Home >> Japan Travel >> Hokkaido with Kids (December 2014) Part 1: Sapporo (White Illumination and German Christmas Market, Jyogai Ichiba, Mitsui Outlet Park Kitahiroshima)

Before I begin, let me stress that this was not our family’s first time to Sapporo.  So if you are visiting Hokkaido for the first time, you may not exactly want to follow what we did here.  Because rather than going around to visit conventional tourist destinations, we kind of just hung around shopping, eating and chilling for the first 3 days of our trip. :p

Let me start with how we spent our 3 days in Sapporo.  And at the end of the post, I will share more travel ideas for visitors, particularly first-timers.

Day 1: Susukino

On the first day, we arrived at New Chitose Airport in the morning and went to check in early to our hotel, Mercure Hotel Sapporo, to wash up and rest. We had booked an extra night starting from the day before we arrived, so we could check in early in the morning.   One thing I learned from our Australia trip was to not plan anything major on the first day after an overnight flight with kids, because everyone would be tired and cranky.

We spent the rest of the day just shopping and eating around Susukino area, not forgetting to hit our favourite oyster joint, Go Tsubo.

Day 2: Susukino, Sapporo White Illumination

On the second day, we spent the whole morning at Dino’s, an entertainment complex very near the hotel.  We first stopped by Nakau, a Japanese fast food outlet (by fast food in Japan, we mean beef rice, udon etc, NOT burger and fries) for breakfast.

Feeling full and energetic, we went for unlimited bowling at Dino’s.  The bowling here was great for kids! They had kids ball so light that MY (who was not even 2 yo yet) had no problem carrying.  They had bowling shoe sizes so super tiny that I think any toddler who was able to walk would be able to find shoes of the right size here!  And the boys super loved the ball slopes for easy peasy ‘bowling’ and bumper lanes that prevented the balls from falling into the drain.

We bowled from 10.30am until almost 2pm and went for lunch and did a little shopping around the Susukino area before going back to the hotel to rest.    And in the evening, we did our first propoer sightseeing, heading to Odori Park for the White Illumination and German Christmas Market.

I have been to quite a number of illuminations in Japan, and to be honest, Sapporo White Illumination was rather small-scale in comparison.

While I wasn’t too impressed with Sapporo White Illumination after visiting the likes of Kobe Luminarie and Sagamiko Illumillion, I enjoyed strolling around the German Christmas Market.  Because, well, I have never been to a real German Christmas Market before.

Furthermore, I thought it was great that they had roaming Santa Claus going around the Christmas Market to take photos with visitors!

We headed back to Susukino where we had dinner at a yakiniku restaurant, Kanechan. I was pretty disappointed with the meal – the servings were small and expensive.  Hubby and I agreed that the yakiniku restaurant we visited in June was better.

Day 3: Jyogai Ichiba, Mitsui Outlet Park Kitahiroshima

On the third day, we started the morning with a visit to Jyogai Ichiba (also known as Sapporo Central Wholesale Market / Curb Market).  Since we weren’t driving, we took the FREE shuttle bus provided by Kita No Gourmet to get there.  The travel desk at the hotel made the reservation for us and the bus picked us up from the hotel – very convenient!

Below is a copy of the leaflet we picked up with their shuttle bus timing and the number to call to make reservation for the shuttle service.  Do note that reservation is required for the shuttle.

We had our breakfast (and by breakfast we mean sashimi platter and chirashi don, NOT bacon and eggs) once we reached there.

After eating, we shopped around the rest of the market before taking Kita No Gourmet’s shuttle service back.  We had a choice to drop off back at our hotel or at Sapporo station. We decided to go to Sapporo station where we shopped around for a bit, before catching a bus to Mitsui Outlet Park Kitahiroshima.

The easiest way to get to Mitsui Outlet Park from Sapporo / Susukino area was the take the direct bus.  From Sapporo Station, look for the bus-stop outside Tokyu Department store.



The bus then made stops at every block South of Sapporo station until Minami 4 (which is where Mercure Hotel is), so you can board at a nearer bus stop if you are at Odori Park or Susukino.  The map below shows where the bus stops are:


(Above image taken from Mitsui Outlet Park’s official website. Also refer to their website for the bus timetable.)


We spent the afternoon shopping at Mitsui Outlet Park.  The kids spent quite a bit of time at the free play area inside the Lego shop:


The Lego shop at Mitsui Outlet Park Kitahiroshima has a free Duplo and Lego play areas for kids!


