Home >> Itineraries,Japan Travel >> Hokkaido Self-Drive Trip (June 2016) Part 2: Lake Shikotsu, Lake Toya, Niseko

Our Hokkaido Self-Drive Trip in June 2016 (Part 2) - Visiting Lake Shikotsu, Lake Toya and Niseko - Bumble Bee Mum

Day 4: Asahikawa – Lake Shikotsu – Lake Toya – Niseko

On Day 4 of our trip, we had to pick up a friend who would be joining us for the rest of the trip from CTS.  So we headed South from Asahikawa. detouring to CTS before heading to our first destination, Lake Shikotsu.

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It was raining quite heavily that day and I was STILL sick (bah).  So I just bummed in the shop selling my favourite cheese imo mochi while the rest of the group ventured out to the lakeside.

We drove on to Lake Toya for lunch at Sendoan.

Unlike the past 2 visits where I had superb clear views of Lake Toya, it was a bit cloudy around the little island in the middle of Lake Toya that day.  But I guess there was a certain beauty to it?

Yeah, I was trying to stay positive.  It was a bit hard to stay positive when I was sick and the weather was crappy.  We had planned to ride the Usuzan Ropeway, but because it was super foggy, we reckoned it would just be a waste of money and we wouldn’t be able to see anything from the top of the mountain.  I’m gonna insert a photo from a previous visit to Usuzan Ropeway here just to make myself feel better.  And just so that people skimming through my blog post without reading my long grandmother’s story will think I had an AWESOME trip. *hiak hiak hiak*

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Instead of going to the ropeway, we went for our usual run in the park along the shores of Lake Toya just beside Sendoan.

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After which we drove to a vantage point which was free of charge (so no loss even if we didn’t get a good view there) – Silo Observatory.  When we were there, it was cloudy but we could still see Lake Toya vaguely.

And I guess we were considered lucky to even have a view because 5 minutes later, the whole observatory was consumed by fog!

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Can you imagine if we had paid for the ropeway and be greeted with a view like this at the top? That would have been quite depressing. #CouldHaveBeenWorse

It was NOT a good day.  And there was only one thing that could perk me up on a bad day.  FOOD.  So we drove to my favourite cafe in Niseko, Cafe IF, which thank goodness was open!

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Somehow with my groggy panadol-infused mind, I ordered the wrong cheesecake. I wanted to have this whipped cheesecake which we had the last time we were here:

But instead we got this more normal-looking cheesecake.  Which was super yummy nevertheless!

The hot chocolate was heavenly, at least according to everyone who drank it.  I passed because I was coughing my lungs out.  I just satisfied myself with the more-than-satisfying cheesecake.

We checked in to our hotel, Niseko Northern Resort Annupuri.  After the guys went to rejuvenate themselves in the onsen, we drove out to Kutchan for dinner at Torimatsu.

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Oh! Talking about this gets me excited… For this trip to Niseko, I had planned to do an ‘Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations’ in Niseko food tour!

Okay, we can’t watch the video in Singapore.  Crap.  But anyway in the episode, Anthony Bourdain visited Torimatsu, a yakitori restaurant at Kutchan, and Rakuichi Soba, a soba restaurant near where we were staying.  From what I gathered on the internet, it is impossible to get a spot at Rakuichi Soba for dinner without reservation a year in advance?? So my Hokkaido friend recommended that we try our luck for lunch.  Hence I planned Torimatsu for dinner and Rakuichi Soba for lunch the next day.

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Initially I was a bit worried that with our large group, we wouldn’t be able to get a table at Torimatsu without reservation.  But we managed to get one alright.  Torimatsu had staff who could speak English and they had English menu.

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Torimatsu totally deserved a post of its own – which I promise I will get to one day.  But for now, to keep it short, I totally recommend it.  Skip the chicken, go for the pork.

And you must order the Hakkaku.

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This was the happiest dinner I have had since arriving in Hokkaido! Thank you Anthony Bourdain!

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Day 5: Niseko – Sapporo

In the morning, we had breakfast at the hotel which was provided with our stay.  After which we drove along Route 66 to check out Shinsennuma.

