June, we went to Hokkaido for 12 days.  There were 3 adults, 2 kids and 1 senior in our group, so we rented a car throughout all 12 days to get around.

I have written two versions of posts for this particular trip: One was for my friends who were more interested to go Hokkaido to eat, and one was for families travelling with kids who were more interested to know what was there for kids to do.  The version you are currently reading is the family-friendly version.  Pop over to this post for the full itinerary of this trip and you will also find links to the foodie-friendly version blog posts at the end.


Day 1

We spent the whole day flying from Singapore to New Chitose Airport and spent the night at Air Terminal Hotel which is connected to the airport.  The kids loved Air Terminal Hotel because all the rooms face the airport runway and they could watch the planes taking off and landing.


Day 2

Lake Shikotsu

We picked up our rental car and drove to Lake Shikotsu.  There was nothing particularly interesting for the kids there, we were there just to take a break for the long drive from Chitose to Lake Toya.

Sobetsu Fruit Village Strawberry Picking

After a quick break, we drove on to Lake Toya.  We first arrived at Sobetsu Fruit Village where we went strawberry picking.

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MF took his strawberry picking very seriously and went all out, digging through the leaves, to find the red ones.  The strawberries here were pretty small and not as sweet as the ones we plucked in Australia, but oh well, it was a fun activity for the kids anyway.

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Lake Toya

For lunch, we went to Sendoan (仙堂庵) which was located on the second floor of the Wakasaimo store along Lake Toya’s southern shore.

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The restaurant offered a beautiful view of Lake Toya.

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We got a table right next to the window with lake view and it was tatatmi style.  The restaurant provided little stools for the kids to sit on.

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The kids meal was excellent value for money! Less than 600 yen and came with a free toy. I would highly recommend dining here if you are visiting Lake Toya with kids.

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There was a cafe at the first storey selling very cute cakes, the kids would love them.

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We went for a short stroll around Lake Toya after lunch.  There was a small playground, but the kids preferred to just jump around and climb up and down the stone sculptures around the lake.

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Next, we drove further West to Lake Hill Farm which is famous for their gelato.

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MF gave a thumbs up for the gelato.

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After eating, we went for a walk around  the farm. It wasn’t much of a farm, just some rabbits, horses and a goat.

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There were balls and racquets for kids to play for free. The kids had fun running around the field chasing the ball.  It was nice to let these hyperactive kids get away from the urban jungle of Singapore and just run around freely in the vast green field and kick the ball without fear of the ball rolling to the road or hitting something or somebody.

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After this, we drove back to our hotel, Toya Sun Palace. We headed straight for the swimming pool which had big slides and a kids play area.

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There was a giant ball thingy for the kids to run around in for a fee.

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There were also floats that you could borrow (free of charge) to ride in the wave pool.

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After swimming, we had buffet dinner at the dining hall.

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Every night from late April to late Oct, there is a 20 minute fireworks display at Lake Toya at 8.45pm. As MY was sleeping, I stayed in the room to watch the fireworks while hubby brought MF to the shore in front of the hotel to watch.

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Day 3

Funkawan Panorama Park

After breakfast at our hotel, we started our long drive to Hakodate. We took a break at PA Yakumo which is next to Funkawan Panorama Park. There was an indoor playground for the kids there which was absolutely free!

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There were also outdoor play areas but it was raining so we couldn’t go.  After the kids had enough fun, we continued the drive to Hakodate.

Hakodate

Our first stop was Lucky Pierrot, a famous burger chain at Hakodate. We visited the branch opposite Goryokaku Tower which had a few free parking lots.

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The kids shared a chicken burger, together with some drinks and fries.

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After eating, we went for a quick visit of Goryokaku Tower and Fort Goryokaku, which were not particularly interesting for the kids.

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MF was much more interested in the Milkissimo ice-cream at the second storey of Goryokaku Tower.

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Next, we visited the Red Brick warehouse district.

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I’m not big on shopping and made a beeline for Snaffles cafe. Snaffles originated in Hakodate, although it also has cafes in Sapporo and its signature cheesecake can be bought at many souvenir shops in Sapporo, Chitose Airport and even in Singapore. However, having tea at Snaffles cafe is still one of my must-do things in Hakodate. At their cafe, you can order their signature cheesecake individually instead of buying the whole box.