And we had dinner at the food court which was a great place to dine with kids!


Play area and family dining area at the food court of Mitsui Outlet Park Kitahiroshima


Young kids can sit and dine comfortable here because of the low table and chairs!


We missed the last direct bus back to Susukino (which was at 5pm on a weekday / 6pm on weekends) and had to use the long (and more expensive) way to get back: Taking the bus to Fukuzumi station, followed by subway to Hosui-Susukino station.

The next morning, we picked up our rental car in the morning, checked out of the hotel and started our drive to Asahikawa.

Other Sapporo Travel Ideas

As I mentioned, this was not our first trip to Sapporo and hence we skipped the more common tourist destinations in Sapporo.  But here are some other places in Sapporo that are worth visiting:

Shiroi Koibito Park

Shiroi Koibito Park, also known as Ishiya Chocolate Factory - who can resist a chocolate factory?

Shiroi Koibito Park, also known as Ishiya Chocolate Factory – who can resist a chocolate factory?

Shiroi Koibito Park is beautiful in winter!

Shiroi Koibito Park is beautiful in winter!

Enter the chocolate corridor!

Enter the chocolate corridor!

Witness how the famous Shiroi Koibito cookie is made.

Witness how the famous Shiroi Koibito cookie is made.

Dine at the cafe with a beautiful view.

Dine at the cafe with a beautiful view.

Little snow huts for kids to play at.

Little snow huts for kids to play at.

Stay till evening time for the Christmas lightings.

Stay till evening time for the Christmas lightings.


Mount Moiwa

View from the ropeway

View from the ropeway

Bird's eye view of Sapporo city covered with snow.

Get a bird’s eye view of Sapporo city covered with snow.


Sapporo Beer Factory


Sapporo Beer Factory in winter

The beer museum is free to enter.

Best place to grab some freshly brewed Sapporo beer.

ARIO shopping complex next to Sapporo Beer Factory is a great place to visit with kids!


Sapporo Factory

Do not confused Sapporo Beer Factory with Sapporo Factory - they are different places!

Do not confuse Sapporo Beer Factory with Sapporo Factory – they are different places!

Sapporo Factory is actually a shopping complex.

Sapporo Factory houses a beautiful shopping complex.


To be continued….

Hokkaido with Kids (December 2014) Part 2: Asahikawa, Akan National Park (Lake Akan, Lake Mashu, Iozan, Lake Kussharo)


Posts from the same trip:

Summarized itinerary for 17-day trip
Part 1: Sapporo
Part 2: Asahikawa, Akan National Park
Part 3: Kushiro, Obihiro, Tomamu
Part 4: Niseko, Noboribetsu, Lake Toya, Rusutsu
Part 5: Otaru, New Chitose Airport

Posts from our other Hokkaido Trips:

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):

Part 1: New Chitose Airport, Lake Shikotsu, Lake Toya, Hakodate
Part 2: Onuma Koen, Niseko, Shakotan
Part 3: Otaru
Part 4: Sapporo
Part 5: Furano, Biei, Tomamu, Obihiro, New Chitose Airport

Visit our Japan Travel Blog

Find more guides and itineraries for Japan travel on our Japan Travel Blog!

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.


  1. […] itinerary for 17-day trip Part 1: Sapporo Part 2: Asahikawa, Akan National Park Part 3: Kushiro, Obihiro, Tomamu Part 4: Niseko, Noboribetsu, […]

  2. […] ← Hokkaido with Kids (December 2014) Part 1: Sapporo (White Illumination and German Christmas M… Hokkaido with Kids (December 2014) Part 3: Kushiro, Obihiro, Tomamu → […]

  3. […] itinerary for 17-day trip Part 1: Sapporo Part 2: Asahikawa, Akan National Park Part 3: Kushiro, Obihiro, Tomamu Part 4: Niseko, Noboribetsu, […]

  4. […] Mitsui Outlet Park Sapporo If you are headed to this outlet park for a whole day of shopping galore, there is a play areas there right smack in the middle of the food court.  So you know you are saved when the kids get cranky from following you around on your shopping.  They also have stroller rental service and nursing rooms… Awesome.  Click here to read about my visit to Mitsui Outlet Park in December 2014! […]

  5. Christine Lau says:

    hi your blog is so useful . Thank you for doing it . We have a 4.5 years old daughter and a 2 year old son. We are about to go to Hokkaido for 2 weeks for the first time . We have booked to stay in Mercure Hotel in Sapporo as well. Im just bit worried about the bus trip from airport to the hotel because my son is very active and fidgety . How am I going to keep him entertained for the whole trip for more than 2 hours? How was your experience with your 2 boys? Or I properly should take the express train , so he can walk around safely at least .
    I would like to ask you that we plan to hire a car from Sapporo and drive to Furano area for the flower field and stay in the local Japanese ppl house for one night. Next day I have booked Tomamu resort for 2 nights .Is it possible to return the car after we arrive in Tomamu?
    Thank you very much for your time .

