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Buzzing to Japan ~ My Japan Travel Blog!

Japan-Travel-Blog-by-Bumble-Bee-Mum

Sample Itineraries and Detailed write-ups

 

Japan Travel Blog - May 2004 ItineraryMay 2004
7-days Japan Highlights with JR Rail Pass

Areas visited: Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, Miyajima, Nikko, Yokohama

> Click here for Itinerary

 

 

Detailed Posts:
Day 2: Kyoto, Osaka
Day 3: Osaka, Miyajima
Day 4: Yokohama, Tokyo
Day 5: Nikko, Tokyo
Day 7: Tokyo

 

Japan Travel Blog - June 2007 June 2007
5-days Getaway to Tokyo

Area Visited: Tokyo

> Click here for Itinerary

 

 

 

Detailed Posts:
Day 1: Asakua, Akasaka, Shibuya, Harajuku
Day 2: Tsukiji Market, Tokyo Disneysea
Day 3: Imperial Palace, Pokemon Centre, Tokyo Dome, Tokyo Tower
Day 4: Akihabara, Tokyo Bay Cruise, Odaiba

 

Japan Travel Blog - December 2007December 2007
7 Days Illuminations Travel using JR Rail Pass

Areas visited:Tokyo, Takayama, Kyoto, Osaka, Kobe, Himeji, Hiroshima, Miyajima

> Click Here to Read More

 

 

japan travel blog november 2008November 2008
4-days Self-drive of Hakone and Mount Fuji region for autumn foliage viewing

Areas visited: Hakone, Mount Fuji region (Fuji Five Lakes)

> Click Here to Read More

 

Japan Travel Blog - June 2009 ItineraryJune 2009
8-Days Japan East Travel using JR East Pass

Areas visited: Tokyo, Aizu Wakamatsu, Sendai, Matsushima, Yamadera, Morioka, Matsumoto

> Click Here to Read More

 

 

Japan Travel Blog - March 2010 ItineraryMarch 2010
10-days Eastern Hokkaido Self-Drive to visit Snow Festivals

Areas visited: Eastern Hokkaido

> Click Here to Read More

 

 

Japan Travel Blog - October 2013 ItineraryOctober 2013
6-Days Hokkaido Self-Drive for autumn foliage viewing

Areas visited: Central Hokkaido

> Click Here to Read More

 

 

Japan Travel Blog - November 2013 ItineraryNovember 2013
9 Day Tokyo plus Self-drive Hakone and Mount Fuji region with kids

Areas visited: Tokyo, Hakone, Mount Fuji region (Fuji Five Lakes), Sagamiko

> Click Here to Read about Tokyo trip with kids

> Click Here to Read about Self-drive around Hakone and Mount Fuji Region with kids

 

 

 

 

 

Japan Travel Blog - June 2014 ItineraryJune 2014
12-Days Hokkaido Ultimate Gourmet Tour with Kids (Self-Drive)

Area Visited: Hokkaido

> Click Here for Itinerary

 

Detailed Posts:

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

 

Japan Travel Blog - December 2014 ItineraryDecember 2014
17-Days Hokkaido Winter Wonderland Tour with Kids (Self-Drive)

Area Visited: Hokkaido

> Click Here for Itinerary

 

Detailed Posts:

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

 

okinawa june 2015June 2015
6-Days Okinawa Free & Easy Self-Drive With Kids

Area Visited: Okinawa

> Click Here for Itinerary

 

 

Detailed Posts:

> Churaumi Aquarium
> Nago Pineapple Park
> Okinawa Ocean Expo Park
> Okinawa Fruits Land
> Renaissance Okinawa Resort Review (Part 1) – Facilities
> Renaissance Okinawa Resort Review (Part 2) – Activities
> Scenic Capes, Lighthouses and Sunsets in Central Okinawa

 

japan december 2015

December 2015
15-Days Self-Drive from Narita Airport

Areas Visited: Tokyo, Chiba, Mount Fuji, Kyoto, Osaka, Kanazawa, Nagano

> Click here for Itinerary Outline

 

 

 

Detailed Itinerary:

