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

This post was continued from…

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

Day 4: Sapporo – Asahikawa

The drive from Sapporo to Asahiyama Zoo took us slightly more than 4 hours because of heavy snow (in good weather, it should take about 3 hours).    The drive was rather stressful, to a point I did wonder if it would have been a better idea to take the train from Sapporo to Asahikawa instead.  However, it was the kids’ first winter drive and they were super excited over the sight of snow and ‘Christmas Trees’ along the way.

We finally arrived at Asahiyama zoo slightly after 12noon.  The staff highlighted to us that some of the exhibits closed at 1pm, so off we went!

After checking our the penguins near the entrance, the boys decided that they were more interested in playing with snow than looking at animals.  Can’t blame them since this was their first time encountering snow!

After some persuasion, they dropped the snow and headed off to check out more animals.  The seal enclosure was one of their favourite exhibit at Asahiyama Zoo.  They loved waiting at the see-through column for the seal to shoot through.

We came to the lion enclosure and the lion was SO CLOSE to us on the other side of the glass.  What made this different from seeing the lions through the glass at Singapore Zoo was that when the lion breathed, we could see its breath condensed on the glass!

The kids decided they had enough of animals again and continued playing with snow.

Basically our visit to Asahiyama Zoo was like see animals, play with snow, eat lunch, see animals, play with snow, eat lunch, play with snow, warm up in souvenir shops, play with snow, see animals… So seeing animals actually only made up a rather short part of our visit to the zoo.

But don’t get me wrong.  Asahiyama Zoo was a nice zoo with many animals that we don’t get to see at Singapore Zoo.   I particularly liked the wolf’s den where there was an underground passage we could enter and pop our head out right inside the wolf’s den to observe them up close.

The zoo closed at 3.30pm in winter.  Since the drive from Sapporo took much longer than expected due to heavy snow and we still had to eat lunch there, plus the kids stopping every 2 steps to make snowballs, we only managed to see half the exhibits at the zoo.  If you are planning to visit Asahiyama Zoo as a day trip from Sapporo in winter, I very much recommend you take the train instead of driving.

Asahiyama zoo is famous for its penguin parade in winter, which according to their website starts in late December so we missed it.  I asked the staff when exactly it would start, she said it was weather-dependent.  (Update: In 2014, the penguin parade started on 20/12/2014)  These photos were from my visit in February 2010, see how close you could get to the penguins? And they were soooo cute!

I definitely recommend visiting Asahiyama Zoo if you are visiting Hokkaido with your kids.  The entry fee was just mind-boggling cheap: 820 yen per adult, free for kids below Secondary School age. (Mind you, Singapore Zoo charges 3 times that price for adults and also charges for kids as young as 3 years old.)

After the zoo closed, we went back to our hotel.  There was snow storm in the evening, so we cancelled our plan to have dinner at Asahikawa Ramen Village and I went out alone to pack McDonald’s for everyone since there was no way we were bringing the kids out in a snow storm.

Day 5: Asahikawa – Lake Akan

The next morning, we woke up to find the sky was clear and blue! But not for long.  We seized the good weather to get on the road, because once it started snowing it would become a lot harer to drive.

The snow storm from the previous day covered all the roads with snow, so it was still highly stressful driving out of the city because we couldn’t see any lane markings or stop lines for pedestrain crossings.

We took a 4+ hour drive to Lake Akan.  I really DO NOT recommend driving from Asahikawa to Lake Akan in a day, we were lucky there was no snow once we passed Daisetsuzan National Park.  If there had been snow all the way, we would probably have spent the whole day on the road.

We arrived at our hotel, Hanayuuka, in Lake Akan at 2pm.   Check-in time was 3pm and our room was not ready yet, so we decided to grab some lunch first.  I had planned to have lunch at Pan de Pan, a bakery cafe right next to Hanayuuka.

But while we were at the reception, we saw many people queueing up to pay for a Sweets Buffet and we decided to try it too.  After all, as hotel guests, we only had to pay 800 yen per adult (it was free for our kids aged 1 and 3).

The buffet selection was nothing like the high tea buffets we get in Singapore, it was pretty limited.  But for 800 yen, I had no complaints.

The highlight of the sweets buffet was probably the parfait, and we had a little parfait decorating competition!

After our very sweet lunch, our room was ready. I loved our room at Hanayuuka!  It had modern furnishing (unlike most other budget-friendly ryokan we have stayed in previously), plus a lovely view of Lake Akan.  My friend commented that we looked like we were on a cruise in the photo below.  Lol…

The facilities within Hanayuuka were pretty limited, so we took the free shuttle bus to the more luxurious Yuku No Sato.  Since Hanayuuka and Yuku No Sato were under the same hotel group (Tsuruga group), guests of Hanayuuka could use all the facilities at Yuku No Sato.

