Home >> Japan Travel >> Hokkaido Self-drive with kids (June 2014) Part 1: New Chitose Airport – Lake Shikotsu – Lake Toya – Hakodate

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.

Day 1: Singapore – New Chitose Airport

On the first day of our trip from , we flew from Singapore to Narita and Narita to Chitose via ANA. The transit at Narita was pretty straightforward when we flew all the way with ANA. We checked in at Singapore and received our boarding passes for both flights. After clearing the customs at Narita, we picked up our luggage and followed the sign to ‘domestic transfer’ and there was a counter for us to drop off our luggage again. There was no need to lug our luggage around the airport and to check in again for the domestic sector.

We had 4 hours at Narita Airport which we just bummed away. Narita Airport was pretty boring, the only thing remotely interesting were the cute Hello Kitty and Pokemon airplanes.

The tourist information counter lady recommended we visit Narita city, but I had just done that in my previous visit and did not fancy doing it again. If you have not done it before, you could do it because 4 hours is a long time at boring Narita Airport. Whatever it is, DO NOT go into the domestic boarding area until it is close to boarding time because there is nothing there besides one small lonely souvenir kiosk.

Finally, after a flight delay and long queue to take off at Narita, we arrived at Chitose at 9 pm.  Everything was closed by then, so we just checked in to Air Terminal Hotel which was connected to Chitose Airport and stayed there. MF complained that he was hungry and the only thing to eat at that time was vending machine food.  Do not underestimate vending machine though, the vending machine at the hotel had hot food like yaki soba, takoyaki and fried rice. There were also cup noodles for sale at the hotel lobby. MF ended up eating yaki soba from the vending machine which was not bad at all.

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 our room faced the airport runway and they could watch the planes taking off and landing.

Day 2: New Chitose Airport – Lake Shikotsu – Sobetsu Fruit Village – Lake Toya

We picked up our rental car and drove first to Lake Shikotsu. Lake Shikotsu was pretty boring in summer. The only reason I was here was for my favourite cheese imo mochi. Imo mochi is a popular snack in Hokkaido. Unlike normal mochi that is made of flour, imo mochi is made of potato.

You can find imo mochi at many snack kiosks in Hokkaido, but after trying out so many, my favourite is still this cheese imo mochi at Lake Shikotsu. It is sweet and crispy on the outside, soft on the inside and oozing with hot yummy cheese.

The snack kiosk was located beside the Lake Shikotsu Tourist Information Centre. There are tables and chairs inside the shop where you can sit and dine.  It is also a souvenir shop and there were some crackers for sample. I remember the squid cracker was pretty yummy.  Another popular item here was the soft-serve, which according the to sign is #2 in Japan and #1 in Hokkaido!

After having our fill of cheese imo mochi, we went for a walk around the lake before hitting the road again.

There was nothing particularly interesting for the kids at Lake Shikotsu, but it was good spot to take a break during the long drive from Chitose to Lake Toya.

I don’t think the kids minded being able to get off the car for stroll.  Or run.  Whatever.

After we were done eating and strolling around the lake, we drove on to Lake Toya. We had planned a rest stop at Kinoko Oukoku, which is a shop specialising in mushroom products, but the kids were asleep when we reached there so we skipped it.

Just before reaching Lake Toya, we reached Sobetsu Fruit Village. We stopped to pick some strawberries at Takashina Fruit Farm which was the only farm open in early June. We paid the entry fee and were free to pluck and eat as many as we liked and there was no time limit. We were pretty noob and didn’t bring anything to wash the strawberries, the Japanese people there brought their own cup and water for washing the fruits. So if you’re planning to go fruit picking, don’t forget to bring a cup.

It was still early in the season and many of the strawberries were still pretty green, so we had to dig around a bit to find the red ones. I didn’t think the strawberries here were very sweet. The ones we plucked in Australia were much nicer!