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Route 66 was a curvy mountainous route which started out fine for us.  But as we got to higher elevation, it started to get very foggy till we had near zero visibility – not exaggerating.

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It was horrible!! The GPS said that we had arrived at our destination and I couldn’t even see ANYTHING.  I couldn’t find the carpark which was right beside us! Till my more observant husband said, “Look! I think I see a tour bus on the right!”  And I squinted through the clouds and vaguely made out the tour bus and reckoned we were at the correct place. So I just whacked it and turned right and thank goodness we didn’t drop into some drain by the road and managed to find our way into the carpark.

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I am not kidding when I say the visibility was poor.  We had NO idea where we were going and just walked down the first path we saw.

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Apparently the path lead to some observation deck and not Shinsennuma.  What good was an observation deck in this weather?

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Looking on the bright side, MY found a patch of yellow flowers in the midst of the fog which brightened us our spirits.  Somewhat. #StayingPostive

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We went back to the carpark and found a rest house. (Yes, we didn’t even see the big rest house at first.  We had to find it.  The visibility was THAT bad.) I asked the staff at the rest house where Shinsennuma was and he said it was across the road.  Oh! No wonder we couldn’t find it – we couldn’t even see the freaking road!

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So we crossed the road and realised we had to walk more than 1km to reach Shinsennuma.  Half the group decided it was not going to be worth walking so far and probably see nothing in this weather.  The other half of us decided to go ahead since we were here already.  It was frankly very gloomy, but I tried to keep spirits high by looking for little beauties of nature. #StayingPositive

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The 1km felt like forever because we couldn’t see where we were going.  We just kept to the boardwalk and walked and walked.

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And the best part – when we reached Shinsennuma, we didn’t even know we had reached!! I didn’t know to laugh or to cry.  Okay, I am laughing over it as I am writing this because it’s so funny on hindsight. But when I was there, it was miserable.

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So we were happily following the boardwalk and signs until a point where there was no more sign.  And I was like, “Huh… Where are we supposed to go now? How come no more sign?” Then someone said, “Hey, I think because we reached! See? That sign says Shinsennuma right?”  And I was like, “Oh.. We reached! No wonder there was no more direction sign!”

So yes indeed, we have arrived at Shinsennuma!! OMG…  We really couldn’t see the marsh at all!

And we walked the whole 1+km back to the rest house and drove back down the mountain in near zero visibility.  I was SO happy when we made it back to Rakuichi Soba.

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UNTIL we realised Rakuichi Soba was CLOSED that day!! @#$^%@#$

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How does your day get any worse?? Okay, let me tell you what would have been worse.  What would have been worse would be if Rakuichi Soba was actually open, we queued to get a seat and realised they DO NOT ALLOW CHILDREN!!!

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So remember:  Rakuichi Soba does not allow children under 12 years old – according to the sign at the entrance.  Thank goodness it was closed and we didn’t waste time queuing! #StayingPositive

So we went to a place which was guaranteed kids-friendly – Prativo.

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I always have a dilemma when I visit Prativo.  Prativo offers semi-buffet lunch – which included one *small* main course plus a buffet of salad and desserts.  But at the same time, I want to eat the desserts from Milk Kobo too!  How do you eat desserts immediately after a buffet??

Oh. Desserts go in a separate stomach.  So yeah, I went to Milk Kobo after lunch at Prativo to grab some yummy cream puff and cheese tarts although I just had a buffet.  I mean, how do you resist this??

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Or this??

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You jolly well save some stomach space for it if you had flown all the way to Hokkaido.   I call this living life with no regrets.  Or eat while travelling with no regrets.

Despite the crappy weather up on the mountain at Shinsennuma, the weather was rather peachy down at Milk Kobo.  There was even an art interest group gathering on the lawn.

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And gosh, these folks could paint!

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From Milk Kobo, we drove to Sapporo.  But not before making a quick detour to Kutchan to see if there was any shibazakura.

Well, nope.  Not really. It was sad.

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Okay, maybe not so sad if I zoom in a bit. #StayingPositive

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From here, we drove to our next destination Sapporo.

