Home >> Itineraries,Japan Travel >> Hokkaido with Kids (December 2014) Part 3: Kushiro, Obihiro, Tomamu

We arrived in Kushiro in the evening.  After checking in to our hotel, we went to Fisherman’s Wharf MOO for dinner.  There was a food court on the second floor where we could order from the various stalls and dine at the common tables in the middle.

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Food court at Kushiro Fisherman’s Wharf MOO

 

Zangi (fried chicken) was a popular snack in Kushiro, so we ordered a Zangi don (fried chicken rice bowl).

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Stall selling Zangi don.

 

The zangi don was soooo good!! The chicken chunks were huge and juicy – the kids couldn’t stop eating them!

Zangi don - check out how huge the chicken chunks were!

Zangi don – check out how huge the chicken chunks were!

 

Another highly recommended dish that you should try when in Kushiro was Sanmanma.  It was a bit like a sushi roll, except the grilled fish was on the outside and the rice was inside – very special!

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Sanmanma from the yakitori stall.

 

After our very satisfying dinner, we went back to our hotel to rest.   The next morning, we woke up bright and early and drove out to a robata (charcoal grill) restaurant near the port called Shakebanya for breakfast.

Choosing our food at Shakebanya

Choosing our food at Shakebanya

Grilling our food on the charcoal grill in the table.

Grilling our food on the charcoal grill in the table.

MY eyeing MF's unagi.

MY eyeing MF’s unagi.

 

After breakfast, we drove to the Kushiro Marsh Observatory.  We did not pay to enter the observatory, instead we went for the free boardwalk outside the observatory.

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Kushiro Marsh Observatory

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Starting our walk to the marsh observation deck.

MY doing some warm-up exercise.. Lol!

MY doing some warm-up exercise.. Lol!

The walk was long and boring.

The walk was long and boring.

Finally arrived at the observation deck.

Finally reached the observation deck.

The marshland that we walked all the way here to see, not sure if I can appreciate this.

The marshland that we walked all the way here to see, not sure if I can appreciate this.

 

If you are planning to bring the kids on the boardwalk, you may want to bring a stroller in case the kid doesn’t want to walk back.  MF refused to walk back and kept asking me to carry him and he was freaking heavy with all the winter clothing! The boardwalk was wheelchair accessible, so we could have pushed the stroller all the way.  Totally regretted not bringing the stroller.

If you do not wish to walk, there is actually a parking lot along route 53 immediately after Kushiro Marsh Observatory where you could observe the marshland from.  So… I wouldn’t recommend doing the walk with kids unless you really wish to exercise.

After we finally made it back to the car, we drove further up route 53 to Tsurui Ito Tancho Sanctuary where cranes gathered to feed during winter.

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Cranes feeding at Tsurui Ito Tancho Sanctuary

 

The kids were both concussed from the long walk and fast asleep in the car, so hubby and I just parked along the road and jumped off for a quick photo.

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After this, we drove to Tsurumidai, another winter feeding ground for cranes.  The kids woke up and got to see the cranes.  For a moment I thought they were going to sleep through the whole ride and miss the cranes, good thing they didn’t!

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Arriving at Tsurumidai

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Wild cranes arriving at Tsurumidai.

 

The drive along route 53 was very interesting because along the way, we could see cranes flying in the sky.  There was even a ‘watch out for crane’ road sign!

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Spot cranes flying in the sky along route 53.

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‘Beware of cranes’ road sign near Kushiro.

 

We drove back to Kushiro for lunch at Kushiro Washo Market. The market is most famous for its katte don (勝手丼) where you pick your own ingredients from the many stalls in the market to make your own chirashi don.

There were many stalls at Washo Market touting 'katte don' (勝手どん)

There were many stalls at Washo Market touting ‘katte don’ (勝手丼)

Start off by looking for a stall selling rice.

Start off by looking for a stall selling rice.

Next, look for stalls selling an assortment of ingredients and choose what you want.

Next, look for stalls selling an assortment of ingredients and choose what you want.

There was an overwhelming choice of ingredients to choose from!

There was an overwhelming choice of ingredients to choose from!

You can try to bargain for discount or freebies - we each got a piece of tamago (egg) for free!

Try to bargain for discount or freebies – we each got a piece of tamago (egg) for free!

Itadakimasu!

Itadakimasu!

Worried that the kids will have nothing to eat? Not to worry, there are many stalls selling cooked food like soba and tonkatsu don.

Worried that the kids will have nothing to eat since they can’t eat raw food? Not to worry, there are many stalls selling cooked food like soba and tonkatsu don.

 

After our very sumptious lunch, we left Kushiro and drove to Obihiro.  We checked in to our hotel, Richmond Hotel Obihiro (which I highly recommend) and rested until it was time for dinner.  When in Obihiro, there is only one thing on the menu: BUTA DON (pork rice bowl).  We wanted to go to my favourite buta don shop, Panchou, which was located right next to Richmond hotel – but they were closed by the time we got our lazy bums out of the hotel! So we settled for another buta don shop, Butahage at Obihiro station.  The buta don here was also fantastic!

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MY LOVES buta don!!

Are you drooling already?? And notice how they cut up a portion of the meat into small pieces because we had kids with us? A* service!

Are you drooling already?? And notice how they cut up a portion of the meat into small pieces because we had kids with us? A* service!

 

The next day, after checking out of our hotel, we drove to a popular bakery cafe in Obihiro: Mugioto (one of the shops under the bakery chain Masuya Pan).

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Mugioto, a popular bakery in Obihiro

 

Mugioto was a great place to have breakfast with the kids.  There was a playroom for kids, outdoor seating area where kids could run around (in summer that is – nobody wanted to sit out in the bitter cold in winter) and super yummy bread that kids would love.  There was also a toaster in the cafe area where we could heat up our bread – piping hot bread guaranteed!

Playroom for kids at Mugioto

Playroom for kids at Mugioto

There were both indoor and outdoor seating areas at Mugioto.

There were both indoor and outdoor seating areas at Mugioto.

Did we order too much? Everything looked so good!