Nevertheless, strawberry picking was a fun activity for the kids, regardless the taste of the strawberries. MF took his strawberry picking very seriously and went all out, digging through the leaves, to find the red ones.

It started drizzling while we were doing our strawberry picking.  But thankfully we were inside sheltered tents, so we could continue the picking in spite of the drizzle.

Although we were allowed to stay as long as we wished at the strawberry farm and pluck & eat as much as we wanted, our visit was cut short when MY decided to poo and we had to go back to the car to change his diapers.  #RealityofFamilyTravel

We drove on to Lake Toya for lunch at Sendoan (仙堂庵) which was located on the second floor of the Wakasaimo store along Lake Toya’s southern shore.

The restaurant offered a beautiful view of Lake Toya, which you could enjoy if you had a seat next to the giant windows.  Which we did.  The tables next to the window were tatami-style and the restaurant provided little stools for the kids to sit on.

The food was delicious and reasonably priced.  Below is the menu when we were there, you can click to enlarge it.

Lake Toya is known for its hotate (scallop), so we ordered all sorts of hotate cuisine.  Those who didn’t take raw food could order friend hotate.

Or hotate wappameshi.  Which I DO NOT recommend.

IMHO, fresh hotate is best eaten raw.  The raw hotate here was splendid! Sweet with a slight crunch of freshness, it was the best hotate we had during the whole trip. We loved the hotate that came with the hotate ikura don so much that we ordered 2 more servings of hotate sashimi.

Each set meal served at Sendoan came with a big bowl of soup, cooked with baby scallops.

The kids meal here was also 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.

If you are here after lunch and too full to dine at Sendoan, there was a cafe at the first storey selling very cute cakes. The kids would love them.

After our lunch, we went downstairs to check out the rest of the Wakasaimo store.  This is Wakasaimo’s mascot, Mr Wakasaimo.  If I’m not mistaken, he represents Wakasaimo’s signature snack.  Which is a potato-shaped looking snack made of yam.

if you want to try Wakasaimo’s signature confectionery, just grab some samples from the store.  They were pretty generous with them.  (Japanese are generally very generous with their samples.)  If you like them, you can buy a couple of boxes home!

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.

But if you’re wondering what the playground looks like, here’s a photo from our Oct 2013 trip.

There are plenty of things to explore around Lake Toya, such as taking the sightseeing boat, riding the ropeway up Mount Usu or walking around the trail at Nishiyama Crater Promenade, but we were in eating mode and drove further West to Lake Hill Farm for more food.

Lake Hill Farm was famous for their gelato.  Which received a thumbs up from MF.

We also bought a chou cream to try, but the chou cream was disappointing. The filling was okay, but the crust was dry and tasteless.

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

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.

While the kids were well-entertained, I went to check out the surroundings of Lake Hill Farm.  And I reckoned that if the weather wasn’t so gloomy, we would have gotten a pretty nice view from the farm.

I also found some of these pretty purplish flowers, which I think are wisterias?

After our visit to Lake Hill Farm, we drove back to our hotel, Toya Sun Palace.

Can’t say I loved the decor in the room much, but I was quite happy to have a lake view!

We headed straight for the swimming pool which had big slides and a kids play area.

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

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

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

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.

Day 3: Lake Toya – Yakumo – Hakodate

The next morning, once MY woke up, he headed straight for the window to check out the lake view outside.  It was nice to see the city kid having an appreciation for nature! Must be my genes.

Breakfast was served in the same buffet hall where we had dinner the previous evening.  But because it was dark when we had dinner, I didn’t realise what a view the buffet hall had!

After having more amaebi (sweet shrimps) and ika (squid) that morning than in an entire year in Singapore, it was time to bid farewell to Lake Toya.

We started our long drive to Hakodate.  Along the way, 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!

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.  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.

My favourite burger from Lucky Pierrot was their hotate burger.  Which we had with cola in a Lucky Pierrot can.  Lol.. Gotta love buying touristy stuff like that.