> Part 1: Narita Airport to Chiba to Tokyo
> Part 2: Driving the Golden Route (Tokyo to Kyoto)
> Part 3: Kyoto and Osaka
> Part 4: Kyoto to Kanazawa to Nagano
> Part 5: Nagano to Gunma to Narita Airport

Destination Posts:

Mother Farm (Chiba)
> Tokyo German Village Winter Illumination (Chiba)
Tokyo Fire Museum (Tokyo)
> Shinjuku Gyoen (Tokyo)
> Meiji Jingu Gaien Gingko Festival (Tokyo)
> Thomas Town Shinmisato (near Tokyo)
> Zoorasia (Yokohama)
> Ashinoko Skyline (Hakone)
> Kiyomizudera Special Autumn Night Visit (Kyoto)
> Tofukuji (Kyoto)
> Arashiyama Monkey Park (Kyoto)
> Nabana no Sato Illumination (Nagoya)
> Gunma Safari Park (Gunma)
> Hello Kitty Onsen (Gunma)
> Cafe Floresta Hello Kitty Themed Cafe (Gunma)

 

Hokkaido Self Drive Trip Itinerary June 73 June 2016
14 Days Hokkaido Early Summer Self-Drive

Area Visited: Hokkaido

> Click here for Itinerary Outline

 

Detailed Itinerary:

> Part 1: Furano, Biei, Asahikawa
> Part 2: Lake Shikotsu, Lake Toya, Niseko
> Part 3: Sapporo, Otaru
> Part 4: Asahikawa, Sounkyo, Abashiri, Shiretoko
> Part 5: Akan National Park. Kushiro, Akkeshi, Ikeda
> Part 6: Obihiro, Yubai, New Chitose Airport

Destination Posts:

> Shukutsu Peninsular & Minshuku Aotsuka Shokudou (Otaru)
> Akkeshi Gourmet Park (Akkeshi)
> Manabe Garden (Obihiro)


Travel Tips

Hokkaido Tips:

> 10 Activities for Kids at New Chitose Airport
> Budgeting for a Self-Guided Hokkaido Trip
> Hokkaido Accommodation Guide
> Hokkaido Food Guide (Part 1): Kids-friendly restaurants in Hokkaido
> Hokkaido Food Guide (Part 2): Hokkaido Best Food by Region
> Hokkaido Food Guide (Part 3): Hokkaido Best Sweets Cafe
> Hokkaido Food Guide: Top 10 Hokkaido Restaurants (2016 Picks)
> Hokkaido Food Guide: Top 10 Hokkaido Cafes (2016 Picks)
> Hokkaido in Winter: Essential travel tips for planning a Hokkaido winter trip
> Hokkaido in Early Summer: Best Places to visit & Sample itineraries
> Hokkaido in Summer (July & August): Best Places to Visit
> Hokkaido in Summer: Places to visit with kids during Summer
> Hokkaido Expressway Pass vs ETC Card & Toll Fees

Okinawa Tips:

> Okinawa Family Accommodation: Top 5 Resort Hotels that will thrill your kids!
> Okinawa Wet Weather Plans: Indoor Kids-friendly Attractions in Okinawa
> Okinawa Self-Drive: OTS Rent-A-Car Review + Driving Tips for Okinawa
> Singapore to Okinawa Flights – What are your options?

Tokyo Tips:

> Tokyo Kids-Friendly Attractions (By Region)
> 10 SUGOI Themed Hotels in Tokyo

Self-Driving Tips:

> How to use Japanese GPS & Set it to avoid tollways
> Step-by-Step Instructions on how to search for Japan Map Codes for GPS
> Money-Saving Tips for Self-drive holiday in Hokkaido
> Self-Driving Tips for Okinawa
> Self-Drive from Narita Airport – Tips & Recommendations

NOTE: Singaporeans who wish to self-drive in Japan need to apply for International Driving Permit. Apply for it at Autmobile Association of Singapore. They have two branches (Kallang Bahru / Ang Mo Kio). If you apply over the counter, the application is immediate and you will receive the permit on the spot. Application costs $20 and the permit is valid for 1 year.