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After tea, I brought the kids to Brick Labo located near to the information counter (same building as Snaffles) for some Lego / Duplo fun – free of charge!

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Our next destination was supposed to be Mount Hakodate for its ‘million dollar night view’, but it was super cloudy that day and the mountain was totally surrounded by thick clouds. We figured we weren’t going to get much of a view, so didn’t waste our money going up.  It was a real disappointment, the kids would have loved riding the ropeway.  (They always love all forms of cable cars and ropeways.)

We went for early dinner at Uni Murakami, a restaurant recommend in our guide book.

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We thought we were early, but was told we had to wait an hour! They do accept reservations and told us we could make a reservation for later that evening and come back later. Since the kids were sleeping and my friend’s mum couldn’t walk much, we just sat in the shop and waited for a table. When MY woke up, he entertained himself by looking at the live seafood in the shop.

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The food was not worth the wait. It was way over priced and didn’t pass the taste test either. I’ve had lots of seafood throughout Hokkaido and in my opinion, the seafood here was no way up to Hokkaido standards and the price was above average. The kids enjoyed the uni gratin (which we mixed with rice for them) though.

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 Day 4

Hakodate

The next morning, we visited Hakodate Morning Market.  There are many famous markets in the various cities in Hokkaido, but imo, Hakodate Morning Market is one of the best.

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We started with the infamous squid fishing that is not for the faint-hearted. There are many stores in the market offering squid fishing at different prices, so if you have time, you can walk around to find the best deal. We headed for the originator with the symbolic giant squid structure.

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After we caught our first squid, MF insisted on trying so we paid for another squid and let MF fish for it. He successfully caught a squid!

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After catching the squid, the owner cut it up right in front of us and fresh squid sashimi was served! Watch the squid attempt to stand up even after its body has been severed.

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Do not forget the most exciting part before you start eating: pour a bit of soya sauce on the tentacles and watch it move!

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Next, we went in search for some famed Hokkaido crab. We went to the stall with lots of live crabs facing Hakodate station.

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After the crab feast, we continued exploring the market. We reached a building called Hakodate market square.

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This is where you can try to snitch a good deal with lots of bargaining. Most store owners were willing to bargain and the dried scallops here (after bargaining) was the cheapest we found throughout the trip.  There were some fruit stalls inside and we bought a big apple for the kids (an apple a day keeps the doctor away).  The store owner cut it up for us on the spot.

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We also found a store selling snacks at discounted price.  The kids loved the melon snacks!

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Next, we moved on to a small but very popular store. P1120366

A huge bowl of uni (sea urchin) here only costs 1000 yen!  It was too good to resist.

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Just opposite this store was a store selling super sweet hokkaido melons. Summer is the best time to enjoy sweet hokkaido melons.

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We had eaten everything we wanted to eat at the market and went back to the hotel to get our car. We drove to the Motomachi district, visiting the old Hakodate Public Hall first.

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Next to the public hall was a small alley housing several soft serve stalls and everyone walking out of the alley was holding a soft serve cone. We couldn’t resist buying some for ourselves.

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We wanted to drive around the church district but the roads were closed to vehicles due to road works. It had started raining so nobody wanted to get off the car to walk. We had also planned to drive up to Mount Hakodate for the day view, but it was still totally cloudy so we skipped that.  (It is possible to drive up to Mount Hakodate in the daytime but the road is closed to private vehicles in the evening).

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Onuma Koen

With nothing left on our itinerary for Hakodate, we drove on to our next destination, Onuma Koen.  We dropped by the visitor centre to pick up an area map and MF occupied himself with free colouring activity while we took a toilet break.

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From the visitor centre, we walked over to Numa no Ya (沼の家), a small souvenir shop selling a popular dango. I love the dango here, especially the sesame flavoured ones.

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We then drove over to the car park nearer to the scenic walkway. It was raining pretty heavily and we didn’t want to take the kids out for a walk in the rain. I asked the rest if they wanted to walk while I stayed in the car with the kids, but only hubby was interested. He felt paiseh to let everyone wait for him so we decided to skip it and drive on.