After eating, we went for a quick visit of Goryokaku Tower.

Goryokaku Tower offered a pretty unique view of a city, surrounding the star-shaped Fort Goryokaku.

I had been to Goryokaku Tower before and, while the view was nice and I do recommend visiting it if you are in Hakodate for the first time, it was not a place that warranted a second visit. So while hubby and his friend and MF went up the tower, I went for a walk around the fort with MY.

Fort Goryokaku is most well-known for its cherry blossoms, making it one of Hokkaido’s top cherry blossom sites.  However, June was way too late for cherry blossoms.  Though there were other flowers in bloom.

From Goryokaku, we drove on to the Red Brick warehouse district.

I love the rustic look of the Red Brick Warehouse district, and the old metallic doors and windows.

There was no way I could resist getting a Frappe from gorgeous Starbucks at the red brick warehouse district.

But if you’re looking for something more uniquely Hakodate, head to Snaffles cafe instead. 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.  And they also serve a wide range of cakes besides their signature cheesecake, which you can enjoy with drinks.

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!

Hubby and his friend went around shopping in the meantime. Hubby came back with lots of cuttlefish snacks (Hakodate is known for its abundance of squid and their dried cuttlefish snacks are pretty fresh and yummy.)

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 we 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.)  Let me just insert a photo I took from Mount Hakodate donkey years ago.

Since we skipped the trip up Mount Hakodate, we had an early dinner at Uni Murakami, a restaurant recommend in our guide book.

It could have been earlier, if not for the fact that 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.

After waiting for an hour and finally getting our food, I didn’t think it was 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.

Day 4: Hakodate – Yakumo – Niseko

I woke up at 5+ am in the morning and everyone was still asleep.  Since the sun was up already, I decided to go for a walk around Hakodate city centre.

After the kids woke up, 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.

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 pioneer with the symbolic giant squid structure.

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!

After catching the squid, the owner cut it up right in front of us and prepared the freshest possible ika sashimi.

Watch the squid attempt to stand up even after its body has been severed.  Eeeks!  Like I said, not for the faint-hearted.

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

Screenshot 2014-06-24 00.25.41

I recommend you start eating the body first before you eat the tentacles and chewing the tentacles real well. If you pop the tentacles into your mouth straight away, it’s gonna stick to your throat!

If you find this experience too mild, I dare you to try the dancing squid bowl at one of the eateries in the building close to Hakodate station.  Just search ‘dancing squid bowl’ on youtube for video demonstration.

Next, we went in search for some famed Hokkaido crab. We went to the stall with lots of live crabs facing Hakodate station. We told the guy we wanted our crab half sashimi and half BBQed and he went to find suitable crabs for us. He showed us two crabs, weighed it and displayed the price and we chose one. We chose a big one for a pretty reasonable price of 7000 yen.

I have never been a fan of Hokkaido crab as the ones I tried have always been tasteless and a chore to eat. However, the crab we had here was a pleasant surprise – at least the BBQ portion was.  The crab shell was cut open for us, making it easy to take the meat out. The meat came off easily and it was so sweet and juicy!  All the BBQ crabs I had before were dry with the meat stuck to the shell, this one was just the opposite.

The sashimi portion was disappointing though – it was cold and icy and absolutely tasteless. We should have just BBQed the whole thing.

After the crab feast, we continued exploring the market. We reached a building called Hakodate market square. 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.  We also found a store selling snacks at discounted price.  We tried to bargain but the owner refused to barge because the price he offered was already discounted. We bought many packets of my favourite Hori corn chocolate for 320 yen (usual price was 360 yen) each and we didn’t come across any store that sold cheaper than this for the rest of the trip.

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

A huge bowl of uni (sea urchin) here only costs 1000 yen!  It was too good to resist.  They also had other seafood such as abalone for 2000 yen and botan ebi (gigantic prawns) for 700 yen.