Japan Rail Tips:

> Hokkaido Shinkansen: Is it a good alternative to domestic flights?
Hokkaido Special Winter Rail Travel
> Rail Passes in Japan: Hokkaido Rail Pass
> Rail Passes in Japan: JR East Pass

Flight Tips:

> Singapore to Hokkaido by Delta Airlines + Budget domestic flights
> Singapore to Hokkaido: Saving on Air Tickets (Point #7 in post)
> Singapore to Hokkaido: Flying by Scoot – is it a good deal?
> Peach Airlines Review (Taipei to Naha)

Special Interests:

> DAISO (100-yen Shops) in Japan
> Japan’s Largest and Most Popular Illuminations
> Japan Thomas Land and Thomas-Themed Hotel
> Japan Vacation Ideas for Hello Kitty Fans

Festivals & Events:

> Sapporo Snow Festival – Hokkaido, February
> Otaru Snow Light Path – Hokkaido, February
> Yosakoi Soran Festival (Sapporo) – Hokkaido, June
> Sapporo Festival (Hokkaido Shrine Festival) – Hokkaido, June
> Nabana No Sato Illumination – Nagoya, End Oct to Early May
> Kiyomizudera Special Autumn Night Viewing – Mid Nov to Early Dec
> Kobe Luminarie – Kobe, December

Hotel Reviews:

Centurion Hotel Grand Akasaka (Tokyo)
> Tokyo Apartment near Shinjuku (Tokyo)
> Toki No Sumika – Slow House Villa (Gotemba)
> Hotel Mercure Sapporo (Hokkaido)
> Japan ‘Gassho-Zukuri’ Traditional Farmhouse Stay (Kyoto)
> Kyoto Two-Storey Traditional Japanese House (Kyoto)
> Shima Grand Hotel (Gunma)

 

External Links

The following websites are the ones I frequently visit when I am planning my Japan trips:

Japan-Guide.Com
The single most comprehensive website for anyone who wishes to plan a free and easy holiday to Japan and my personal go-to when planning my Japan trips.

Hyperdia
A must-use tool for searching your train routes and train timetables.

Tabirai
If you are planning to self-drive in Japan for the first time and do not speak Japanese, I highly recommend booking your rental car through Tabirai.

937Comments

  1. Jovin Wu says:

    Hi Mummy, can i check with you what’s the map code for Toya Sun Palace?

  2. Dwie says:

    Hi Bumble Bee Mum,

    Will like to seek some advise from you on Hokkaido Self Drive Trip. I am planning a trip next year with my 3 years old daughter. However i am confused with the flights from Singapore to Sapporo. I am looking at JAL and ANA flights. As i will be travelling to Tokyo after my trip at Hokkaido, will like to check with you, do you know in this case how should i make the tickets reservation? My trip will be as follow

    Sg – Sapporo
    Sapporo – Tokyo
    Tokyo – Singapore

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Hi,

      For ANA, to stopover at Tokyo, you will need to book using their “Build Your Own Trip” option.

      From their website:
      http://www.ana.co.jp/asw/wws/sg/e/

      Under ‘Flight Reservation’, click on ‘Build Your Own Trip’.

      In the first row, choose from SIN to CTS.
      In the second row, choose from CTS to TYO
      In the third row, choose from TYO to SIN.

      For JAL, you will need to use their ‘Multi-city’ option.

      From their website:
      http://www.sg.jal.com/sgl/en/

      Under ‘Ticket Purchase’, click on ‘Multi City’.

      For 1st point of departure, select ‘Singapore’ as departure city and ‘Sapporo’ as Arrival City.
      For 2nd point of departure, select ‘Sapporo’ as departure city, then click on + Make Stopover. Choose ‘Tokyo’ as Stopover point. Then select ‘Singapore’ as Arrival City.

      Do note that the total price of the tickets doing the above is usually more expensive than booking return flights from Singapore to Chitose without stopover. You will need to do a bit a trial and error with the different combinations of the 3 flights to try to get the best possible price.

      • Dwie says:

        Thanks for much for your help! Your instruction is very clear 🙂

        Can i check with you, how many days is requried for Hokkaido not including the travelling days.