Driving Break at PA Yakumo

Our next destination was Niseko which was 2 hours away. Along the way, we stopped at PA Yakumo again to have our lunch there.  It was much less cloudy compared to the day before and we could see the surrounding park this time round.

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At PA Yakumo, there was a small cafe beside the play area selling simple udon and don. Nothing makes me happier than having a place where the kids could play while I ate.

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Niseko

After lunch, we drove on to Niseko. Our first stop was Niseko Milk Kobo.

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MY enjoyed a cup of hot cocoa!

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The ice-cream and cream puff sold here were also very yummy.

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Our next destination was Mishima san’s Shibazakura garden. We were too late for shibazakura season at Takinoue and Higashimokoto, so we visited this baby version at Niseko. It was past its peak when we were there, but still beautiful nevertheless. We couldn’t get a view of Mount Yotei though because it was totally covered by clouds.

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Next, we went to Fukidashi Park to fetch some spring water. The spring water found here is said to be one of Japan’s 100 best spring water. Don’t forget to bring your own empty bottles!

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Our last stop was for dinner. We went to the restaurant at Hotel Daiichi Kaikan for udon that is made of potato, a specialty of the Kutchan region.

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We spent the night at Powder Tracks at Grand Hirafu. Niseko, being a ski resort, was a dead town in summer and I think we were the only guests in the whole building. There was free laundry at the basement, but it was pretty freaky going down to do laundry at night.  I did it anyway, otherwise the kids would have no more clothes to wear.

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Day 5

Niseko

The next morning, we went for a walk around Hirafu village but there was nothing but construction going on.. lots and lots of construction. Many of the shops close throughout summer and the only place open for breakfast was the Seico convenience store. We grabbed some bread from Seico mart and continued our drive to Shakotan.

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Shakotan

It was a long drive along the Northwestern coast of Hokkaido to the Shakotan area.

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We finally reached Cape Kamui and the kids were thrilled to get off the car and run around.

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We embarked on a hike all the way to the end of the cape.

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The water around the Cape is so blue and clear.

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There were many yellow flowers that look like lilies growing around the Cape.

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MF managed to hike all the way on his own without asking to be carried.

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Celebratory shots upon reaching the end!

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After all that hiking, it was time for lunch! We went to a popular restaurant, Shokudou Misaki, which was located along the main road from Shakotan to Otaru.

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The local specialty was uni (sea urchin). We ordered the uni set that came with uni rice bowl and two live uni.

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While we were enjoying our uni feast, the kids were fast asleep… Totally knocked out by the long hike earlier.

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After the sumptious meal, we drove on to Cape Shakotan.

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There was a flight of stairs to go down to the beach below, but it was drizzling so we just took a quick photo and dashed back into the car.  We continued the drive to Otaru, passing by a supermarket where we grabbed some bread and banana for the kids who missed lunch.

Otaru

Our first stop in Otaru was my favourite ice-cream shop, Kita no Ice, which was located right beside the hotel. Kita no Ice is famous for its many strange flavoured ice-cream. I love their ice-cream because the taste of each flavour is very distinct and strong, yet at the same time the ice-cream remains smooth and creamy.

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Armed with our ice-cream, we crossed the road to the Otaru canal to take photo of the temperature. It has become a ritual (for me at least) to take photo of the temperature while eating ice-cream every time I’m here.

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We went to Otaru Denuki where  I bought some manju from a small little shop window facing the road for the kids because we were going to have sushi for dinner and I wasn’t sure if the sushi restaurant would have anything for the kids to eat. MY loved the manju here!

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We walked towards our dinner place, Toppi sushi, browsing through the souvenir shops along the way. Toppi sushi is a conveyor belt sushi restaurant located along the canal.  Otaru is well-known for their sushi and there is no lack of good sushi restaurants and everyone has their personal favourite.  I like Toppi because it is more budget friendly than the *many* other sushi restaurants around Otaru. Furthermore, Toppi sushi had cooked food like udon and chicken karaage which the kids could eat. The kids were also entitled to free drinks from the juice bar and they even received free toys! It was a great place to dine with kids. (I didn’t take a photo this time round, but here’s a photo of Toppi sushi taken during my earlier trip.)