    • bumblebeemum says:

      For Susukino, the best way to get there is by bus. The bus ride from New Chitose Airport to Susukino is only 1 hour. Train is not advisable because you will still need to transfer to subway which is a real hassle with kids and luggage involved. If my boys get super fidgety, I resort to the iPad. But it must be switched to silent mode.

      Regarding returning the car at Tomamu, you can probably do that but there will be drop-off fees. Toyota Rent A Car has a outlet at Tomamu:

      So it is possible to rent a car from Toyota at Sapporo and return it to Toyota at Tomamu. After that, you will need to take the resort shuttle bus from Tomamu station to the hotel.

  6. Connie says:

    Hi! I’ve been reading & enjoying your posts on Hokkaido and really appreciate all your kind sharing about your experiences there.

    May I seek your advice on which days should I spend at Furano & Hakodate as I plan to spend 2 nights each at these 2 towns. Which town is better for the weekend pls? Thanks so much for your kind help.

    • bumblebeemum says:

      I would expect Furano hotels to be pricier over weekends and Hakodate to be more or less the same weekday or weekend. So I would put Hakodate on the weekend. You can just do a quick search on booking site for hotel prices for your specific dates and see which combination turns out to be cheaper.

  7. Nic says:

    Hi Bumblebee Mum
    Loves reading your blog on all the kids stuff! And envy all your Japan trips. Finally, decided to bring my kids (3yrs and 7yrs) to Hokkaido from 15-24 Dec. This is our first trip to Japan/Hokkaido and hubby is not confidence to drive during winter, hence not intending to drive.
    Would like the kids to have their first experience with snow slides, tubing etc. Skiing might be too difficult hence might give it a miss if not enough time. Understand from your blog that Tomamu is a good choice for snow activities so planning to bring them there.
    Will only reach Chitose airport ard 5pm on 15 Dec so planning to stay a night at Airport Terminal Hotel, but I can’t seem to find any booking available on 15 Dec, are they fully booked or not open for booking yet? If fully booked, do u any other suggestion?
    Planning to Visit Sapporo, Tomamu, Lake Toya, Otaru and hope to visit some onsens too. Any recommendation on onsens? But because I have Psoriasis, not sure if I can enter the Public bath (even though it is not contagious but I’m worried that people might be afraid), if not, can you recommend some accommodations with private onsen?
    Trying to place Tomamu as last destination of our trip, can you help me see if this is possible? Hope you can advise me should I go Lake Toya first or visit onsen first after visiting Sapporo. Two nights at Tomamu, isit sufficient?
    15 Dec – Stay at Airport Hotel
    16 Dec – Stay at Sapporo (Shirei Icoibito, mount moiwa, beer factory and saporro factory)
    17 Dec – Stay at Sapporo (any recommendation on accommodation?)
    18 Dec
    19 Dec
    20 Dec
    21 Dec – Stay at Tomamu Resort (Ice village, Reindeer sled, snow play)
    22 Dec – Stay at Tomamu Resort (From Tomamu to Otaru, can we travel by train?)
    23 Dec – Stay 1night at Hotel Vibrant Otaru (Otaru canal, Sakaimachi, Kitakaro main store)
    24 Dec – Our flight depart Chitose at 730pm, planning to spend the day at the airport. From Otaru to Chitose, how long is the journey? Is there any direct train or bus?
    Thanks in advance!! Sorry for the long post.
    Ps: I am worried about the luggage, stroller and moving around with two active kids… Btw, the train station, are they stroller friendly? Lifts available?

    • bumblebeemum says:

      For 15 Dec, Air Terminal Hotel may not be open for booking yet. You can check again later. But looking at your itinerary, you can consider staying in Sapporo from the first night.