        I am planning to visit the following attraction:

        Furano & Biel
        Asahikawa Zoo
        Lake Toya
        Sapporo
        Shiroi Koibito Park
        Oatru
        Can i check where is the place where i can see the bears?

        • bumblebeemum says:

          For the places you would like to visit, I would suggest the following itinerary:

          Day 1: New Chitose Airport – Lake Toya
          Day 2: Lake Toya – Otaru
          Day 3: Otaru – Sapporo
          Day 4: Sapporo (Shiroi Koibito Park and others)
          Day 5: Sapporo – Asahikawa (Visit Asahiyama Zoo)
          Day 6: Asahikawa – Biei
          Day 7: Biei – Furano
          Day 8: Furano – New Chitose Airport

          If you want to see bears, I suggest visiting
          Sahoro Bear Mountain
          .

          It is only open from late April – Mid October. Not sure when you are travelling, but if it is within that period and you would like to visit Sahoro Bear Mountain, I suggest adding 1 more day to your itinerary.

          Day 8: Furano – Sahoro (for Sahoro Bear Mountain)
          Day 9: Sahoro – New Chitose Airport

          • Kris says:

            Hi BumbleBeeMum

            We are planning a self drive trip to Hokkaido (our First time) and would like to seek your adv where we should visits. The travellers are my husband, my son (22 years) and myself. We are thinking of 10 day trip from 6-16 Oct. Taking Scoot to arrive in New Chitose Airport (hope i’m not wrong) : Pls adv :

            1. Places of interest to visit
            2. recommendations of hotels (do we need to book diff hotels)
            3. recommended Onsen

            Thank you in advance

            • bumblebeemum says:

              For your dates, I would start at the Daisetsuzan region (around Sounkyo onsen), followed by Biei and Furano then Sapporo. From Sapporo, you can visit Jozankei (for autumn foliage), Otaru and Lake Toya. You can refer to this trip we did for sightseeing ideas during October:

              http://bumblebeemum.net/2013/10/30/self-drive-holiday-to-hokkaido-with-kids-part-2-itinerary-for-autumn-foliage-telephone-numbers-and-map-codes-for-gps/

              You probably should change hotels along the way. You can base yourself in Asahikawa first to explore Sounkyo, Furano and Biei. Then move to Sapporo to explore Otaru, Jozankei and Lake Toya. If you would like to spend a night at an onsen, there are many onsen ryokan at Sounkyo Onsen, Jozankei Onsen and Lake Toya for you to choose from. I personally like Choyo Tei at Sounkyo and Toya Sunpalace and Lake Toya. If you have the budget, you can try Nonokaze at Lake Toya.

              • Kris says:

                Thank you for your prompt reply. I will work on your suggested itinerary.
                Do you think it’s too late to plan now ? Or I should postpone to another period ?

                If it’s not late, pls adv. what steps I should do first ?

                Book flight 6-15 Oct
                On Scoot depart Sin 6 Oct 0615 hrs / arrive Chitose airport 1700 hrs

                Depart Chitose 15 Oct 1930 hrs /arr Sin 0450 + 1

                • bumblebeemum says:

                  I don’t think it’s too late to plan for an October visit. Usually I book my air tickets first, then plan my route around the dates I’m there and book the accommodation, then book my car rental 3 months before the trip.

          • Ccer says:

            Hi Bumblebee mum
            Any recommendation for wifi or prepaid data sim card to be used in Hokkaido?

            • bumblebeemum says:

              I have only tried Changi Recommend’s pocket WIFI before and reception was kind of iffy in many areas because Hokkaido is considered quite rural. In the big cities it wasn’t a problem, but once we got out of the big cities, it often lost connection. My friends who rented a pocket WIFI from another place also had the same problem with connectivity. So my recommendation is to be less reliant on internet if you’re planning to hit the rural areas. :p

    • JT says:

      Dear BBmum,

      First, I’m impressed with your passion on travelling to Japan (especially Hokkaido). Secondly:), I’ll travel to Japan from 7-16 July 2017 with my wife and 2 kids (8 and 5 years old), arrive at Haneda at 8.50 on the 8th and will leave from Haneda at 11.45 on the 16th. Need your suggestion for itinerary on this trip should we want to spend most of the time in Hokkaido (cooler weather in July) while perhaps 1-2 days in Tokyo.