Quick note on driving from Niseko to Sapporo: The GPS recommended route was for us to drive North to Otaru and take the tollway from there to Sapporo.  You can also choose to use this toll-free route.  Distance wise, the two routes are about the same.  Of course using the tollway would be faster but if you have the time to spare, the toll-free route can save you toll fees in exchange for like 30 minutes more on the road.  (See > this post < on how to set your GPS to avoid tollways.)

Official Websites & Map Codes

Not sure what are map codes? > Click here! <

  • Lake Shikotsu (Map Code: 867 063 416)
  • Sendoan @ Lake Toya (Map Code: 321 518 438)
  • Usuzan Ropeway (Map Code: 321 433 350)
  • Silo Observatory (Map Code: 321 726 760)
  • Cafe IF (Map Code: 398 385 633)
  • Torimatsu (Map Code: 385 840 166)
  • Shinsen-Numa (Map Code: 398 581 079)
  • Rakuichi Soba (Map Code: 398 347 189)
  • Prativo & Niseko Milk Kobo (Map Code: 398 321 134)

Pin this up for later!

Our Hokkaido Self-Drive Trip in June 2016 (Part 2) - Visiting Lake Shikotsu, Lake Toya and Niseko - Bumble Bee Mum

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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.

21Comments

  1. pc says:

    Is it very cold? I dont mind such weather, the mist make the picture so mystery and lomantic! lol

    Why do Rakuichi Soba reject kids below 12? That’s a real bumper ;p

    • bumblebeemum says:

      It was pretty cold considering it’s June!! Mystery and romantic huh.. Maybe lah, when I see the photos now. When I was there, it was just cold, wet and miserable.. Lol.

      Not sure why Rakuichi Soba rejects kids below 12.. I guess it’s just one of those restaurants they do not allow children bah. It’s not that uncommon to come across hotels or restaurants that do not allow children in Japan actually.

  2. Susan says:

    Alamak why so suay…well but it’s sometimes these moments that makes the vacation more memorable. And yes always look on the bright side.

  3. Rachael says:

    Such a shame you were sick during the trip! Your recap is amusing though! Shame about all the restaurant fails!

  4. lynn says:

    Thank you Bumblebee..for lovely pictures and writeup.!!!!.Ya its not easy to travel when u sick..Good Job !!! Cheers !!

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Thank you for your kind words. :)

      • Ellen says:

        Hi Bumble Bee Mum,

        I enjoyed so much reading your blogs. Your info is invaluable to us travellers! Quite frankly, I have to digest very fast while I am reading as there is so much info. Four of us are planning for a 7 day 6 night self-drive trip to Hokkaido from end Jul. I haven’t booked all the hotels yet and not yet book a car. (prices are so high everywhere!) I am hoping that it is not too late to do so. I just finished a draft itinerary for the visit and hope that you can help me to see if it’s doable or I am too aggressive to cram so many places in. Ideally, each leg of driving between attractions is 2 hours or less.

        Here it is:

        Day 1 Chitose Airport -> Sapporo (stay the night in Sapporo)

        Q. is it more economical to pick up the rental car at the airport or taking the airport limousine to Sapporo?

        Day 2 Sopporo (2.5 H)-> Farm Tomita -> Furano sightseeing -> Biei (stay the night at Shirogane Onsen Taisetsuzan Shirogane Kankou Hotel)

        Day 3 Biei -> Asakihawa -> Sounkyo -> Tokachigawa (stay the night in Tokachigawa)

        Biel sightseeing , lunch in Asakihawa, to Sounkyo Gorge to Mt. Daisetsu-zan national park: Shooting star falls and Milk way falls.

        Q. Will it be too rush to take up all these places in one day?

        Day 4 Tokachigawa -> Noboribetsu -> Lake Toya (stay the night at Toya Sun Palace)

        Q. The journey from Tokachigawa to Noboribetsu will take more than 4 hours from the google map. Is it too far to tackle in view of our plan to do the sightseeing in Noboribetsu in the afternoon before checking into Lake Toya hotel?