It was raining so we went back to the hotel, Hotel Vibrant Otaru, after dinner where the kids had fun climbing up and down the double decker bed. -_-

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Day 6

Otaru

The next morning, we left our hotel slightly before 9am and began our eating tour along Sakaimachi.

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Many of the shops were not open yet, except for the shops selling seafood.  It was a rainy gloomy morning and we were starting to get bored walking along the empty streets of Sakaimachi when we were hit by a strong smell of coffee roasting.  We decided to go into the cafe, Kahisakan, for some coffee.

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As we had our coffee, we saw bus loads of tourists and school students on excursion arriving.  By the time we left Kahisakan, the whole street had transformed into a bustling lively street!  Our next stop was Pathos by Le Tao.

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There were giving free sample of their signature double fromage cheesecake.  I LOVE their double fromage cheesecake! But they only sold the whole cake here and that was a bit too much. I made a mental note to visit their main store at the end of Sakaimachi to see if they sold individual slices (which I later forgot to do because I was too full). They do have a cafe selling super yummy-looking crepe and ice-cream drinks, which made me immediately regret wasting stomach space at Kahisakan.

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Just across the road is a haven for chocolate lovers, Le Chocolat (also ran by Le Tao).

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They were also pretty generous with their samples and we got to sample a few different types of chocolates.  Needless to say, the kids loved this place because the staff kept feeding them all sorts of chocolate.

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The next stop was Kitaichi Sangokan (北一三号館). While Kitaichi was famous for their glass, we were there for food.  Afterall, kids and glass do not mix.  We ordered their giant chou cream which was bigger than the kids’ faces!

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Watch how the kids tried to eat a chou cream bigger than their faces.

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Well… It was more fun than tasty. The jumbo chou cream frankly tasted crappy. It was a waste of my precious stomach space.

At the end of Kitaichi Sangokan, there is an ice-cream kiosk selling six-flavoured soft serve. We just had to try one.

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It was pretty yummy, except for lavender flavour. Nobody liked the lavender flavour. Look how the kids managed to work their way around the soft serve, carefully avoiding the lavender flavour.

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Next, we visited my favourite store along Sakaimachi – Kitakaro main store (北菓楼)!  This store is perpetually packed with people. They have a counter selling freshly made chou cream, baumkuchen and soft serve and there’s always a long queue. I especially love their chou cream and it gets sold out by late afternoon.

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Another reason I love Kitakaro is because they are so generous with their samples! I love their cookies, it’s a bit like shiroi koibito but they have more flavours, and you can sample all the flavours in the shop!  The kids went around helping themselves to the endless supply of cookies around the shop.

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By now, I was stuffed silly, so we walked towards the Marchen intersection, skipping Le Tao’s main store and cheesecake lab.

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At the Marchen intersection, you can find the symbolic old lighthouse and one of the world’s two steam clocks.  Every 15 minutes, the steam clock would chime, puffing out steam from the top. At 12 noon, Le Tao’s clock tower also chimed right after the steam clock.

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My friend went in to the Music Box Museum to take a look while I stayed outside with the kids, since bringing *itchy-handed* kids to the music box museum was a bad idea. otaru music box museum

While waiting, we checked out the shops around the Marchen intersection. There were some shops selling character goods, stuffed toys and a Lover’s sanctuary where couples could buy a lock and sign on it before locking them to the tree.

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After my friend came out from the music box museum, we slowly made our way back towards the canal for *ahem* lunch. Yes, we were still going to eat. We couldn’t leave Otaru without another sushi meal. Anyway I have 2 stomachs: one for proper meals and one for sweets and desserts. The proper meals stomach was still empty.

Our lunch place was Masazushi, located right opposite Otaru canal. It was recommended by my friend who lives in Otaru, who told me only tourists go to sushi dori (a famous street in Otaru lined with sushi restaurants) and to come to Masazushi for real good sushi.

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After lunch, I popped over to Otaru Denuki again to buy some of those yummy manju for the kids who couldn’t eat sushi.

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With everyone fully satisfied, we bid farewell to Otaru and drove to Sapporo.