      Your advice is highly appreciated. Thanks a bunch.

    • Christine says:

      Hi,

      I am reading your travelling Japan blog with great interest. This is my first time visiting Japan. My husband and I with our 5 yrs old are planning a trip to Japan for about 10 days but we are not sure where to visit and where to start off. Can you recommend us which part of Japan is good for first visit? and the recommended itineraries? We are planning to visit theme parks for our last few days before the journey ends.

      • bumblebeemum says:

        How about the golden route? You can visit Tokyo, Kyoto & Osaka. That’s pretty standard first-timer trip. Osaka has quite a lot of kids-friendly stuff like Universal studios, the aquarium, Legoland discovery centre. Tokyo has Disneyland, Sanrio Puroland. In between at Nagoya, Legoland Japan is opening in April.

    • Sweelian says:

      Hi,enjoy reading your internet. I am visiting Hokkaido from 5 to 13 Nov 2017. Not many suggestions found in website. We have 6 adults age from 40 to 65. This group enjoy villages, local wet and dry market, scenery, mild tracking about 3hrs. We will self drive to places from Sapporo. Do you have any suggestions?

      • bumblebeemum says:

        November is not a great time for trekking, it should be snowing in some parts of Hokkaido already. I suggest you visit the onsen towns to relax, but that would require you to move around rather than base yourself in Sapporo and do day trips.

        Personally this is what I would do:

        5 Nov: CTS – Sapporo
        6 Nov: Sapporo
        7 Nov: Sapporo (day trip to Otaru)
        8 Nov: Sapporo – Lake Toya
        9 Nov: Lake Toya (you can do simple trekking around Usuzan to the craters from the ropeway)
        10 Nov: Lake Toya – Hakodate
        11 Nov: Hakodate
        12 Nov: Hakodate – Noboribetsu
        13 Nov: Noboribetsu – CTS

        For markets, you can visit Nijo Market and Sapporo central wholesale market in Sapporo, and also Hakodate morning market.

  3. Serene says:

    Hi Bumble Bee Mum,

    I read your blog and hope to get your advice on my 1st trip to Hokkaido.

    My hubby is planning to bring our 4 year old boy to Hokkaido in end May for 6 nights mainly for leisure to look at the flowers.

    Would you know whether will we still get to see the tulip park at our travel dates ? And is there flowers fields in Tomita farm that we can see during this period cos I am under the impression that Tomita is mainly for Lavendar/sunflower in July/Aug ?

    For 6 nights, do you think it is feasible to cover the areas :

    1. Sapporo (chocolate factory)
    2. Furano, Biei on the different flower fields
    3. Asahikawa
    4. Lake Akan at Obihiro
    5. Abashiri

    Or do you have any recommended route that we can probably follow as this is our first self drive trip to Hokkaido ?

    As for the car rental company, I saw your recommendation in the blog. May I know whether is it advisable to get the package with the comprehensive insurance ?

    appreciate your advice.

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Hi,

      The tulip park should still be open in End May.

      You are right about Tomita Farm. End May / Early June is too early for most of their flowers and lavender. There will be flowers, but definitely not impressive like what you see on travel brouchure photos. It is also way to early for lavender and sunflowers.

      For end May, your trip should be focused on the shibazakura hills at Takinoue and Higashimokoto and tulip farm at Kamiyubetsu.
      Takinoue Shibazakura Park
      Higashimokoto Shibazakura Hill
      Kamiyubetsu Tulip Park

      I would skip Furano and Biei in end May and focus the sightseeing on the shibazakura and tulips in the North instead.

      For 6 days in end May, I would do it like this:

      Day 1: New Chitose Airport – Asahikawa. Stay at Asahikawa
      Day 2: Asahikawa – Takinoue – Kamiyubetsu – Abashiri. Stay at Abashiri.
      Day 3: Abashiri – Higashimokoto – Lake Akan. Stay at Lake Akan.
      Day 4: Lake Akan – Obihiro – Tomamu. Stay at Tomamu.
      Day 5: Tomamu – Sapporo. Stay at Sapporo.
      Day 6: Sapporo

      As for insurance, if you have purchased travel insurance, check if it covers CDW. If it does, there is no need to get comprehensive coverage from the car rental company.