Did we order too much? Everything looked so good!

 

After we had our breakfast, we left Obihiro and drove to Tomamu.  If you are in Obihiro for the first time, I recommed visiting Rokkatei‘s main store.  I was not a fan of Rokkatei and wanted to spend more time in Tomamu so we skipped it.  Here are photos of Rokkatei’s main store from previous visits:

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Entrance of Rokkatei Main Store in Obihiro

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At the main store, you can pick up individual pieces of a huge variety of Rokkatei snacks.

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Come here to buy a piece of everything to try – If you like something, you can buy them in boxes to bring home.

 

As we left Obihiro, we were greeted by beautiful snowy mountains and MF got super excited and kept asking, “Are we reaching? Are we reaching?”

Beautiful snowy mountains, here we come!

Beautiful snowy mountains, here we come!

Arriving at Tomamu!

Arriving at Tomamu!

 

We reached Tomamu at around 11am and our room was not ready yet (check-in time was 3pm).  We saw a reindeer roaming outside the lobby and went to check it out.

Reindeer sleighing and photo-taking available at Tomamu.

Reindeer sledding and photo-taking available at Tomamu.

 

We wanted to go reindeer sledding but they said they were fully booked for the day.  So we went for the photoshoot instead.  We changed into the Santa Claus clothes provided for the photoshoot.

LIttle Santa Clauses!

Little Santa Clauses!

We started with family photos.

We started with family photos.

We also got to take individual photos.

We also got to take individual photos.

 

The photoshoot was SUPER value-for-money! For only 500 yen, the photographer took around 30 photos with our own camera (mixture of family shots and individual shots).  There was no pressurizing to purchase large print-outs at exorbitant prices, it was all soft copies in our own camera. We super enjoyed the photoshoot.

After the photoshoot, we went for lunch at one of the restaurants within the resort.

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Lunch at Tomamu Resort

 

After lunch, the kids went to play at the kids play area in the lobby.

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Kids play area at the lobby of Tomamu Resort Tower.

 

There was a nursing room just next to the play area – with FREE diapers of various sizes!

Nursing room at Tomamu Resort.

Nursing room at Tomamu Resort.

Free diapers!!

Free diapers!!

 

When the kids got bored of the play area, we went to borrow a snow sled (free of charge) from the reception and went to play in the snow.

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The kids LOVED sledding!

MF attempted to make a snow angel.

MF attempted to make a snow angel.

 

After sledding, our room was ready and we went back to the room to rest.  We were given a FREE upgrade to a quad room (from twin room) with 4 beds and 2 toilets!

Our very spacious quad room at Tomamu Resort.

Our very spacious quad room at Tomamu Resort.

The view from our room.

The view from our room.

 

Hubby and I took turns to go to the onsen.  Since we went right after check-in, the resort was still pretty quiet (all the other guests were either still skiing or haven’t checked in yet I guess) and I had the whole onsen to myself.  The onsen here was infinity pool style, looking out to a blanket of pure white snow.  It was soooo shiok!! And I even got to witness diamond dust (a phenomenon that happens when the hot steam from the onsen meets the super-cold clear sky) – it was a surreal experience.

In the evening, we went to the Ice Village.  In early December, most of the village was still under construction which was a tad disappointing.  Thankfully the giant ice slide was ready and MF went on the slide over and over and over. We also rented a snow tube and went snow tubing.

Entrance of Tomamu Ice Village.

Entrance of Tomamu Ice Village.

The partially completed Tomamu Ice Village.

The partially completed Tomamu Ice Village.

The ice-skating rink was still under construction.

The ice-skating rink was still under construction.

Construction and more construction.

Construction and more construction.

Giant ice slide at Tomamu Ice Village.

Giant ice slide at Tomamu Ice Village.

The kids LOVED the ice slide!

The kids LOVED the ice slide!

Snow tubing was super fun too!

Snow tubing was super fun too!

The only igloo that was ready in early December was Santa's House.

The only igloo that was ready in early December was Santa’s House.

 

After visiting the Ice Village, we went for dinner at one of the restaurants in the resort before calling it a day.   The next morning, we had buffet breakfast that was included in our hotel stay. I loved the buffet breakfast at Tomamu resort!

All my favourite food: sashimi, croissant with Hokkaido whipped butter and warabi mochi.

All my favourite food: sashimi, croissant with Hokkaido whipped butter and warabi mochi.

 

After breakfast, we went for the reindeer sledding.  It cost 2000 yen for an adult and the kids below 4 could ride for free!  However, there was a maximum weight limit so the sled couldn’t take all four of us.  So we paid 2000 yen and I rode with the kids while poor hubby followed us on foot to take photos.

Our ticket for the reindeer sled.

Our ticket for the reindeer sled.

Off we go!!

Off we go!!

 

After sledding, we checked out and began our long drive to the next snow resort at Niseko.

I totally enjoyed our stay at Tomamu.  It was the second time we stayed here in the year (read about our Summer stay here) and both stays were extremely enjoyable.  I found Tomamu to be an extremely value-for-money snow resort in comparison to Niseko and Rusutsu.  It was a ski-in ski-out resort, but the ski lifts outside the Tower were not operating in early December (according to their website they only open in late December).  The kids ski area and snow activity park were also not open yet.  If you want to visit during the December holidays, try to plan the trip as late as possible and hopefully the kids ski and play areas would be ready then.

Ski area outside the Tower that was not open yet.

Ski area outside the Tower that was not open yet.


 Click on the links below for other posts from this 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


More posts of my trips to Hokkaido with the kids:

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

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


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


 

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85Comments

  1. […] 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 […]

  2. […] ← Hokkaido with Kids (December 2014) Part 1: Sapporo (White Illumination and German Christmas Market, Jyogai Ichiba, Mitsui Outlet Park Kitahiroshima) 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, Lake Toya, Rusutsu Part 5: Otaru, New Chitose […]

  4. […] (December 2014) 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 […]

  5. […] in Winter (December 2014) 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 […]

  6. Ling Tan says:

    Hi there Bumblebee Mum! I bummed into you while in Niseko last year – I was the one who said hi to you while you were enjoying your breakfast at (I think) The Niseko Supplies company. :) Great post, and lovely photos, as usual, you have here on your winter drive through Hokkaid.