The hotel lobby at Yuku No Sato was huge and luxurious with kimono-clad staff greeting us along the way! There were free onsen eggs, soup bar and steamed potato which guests could help themselves to.  Perfect for cold wintry days! The kids especially loved the soup bar (and so did I).

Lake Akan is known for Marimo, a cute ball-shaped moss which can be found at the bottom of the Lake.  To see Marimo would require taking a sightseeing cruise on Lake Akan, but the cruise does not operate in winter.  So if you want to see Marimo in winter, you would have to find their displays at places like the visitor centre.  Or in our case, we found them at the lobby of Yuku no Sato!

They even had a little tank for guests to touch some Marimo!

And of course, we went to use the onsen at Yuku no Sato too.  Which was waaayyyyy better than the one at Hanayuuka. (The onsen at Hanayuuka was super sad, I didn’t even bother going.)

After warming up in the onsen, we ventured out to the shopping streets and Ainu Folk Village just outside Yuku No Sato before taking the shuttle bus back to Hanayuuka for dinner.

Despite the lack of facilities at Hanayuuka (you get what you pay for), the dinner was pretty good.  Check out the free flow of sashimi!

And desserts.

And the ice-cream they provided was not just any ice-cream but ice-cream from Shiretoco Gelato, a popular ice-creamery in nearby Nakashibetsu.  And since it was a buffet, we could try all the different flavours without feeling the pinch.

After dinner, MF went to the small library at the hotel lobby to read some books (they had a few English books there) before going back to the room to sleep.

Day 6: Lake Akan – Kushiro

The next morning, we were greeted with a beautiful view of Lake Akan from our hotel room!

We had buffet breakfast at the hotel before checking out.  The breakfast did not disappoint with a mix a western and Japanese selections and many kids-friendly options.

We enjoyed our stay at Hanayuuka very much and I would recommend it for the more budget-conscious travellers.  The facilities within Hanayuuka were very limited and it was a tad far from the main shopping streets, but the shuttle bus that ran on call to Yuku No Sato made it convenient.  Of course, if you do not mind spending a bit more, Yuku No Sato or the adjacent Tsuruga Wings (Yuku No Sato and Tsuruga Wings are linked at the first storey) which have better facilities and location would be better choices.

After checking out, we went for a stroll along the shores of Lake Akan and I just had to pop into Pan de Pan to have a look.

Luckily we just had buffet breakfast, otherwise I would have bought the entire shop.  Okay, that’s exaggerating.  After much deliberation, I chose 3 items to takeaway.

Initially I thought I couldn’t take away the miso pudding because it came in such a nice little jar, but surprisingly I could! Hubby cringed at the sound of ‘miso pudding’, but it tasted much better than it sounded – the kids loved it too! The cream puff was also heavenly, but the strawberry tart was kinda blah.

So these food kept us occupied in the car while we drove through Akan National Park.  Shortly after leaving Akan onsen town, we came across a photo stop that literally translated to ‘Two Lakes Deck’.

I waited in the car with MY while hubby and MF went up to check it out.  He came back and showed me the photo above and I was like, where is the second lake?? And I would never have found it if hubby didn’t point it out to me.  I leave it to you to try to find it.

Driving on… We came to another photo spot.

Frankly, that mountain looked kinda brown and ugly… Here’s a nicer photo that I took at the same spot in March 2010 when the mountain was snow-capped.  That’s what we want to see on winter vacations!

As we drove on, we spotted a wild fox along the road! We pulled over for the kids to have a better look at it and the fox kept circling our car – much to the amusement of the kids.

We bid farewell to the fox and continued our drive to Lake Mashu, my favourite lake in Hokkaido.

It’s not hard to see why Lake Mashu is my favourite lake.  It’s so gorgeous! But to see Lake Mashu required a bit of luck, as Lake Mashu is often shrouded in fog.   We got lucky this time!

When at Lake Mashu, don’t forget to also check out the view from the carpark itself if the weather is good!

Well, the kids didn’t care much for the beautiful lake and they were sleeping the whole time we were there.  We drove on to our next destination, Iozan.  But just before reaching, we stopped by an ice-cream parlour, Cream Douwa, located near the foot of Iozan.

We came all the way from Singapore, must buy the biggest (5 flavoured) cone!  And from Cream Douwa, we could see the fumes of Iozan in the distance.