      • serene says:

        Hi,

        thank you vm for the recommended route. We will very likely to skip Farm Tomita in this trip. May I ask :

        Do you have any places that we should visit at Asahikawa ?

        Do you recommend we visit both the Takinoue Shibazakura and the Kamiyubetsu tulip park on the same day at DAY 2 ? are they nearby ?

        Beside Lake Akan, is Lake Mashu or other nice beautiful lakes that we can visit on the way ?

        We intend to visit Takino Park and the chocolate factory in Sapporo, is there any other places that will be nice to bring our kid for a visit ?

        As we plan for 6 nights, is it feasible to stay for a night at Lake Toya at Day 6 or where you will recommend us to visit with this extra day ?

        • bumblebeemum says:

          I visit Asahikawa mainly for Asahiyama Zoo. They are currently closed for change of season and will reopen on 29 April for their summer season, so you can visit in May! Another place to visit is Asahikawa Ramen Village.

          Most people visit Takinoue and Kamiyubetsu Tulip Park as a day trip from Asahikawa. These two places are about 1.5 hours drive (65 km) apart, which is not far by Hokkaido standards. It is a lot of driving for a day, but that’s the best way to visit the region because there is no accommodation in the Takinoue / Kamiyubetsu region. In fact, if you drive to Abashiri from Kamiyubetsu, you will have less driving to do than backtracking to Asahikawa. I have traced out the route for Day 2 on google map, click here to view it.

          At Akan National Park, besides Lake Akan and Lake Mashu, the other famous lake is Lake Kussharo.

          I don’t think you have enough time to go to Lake Toya. On Day 5, after you check out from Tomamu, it is a 2 hour drive to Sapporo. Let’s say you check out at 11am, you will reach Sapporo earliest 1pm. You need to eat lunch, then you can visit Shiroi Koibito Park. I would say that’s it for the day. Day 6 you will visit Takino Suzuran Hillside Park. There are lots for the kids to play there, I would say spend at least half the day there. After that, you need to have lunch. From there, to go Lake Toya is a 2 hours drive. By the time you reach Lake Toya, there isn’t enough time to explore the area.

          Are you planning to visit any of the markets in Sapporo? I would actually recommend visiting either Nijo Market or Sapporo Central Wholesale Market in the morning on Day 6. After that then go to Takino Suzuran Hillside Park and that would probably take up the rest of the day. And towards the evening, you can visit Mount Moiwa for the sunset and night scenery.

          If you don’t want to visit the markets, another suggestion is to spend the rest of Day 6 at New Chitose Airport. There are lots for kids to do (and eat) at New Chitose Airport:
          10 Activities for Kids at New Chitose Airport

  4. T.T.Y. says:

    Will be bringing both of kids to Hokkaido for skiing this Dec.
    Can I find out more information from you especially what are the available transport from Sapporo to niseko. Don’t think we will be driving this time round.
    thanks in advance.

  5. CH says:

    Hi I am really impressed with your insights of Hokkaido trip that I hope to seek your Kind advice on my impending April 17~25(9 days) trip to Hokkaido.

    My plan is to arrived at Chitose Airport(3pm) & hit to Noboribetsu for Day 1, and proceed to
    Day 2 Noboribetsu to Hakodate,
    Day 3 Hakodate & Lake Toya,
    Day 4 Lake Toya & Otaru,
    Day 5 Otaru & Sapporo,
    Day 6 Sapporo to Furano
    Day 7 Back to Sapporro till depart for Chitose airport on Day 9.

    I intent to drive throughout & wonder if this will be too expensive for a sandwich class Singapore couple with no kids. please Help! thank you in advance for your advice

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Your itinerary seems a bit rushed, you will be spending more time on the road than actually sightseeing. In April, I would advise you to skip Furano. Instead, plan to visit sakura spots toward the end of your trip and keep your fingers crossed that sakura blooms early this year .