    I was wondering – could I entice you to share a summary of sort for your journey over at http://kidsonboard.net/share-photo-essay. Drop me a mail with any thoughts at all – I’d love to work with you!

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Hihi, so it was you!! Thanks for coming back to my blog to say Hi!! Let me pop over to Kidsonboard to take a look. :)

      • Ling Tan says:

        Hello yes that was me! :) I was a little shy at first to say hi, because I felt like a stalker, but hey – I thought in the end, it’s meant to be that i bummed into you :) I loved your blog – have been telling friends about it even before I started kidsonboard.net cos you are so detailed and it really is helpful.

        Thanks for submitting that form! Photo essays allows you to post more photos, Travel moment gives only three photos; Photo essays have a word-count limit, while Travel moment allows writer to write as much as they want!

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Okay, I just submitted a photo essay. I was wondering.. What’s the difference between ‘Photo Essay’ and ‘Travel Moment’? And ‘Join as a member’ vs ‘Post as a Reader’?

  7. Jasmine says:

    Hello! You have a very interesting and detailed blog on your travel in Hokkaido. Helps a great deal as I plan for my trip this Dec. Can I ask for the Tamanu ski resort, you mentioned the kids ski area was not ready when you were there. Does that mean totally no skiing for both adults and children during your stay? I am planning to stay there in mid Dec just the day before price increases. My kids will be very disappointed if they wont get to ski.

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Nono.. The main ski area (can be used by both kids and adults) is ready by December. But they have another ski area that is specially for kids, that one was not ready when we were there.

      If you refer to the map on their website, you can see they have a few ski areas:
      http://www.snowtomamu.jp/winter/en/ski/guide/slope.php

      Only some of them are ready in early December. But the area called ‘Nipo Town’ that is specifically for kids was not ready yet.
      http://www.snowtomamu.jp/winter/en/ski/family/index.php

      Their academy starts running lessons for anyone above the age of 3 from end November (as a guideline). So you should be able to ski there.
      http://www.snowtomamu.jp/winter/en/ski/academy/ski.php

      There are days when weather is very bad, they will have to close the ski lifts. But that’s just unfortunate and cannot be pre-planned. If it does happen, Tomamu Resort will email you and they will allow you to cancel your booking with no penalty.

      • Jasmine says:

        Thank you very much for your reply. :) The kids Nipo town sure looks fun! I’m bringing my two older children and it will be a great disappointment if it’s not ready. My intended date of stay is 17-19 Dec. I was searching high and low on their website for the expected opening date but could not locate it. I suppose it is way too early to check now right? We will be in Hokkaido for 2 weeks and not intending to explore East Hokkaido for this trip since it’s our first time in Hokkaido. We wanted to more relax time so we intend to only cover Sapporo, Otaru, Hakodate, Noboribetsu, Asahikawa zoo and Tomamu within 11 full days. In your opinion, if there is a choice of 1 night stay between Noboribetsu and Otaru, which will you choose? Any opinion and recommendation will be greatly appreciated! We have been to Japan twice travelling around using JR pass. It will be the same this round. :)

        • bumblebeemum says:

          Yes, it is too early to confirm the exact starting date now. Because it really depends a lot on the snow condition. Some years they don’t get enough snowfall, and have to open later. Some years they get tons of snow, and can open earlier. So you will never know when exactly they will start until they are ready to start. (For this trip, I went to Rusutsu on 15 Dec because they published on their website that their snow park will be open 13 Dec. But it was still not ready on 15th. Similar thing happened in Niseke. Hence I conclude that even opening dates published on websites are not reliable. Because it really depends a lot on Mother Nature.)

          Between Noboribetsu and Otaru, I guess I would choose Noboribetsu. Because it seems you are not visiting any other onsen town for this trip. Soaking in onsen during winter is the best! You can visit Otaru easily any other time of the year, even without a rental car. Though I got to say, Otaru canal is most beautiful in winter. Hahaha… decisions decisions.

          Oh wait! Are you driving or using the train? If you are using train, then maybe Otaru is better than Noboribetsu. But then again, you can take the shuttle bus to Noboribetsu from Sapporo. Wahaha… Am I confusing you more??

  8. loh lili says:

    sledding, snow tubing

    Hi Bumble Bee,
    Good day.
    we are bringing our 2 sons: age 9 and 5 this nov 19-29 to Hokkaido.
    my only problem is my sons want to touch the snow: sledding, snow tubing or simply lie on the snow.
    I know being end November, most resorts are not open; so skiing is out.

    where is most possible to have snow, at that time:
    Furano & Tomamu, being higher?
    or Niseko & Rusutsu?

    Secondly, would driving be more fun than travelling on trains?
    thirdly: just curious: u & hubby take turns to go to the onsen. Are children not allowed in?

    Thanks

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Hmmm… Your dates are indeed too early for snow activities. Niseko and Tomamu would have snow by then. Lying in the snow would not be a problem. Though you may not be able to ski or do any snow activities such as sledding and snow tubing yet. Push your snow resort visit as far back towards your trip as you can.

      Another place with high chance of snow would be Asahiyama zoo. You can visit as a day trip from Sapporo.

      Generally, when there is no snow, I prefer driving. But once there is snow, driving poses certain dangers. It really depends on your itinerary. If you are visiting major cities / snow resorts, you may not want to drive and just rely on trains.

      Yup, my hubby and I take turns to go to the onsen. Children are allowed, but my younger one is not toilet-trained so I haven’t brought him. My older boy went when he was about 4 years old. The Japanese bring their babies (below 1 year old kind of babies) with them to the onsen though, so it is totally allowed.

  9. Joey tee says:

    Hi mummy, would like to check with u, I travel with my husband and 2 boy ( 3 & 5 years old), for tomamu resort stay, can I choose the standard room with two moving bed? Did u need to paid the breakfast for yr kids? I will travel during feb next year two night, did I need to choose the package come with lift?