After enjoying our ice-cream, it was time to work off those calories with a walk around Iozan.  Iozan literally means ‘sulphur mountain’.  And I think it’s not hard to see where it got its name from.

After our walk around Iozan, we drove on to Lake Kussharo.  We wanted to go for lunch at a restaurant called Sora, but when we reached there, we realized they were closed for Winter! So we went to Sunayu at the western shore of Lake Kussharo and had our lunch at the little restaurant there.

After lunch, we went to the shore of Lake Kussharo where the kids had some fun feeding the swans.  Swans arrived in Hokkaido during winter, you won’t see them if you’re here outside of winter.

I was amused that the swans ate popcorns.  MF wasn’t too happy that he got rejected by the swans.  And we discovered that the trick was to just dump the popcorn on the ground and the swans would come over to eat them.

Sunayu was also know for the free foot baths available on the shores.  But since it was winter, it was a bit too much of a hassle to take off our boots and layers of socks for the sake of soaking our feet.  And the last thing I needed was for the kids to get their long pants wet.  So we passed.  Here’s a photo we took in summer instead:

After this, we drove on to Kushiro where we would spend the night.

To be continued…

Hokkaido with Kids (December 2014) Part 3: Kushiro, Obihiro, Tomamu


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

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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.


  1. […] ← Birthday Party at Kiddy Fun (The Grandstand a.k.a. Turf City) Hokkaido with Kids (December 2014) Part 2: Asahikawa, Akan National Park (Lake Akan, Lake Mashu, Ioz… […]

  2. […] 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 […]

  3. […] 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 […]

  4. […] ← Hokkaido with Kids (December 2014) Part 2: Asahikawa, Akan National Park (Lake Akan, Lake Mas… Hokkaido with Kids (December 2014) Part 4: Chitose, Lake Shikotsu, Niseko, Lake Toya, Noboribetsu, Rusutsu → […]

  5. LY says:

    Hi, Thank you for sharing your Hokkaido experience. May I know where did you purchase those winter snow boots from?

  6. choonie71 says:


    We are planning a winter trip to hokkaido in mid dec. It will be our 2nd trip to hokkaido. We are thinking of doing the route that u recommended:

    Day 1: Chitose to tomamu
    Day 2: Tomamu
    Day 3: tomamu to obihiro via train. Then shuttle bus to hanayuuka hotel
    Day 4: lake Akan
    Day 5: Akan to sapporo via shuttle bus
    Day 6 & 7: sapporo

    As our trip is in mid Dec, is it worthwhile to travel all the down to Akan. What is there in Akan besides the lake & ainu village?

    We are not driving, hence may not be able to access to some of the sights in Akan.

    We are thinking whether should skip Akan & go to jozankei instead from sapporo. Can you share your views?

    Thanks a lot!

    • bumblebeemum says:

      If you go all the way to Lake Akan, it only makes sense to go and see the cranes and the sights around Akan National Park. That would require self-drive or hiring a driver. If you don’t plan to do that, then you may want to skip Lake Akan and go to Lake Toya which is much nearer to Sapporo. Unless you have already been to Lake Toya in your previous trip?

      Jozankei is not very interesting in winter. It is a place I would recommend for Autumn because the autumn foliage there is very beautiful.

      Ideally in December, I would recommend Lake Akan and renting a car to go around. Winter is the only time the cranes congregate at the feeding sites in Tsurui.

      • choonie71 says:

        Thanks for your response. Yes we have been to Lake Toya, biei, furano, rutsusu, noberitsu, asahikawa, sapporo during our 1st trip to hokkaido last Jun. We did a self drive then.

        However we are not confident to drive in winter for this Dec. Hence scratching my head as to where else to go. We are looking for nice scenary, onsen, shopping & ski for this trip. We will take ski lessons in tomamu as well as ice village & some shopping in sapporo.

        Can u recommend other places to go for scenary & onsen acessible via bus or train from sapporo?

        Thanks in advance!

        • bumblebeemum says:

          Hmm.. I really do recommend Lake Akan region for winter. Maybe you want to consider hiring a driver? If not, just rent a car for a day or two to go around Akan National Park. Akan National Park is relatively easy to drive in winter compared to the cities and ski resorts. If you take public transport between the cities and restrict your driving to just the national park area, it should not be difficult. Just drive slow and in bright day light.