      If you arrive at New Chitose Airport at 3pm, by the time you collect your rental car and reach Noboribetsu, it will probably be dark. Note that car rental outlets at New Chitose Airport are all not located at the airport. They only have a desk at the airport where they will arrange to bring you to their nearest outlet by shuttle bus. All these take time. My advise is start with Sapporo.

      Day 1: Sapporo. You will reach there in the late afternoon / evening, but there will still be plenty to shop and eat at that time at Susukino.

      Day 2: Do a day trip of Otaru from Sapporo. (Use the JR Otaru-Sapporo welcome pass.)

      Day 3: Sapporo sightseeing. (Tip: The Otaru-Sapporo welcome pass comes with a one-day subway ticket. You can keep the subway ticket to be used on this day instead if you will be using the subway to, say, visit Shiroi Koibito Park.)

      Day 4: Pick up rental car and drive to Lake Toya. You can spend the day exploring the Lake Toya region.

      Day 5: Drive from Lake Toya to Hakodate. Visit red brick warehouse district / Mount Hakodate first. Keep the sakura spots for later.

      Day 6: Visit Hakodate in the morning, then take a day trip to Matsumae Castle from Hakodate. There are 10,000 sakura trees there and is Hokkaido’s top sakura viewing spot.

      Day 7: Start the morning with a visit to Goryokaku, it is a popular sakura spot. If there’s time, visit Hakodate Park which is a less popular sakura spot compared to Goryokaku, but no harm popping by. Drive from Hakodate to Noboribetsu. (Noboribetsu has a cherry blossom avenue, so hopefully it has started blooming by then.) You probably still have time to visit Jigokudani at Noboribetsu.

      Day 8: Drive from Noboribetsu to Sapporo and return rental car. Visit sakura spots in Sapporo (Maruyama Park / Hokkaido shrine) if sakura has started blooming.

      Day 9: Flight home

      The above itinerary would cut down on the number of days you need to rent the car and allow you ample time to do sightseeing at each city / town.

      • CH says:

        I wanted to visit Furano because of the Wine & Cheese factory I read from your blog. So where should I stay longer in your opinion without being too hectic?

        • bumblebeemum says:

          Hmmm…. If you really want to visit the Wine and Cheese Factory, maybe you can do it as a day trip from Sapporo with a car. The drive between Sapporo and Furano is 3 hours per way, it’ll be tiring but definitely doable. Which means you would probably need to cut down the stay at Hakodate (skip Matsumae castle which is pretty far down South, and there’s only a 50-50 chance you may or may not see sakura).

          Day 1: Sapporo.

          Day 2: Do a day trip of Otaru from Sapporo.

          Day 3: Sapporo sightseeing.

          Day 4: Begin car rental. Do a day trip to Furano from Sapporo.

          Day 5: Drive Sapporo to Lake Toya.

          Day 6: Drive from Lake Toya to Hakodate.

          Day 7: Visit Hakodate morning market / Goryokaku before driving to Noboribetsu.

          Day 8: Drive from Noboribetsu to Sapporo and return rental car.

          Day 9: Flight home

          • CH says:

            Thanks now I am kind of confused opting for which..

            For the Day 4, you are suggesting I park my car in Sapporo or should I spend the night in Furano & drive all the way to lake Toya on Day 5? you think this way is Drive-able since I am the only driver for the whole trip?

            So you would suggest I drop Furano entirely if the wine & cheesed factory is not as attractive as your recommended to Hakodate Matsume castle?

            • bumblebeemum says:

              That’s a very tough choice to make frankly, because of your travel date. If you are travelling a week later, I would definitely recommend skipping Furano and going Matsumae castle because of sakura. But mid-April… it’s a wee bit too early for cherry blossoms and you may be wasting time taking the drive to Matsumae castle if sakura has not bloomed yet. At least going to Furano, the wine and cheese factory are guaranteed to be there. You can also visit the greenhouse at Tomita Farm just for fun and shop at Ningle Terrace. I also kind of miss the food at Kumagera already. So maybe going to Furano is not such a bad idea.