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Iirc, Tomamu resort starts charging for kids 4 years and above. So most likely your 3 year old stays for free but you would need to pay for your 4 year old. The price you pay for the kid would include meals that are included in your package.

      I am not sure about the moving beds, because my boys always sleep with us on the existing beds. For my last visit, I booked a twin room, but eventually got upgraded to a quad room. My friend who visited earlier this year was upgraded to a suite! So.. If you don’t mind squeezing in a twin room, just get a twin room and keep your fingers crossed that you will be upgraded. :p

      If you are planning to ski a lot, then you should get the package with lift passes. But with kids so young, I’m not sure if you would really be skiing a lot. You may want to keep your options open and just get a stay + breakfast package and decide whether you want to sign up for classes or get lift passes when you are there.

  10. joey Tee says:

    I been email them regarding the bus services from Tomamu staion, but not getting any response from them. Can the staff understand English there? you mentioned it about the free upgrade to the quad room, how did you managed to got the free upgrade? many thanks for your advise.

    • bumblebeemum says:

      I think the free upgrade is just a draw of luck.

      What bus service have you been trying to ask about? They do have staff that understands English there, though not as proficient as the staff at Niseko.

  11. Astrid Yang says:

    Hi Bumblebeemum! Am planning a family trip in Dec. Would like some advice from u. Firstly, how do I book 1 room with 2 kids. Cuz most hotels do not allow 2 kids in a room w 2 adults. They will only allow us to book 2 separate rooms. TIA!

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Hmm… I always book a room for 2 adults and check their ‘children policy’. My kids are still young, so I have been booking those that allow the kids to stay for free with existing bedding. Basically I just book a room for 2 adults. So far no questions asked about the kids appearing during check in. But eventually when they are older, I guess I will just have to book hotels with quad rooms (though they are not very common in Japan city hotels, but most onsen resorts can accommodate up to 5 pax in a room) or 2 separate rooms.

      • Astrid Yang says:

        Thank u so much! That is also how we are planning to do too. My kids are 6 n 3 yo. So i believe should be alright. Pretty much following your itinery!

  12. joey Tee says:

    would like to check the transportation from Tomamu station to Resort Tomamu. I will travel with my husband and two of my boys (>3years old & 5 years old). Would like to book the room for Hoshino Resort Tomamu, not sure whether or not should I just book 2 adult or 2 adult & 1 baby? If I book only 2 adult, can my 5 years old boy dine in for free?

    • bumblebeemum says:

      You would need to register both of your kids during booking and they will calculate based on the child’s age and charge for your kids were applicable. Iirc, I was there when my boys were 2 and 4 years old and I booked a twin room, and I did enter 2 adults, 1 baby, 1 infant. They charged for my 4 year old (considered baby) but it was free for 2 year (considered infant).

      I’m pretty sure your 5 year old needs to pay for his meals and stay. As for your younger child, I really cannot remember if they start charging from 3 or 4 years old. If they start charging at 3 years old, then you would need to pay for him as well. There’s no way to ‘cheat’ because they will ask for the passports of all guests during check-in (a standard protocol at all hotels in Japan).

  13. Angela says:

    Hi Bumblebee mum, your blog is really fantastic! Thank you so much for sharing all this information with the public. AND selflessly answering everyone’s queries diligently.

    I’m also planning a Dec hokkaido trip :)
    Wanted to ask abt Tomamu
    1. do you know when’s the earliest the ice village might be open for tubing.. can’t find the info on the website

    2. also can’t find the child policy for its rooms.. we are 2 adults with 4 kids.. ( 12 to 2 years old) Am willing to pay for all the kids but hoping to be able to squeeze into quad room. You think that’s possible ? thanks

    • bumblebeemum says:

      1. Based on last year’s date, they start end November (last year it opened on 29 Nov 2014). Again, all snow parks are weather dependent as they need to have enough snow to build the parks. But generally Tomamu Ice Village starts end Nov.

      2. I booked a twin room for 2 adults and 2 kids, so I think it is possible if your kids don’t need the beds. However, the kids will still be charged even if they don’t require extra beds. Tomamu starts charging for children aged 3 or 4 (can’t remember the exact age – around there), pretty sure the 2 year old can bunk in for free.

      • Angela says:

        thanks Bumblebeemum for your help !

        • Doreen says:

          Hi Bumblebeemum, need your recommendation for itinerary from 1-8 December 2015 in hokkaido….Reaching CTS om 1st Dec at around 8+am and leaving on 8th Dec at around 9.30am..travelling with family with 2 children age 8 and 13. I’m still thinking of self driving….but this is our 1st time Winter trip. Btw, how is the average temperature during this period? Snowing? Thks

          • bumblebeemum says:

            In Dec, the temperature should be around 0 to -10 degrees in Hokkaido. It will definitely be snowing. You can try driving around the Eastern Hokkaido area (Kushiro – Akan National Park). I usually recommend visiting Eastern Hokkaido in early December. A possible itinerary would be as follows:

            1st: CTS – Sapporo
            2nd: Sapporo
            3rd: Sapporo – Tomamu
            4rd: Tomamu – Kushiro
            5th: (Rent car) Kushiro – Tsurui (for cranes) – Lake Akan
            6th: Drive around Akan National Park
            7th: Drive back to Kushiro (return car), train back to CTS
            8th: Morning flight home

  14. vauxie says:

    Dear bumblebeemum, your blog is awesome and so informative. Thank you for your precious time taken to share your knowledge of travelling in Japan. I’m trying to find out if Singaporean needs to apply for international driving permit to drive in Japan… Thank you in advance.

  15. Anonymous says:

    Hi Mummy,

    I have plan my trip to Hokkaido in Feb-16, and planning the itinerary as Sapporo (3 night) –> Tomamu (2 night) –> Lake Akan (3 night) –> Abashiri (1 night)

    Can I check with you whether or not we can drive to & from between Lake Akan Tsuruga and Abashiri (Aurora ice breaker cruise) on the same day? Did you advise to do this? As I lazy to change hotel to Abashiri

  16. Joey Tee says:

    Hi Mummy,

    Would like to check whether or not you advise to drive to & from between lake Akan Tsuruga Wing and Abashiri (Aurora Ice breaker cruise) on the same day?