          I really think Akan National Park has some of the best scenery in Hokkaido. Lake Mashu is my favourite lake in Hokkaido – if weather is good. :p If you really don’t want to drive, I guess you can still visit Lake Akan for the onsen and food. I kind of miss Pan de Pan. But I just think it’s wasted to go all the way to Lake Akan but not visit Lake Mashu and the cranes.

  7. Henry Chua says:

    Dear Bumble Bee,
    Planning to visit Hokkaido this early June with my son for a bonding trip. What would your advice be based on your experience. Plan to be touching down on the 4th and leave on Saturday midnight arriving Singapore Sunday.
    Place of interest(not in order) :
    1) Sheritoko driving thru the pass and visit Rausu and Utoro
    2)Akan & Tokachi(lakes onetto)
    3)Unkai terrace
    4) Sapporo
    Not planning to drive everywhere but probably like those parks and lakes that are not so accessible.
    If seriously have a little of wee bit of time, don’t mind to go up to Mt.Hakodate, the million dollar view.
    Thanks alot.

    • bumblebeemum says:

      So you’ll be there for 8 days? You won’t have enough time to go to Hakodate then.

      For the Akan and Shiretoko region, you should drive around. Rail transport in Eastern Hokkaido is pretty sparse and infrequent. You can take a train until Kushiro and start your drive there. From Kushiro, drive up to Akan, then Shiretoko and back down to Kushiro.

      Unkai Terrace is easily accessible by train at Tomamu station, and Tomamu station is in between Sapporo and Kushiro. So basically what you can do is:

      Day 1: Sapporo
      Day 2: Sapporo
      Day 3: Sapporo – Tomamu (train)
      Day 4: Tomamu – Kushiro (train), pick up a rental car, drive up to Lake Onneto then Lake Akan, stay at Lake Akan.
      Day 5: Drive around Akan National Park, then up to Shiretoko. Stay at Shiretoko.
      Day 6: Drive around Shiretoko, Rausu, Utoro. Stay at Shiretoko.
      Day 7: Drive from Shiretoko back to Kushiro, return car.
      Day 8: Train from Kushiro to CTS for flight back.

  8. Grace Chin says:

    Hi Bumble Bee,

    May I know where you stayed during your trip to Kushiro? We are 2 adults, 6yo and 10yo. Our 6yo can share bed with me. I tried to book ANA but seems like they can’t accommodate us. Not familiar with hotel booking mechanism. Hehe! Thanks in advance for your advise.

    • bumblebeemum says:

      We stayed at Super Hotel. THey have two branches in Kushiro. If you book their ‘Super Room’, it will come with a double bed + a bunk bed. However it is a budget hotel so the room is very cramp – barely any floor space for you to open your luggage kind.

  9. Kris says:

    You mentioned you do not advise doing the drive from Asahikawa to Lake Akan in a day. What then is a good stopover for a night in the middle in your opinion?

  10. Khim says:

    Hi Bumblebeemum

    Glad to chance upon your blog. I’m very inspired by you that decided to do DIY our 1st trip to Hokaido. H/e, hubby is still not in favour of self drive in view of winter period an d being our first. So thinking of doing by JR. (on separate note, your sons are v lucky to have u as their mum! Im sure u will b their inspiration and they will b v proud of u too!) 🙂

    We are a family of 5, with 3 kids ( 16, 12 & 7 yrs old) planning to travel from 29 November for 9-11 days.

    I’m actually using ur winter itinerary to hokaido. Ive a long list of questions, which I hope you could clarify below.

    Day 1 SIN to Sapporo Chitose
    (Might be staying at APA Saporro hotel Ekinishi Susukino. But think i might not be able to get this hotel as the japanese style room which was available saturday, was no longer yesterday…. this hotel is at Chuo-ku Minami 4-jo Nishi 7. & it is indicated on website that it is a 5-minute walk from Susukino Subway Station? From Suskino subway, how long does it take to travel to the Sapporo JR station? )

    Day 2 Sapporo : shop around susukino, Mitsui park shopping

    Day 3 Sapporo Central Wholesale mkt, German Xmas mkt, Sapporo TV tower

    Day 4 Ishiya chocolate factory (is one day too long for this trip? Or is there any landmark nearby that we can visit also before returning to Susukino?)

    Day 5 asashiyama zoo

    Day 6 otaru (music box museum /glass factory. Are these within walking distance from otaru jr station? And easily accessible? any other place to visit in otaru?)