To be continued:  Hokkaido Self-drive with Kids (June 2014) Part 2 – Sapporo


Other posts for this trip

Complete summarized itinerary for this trip
Part 1: New Chitose Airport -> Otaru

Part 2: Sapporo
Part 3: Furano -> New Chitose Airport

Posts of my other 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 Winter (December 2014)
Complete summarized 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


 

This post is archived under my Japan Travel Blog:
japan-travelogue

 

the author

46Comments

  1. […] Continued from: Hokkaido Self-drive with Kids (June 2014) Part 1 […]

  2. […] in Summer (June 2014) Part 1: Chitose, Lake Toya, Hakodate, Niseko, Otaru Part 2: Sapporo Part 3: Furano, Biei, Tomamu, Obihiro, New Chitose […]

    • Munly Lee says:

      Hi Bumble Bee Mum

      Your blog is fantastic.

      I would like to follow your plan in HOkkaido in Summer..How much do we need to spend in JY for the entire trip for about 10 days. Just need to work out our budget. We are planning a self drive to Hokkaido.

      Self driving in Hokkaido will be so much more enjoyable and relaxing.

      • bumblebeemum says:

        As a very rough gauge:

        Accommodation = JPY20,000 per night (spending more at the onsen resorts but less at the city hotel)
        Food = JPY10,000 for food per day
        Car rental = JPY 10,000yen per day
        Petrol / tolls / Parking = 20,000yen total

        For attractions, you can go and check the websites on how much they cost. A lot of attractions are free in Hokkaido. Those that need to pay are like the ropeways and zoo.

  3. Monica says:

    Hihi!

    Love reading your hokkaido blog! It’s so informative and all the places u hv visited looks so interesting

  4. Becky says:

    Dear Bumblebee mum, I am inspired by your blogs on Hokkaido. I am working a rough guide for Hokkaido, may I ask you if you can advice which route is better? Any comments on the itinerary? I will be traveling with my hubby and a 6 year old son. I am interested in activities for my son :-). Thanks.

    1) Land new Chitose airport; depart from Asahiyama airport
    Day 1 arrive New Chitose airport around noon. Check in Sapporo Hotel
    Day 2 Sapporo/ Otaro
    Day 3 Rent a car, drive to Lake Shikotsu, than to Rutsusu. Amusement park and activities. Stay Rutsusu
    Day 4 Rutsusu, Fruit Farm; Stay Rutsusu
    Day 5 Lake Toya and surroundings; stay Lake Toya Sun Palace Hotel
    Day 6 Noboribetsu, Ainu museum, drive to Hoshino resort Tomano
    Day 7 Unkai Terrace, activities in Hoshino, sightsee Furano and Biei
    Day 8 Asahiyama zoo, ramen village. Stay near airport
    Day 9 Return car; Departure from Asahiyama airport.

    2) Land Asahiyama airport; depart from New Chitose airport
    Visits will be in opposite directions.

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Day 3: Lake Shikotsu is not along the way from Sapporo to Rusutsu.
      Day 4: Is there a fruit farm near Rusutsu? The fruit farm I know of in the region is at Sobetsu, which is very near to Lake Toya. You should visit it on the day you are at Lake Toya instead.
      Day 7: Where are you planning to stay for this night? Asahikawa?

      When is your period of travel? That will help determine the direction of travel.

      Also, if you are visiting in July / August, you should spend more time in Furano & Biei.

      • Becky says:

        Dear Bumblebee mum,

        Thanks for your response! I am planning for June 2016, seemed too early but due to busy schedule, perhaps planning early while he starts Primary One next year will not stress me much.

        I don’t know if there is a fruit farm, was just thinking if there is one near Rusutsu, I will follow your recommendation to visit Sobetsu.

        Day 7: Was thinking to stay somewhere in Biei but not sure yet, but plans to fly out of Asahiyama on last day so that we won’t waste time driving back to new Chitose airport.

        Thanks and look forward to your response!

        • bumblebeemum says:

          If you are going in June, you will really need to look at the exact dates to plan your travel.