  17. Wenny says:

    Hello! Being a typical kiasu sporean mum, i’m already starting to plan my trip for Dec 2016! hahaha!
    I saw your photos at Tomamu and loved it!
    In your opinion, what’s the best time to visit Tomamu if I really want to experience all the snow activities?
    Also, if i dun intend to drive, is Tomanu an easily accessible place?
    And how many days do you think I should stay there for?
    Finally, is Tomamu very expensive in terms of accommodation and food?
    Thank you so much!

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Usually ski resorts will only be fully operational during the last week of the year (Christmas week – New Year week). But that will also be a very expensive time to visit.

      Tomamu is easily accessible by train. There are shuttle buses running between Tomamu station and the resort.

      How many days depends on whether you want to ski / snowboard or not. If it’s just snow activities, I would think 2 nights would be sufficient.

      I found Tomamu to be cheaper than Niseko in terms of accommodation and food. However, if you go during Christmas week, it’ll be expensive. If you want to save money, going earlier in the month will be much cheaper – but you won’t have the full range of snow activities. Oh well, we can’t have the best of everything.

      • Wenny says:

        Thank you so much for your reply! by the way, is there an entrance fee to Tomamu? Or do we just pay per activity?
        Also hubby’s worried that it will be cold and miserable and the kid will be bored…I was thinking of 7 nights in Sapporo and either 2 or 3 nights in Tomamu. What are your thoughts?
        And lastly you stayed at Mercure Sapporo? which room type did you get? I only have 1 kid so am thinking if the beds are big enough, then i dun require an extra bed. Thanks!

        • bumblebeemum says:

          There is no entrance fee, you just pay for the activities.

          Will your kid be interested to learn skiing? If yes, you can spend 3 nights there. But if you just want to play with snow and try out some snow activities, 2 nights will be sufficient.

          I got a room with a queen sized bed. We are pretty used to squeezing with the kids on one bed to save money and the queen sized bed at Mercure was bigger than what we’ve had in other hotels that only offered a normal double bed.

  18. Jess Ho says:

    Hi,
    Your blog is so informative and I really enjoyed reading it. I’m planning to visit Hokkaido in Dec and would like some of your expert advice. Tentative itinerary (using public transport):-
    Day 1- arrive in Chitose airport (considering Kushiro airport: see the cranes)
    Day 2- tsurumidai by bus
    Day 3 to 5- Sapporo (day trip to Otaru, Asahiyama zoo, tomamu resort)
    Day 6 to 9- Niseko (ski)
    Day 10 to 11- Lake Toya (day trip to Noboribetsu)
    Day 12 to 14- Hakodate

    Can you advise if it’s necessary for us to get JR Hokkaido pass? We are a family of 5 (3 older kids-18,13,11) thanks.

    • bumblebeemum says:

      If you are going to Kushiro, it doesn’t really make sense to do Tomamu as a day trip from Sapporo since Tomamu is in between Sapporo and Kushiro. I would spend a night at Tomamu instead.

      Day 1: Arriving in Kushiro would be better if you want to start with Tsurumidai
      Day 2: Kushiro (cranes)
      Day 3: Kushiro – Tomamu (stay)
      Day 4: Tomamu – Sapporo

      But if your aim is to save money as accommodation in Sapporo is cheaper, then no choice gotta make the to and fro train rides between Sapporo and Tomamu.

      It looks like the 4-day flexible rail pass may work for you. You use them for the following days:
      1) Kushiro – Sapporo
      2) Day trip to Asahikawa
      3) Day trip to Tomamu
      4) Toya to Hakodate

      You will just nice make it into the 10-day window if you do Kushiro – Sapporo on Day 3 and Toya – Hakodate on Day 12. But do double-check the train prices on hyperdia, add up the individual fares and compare it to the price of the rail pass to see if it’s really worth it.

      • Jess Ho says:

        Hi Bumblebee mum,
        Thanks so much for your reply. I’m now thinking it may be better for me to start my trip from Hakodate and leave all the winter activities towards the end of my trip. Can you advise on my itinerary-
        Dec 16/17- Hakodate
        Dec 18- Lake Toya
        Dec 19- Noboribetsu
        Dec 20- Sapporo
        Dec 21 to 24- Tomamu (ski)
        Dec 25- Arrive Kushiro
        Dec 26- Tsurumidai
        Dec 27 to 30- Sapporo

        Can I ask how do you normally make your booking for the onsen? How much per night in average? Is it cheaper to book directly online? Any advice and suggestions will be much appreciated.

        Thanks.

        • bumblebeemum says:

          Why do you want to go back to Sapporo again at the end of the trip instead of finishing up Sapporo while you are there around 20th? i.e.

          Dec 16/17- Hakodate
          Dec 18- Lake Toya
          Dec 19- Noboribetsu
          Dec 20-23 Sapporo
          Dec 24 to 27- Tomamu (ski)
          Dec 28- Arrive Kushiro
          Dec 29- Tsurumidai
          Dec 30- Flight back

          Onsen ryokan prices can vary a lot from hotel to hotel. But roughly there are two types of ryokan: The old & dated ones that are more budget-friendly and the new & modern ones that are more expensive. For the older ones, I would say less than 10,000yen per pax per night with half-board. But for the new ones, you will be looking at closer to 20,000yen per pax per night with half-board.

          Sometimes it is cheaper to book from bookings sites like Agoda, booking.com, hotels.com etc, sometimes it is cheaper to book direct, sometimes it is cheaper to book from Japanese booking sites like Rakuten, Japanican etc. You just need to be hardworking enough to go and compare all of them if you want the cheapest deal.

          • Jess Ho says:

            Hi Bumblebee mum,

            Once again, thanks for your help. Firstly, I’m worried about traveling with suitcases on JR. I understand that only the airport train have luggage storing space. But there’ll be limited storage space on other JR trains. I’ve always done F&E trips with rental car. But since we don’t have experience driving in snow condition, we’ve decided that it’s safer to take public transport.