    Day 7-8 2 night stay at tomamu (train from Sapporo direct to tomamu) (I saw in your blog abt the condo apt at tomamu tower. Would you know how long the walking distance is to the condo ‘Masaharu’ from the tomamu JR station? & if the apt is w/i minutes walking distance from tomamu twin tower & ski area? Could I presume reindeer sledding, ski tubing & rafting will be available from 5 dec period cause my kids will look forward to this but am afraid the ice is not ready ? )
    (As we do not stay at tomamu hotel, could we use the onsen there? Or which hotel would be a good stay not too pricey for onsen experience?)

    Day 9 travel from tomamu back to Sapporo chitose.
    Flight back to spore either on day 9 or 10. (If I fly back on day 10, where would be a good place to go for our last stop before flight back to spore?)

    Is noboribetsu easily accessible by train and bus? (to visit hell valley, lake toya, ainu village). Is 1 day enough?

    Queries on JR pass
    Would I be able to use the JR pass for subway, ltd express, bus, etc?

    Is it necessary to buy reserved seats as I think we will travel btw 8-10am and probably evening time abt 4-8pm back to Sapporo?

    I’m so sorry for the whole string of questions.
    Hope to hear from you soon.

    thank you so much.


    • bumblebeemum says:

      Day 1 From Susukino, it is two subway stops to Sapporo JR station. If you are coming from the airport, it is more direct to use the airport limousine buses to get to Susukino area.

      Day 2 Sapporo : shop around susukino, Mitsui park shopping

      Day 3 Sapporo Central Wholesale mkt, German Xmas mkt, Sapporo TV tower

      Day 4 Yeah, you don’t need a whole day for Ishiya Chocolate Factory. There isn’t much around Ishiya Chocolate Factory because its location is pretty outskirt. But you will have time to fit in another destination, e.g. Mount Moiway ropeway? Or explore Sapporo station area?

      Day 5 asashiyama zoo

      Day 6 Yes, Musix box Museum is walkable from Otaru station. But to get to the music box museum, you should alight at Minimi-Otaru station though. What most tourists do is alight at Minami-Otaru station, walk to Marchen Intersection (where music box museum is) and then walk down Sakaimachi till the main hub of Otaru Canal. Then from Otaru canal, they will walk to Otaru station to catch the train back. If you stop by for cafe breaks along the way and try out glass blowing experiences, that will pretty much take up the whole day.

      Day 7-8 This is the exact BnB that my reader told me about which is at Tomamu Resort itself:

      When we were in Tomamu, snow rafting was not available yet. But snow tubing was ready. This is really weather dependent and if the snow fall is lighter or later than usual, then they will have no choice but to delay the opening. So we won’t really know for sure if any of the snow activities will be ready by early Dec.

      If you are not staying at the hotel, you can still use the onsen for a fee (800yen per adult / 500yen per child).

      Day 9 I usually spend my last night at Air Terminal Hotel at New Chitose Airport itself. The airport is quite fun. You can also go to Chitose Rera Outlet which is near the airport if you have extra time.

      Noboribetsu onsen town requires a bus / taxi ride from Noboribetsu station. Lake Toya is somewhere else. If you are doing a day trip from Sapporo, you should only choose one between Noboribetsu or Lake Toya.

      JR Pass only covers trains and buses operated by JR. So no, you cannot use it for the subway or streetcar in Sapporo. Neither can you use it for non-JR buses.

      I always buy reserved seats for long-distance train rides because I don’t want to risk not having seats.

  11. Hokkaido 1st timer says:

    Hi, I got a question with regards to Asahikawa zoo ticket over here 😀

    Planning for a trip there around early march 2017 using the asahikawa zoo ticket which covers train, bus and extrance fee (using Jr Pass to purchase).

    Planning to take the special asahikawa zoo train there. Return trip can be of limited express super kamui.

    Does a child of age 5 have to purchase this ticket (taking special zoo train there)?

    If no need meaning he would have to sit on the lap of an adult right?

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Children below 6 can take the train for free. But yes, that would mean your child will have no seat and have to sit on the lap of an adult. Unless there happens to be an empty seat then your child can occupy the empty seat. For the special zoo train, it is unlikely there will be empty seats though. The zoo train is very popular!

      • Hokkaido 1st timer says:

        Thanks for prompt reply!

        Would you mind to take a look and see if my itinerary can be further improved? Thanks!