          For early June, I would recommend flying into Asahikawa and heading for Takinoue Shibazakura Park and Kamiyubetsu Tulip Park. Early June is reaching the tail-end of the shibazakura / tulip season, so I recommend this is you are going the moment June holidays start. Any later, you can just skip it altogether.
          http://takinoue.com/?english
          http://www.town.yubetsu.lg.jp/tulippark/en/

          If you are looking at early-mid June, there are 2 major festivals in Sapporo, and you may want to plan your trip to coincide with them. Yosakoi Soran Festival’s dates are not fixed and you need to check again next year to see when exactly it will happen. But Hokkaido Shrine Festivals dates are fixed on 14-16 June every year.
          http://bumblebeemum.net/2014/06/23/sapporo-festival-hokkaido-shrine-festival-in-june/

          If you are going in late June, then you should start from CTS and end in Asahikawa, pushing Furano and Biei as far back in the month as you can to allow the flowers to bloom more.

  5. irene says:

    on 5december to 11 december 2015- 5 dec and7dec stay at sapporo susukino,7dec to 9dec stay at otaru,9 dec to 11dec stay at hilton niseko
    2 adults and 4 kids (17 year ,15 year ,13year and 9 year

  6. eco says:

    Hello Bumble Bee Mum,

    I have 16 days for Summer trip 28 July 2016 – 12 August 2016, previous you have recommended me self-drive and below is your nicely suggested itinerary:

    Day 1: CTS – Lake Shikotsu – Noboribetsu
    Day 2: Noboribetsu – Lake Toya
    Day 3: Lake Toya
    Day 4: Lake Toya – Sapporo
    Day 5: Sapporo (Day trip to Otaru)
    Day 6: Sapporo
    Day 7: Sapporo – Asahikawa
    Day 8: Asahikawa – Abashiri
    Day 9: Abashiri – Shiretoko
    Day 10: Shiretoko
    Day 11: Shiretoko – Lake Akan
    Day 12: Lake Akan
    Day 13: Lake Akan – Furano
    Day 14: Furano
    Day 15: Furano (Day trip to Biei)
    Day 16: Furano – CTS

    My flight arrive Shin Chitose airport is 8:20am 29/7 (night flight on 28/7) and departure to return on 12/8, 8:55am flight from Shin Chitose airport back to Kuala Lumpur.

    By looking at the itinerary, which part I should tune to best fit my arrival and departure flight? Probably suppose I will miss one or two places.

    May I know the reason why not included Hakodate in the itinerary is it because Summer does not give the best view of Hakodate? (just curious to know)

    Regarding to Furano to Biei day trip on Day 15, will it be better I settle a night Day 13 at Biei, then Day 14 – Biei tour around, thereafter next day check out Day 15 Biei – Furano? Will this help to save the my driving and time?

    I am so amazed you are so familiar and knowing so well about Japan and their places, time, information, food, transportation and accommodation. What would you recommend me to do now to make sure I could get the budget accommodation for places as per listed above? That is my biggest concern because Summer is peak season I am looking for budget accommodation, this is a budget trip. Which website you normally use to book your accommodation?

    Looking forward to hear from you. Thank you.

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Hi, your itinerary looks great, other than the last day. Since you have a morning flight out of CTS, I advise you to return to CTS on Day 15 and spend the last night at Air Terminal Hotel in CTS. And because of that, you should do the day trip to Biei on Day 14 and do Furano sightseeing on Day 15.

      Regarding Hakodate, because Hokkaido is HUGE, I do not advise travelling all the way from North to South as that would result it too much time spent on the road. For readers who want to visit everything from Shiretoko to Hakodate, my general advise is to take open-jaw flights into Memanbetsu Airport and out of Hakodate airport or vice versa. For round-trip from CTS, I do not recommend trying to cover both ends. So I would recommend either the North or South based on the period of travel. For Summer, Shiretoko Five Lakes is very beautiful. It is not a scenery you would get to enjoy if you travel to Hokkaido in, say, winter. The period of travel I would recommend for Hakodate is either during cherry blossom period (late April – early May) or autumn foliage period (late October – early Nov).

      Since you are going to Furano from Lake Akan, I recommend you just stay at Furano and do a day trip to Biei from there.

      Budget travel in the peak of summer (which is when you are visiting) is going to be challenging. You will be happy to get accommodation by booking months in advance. My friends and readers who tried to booking in May / June for July travel to Hokkaido all tell me that almost everything is booked out, except for the most expensive ryokan. So my advise is to book as early as possible, when you still have options. I usually use hotel booking websites such as Agoda, booking.com, hotels.com. If I am not mistaken, hotels.com is having a 10% discount with VISA card by keying in the promo code VISA10. Not sure when the promo ends, you can check it out.