            Secondly, I’m concerned that the room rates at Tomamu might be higher during the X’mas period and it’ll be crowded. Is my concern valid? Thanks.

  19. Faith says:

    Hi Bumblebeemum,
    I’m so thankful to have stumbled on your blog and read up all your informative sharing.
    My itinerary is as follows :

    Day 1 – Tokyo
    Day 2 – Chitose, rent car to Lake Toya
    Day 3 – Lake Toya
    Day 4 – Drive to Otaru, stay the night
    Day 5 – Drive to Sapporo, stay 2 nights
    Day 7 – Drive to Tomamu, stay 2 nights
    Day 9- Drive to Chitose, fly back to Tokyo
    Day 10 – Tokyo (Factory Outlets & Ueno Park)
    Day 11 – Tokyo, depart for S’pore at 8pm

    Hey, I would be very grateful if you could go through this and offer your advice/suggestion.
    Really appreciate your help.
    Thanks very much.

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Your itinerary looks good, quite relaxing and not rushed at all. :)

      • Faith says:

        Thanks so much, Bumblebeemum! We are a family of 4 adults and a one year old girl.
        When you went with your parents and two sons, what vehicle did you rent?
        Also, based on the routes we’re taking do we need the ETC card or HEP?

        Would appreciate any tips or info based on your experience.
        Haven’t decided who to rent car from. Any recommendation?

        We’re going end September. Sad that we won’t see the Ice Village ?

        Thanks and have a good day!

        • bumblebeemum says:

          When we went as 3 adults and 2 kids, we rented a Toyota Fielder. But we travel very light and don’t have much luggage. If you all have a lot of luggage, I suggest getting a 7 seater.

          I don’t think you need the HEP. Even for ETC, it is not absolutely necessary since you won’t be using the toll roads much.

          You can try searching for a rental car on comparison websites like Tocoo, Rakuten, Experience Japan etc.

          End September is a beautiful time for autumn foliage. Hmmm… I won’t spend 2 nights at Tomamu if I were going in end Sept actually. I would go to Sounkyo and Furano instead for autumn foliage and autumn flower fields.

  20. Cleo says:

    Hi Bumblebee Mom,

    Thank you for sharing lotsa useful info on Hokkaido:)

    We are planning a 7-day trip in the last week of November (I know it’s not ideal:( ) and we have 2 young kids age 2 and 4.

    Our itinerary is as such:
    Day 1 Sapporo
    Day 2 Day trip to Otaru
    Day 3 Pick up car and drive to Asahiyama
    Day 4 Sounkyo Onsen
    Day 5 Lake Akan
    Day 6 Kushiro
    Day 7 Tomamu
    Day 8 Drive back to CTS airport

    Is travelling to Lake Akan a waste of time given that we have such a tight schedule? Or should we give Kushiro or any other destination a miss? Really appreciate your advice:) Thank you!!

    • bumblebeemum says:

      You are covering too much distance with too little time in winter. I suggest you visit Noboribetsu and Lake Toya instead of Eastern Hokkaido. And you can do Asahiyama Zoo as a day trip by train from Sapporo.

      • cleo says:

        Thanks for your prompt reply. yup…I feel it’s too hectic too. shall relook into my itinerary again. thanks a lot and have a great day ahead:)

  21. Kris says:

    Hi bumblebee ,

    I am planning a year end trip to hokkiado from 16 dec to 2 Jan and my itinerary is as follows –

    Day 1. – arrive at Sapporo late and check in to air bnb
    Day 2-4 – exploring Sapporo
    Day 4 & 5 – stay at Kushiro
    Day 5 &6 Lake Akan and planning to stay at onsens
    Day 7&8 – Tomuma resort ( freakingly expensive price at the resort , so I staying at air bnb inside the resort)
    Day 9 – Noribetsue
    Day 10 & 11 – lake Toya and day trip to Rutsusu
    Day 12-14 back to Sapporo and make day trip to Otaru

    Day 15 – departs from CTS

    Now my dilemma is whether I should be doing my trip to eastern hokkiado via driving . My hubby and I have no experience in driving in snow condition before. But looking through ur informative blog , I was rather encouraged and my hubby also thought it should be ok to drive if we keep our speed to 50km/hr. However when I start to share with my friends – we were met with “awe” , “sure , in snow condition “?
    Hence I was rather hesitant and worried . So would like to ask u whether is it really “quite ok to drive in late December ” for first timer drivers in snow condition ? :( plus I would like to skip obihiro and instead am thinking is it feasible to drive all the way from Sapporo to Kushiro and stay for 2 nites as first day will be a long day drive and second day will be up and ealry to explore Kushiro and the cranes area… My only concern is it feasible to do this leg of driving ? Hahaah lastly my plan to stay at Tomuma has been fixed as my friends will be joining us on that day and accomodation has already been booked . And lastly , is it ok to drive from lake Akan to Tomuma resort ? Cos I have read like u said not advisable to drive to ski resort … A handful of questions … But thanks for taking time to reply :)

    • bumblebeemum says:

      There is always a first time for everything. Akan National Park is really hard to get around without a car. You could hire a private driver, but it will be much more expensive than driving yourselves. Book with a reliable car company with good roadside support (e.g. Toyota), drive slow, keep your itinerary loose, drive in bright daylight and you should be fine. Many of our readers have been coming back from their winter self-drive trips and saying it wasn’t that bad.

      If you want to minimise your driving, I would say only drive at Akan. So you rent a car from Kushiro to drive around Akan and return it to Kushiro. Then from there, train to Tomamu.

      For your day trip to Rusutsu, I’m not sure of your public transport options between Lake Toya and Rusutsu. Have you looked that up?

  22. Kris says:

    I forgot to add , I am traveling with my daughters aged 7 & 11. I have surfed some car rental website and it seems to me that they are not cheap ..so alternatively, I am actually considering to buy a 4 day JR flexi pass and used it to travel from Sapporo to Kushiro. From Kushiro , will do a 3 day car rental to explore Kushiro and drive to and fro lake Akan. Return the car at Kushiro and take train from Kushiro to Tomuma. Pls let me hear ur views. Thanks !