        2 Adult and a 5yo kid.

        Reach Sapporo at noon rest in hotel

        4 Mar Sat
        Odori park
        Nijo market
        Susukino district
        Sapporo tv tower
        Sapporo clock tower
        Tanukikoji shopping arcade
        Former Hokkaido Government Office
        Norbesa (Ferris wheel on roof of shopping centre)
        Aurora Town & Pole Town (Odori Underground Shopping Malls)

        5 Mar Day trip

        6 Mar Day trip
        Otaru canal
        Sushiya dori
        Kitaichi Glass Sangokan
        Otaru Music Box Museum

        7 Mar Day trip
        Asahikawa zoo

        8 Mar Day trip
        Shiroi koibito

        9 Mar Day trip
        Noboribetsu onsen

        10 Mar Stay 1night at jozankei
        Check out hotel and store big luggages at sapporo station
        Check in Jozankei onsen hotel

        11 Mar
        Take train back to Sapporo retrieve luggages
        Head towards New citose airport

        Thanks for your time!

        • bumblebeemum says:

          Hmmm… Why do you want to go to Noboribetsu onsen as a day trip and then move to Jozankei onsen later on? I would just go to Noboribetsu and stay there if I want to experience an onsen. And from Noboribetsu, I would go straight back to the airport – no need to go back to Sapporo again.

          The thing I find a pity about your itinerary is that you are missing out on winter festivals that are happening in Hokkaido in March. I would suggest you skip Satoland and use the extra day to go to Tomamu for the Ice Village instead. At least experience one winter event.

          • Hokkaido 1st timer says:

            Thanks for replying 😀

            Reason for avoiding Tomamu due to high influx of uncivilise tourists from mainland china as reviewed by forummers who had been there recently. Moreover we prefer peaceful enviroments and not so crowded area just for some snow activities.

            We choose jozankei for its onsen and serenity as for noboribetsu is my kid would like to visit the bear park etc

            As we would be having quite a few large luggages we foresee difficulty boarding the donan bus from noboribetsu terminal to the onsen hotel.

            Still deciding which to drop…jozankei or noboribetsu…

            • bumblebeemum says:

              Hmm.. I see.. Yeah, I do think Jozankei should be relatively quieter compared to the other onsen towns. So if you want to escape the touristy crowd, Jozankei should be better. 🙂

  12. Annie says:

    Hi BBM,

    My family will be going to Hokkaido in March.

    Will be going to Kushiro from Tomamu by train and rent a car to explore Akan National Park.

    My itinerary for Lake Akan is as follows:
    Day 1 – Tomamu to Kushiro (stay at Kushiro)
    Day 2 – Kushiro – Tsurui to see crane – Lake Mashu – lozan – Lake Kussharo – Lake Akan (Stay Lake Akan)
    Day 3 – Lake Akan -> Kushiro -> Sapporo (by train)

    This is the first time we are driving overseas. Do you think I have finished all the sight seeing on Day 2 and is the sequence correct? Will the map code for Lake Kussharo lead me to Sunayu and lozan to Cream Douwa?

    The reason why I wanted to finish all the sights on day 2 is because I am thinking of taking the 1:30 pm train from kushiro to sapporo on Day 3. The next train at 4 pm is a bit late by the time we reach Sapporo.

    Can I have your advice.

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Yup, the sequence for Day 2 looks right. I would advice you to pick up the car on Day 1 and park it at the hotel so that you can set off early on Day 2.

      The map code for Sunayu is 638 148 559. Map code for Iozan is 731 713 770.

      For Cream Douwa, I keyed in the name in Japanese on the GPS when I was there, but you can try this map code: 731 745 494. It is very near the parking lot for Iozan, this is the route from Iozan to Cream Douwa:

  13. Jacqueline chua says:

    Hi bumblebee mum. May I know if it’s possible to get winter boots at chitose airport? Any recommendation?

    • bumblebeemum says:

      I don’t recall seeing winter boots at the airport. I bought ours at Mitsui Oulet Park Sapporo Kitahiroshima. I have also seen stalls along Tanukikoji selling winter boots.

  14. Cyn says:

    Hi bumblebee mum,
    We are family of 2 A + 2C.
    Planning our last min 1st trip to hokkaido in end Nov/early dec.
    As it is our first trip to Hok + its winter, we wish to cover the key attractions of hokkaido.

    Could you kindly advise if this sounds right :
    1) SKi resort (3D)
    2)Sapporo (2D)
    3) Day trip via train to Otaru
    4) Day trip to take winter trains (not sure)
    5) Drive to Furano
    6) Drive to Noboribetsu/Lake Toya
    7) Drive to Asahikawa
    8) Airport

    I can decide between Tomamu and Rusutsu resorts.
    Read that Tomamu is further away and may not fit well with my itinerary. However it appears much cheaper than Rusutsu.

    Also not sure about the driving part. We have not drove in snow before. But think with 2 young kids, it seems to make more sense than
    to travel on public transport. Could i seek your opinion.