      The resort in the area I know of with private onsen is Lake View Nonokaze at Lake Toya:

      Another popular onsen in the region is Noboribetsu. You can book a room with onsen at Hotel Mahoroba:

      I usually drive in Hokkaido, not sure how stroller friendly the train stations are in general. I know that Tomamu station doesn’t have lifts. I would use direct buses where possible.

      Lake View Nonokaze and Hotel Mahoroba I mentioned above provide free shuttle service to and fro Sapporo:

      Tomamu has a direct bus to and fro Sapporo / CTS, but you need to pay for it. The bus info for winter is not out yet, you can check their website for it later. I would put Tomamu Resort at the end of the trip and just take the bus from Tomamu Resort back to CTS without returning to Sapporo.

      If you are not driving, I suggest you minimise the change of hotels. So for Otaru, do it as a day trip from Sapporo instead.

      15 Dec – Sapporo
      16 Dec – Sapporo
      17 Dec – Sapporo (day trip to Otaru)
      18 Dec – Sapporo – Lake Toya (shuttle bus)
      19 Dec – Lake Toya – Noboribetsu
      20 Dec – Noboribetsu – Sapporo (shuttle bus)
      21 Dec – Sapporo
      22 Dec – Sapporo – Tomamu (direct bus)
      23 Dec – Tomamu
      24 Dec – Tomamu – CTS (direct bus)

      Lake Toya and Noboribetsu are very easy to get between each other by rental car, but it is quite a hassle by public transport. Let’s say you want to get from Lake Toya to Noboribetsu. You need to bus/cab to Toya station, take train from Toya to Noboribetsu, then bus/cab to Noboribetsu onsen.

      • Nic says:

        Thanks for the suggestions!! If I were to skip noboribetsu, any other suggestion? Kushiro is it along the way? Is there any train or bus from Kushiro to tomamu straight or I have to go back to Sapporo to go to tomamu? The shuttle bus from Sapporo to lake toya, may I have the website? And the direct bus to tomamu, is it from tomamu website? Thanks!!

        • bumblebeemum says:

          Kushiro is further East. And you’ll need to drive if you want to go and see the cranes. There is a straight train from Tomamu to Kushiro, but I would only recommend going to Kushiro if you are willing to drive around Akan National Park.

          The shuttle bus from Sapporo to Lake Toya is operated by the resort for their guest. If you stay at Lake View Nonokaze, their bus info is here:

          The other resort I like to stay at, Toya Sunpalace, also mentions that they have courtesy shuttle from Sapporo on their website:

          The direct bus to Tomamu, you can find it on their website when their winter season information is out. Currently they are running summer season info. But yes, you can book the bus on their website when their winter booking is open.

          • Nic says:

            Hi Bumblebee mum

            Thanks for the advice! Will keep a lookout for the information. Thank you for your time 🙂

  8. Dave says:

    Hihi…you must be “bore” that some one is again asking you on advice to Hokkaido😂…

    I plan the following but no driving
    17th Dec Sapporo
    Odori park
    18th Dec Sapporo
    Kita No Gourmet (wholesale market)
    Shiroi park
    Sapporo factory
    19th Dec Asahikawa
    20th Kushiro
    21&22 Rusutsu
    23 Hakodate & lake Toya
    24th otaru
    25th Sapporo

    So need your expertise whether should I cut down on the places and which is cheaper: to travel around in train vs booking private transportation (daily 70kyen😭😭😭)


    Regards Dave

    • bumblebeemum says:

      I am curious how you inserted emoticons into the comments. Never knew my own blog could do that. Hah.

      20th: Are you planning to visit Kushiro as a day trip? I don’t think it’s feasible. Kushiro is quite far from Sapporo.

      23rd: It is not possible to do Lake Toya and Hakodate in a day

      Most of the places you mentioned are quite easy to access by train or bus, except Lake Toya. You probably won’t have time for Kushiro.

      What I would suggest is this:

      17th Dec Sapporo
      18th Dec Sapporo
      19th Dec Sapporo (Day trip to Asahiyama Zoo by train + bus)
      20th Dec Sapporo – Rusutsu (use the resort shuttle bus)
      21st Dec Rusutsu
      22nd Dec Rusutsu – Sapporo (resort shuttle bus)
      23rd Dec Sapporo (day trip to Otary by train)
      24th Dec Sapporo – Hakodate (train)
      25th Dec Hakodate – CTS (train)

      I am not sure if the Hokkaido Rail Pass (flexi 4-day pass) will be cheaper than buying individual train tickets if you use it for 19th, 23rd, 24th and 25th. You can use hyperdia to check the train ticket price, add it up and compare to the price of the Hokkaido Rail Pass.