      Another alternative is to try B&Bs (homestays), especially if you are travelling in large groups. Try websites such as homeaway.com.sg, AirBnb, Roomorama, Flipkey etc.

  7. Lucida says:

    Hi BumblebeeMum

    I will be going from Sapporo down to Hakodate by JR train with 2 young kids in mid-december period. Between Toya Sun Palace at Lake Toya and Hotel Mahoroba at Noboribetsu, which one would you recommend me to go to?

  8. Mandy Goh says:

    Hi,

    U have a great blog here. :)
    I am going to hakone and Hokkaido this December on a self drive.
    Would like to ask some questions.
    Hakone
    1.Do I need to get the ETC card and will I be using expressways?
    Day 1 :My itinerary is pickup car at odawara to pirate ship togenda to open air museum to hotel yamayada.
    day 2 : Fuji q park
    Day 3: safari park, gotemba outlets then return car at odawara.

    Hokkaido
    Hakodate – niseko – hell valley – tomamu – asahikawa- otaru – sapporo
    Do we need the etc card or expressway card?
    Is there anywhere along the way which we can see cranes?
    Do u know if there is ice fishing along the way?
    Thanks

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Thank you, glad you like my blog. :)

      For the Hakone part, depending on which route the GPS chooses for you, you may end up on the expressway from Gotemba back to Odawara. Since the distance is pretty short, I don’t think you need an ETC card. You can just pay the tolls in cash.

      For Hokkaido, it does look like you will be on the expressways quite a bit. You should rent an ETC card from the car rental company if they have the service, or you can rent from Tocoo if you book through them.

      The cranes are in Eastern Hokkaido near Kushiro, which is not along your route. December is also too early for ice fishing.

      • Mandy says:

        Hi,

        Can I just check if I can key in the phone number or do I need the map code (which I saw in your blog) for places in hokkaido. Abit confused here. Thanks

        • bumblebeemum says:

          You can use either. I find phone numbers more accurate. But not all places have phone numbers (such as nature spots). Or more inconspicuous hotels / restaurants may not have their phone numbers in the GPS system. So I usually prepare both phone numbers (where available) and map code of my destinations. I try phone number first. If they cannot find my destination, then I will use map code.

  9. Joyce Koh says:

    Hello Bumblebee Mum,

    How did you convert your Singapore drivers license to drive in Hokkaido?
    Are the traffic there different from Singapore?
    Look forward to hear from you!

    Joyce

    • bumblebeemum says:

      You do not convert your license. You need to apply for an international driving permit from AA:
      http://www.aas.com.sg/?show=content&showview=8&val=461

      It’s really easy. You just go to AA, fill in the application and pay the money and they will print your IDP for you on the spot. The IDP has a validity of one year.

      You will need to bring BOTH the IDP and Singapore driving licence with you to Japan to rent a car there.

      Japan’s traffic is the same side as Singapore.

  10. Kate says:

    Hi Bubblebee mum, I’m trying to book Hotel Mahobora for our sep trip. I have 4 adults, one 7yr old and one 5yr old. Should I enter 4 adults in the reservation page or 6 adults? I realize they don’t have a child option in their main reservation page and the prices will be charged based on adult rate. Do you think it’s worthwhile to splurge at this hotel and book one room with private onsen for 2 and a normal room for 4?

    Do you have any experience in Daiichi Takimotokan? Which one is better?

    Thank you!

    • bumblebeemum says:

      You need to look at the room specifications. Most of their rooms can only stay up to 4 people. They seem to have pretty limited rooms that can stay up to 6 people. What I would do is to book 2 rooms for 2 adults each. Then I would pay for the children during check-in.

      Whether or not to splurge on a room with a private onsen is really up to you. Personally I think the public onsen is good enough for me and I would rather spend the money on good food. But like I said, it’s a personal choice.

      Haven’t tried Daiichi Takimotokan. Their location looks good. I wouldn’t mind trying it if it was cheaper than Hotel Mahoroba.

  11. NT says:

    Hi BBM, when booking hotels at Hokkaido, do they enforce on the max no of person in a room ? For eg the hotel states that only 3 yrs ago can use existing bedding but my child is 6 yrs ago; hence do I need to book a twin room or a triple room?