    And given snow would get worst as we approach year end, perhaps is it better than i reverse my itinerary and do Skiing and Sapporo last.

    I look forward to hearing from your valuable advice. thks!


    • bumblebeemum says:

      For an end Nov to early Dec trip, definitely you should put your ski resort right at the very end of the trip. Tomamu and Rusutsu only open in the tail end of Nov (like 26 Nov this year).

      I don’t think the winter trains have begun operation for your dates. And I would skip Furano for your dates.

      Asahikawa, if you are planning to visit the zoo, can be done as a day trip from Sapporo with the train and zoo bus. Without luggage, taking public transport with kids should be manageable.

      If you are planning to visit Lake Toya and Noboribetsu, Rusutsu will be nearer compared to Tomamu. But yeah, Rusutsu is expensive. In early Dec, Niseko should still be quite reasonably priced? If Niseko is cheaper than Rusutsu, I would go to Niseko instead.

      As for mode of transport, Lake Toya and Noboribetsu is best visited with a car. But you don’t really need a car for the rest of the places. So this is what I would suggest:

      Day 1: (Arrive on morning flight if possible) CTS (pick up rental car) – Noboribetsu
      Day 2: Noboribetsu – Lake Toya
      Day 3: Lake Toya – Sapporo (return car)
      Day 4: Sapporo
      Day 5: Sapporo (Day trip to Otaru by train)
      Day 6: Sapporo (Day trip to Asahiyama Zoo by train + bus)
      Day 7: Sapporo – Niseko / Rusutsu (bus)
      Day 8: Niseko / Rusutsu
      Day 9: Niseko / Rusutsu
      Day 10: Niseko / Rusutsu – CTS (bus)
      Day 11: Flight back

  15. Jaime says:

    Would like to get your opinion to travel from sapporo to lake Akan, driving in feb 2017…. the JR line to the eastern part is now under repair and there’s only buses available at the moment which was kind of unexpected.
    Is it possible to drive up to tomamu, lake Akan and Kushiro? There are sites that said it suicidal.
    What do you suggest? As I’d already paid for all the accommodations.


    • bumblebeemum says:

      Sorry for the late reply as I have been overseas.

      Okay, I’ve done that Tomamu – Kushiro – Lake Akan drive on two separate winter trips and I’m alive. So I won’t say it’s suicidal. But jokes aside, the difficulty of the drive would really depend on how heavy the snow is when you are there. You can refer to this post (the section on driving) on driving tips in winter:

      You will also have to relook at your itinerary to see if it is too rushed, because a trip planned for travel by rail may not be feasible when you drive because driving will take much longer, especially when you encounter heavy snow. You may have to give up some sights to ensure you have ample time to complete the drives before it gets dark each day.

      • Jaime Wong says:

        Hi, I’m so grateful for your reply.
        This is my itinerary, I kinda alter it a lot after reading your blog . #Thumbs up#
        Day 1 : Yokohama
        Day 2 : DisneyLand
        Day 3 : DisneySea
        Day 4 : (We cancelled our Disney Day3) Decided to rent a car and drive to Mother Farm instead. Would like to know if it’s better for us to stay put in farm or drive to the German Village? Is it possible to drive in dark?
        Day 5: Flying over to Sapporo, staying in the New Chitose Airport Hotel for 2 nights. Will visit the Snow Festival upon arrival and check in.
        Day 6 : Taking the train to Tomamu. (Wasn’t very confident to drive up the ski mountains – steepness, thickness of the snow – DAY TRIP)
        Day 7 : Renting a car – driving to Lake Akan, staying in Tsuruga Wings.
        Day 8 : Kushiro – the Marshland Observatory, would you suggest that we drive elsewhere around? – staying in Kushiro
        Day 9 : NEED YOUR HELP HERE
        a) Drive back to sapporo or Asahikawa?
        b) As I saw your itinerary, snowing could be quite heavy towards Asahikawa (in FEB), should you advise?
        I had book my hotels in sapporo for the next 3 nights, but if you advise me to stay in Asahikawa, then I’ll do so.
        Day 10 : Asahikawa Zoo (stay in Sapporo)
        Day 11 ; Had not planned anything to do in Sapporo…. probably the Snow Festival, and some lingering around the downtown.
        Day 12 : Return

        What do you think?

        BTW, I am travelling with 3 children.