  23. Jess Ho says:

    Hi Bumblebeemum,
    I’d like some advice on my itinerary as follows-
    Dec 15&16- Hakodate
    Dec 17&18- lake Toya and Noboribetsu
    Dec 19- Otaru
    Dec 20-24 – Niseko
    Dec 25- Kushiro
    Dec 26- Obihiro / Tomamu
    Dec 27-29 – Sapporo
    Dec 30- Depart for SG

    Is my itinerary feasible? Is it feasible for me to get 4 day Flexi pass? Any suggestions? Thanks.

    • bumblebeemum says:

      It is feasible. Just that Kushiro is terribly far and I usually won’t go all the way to Kushiro for one day. When I go to Kushiro, I would try to cover Akan National Park as well to make it worth my time going all the way there. What are your plans for that one day in Kushiro?

      Are you flying in Hakodate and out CTS? Or round-trip CTS? The flexi 4-day pass needs to be completed within 10 days. If I were to use the rail pass, I would shift my itinerary to put Sapporo and Niseko at the end. And I would use the 7-day rail pass at the beginning. So let’s say you are flying into Hakodate. With a 7-day rail pass, I would do the following:

      Dec 15: Hakodate
      Dec 16: Hakodate
      Dec 17 (Day 1 of rail pass): Hakodate – Toya
      Dec 18: Toya – Noboribetsu
      Dec 19: Noboribetsu – Tomamu / Obihiro
      Dec 20: Tomamu / Obihiro – Kushiro
      Dec 21: Kushiro
      Dec 22: Kushiro – Sapporo
      Dec 23 (Day 7 of rail pass): Sapporo (day trip to Otaru)
      Dec 24: Sapporo
      Dec 25 – 29: Niseko
      Dec 30: Flight back

      • Jess Ho says:

        I’m flying in Hakodate and out CTS. Unfortunately, my accommodation in Niseko is from Dec 20-24 (location and price reason and already booked). That’s why im having problems in my itinerary. Is it too far to travel from Niseko to Kushiro ( to see the crane. Still thinking if we should do self drive to Lake Akan since we’ve never driven in snow condition). I’m thinking of traveling to Noboribetsu from Hakodate (stop over Lake Toya enroute to Nororibetsu). And having 2 days in Kushiro instead. What is your view? Thanks.

        • bumblebeemum says:

          Yes, it’s too far to travel from Niseko to Kushiro. The train ride requires 2 transfers (at Otaru and Sapporo) and 400+ minutes in total.

          I don’t think visiting Lake Toya and Noboribetsu in one day is feasible in winter. If the dates for Niseko cannot be changed, I would just take my time in Southern Hokkaido at the start of trip. Something like this:

          Dec 15-17 – Hakodate
          Dec 18 – Hakodate – Lake Toya
          Dec 19- Lake Toya – Noboribetsu
          Dec 20- Noboribetsu – Niseko
          Dec 21-24 – Niseko
          Dec 25- Niseko – Sapporo
          Dec 26- Sapporo
          Dec 27- Sapporo – Kushiro
          Dec 28- Kushiro – Lake Akan
          Dec 29- Lake Akan – Kushiro – Obihiro / Tomamu
          Dec 30- Obihiro / Tomamu – CTS

          Not sure what time your flight out of CTS is on 30th. If your flight is early, you will probably have to skip Obihiro / Tomamu and go back to CTS on Dec 29 and spend the night at Air Terminal Hotel.

          And for Kushiro / Lake Akan, I do recommend self-driving.

          • Jess Ho says:

            Thank you so much, Bumblebee mum. Correct me if I’m wrong, I’d still have to travel via Sapporo, from Noboribetsu to Kutchan. That’s why I thought I might as well stay in Sapporo or Otaru for 1 day.
            Re: self drive in Kushiro and Akan, are there mountainous routes and any chance of route closure? Many thanks again.

            • bumblebeemum says:

              From Noboribetsu to Kutchan, I searched hyperdia and the fastest route is actually to take the LTD. EXP SUPER HOKUTO from Noboribetsu to Oshamambe and transfer to JR Hakodate Line for Kutchan. This actually makes sense if you look at the map:
              https://goo.gl/maps/LJ73oDAbXdD2

              So no, you don’t need to go via Sapporo.

              Yes, there will be road closures in winter. Now that you mention it, I did encounter road closure while driving from Kushiro to Lake Akan the very first time I was in Hokkaido. Then we simply U-turned back and the GPS found another route for us. Also at Lake Mashu, route 52 is partially closed in winter, so you must enter from the side of route 52 near Mashu station. You cannot enter from the side near Kawayu Onsen.

              • Jess Ho says:

                Hi Bumblebee mum,
                It’s me again. Got to trouble you again regarding the drive from Lake Akan to Lake Kussharo and Lake Mashu. From google map, the terrain looks rather mountainous and some parts meandering. Can you share your driving route and your view of the terrain? Would driving be a problem in last week Dec. Thanks so much

                • bumblebeemum says:

                  This is the route between Lake Akan and Lake Kussharo / Lake Mashu:
                  https://goo.gl/maps/VxskL7maYUL2

                  Roads in Japan are very well paved and wide enough, so it’s not that difficult to drive. If there is snow, just drive slow (below 50km/h) and apply brakes when there are sharp bends / going down slope.

                  • Jess Ho says:

                    Hi,

                    I just read that JR Hokkaido has suspended service between Sapporo and Obihiro/Kushiro. Service on Limited Exp train has been replaced by temporary ltd exp train, bus and temporary rapid train, which indicated the earliest arrival time in Kushiro to be 13:22 (depart Sapporo 7:55). Normal service is expected to resume end of the year. in view of this, will it be too late to be driving to Lake Akan on the same day? Thanks.