Just opposite this store was a store selling super sweet hokkaido melons. Summer is the best time to enjoy sweet hokkaido melons. Although the melon was very sweet, I was a bit miffed with how stingy they are with their spoons. They only lent us one spoon for each slice we bought (regardless of whether you buy a big slice or small slice) and kept reminding us to return the spoon like we were planning to steal them. Sheesh.

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

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.

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).

With nothing left on our itinerary for Hakodate, we drove on to our next destination, Onuma Koen.

To be continued in the following post…

Hokkaido Self-drive with kids (June 2014) Part 2: Onuma Koen – Niseko – Shakotan Peninsular

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

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the author

Supposed to be a stay-home mom, but hates staying home. Definition of parenting is bringing the boys out for 'experiential learning' in Singapore, Japan and wherever else in the world her husband can afford to pay for.

58Comments

  1. […] 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.

  2. Monica says:

    Hihi!

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

  3. 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.

  4. 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

  5. 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.

  6. 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?

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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!

  12. 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.

  13. 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.

  14. Gary says:

    About Uni Murakami – I supposed the other seafood weren’t that good? I thought the uni was excellent though my friend didn’t like it either (no fishy taste he said….) We wrote our own review and pictures as well so do check it out in your free time. Thanks for your recommendations!!
    http://garysyayornay.blogspot.com/2016/06/uni-murakami-hakodate-honten-6-june-2016.html

    • bumblebeemum says:

      You’re clever to make reservation!! We waited so long for a table… Maybe with longer wait came higher expectations and hence disappointment for us. Your uni looks lovely!

  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!

  16. Audrey says:

    Dear Bumblebeemum,
    I was going to use this blog post as a reference for my upcoming trip (1st time to Hokkaido) until I realised I had booked my trip right smack in GW 🙁
    I was hoping you could give me some advice on initerary or any tips. I’m travelling with the hubby and a 2 yr old,we’ve secured car rental for a week (30 Apr to 8 May).

    Many many thanks in advance.

    Regards

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Just try to book your accommodation early for GW. GW is actually cherry blossoms season in Hokkaido. So you should plan to visit Hakodate (particularly Fort Gorykaku) and Matsumae Castle for cherry blossoms. This is what you can do:

      30 Apr: CTS – Noboribetsu
      1 May: Noboribetsu – Hakodate
      2 May: Hakodate
      3 May: Hakodate (day trip to Matsumae)
      4 May: Hakodate – Lake Toya
      5 May: Lake Toya – Sapporo
      6 May: Sapporo
      7 May: Sapporo (day trip to Otaru)
      8 May: Sapporo – CTS

  17. Kelvin says:

    Hi there,

    I am planning for my first trip to Hokkaido this coming June, here is my plan, can you help to advice ?
    some details:
    – 4 members family ( 2 kids, 3 yrs, 6 yrs )
    – Plan to rent car for whole trip

    Date time activity hotel
    16-Jun-17 8.30am CTS airport
    stay a night Noberibetsu Noberibetsu
    17-Jun-17 Noberibetsu & Toya/ drive to Hokkadate Hokkadate
    18-Jun-17 drive to niseko Niseko
    19-Jun-17 morning visit Shakotan peninsular / drive to otaru at evening Otaru
    20-Jun-17 morning visit otaru / depart to Sapporo at evening Sapporo
    21-Jun-17 visit sapporo Sapporo
    22-Jun-17 depart to biei, visit Biei Biei
    23-Jun-17 morning depart to Furano, visit Furano Furano
    24-Jun-17 Visit Furano, can also stay in Furano, Asahikawa/Furano
    25-Jun-17 Visit Asahikawa, drive back to airport hotel airport hotel
    26-Jun-17 9.20am CTS airport – fllight back to KL

    • bumblebeemum says:

      17 June looks a bit rushed if you want to visit Lake Toya enroute to Hakodate. That doesn’t really leave to you much time for Hakodate.