        • bumblebeemum says:

          It is possible to drive back to Tokyo after visiting the illumination at Tokyo German Village. It doesn’t really snow in this part of Japan, so driving at night is relatively safe. On roads with street lamps, it is pretty much like driving in Singapore at night – nothing to really worry about. But if you encounter roads with no street lamp and are pitch dark, just switch on your high beam if there is nobody else in front of you and drive slowly. If you catch up with the car in front of you or there is a car coming in the oncoming direction, switch back down to low beam.

          Day 7: The drive from CTS to Lake Akan sounds very long. I suggest you spend a night a Tokachigawa onsen to break up the drive. If you’re there during snow festival period, you should be able to catch the Sairinka festival at Tokachigawa Onsen.

          In Kushiro, I think Washo Market is worth a visit. But your timing looks extremely tight frankly.

          This is what I would suggest from Day 7 onwards:

          Day 7: CTS – Tokachigawa Onsen
          Day 8: Tokachigawa Onsen – Lake Akan
          Day 9: Lake Akan – Lake Kussharo – Iozan – Lake Mashu – Tsurui (crane area) – Kushiro
          Day 10: Kushiro (visit Washo market) – Lake Shikaribetsu
          Day 11: Lake Shikaribetsu – CTS
          Day 12: Flight back

          I am suggesting Lake Shikaribetsu because it is kind of in between Kushiro and CTS. And they have an interesting ice kotan in winter. You can read more about it on this trip:

          But if you find the drive to Lake Shikaribetsu too long, you can use Obihiro to break up the drive from Kushiro back to CTS.

          Actually, what are your exact dates? Does Day 6 coincide with the Asahikawa Winter Festival (7-12 February 2017)? If it does, I suggest you do a day trip to Asahikawa on Day 6 by train instead of Tomamu. Head out in the morning, visit the zoo first, then go for the winter festival after that. And if you do that, you can then use Tomamu to break up your drive back from Kushiro to CTS. If you drive in broad daylight to Tomamu and slowly, you should be fine. Otherwise if you are really scared of driving up to the snow resort at Tomamu, there is a pension called Pension ING at Tomamu which is located along the main road before going up to the resort. You can check with the owner if he can drive you up to the snow resort if you stay with them.

          • Jaime Wong says:

            Hi Bumblebeemum,

            Alright, I’d changed my itinerary …. Taking your advise… most of it..

            Day 1 (1/2/17) – Day 5 (5/2/17) in Tokyo
            Day 6 (6/2/17) – Arriving at New Chitose Airport on a 5pm plane and would be staying in the airport hotel. Would be taking the trains to Sapporo to see the Day 1 Snow Festival at Odori Park

            Day 7 – Staying in Asahikawa – planning to see the zoo
            Day 8 – Driving to Lake Akan – Staying in Akan Lake area
            Day 9 – to Kushiro – staying in Kushiro City
            Day 10 – Taking a break to stay in Obihiro, the Tokachigawa Onsen area
            Day 11 – Driving Back to Sapporo and be staying in Sapporo
            I was thinking visit the Moerenuma Park if I could arrive earlier in Sapporo
            Day 12 – Has no plans yet
            Day 13 – Return

            If it’s planned this way, I would had probably skipped the Tomamu part…
            What do you think?

            THANKS 🙂

            • bumblebeemum says:

              Hmm.. The start of your trip is snow festival period. I would suggest you spend 1 more day at Sapporo for the Sapporo Snow Festival as it’s HUGE. There are 3 venues for the festival: Odori Park, Susukino and Tsudome. It’s a pity to be there during snow festival period and only spend one evening at Odori Park. This is what I would do:

              Day 6 (6/2/17) – Arriving at New Chitose Airport on a 5pm plane, take airport limousine bus to Sapporo. Stay around Susukino and visit the Susukino ice sculptures.
              Day 7 – Visit Odori Park and Tsudome for the snow festival
              Day 8 – Take train to Asahikawa from Sapporo, visit zoo in the day and Asahikawa winter festival in the evening. Spend the night at Asahikawa.
              Day 9 – Pick up a rental car from Asahikawa and drive to Lake Akan. (Note that this is going to be a very long drive.)
              Day 10 – Drive Lake Akan – Tsurui (for the cranes) to Kushiro
              Day 11 – Drive Kushiro to Obihrio to Tokachigawa Onsen OR Tomamu
              Day 12 – Drive Tokachigawa Onsen / Tomamu to CTS
              Day 13 – Flight back

  16. […] Aioi. Nobody needed a break so we drove on. While planning for this trip, I initially followed bumblebeemum’s itinerary and booked an overnight stay at Hanayuuka. You can find the hotel on the right side of the map, […]

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