        And if not, are there any places that we can break btw Tokachigawa to Noboribetsu?

        Day 5 Lake Toya -> Niseko -> Otaru (stay in Sapporo or Kiroro Resort)

        Q. Which place to stay the night is better for new tourists like us? Heard that Sheraton Kiroro Resort is not bad. Though skiing is out of the question, hope that we can still go up to see the mountain. But hotel room price is so high.

        Day 6 Otaru -> Sapporo (if we stay in Sapporo in previous day) then whole day sightseeing in Sapporo.

        Day 7 Sapporo -> CTS

        Look forward to your comments.

        Thanks very much.

        Ellen

        • bumblebeemum says:

          Hope I’m not too late to reply you.

          Day 1

          I would just take the airport limousine to Sapporo.

          Day 3

          Tokachigawa is extremely out of the way. Think you should spend your night at Sounkyo onsen.

          Day 4 Tokachigawa -> Noboribetsu -> Lake Toya (stay the night at Toya Sun Palace)

          Techincally since it’s summer, if you set off early, you should be able to do a quick visit of Noboribetsu before heading to Lake Toya. Noboribetsu isn’t very big. If you spend the previous night at Sounkyo instead of Tokachigawa, it should be about 3.5 hours drive to Noboribetsu using the expressway. You probably won’t have the time to make stops in between though.

          Day 5 Lake Toya -> Niseko -> Otaru (stay in Sapporo or Kiroro Resort)

          For first timers, I recommend you spend the night at Otaru city centre instead.

          On the whole, it does seem like you are making quite a bit of long drives. Not sure if there is still time for you to rearrange your itinerary, but doing this would cut down on the long drives, though you would need to rent a car for the entire duration:

          Day 1: CTS – Noboribetsu
          Day 2: Noboribetsu – Lake Toya
          Day 3: Lake Toya – Otaru
          Day 4: Otaru – Sapporo
          Day 5: Sapporo – Asahikawa – Sounkyo
          Day 6: Sounkyo – Biei – Furano
          Day 7: Furano – CTS

  5. Ellen says:

    Thanks so much for your reply. Your suggestions are very good but unfortunately, I have already booked the hotels as rooms are sold out rather quickly due to the peak season. However I did change to stay the night at Sounkyo in day 3.

    Day 1 – we have booked the Mitsui Garden Hotel which is near to Sapporo Station. The transit time for train is about 35 mins and airport limousine takes longer. Will it be more convenient for us to take the train?

    Definitely will keep your suggestion in mind for next visit.

    Thanks again!

    Ellen

  6. Julie says:

    You truly live up to your blog name “bumblebeemum”! I am truly impressed with the details (map codes, restaurant names, food ordered) you incorporate into your posts. It’s a lot of hard work and you did an excellent job! Thanks for sharing the wealth of useful information. Your posts are sometimes more useful than guidebooks sold in stores!

    Can I get your advise on how best to find parking lots around the area we are visiting (specially Otaru and Sapporo) given most of the websites I see are in Japanese and I can’t read Japanese.

    Many thanks in advance.

  7. Adeline says:

    Hi Bumblebeemum,

    Thanks for your very informative blog! I’m planning a trip with my family this June hols, 2 adults 2 seniors and 2 kids (8yrs and 6yrs). We will reach the morning of 6 June, flying off the night of 13 June. This is the rough travel outline, but not sure if there are any good sightseeing places around. Could you help me to take a look? Thanks!

    6/6 – Chitose Airport -> Sapporo
    7/6 – Sapporo -> Otaru (candle making, glassblowing, music box DIY for kids)
    8/6 – Otaru (Sightseeing)

    Question: My trip coincides with the Yosakoi Soran Festival from 7/6 – 11/6. Since Otaru and Sapporo are pretty near by, I was thinking of staying at the same hotel for 2 nights. Would it be better to stay at Sapporo or Otaru? Not sure whether Sapporo hotels will be pricey and crowded during the festival time.