      For the last few days, I suggest you do Furano – Biei – Asahikawa in that order.

  18. Dawn says:

    Hi! Been a fan of your travel blogs to Japan, thanks for being generous to share your travels with us. Haven’t seen much of itinerary in Autumn except for ur trip in Oct2013. I have 7 whole days in mid Oct 2017. Want to visit the following areas:
    Houheikyou Dam (for autumn foliage), Otaru (sushi! Etc)
    Lake Toya (Usuzan ropeway, etc)
    Furano, Biel (for flower fields)
    What would be your recommendation on preferred route? We have 2 young kids, 3yo and 14mo, at time of trip, along with my hubby and my parents.
    Any value for money ryokan/onsen with half/full board to recommend? Thanks!

  19. Then says:

    Hello, please advise my itinerary as below:
    Day 1, arrive Chitose airport at 8.30, drive to Lake Toya then Noboribetsu
    Day 2, drive from Noboribetsu to Furano
    Day 3 Drive from Furano to Biei
    Day 4 Biei, drive to Asahidake in the evening
    Day 5 Asahidake, drive to Sounkyo in the late afternoon
    Day 6 Sounkyo, depart to Sapporo by taking train in the late afternoon
    Day 7& 8 Sapporo
    Day 10 back

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Day 1 looks a bit tiring, especially if you’re doing it right after a red-eye flight. Between Lake Toya and Noboribetsu, I would choose just one.

      For Day 6, are you going to return the car to Asahikawa and train back to Sapporo? I would drive back to Sapporo and return the car at Sapporo. Dropping the car off and taking train back would incur quite a hefty drop-off fee and train tickets are not that cheap either.

  20. YL says:

    I planning for a trip to Hokkaido for family of 2A 3C but I need advice for the hotels at Lake Toya, Hakkodate and Otaru

    Day 1 Chitose Airport- Toya (stay at Lake Toya, deciding between airbnb or Nonokaze resort but the latter is quite expensive at $860 but nice view)
    Day 2 Lake toya – yakumo – hakkodate ( stay in hakkodate)
    Day 3 Hakkodate
    Day 4 Hakkodate – Otaru (stay in Otaru)
    Day 5 Otaru
    Day 6 Otaru – Sapporo
    Day 7 Sapporo
    Day 8 sapporo – Chitose airport

    Many thanks for your advice

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Ahaha.. Yeah, Nonokaze can be expensive. If budget is your main concern, AirBnb is probably cheaper. But you are kind of missing out the whole point of going to an onsen town I feel? The best part of staying at an onsen town is to soak in an onsen while enjoying the view, and treating yourself to a good dinner and breakfast that usually comes with the stay.

      Sometimes I feel that, go all the way there already, just pay and enjoy lah. The trick is the save on the city hotels but splurge on the onsen ryokans. I often stay in small and cramp room from budget hotel chains in the cities, so that I can splurge on a ryokan stay with half-board and still keep to a reasonable budget at the end of the day. Considering the rest of your trips are in cities, I would suggest you stay in a ryokan at Lake Toya.

      But of course, we all have a max budget we are willing to pay and $860 does sound a bit steep. I suggest you use a booking site like booking.com to see if you can find a ryokan that is a good balance between price and review:
      http://www.booking.com/searchresults.html?city=-246603&aid=957812&no_rooms=1&group_adults=2&room1=A%2CA

  21. PJ says:

    hi, i’ve been wrecking my brains over my car rental issue in hokkaido (oct). I’m travelling with total 5 adults + 2 kids, 1 and 3 years old. From your experience, do you think we can fit into a 8 seater car (Voxy) with 2 big suitcase? As the kids need child seats, we would not be able to lower the third row to put any luggage.

    From your experience, is it possible to put 2 large suitcases between the third row and the back door? And if the 2 child seats are both in the middle row, is it still possible for an adult (skinny) to fit there?

    Really appreciate your advice, thanks!!

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