    • bumblebeemum says:

      It really depends on the hotel. You can just book 2 adults and see what the hotel says during check-in. Some hotels have asked us to pay for the kids during check-in (even without providing extra bedding) while some hotels just let it be. The times when I will include the children in our booking is when meals are provided by the hotels. If there are no meals included, I usually only book for 2 adults.

  12. May says:

    Hi bumblebeemum,

    Enjoyed reading your blogs on Hokkaido and it’s very informative. I’m planning for a road trip to Hokkaido in mid-may, not sure if you could advice if an ETC card is needed as I’m unsure of how many expressway will be used? my itinerary is as follows:

    11May- Chitose to Sapporo for cherry blossom viewing
    12May- collect rental car from Sapporo, drive to lake toya
    13May- lake Toya to hakodate
    15May- Hakodate to noboribetsu
    16May- noboribetsu to Asahikawa
    17May- Asahikawa to Yubetsu and Takinoue (day trip)
    18May- Asahikawa to biei and furano
    20May- Furano to Shintoku
    21May- Shintoku to tomamu to see unkai, drive back to Sapporo ( on the way visit mitsui outlet) and drop the car

    Look forward to hearing from you soon!

  13. Jas says:

    Hi Bumblebee Mum, ur blog is so informative! May i know for ur trip wif 3 adults, 1 snr and 2 kids, the model of car u had rented? Is the enough boot space to keep all the luggage? Thx!

    • bumblebeemum says:

      I travel VERY light. In total we only had 2 large luggage cases and 1 cabin-size luggage. We rented a 7 seater (we got a Toyota Wish eventually) and managed to fit in our 2 big luggage + 1 small luggage + a small Maclaren stroller. Our kids used 1 child seat and 1 booster.

  14. hellohello says:

    Hi!

    Thanks for all your detailed Hokkaido blog posts. Just wondering… for places like Furano, Biei, Shikotsu-Toya: is it possible to explore the area without a car? I’m going on a trip in early September with my mother, and both of us cannot drive. I’m able to find information on how to get to those places, but I’m not sure how much we can actually see within the area without a car.

    Thank you! :)

    • bumblebeemum says:

      It is possible, just that you will need to figure out the bus routes and bus timetables. And you will probably need to keep your itinerary loose because buses are pretty infrequent.

  15. Sharon says:

    Hi, I love reading ur blog! I must have referred to it at least 50 times since I’ve started researching for my trip in Dec!
    I’ve a couple of questions that I hope u can help me with.. I’m thinking of renting a car for a day to travel between Lake Toya and Noboribetsu, n to explore the sightseeing areas. I’m travelling with my mum, bro n 3 year old. There will be luggages n a pram thus I don’t really want to do a bus-train-bus route between the onsen towns. Would u know if there are any car rental companies in Toya Onsen area that I can rent a car from, n return it at Noboribetsu Onsen area? I’m booked for Hotel Grand Toya n Mahoroba Hotel. Thanks!

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Where will you be before and after Lake Toya / Noboribetsu? Usually I would recommend renting a car from Sapporo for a side-trip to this region.

      • Sharon says:

        Hi, I would be from Hakodate but I’m trying to minimize driving as we have no experience in driving in the snow. We will be taking the hotel shuttle to Sapporo after Noboribetsu.

        • bumblebeemum says:

          I am not sure about car rental offices are Noboribetsu onsen town itself. But if you would like to pick up at Toya station and return to Noboribetsu station, you can try JR Hokkaido Rent A Car:
          https://www.jrh-rentacar.com/

          So what you can do is pick up from Toya, drive around Lake Toya to Noboribetsu and from Noboribetsu station, after returning the car, just cab to the onsen town.

        • bumblebeemum says:

          I just found this online for a car rental office at Noboribetsu onsen town:
          http://daikokuya-m.com/sp/en_car_rental.html

          They say cars from other outlets cannot be returned to there. So I guess your best option would be to return the car to Noboribetsu station.

          • Sharon says:

            Thanks for your reply! I changed my itinerary abit and yes I’ll be renting a car from Toya station and returning it the next day at Noboribetsu station. Thanks for yr help!

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