    9/6 – 10/6? – Rusutsu / Niseko / Lake Toya
    Is there anything that is a “must-see” in these areas? Not sure how to break the trip for this part, and where to stay. Perhaps a night in Niseko and a night in Lake Toya? Or 2 nights at the same hotel?

    11/6 – Sobetsu

    12/6 – Noribetsu
    This is mainly to break the trip from Sobetsu to the airport. Is it worth spending a night here? Or perhaps just day trip out from Sobetsu, so that I don’t have to keep changing hotel.

    13/6 – Noribetsu -> Chitose airport
    Any good spots to check out along the way? Our flight out is at 9pm.

    Are there any other places that would be good to see? I’ve not included Furano since it’s too early for the flowers.

    Thanks for your help!

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Yes, hotels in Sapporo will be expensive during the Yosakoi Soran Festival. But then again train tickets between Sapporo and Otaru are not that cheap. It cost ¥640 per way. So for two adults, the return train ride between Sapporo and Otaru will already be ¥2560. If you drive, there are toll fees between Sapporo and Otaru. And you would need to pay hourly parking in Sapporo if you’re not staying there. So I would probably just stay in Sapporo to visit the Yosakoi Soran Festival.

      But what happens for the festival is that on the weekdays, there are only events in the evening. And on the weekend (10 & 11 June), the events will take place throughout the day. So I would suggest you visit Sapporo over the weekend, in spite of the probably expensive accommodation.

      In June, Rusutsu has a theme park, if your family likes theme park you can visit it.

      In Niseko, you can visit the shibazakura garden if it is still in bloom. You need to check the real-time updates (開花状況) when you are there to see if the flowers are still blooming, because it’s weather dependent. Some years they bloom earlier, some years later.
      http://www.town.kutchan.hokkaido.jp/tourism/midokoro/shibazakura/mishimasan/

      You can also visit Milk Kobo and PURE at Niseko Village.
      http://www.niseko-takahashi.jp/
      http://www.niseko-village.com/en/green/pure-at-niseko-village.html

      Sobetsu is just a small town known for the fruit orchards. Usually I would recommend just going there for a few hours from Lake Toya for fruit picking. Not sure if your dates would be a bit too early for fruit picking though.

      This is what I would suggest:

      6/6 – CTS – Noboribetsu
      7/6 – Noboribetsu – Lake Toya
      8/6 – Lake Toya
      9/6 – Lake Toya – Niseko / Rusutsu
      10/6 – Niseko / Rusutsu – Sapporo
      11/6 – Sapporo
      12/6 – Sapporo – Otaru
      13/6 – Otaru – CTS

      • Adeline says:

        Thanks for your reply. How is the parking situation in Sapporo city? Was thinking if it were worthwhile to stay just outside the city centre (about 3km away), and drive or take public transport into the city. Are buses/taxi expensive? City hotels are so pricery!

        Regarding the glassblowing and music box activities in Otaru, it it necessary to pre-book, or walk-ins are ok? All the websites are in Japanese, so hard to navigate!

        Thanks!

        • bumblebeemum says:

          If you’re staying outside the city centre, the best way to get around would probably be by train. Parking wise, the close to the city centre you park, the more expensive it would cost. Can be anything like 100 to 400 yen per half hour. But many of the carparks have a cap of 1200yen for parking the whole day.

          You don’t need to pre-book for the activites in Otaru. Can just walk-in.

  8. Rick Chia says:

    Love your comprehensive blog on Hokkaido. We are planning to visit From 2 May 2017 till 10 May 2017. Tentative self-drive plan is :
    Day 1 : Sapporo
    Day 2: Sapporo ( day trip to Biei/Furano)
    Day 3: Otaru
    Day 4: Niseko
    Day 5 : Hakodate
    Day 6 : Lake Toya
    Day 7 : Noboribetsu
    Day 8 : CTS

    Kindly suggest any additional places in between.

    Thank you very much.

    • bumblebeemum says:

      It looks pretty packed as it is already, not sure if I would add in anymore places in between.

      Not sure if May is the best time to go to Biei / Furano. Personally I would skip the day trip and stay in Sapporo, otherwise it looks a lot of driving throughout the trip.

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