                    • bumblebeemum says:

                      Hmm.. If you manage to arrive in Kushiro at 13:22 and pick up a car from Kushiro station immediately, you should still be able to make it to Lake Akan before dark. But you would have to visit Tsurui on your way back from Lake Akan instead. So the next day, you may have to set off from Lake Akan early.

                    • Jess Ho says:

                      Thanks Bumblebee mum. You’ve been most helpful. We’ve decided to give Lake Akan/Kushiro a miss this time. With limited time and some controllable factors, it may just be a touch and go if we go. We’d prefer to spend more time to take in the sights and relax in the onsen, which I doubt we’ll be able to do so this time. Hence, we’re just going to focus on Sapporo and outskirts for now.

                      Thanks again and I look forward to reading more exciting trips in your blog. All the best!

  24. Rey says:

    Hi Bumblebeemum …

    What a very helpful information that you’ve shared in your blog.

    I’m planning to have a family trip to Hokkaido in first week of January, and spend 1-2 nights in Tomamu. There will be 4 adults and 3 children in our group.

    I’ve checked the website for reservation and the price is so expensive. And I couldn’t find in any other booking website i.e to get some discount.

    I wonder if there’s any other accommodation in the area that still allow us to access all the snow activities in the resort.

    I will be using train, as I’m not confident of driving in winter at all.

    Thanks a bunch

  25. Eunice says:

    Hi there , we are thinking to visit Hokkaido in January with my 18 months and 4 year old kids rom Melbourne. We are aware that there will be very very cold 😐😐. Is it ideal to go? So worry about the snow rain and we are not thinking to rent a car. Stroller would be difficult to push around too.

    Thank you for sharing and your boys seem coping the cold weather very well.

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Yes, it will be very very cold in January. My boys did catch a cold when we visited in winter – which is expected since they are so used to the warm climate in Singapore. Got to bring along medication for them. And it can be quite expensive to get your hands on proper winter wear (which they will probably only wear once? Coz they will outgrow it so fast), unless there is someone you can borrow from.

      If you can, visiting in February during the Sapporo snow festival & Asahikawa winter festival would be more exciting. I mean.. If you were to bear the cold, might as well make it worthwhile by going for the festivals.

  26. Aveena says:

    Dear Bumblebee mum, I chanced upon your website and find it so informative. I am trying to plan out the itinerary for Jan trip and I am kind of stucked to where to go and whether to drive or take train.
    I will be reaching Sapporo CTS on 12th Jan and will fly in to Hakodate on the same day and slowly work my way up.
    Flying out from Sapporo CTS on 26th Jan.

    So far this is what I have planned
    12th – 15th Hakodate
    15th – Noboribetsu (1 night onsen stay)
    :
    25th – Airport Terminal hotel
    26th – Morning flight back to SG

    We thought of exploring Lake Toya, Rusutsu, Otaru, Sapporo, Tomamu, Eastern part of Hokkaido to see cranes. Not quite sure how should we plan our route from noboribetsu onward. And should we rent the car on last day of Hokodate and drive throughout the trip or do a mix of drive and train.
    Plus is our first winter trip, so we try plan a more relax itinerary.

    Really appreciate your suggestions. Thank you in advance! :)

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Timing is a bit tight if you want to go all the way from Hakodate to see the cranes at Kushiro. You won’t be able to cover all the places you listed. This is what I would suggest:

      12th – 15th Hakodate
      15th – Hakodate – Noboribetsu (train)
      16th – Noboribetsu – Tomamu (train)
      17th – Tomamu
      18th – Tomamu – Kushiro (train)
      19th – Rent a car from Kushiro. Drive to Tsurui (for cranes) then to Lake Akan
      20th – Lake Akan (drive around Akan National Park)
      21st – Return car to Kushiro. Train from Kushiro to Obihiro.
      22nd – Train from Obihiro to Sapporo
      23nd – Sapporo
      24rd – Sapporo (day trip to Otaru)
      25th – Sapporo – CTS

      Note that for Noboribetsu, the onsen town is not near the train station. So you would still need to take a taxi from Noboribetsu station to the onsen town.

  27. Jess Ho says:

    *…….uncontrollable factors……

  28. Mavis says:

    Dear Bumblebee mum,

    We are planning to fly into Hokkaido after our visit to Tokyo before flying back to Singapore.

    18 Dec Tokyo – Chitose – Tomamu
    19 Dec Tomamu
    20 Dec Tomamu
    21 Dec Tomamu – Chitose – Singapore

    We have booked airbnb accomodation in alpha village for our stay. What are the food options we have in tomamu other than the restaurants ? Will it be very expensive ? Is there a convenience store to pick up some food ?

    We also realized that there is only limited train service going to tomamu, and we may have to consider driving. Will the route from New Chitose Airport to Tomamu be difficult to drive ? Feeling unsure as we have no experience driving in snow.

    Also should I change the night of 21 Dec to stay in Chitose instead of Tomamu. Wanting to make sure we are have enough time to make it to Chitose for our flight.

    Really appreciate your advice.

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Ummm.. In Tomamu, you are pretty much restricted to the restaurants in Tomamu resort. It is not convenient to pick up food once you are at Tomamu. I suggest you stock up at New Chitose Airport which has everything. The restaurants are okay, typical restaurant prices? I didn’t think they were overly exorbitant. But definitely not your 300-yen gyu don kind of food. Maybe about 2000yen per pax per meal? If you buy some bread from CTS for breakfast, you can save on breakfast.

      I would opt for either the train or the bus. None of these timings work for you?
      http://www.snowtomamu.jp/bus/index_en.html
      http://www.snowtomamu.jp/blog/web/6021

      What time is your flight out of CTS on 21 Dec? If it’s early, then yes I would recommend you spend the last night at Air Terminal Hotel.

      • Mavis says:

        Really appreciate your advice.

        I am also considering spending the 3 days in Sapporo instead of going to Tomamu. Are there recommended skiing and snow activity areas that will be fun for my teenage kids.

        Thanks again !

        • bumblebeemum says:

          Skiing and snow activities are pretty limited around Sapporo in December. I think heading to ski resorts in Tomamu / Rusutsu / Niseko would be better for snow activities.

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