  9. Pat says:

    I am planning on hokkaido in 3rd week of november. I am wondering if it would be dangerous to drive there since it will be winter then. I have driven in Australia many times but not sure of the weather condition in hokkaido. please advise. thanks.

  10. Esther says:

    Hi Bumblebee Mum, I am planning a trip to Hokkaido in March and have already booked a 6d5n trip to Club Med Sahoro, but prior to that I hope to travel around Sapporo before heading to Sahoro (Club Med provides transfers from New Chitose airport, Shintoku train station) I will be Travelling with my husband and 2 kids and we do not plan to drive. Can you see if my plan is feasible and how to minimise Travelling with luggage and kids. I plan to stay in one hotel (likely Grand Mercure) throughout the trip.

    Day 1 overnight flight to new Chitose
    Day 2 stay at airport hotel (anyway to book airport terminal hotel, they seem to tell me no rooms avail)
    Day 3 take airport bus to Sapporo n stay at Grand Mercure
    Day 4 Sapporo (day trip to zoo)
    Day 5 Sapporo
    Day 6 Sapporo
    Day 7 take train to Shintoku n shuttle service to club Med
    Day 12 take shuttle service to airport and maybe stay over at airport hotel
    Day 13 flight back to singapore

    • bumblebeemum says:

      What time are you arriving on Day 2? If you are arriving early, I suggest you go to Sapporo and stay at Sapporo. I usually spend my first night at Air Terminal Hotel only if I am arriving at CTS at night.

      • Esther says:

        I will arrive in the morning, just worried the kids will be exhausted after the Long flight. Lol. Maybe should take your suggestion to go direct to Sapporo. Btw, besides the zoo, where else is a must visit (within Day trip from Sapporo)? Thanks!

  11. Jason says:

    Hi Bumblebeemum,

    Very insightful blog on Hokkaido. I see that a lot family trips with kids. I’m actually planning for an anniversary trip next year February 2018. Not sure whether you have any itinerary for two adults for 7D 7N trip please. Appreciate any help on this.

    Thank you so much.


  12. Angel Thiam says:

    Hi Bubblebee mum
    Planning my Dec’s trip and need sound advice from you, the Hokkaido travel guru 🙂

    1. Is there snow in early December? Snow I mean snowing
    2. For first timer, can you suggest 14 day itinerary with renting a car in mind. (Er… 2 adults with 3 early teens)
    3. Save to drive early December?

    Thanks ya 🙂

    • bumblebeemum says:

      1. Depends on your luck. :p But if you go to the snow resorts, I’m pretty sure there will be snow.

      2. You can try something like this:

      Day 1: CTS – Sapporo
      Day 2: Sapporo
      Day 3: Sapporo (day trip to Otaru)
      Day 4: (rent a car) Sapporo – Asahikawa
      Day 5: Asahikawa – Sounkyo
      Day 6: Sounkyo – Abashiri
      Day 7: Abashiri – Lake Akan
      Day 8: Lake Akan
      Day 9: Lake Akan – Tsurui (for the cranes) – Kushiro
      Day 10: Kushiro – Ikeda – Obihiro
      Day 11: Obihiro – Tomamu
      Day 12: Tomamu
      Day 13: Tommau – CTS
      Day 14: Flight back

      3. I can’t guarantee it will be safe, but if you drive slowly and carefully, it can be done. You can read more about driving in winter on this post:

      • Angel says:

        Thanks heaps for your advice. When I googled map the itinerary you have suggested, thought there will be a long drive daily as we are covering quite a fair bit of Hokkaido. Maybe I will just concentrate on the last few cluster you suggested. Arigato ya 🙂

        • bumblebeemum says:

          Yeah, unfortunately Hokkaido is huge so there is usually a fair bit of driving for any Hokkaido trip if you really want to take in the sights. Usually I don’t like to drive to and fro the same route, e.g. if I want to go to Lake Akan / Kushiro, I can use to Doto expressway to head east and use the same way to head back. But it’s boring so I prefer to do a loop up to Asahikawa / Sounkyo / Abashiri to head East and use the Doto way to get back so that I can see more things along the way. But yeah, it’s a lot of driving involved. If you don’t like to drive, then maybe can use the Doto to visit Tomamu / Obihiro / Lake Akan / Kushiro at a more relaxed pace.

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