              It IS possible to drive Furano to Lake Toya but it is a long, boring and expensive 4 hour drive along the expressway. Driving from Sapporo to Lake Toya via Nakayama Pass takes 2 hours and is toll-free. Of course if you add up Furano to Sapporo (3 hours) and Sapporo to Lake Toya (2 hours), it is longer, but it breaks up the drive and I think it’s a less tiring choice. So I would opt to park the car in Sapporo on Day 4 rather than stay in Furano and drive to Lake Toya the next day. Staying in Sapporo will also allow me to get to Lake Toya earlier and have more time to explore the region. I love Lake Toya region, you can take the Usuzan ropeway, drive to Lake Hill Farm, take the castle-boat cruise or just stroll around the shores of Lake Toya where there are many interesting sculptures.

  6. CH says:

    Sadly I have completed all the hotel reservation just yesterday prior to your advice & now agoda is charging me for amendment & cancellation fee for each booking. Can you advice the best I could “salvage” the itinerary based on below with min. Change as per your suggestion.

    17th Day 1 arrived at Chitose Airport(3pm) & rest in Chitose or Sapporo? Which place is better?
    18th Day 2 rent Car from Chitose to Noboribetsu (book Accomodation in Noboribetsu )
    19th Day 3 Noboribetsu to Hakodate, (book Accomodation in Hakodate )
    20th Day 4 Hakodate & Lake Toya, (book Accomodation in Niseko )
    21st Day 5 Lake Toya & Otaru, Otaru, (I will change to lake Toya to Sapporo & cancel Otaru hotel booking for day trip from Sapporo )
    22nd Day 6 Sapporo to Furano & back to return Car in Sapporo( I will cancel my Hotel booking in Furano too)
    23rd Day 7 Sapporo day trip to Otaru
    24th Day 8 Sapporro sight seeing
    25th Day 9 Sapporo & depart for Chitose airport

    please Help! thank you in advance for your advice

    • bumblebeemum says:

      On Day 4, Niseko is a ski resort, there is likely still snow in the region in April, which makes driving there dangerous after dark. If you want to get to Niseko before dark from Hakodate and still visit Lake Toya along the way, I don’t think there is enough time. After all, you would definitely want to visit Hakodate morning market before leaving Hakodate. I advise you to go to Lake Toya on Day 3 instead.

      Here is what I suggest:

      Day 1 arrived at Chitose Airport(3pm) & rest in Sapporo. There is much more to do in Sapporo at night than in Chitose.

      Day 2 Rent Car from Sapporo to Noboribetsu (keep your accomodation in Noboribetsu )

      Day 3 Noboribetsu to Lake Toya to Hakodate, (keep your Accomodation in Hakodate

      Day 4 Hakodate to Niseko (keep your Accomodation in Niseko ) – You can spend the morning / afternoon in Hakodate. But you should leave Hakodate by 2pm latest (1.30pm if you want to be safe) to make it to Niseko before dark. So start the day early (Hakodate morning market opens very early).

      Day 5 Just to clarify, you booked Otaru for this day? It’s okay, you can keep it. You can visit Niseko Milk Kobo in the morning, and go to Otaru after that, spending the rest of the day and night at Otaru.

      Day 6 Since you booked Furano, I would advise you to drive to Furano straight from Otaru. It is approximately 3 hours drive, which is actually about the same as driving from Sapporo. The reason Sapporo to Furano takes a long time is because it takes forever just to drive out of Sapporo city centre to reach the expressway. However, from Otaru, you can hit the expressway easily. So in the end, it takes about the same time getting to Furano from Otaru as from Sapporo. Spend the day exploring Furano and stay there for the night.

      Day 7: Drive back to Sapporo and return the car.

      Day 8: Sapporo sightseeing

      Day 9: Sapporo & New Chitose Airport

      • CH says:

        Oh so you are saying I keep All accommodations as it is but just visit Lake Toya on the way to Hakodate from Noboribetsu instead of heading straight to Hakodate? Enough time to reach Hakodate before it is dark?

        • bumblebeemum says:

          Yes.. Following the above itinerary you can keep all your current accommodation bookings. Only thing is you will be spending quite little time in Hakodate. You will expect to reach there after sunset if you visit Lake Toya enroute. And you will need to leave by 2pm the next day. But since the highlights are Mount Hakodate for night view and Hakodate Morning market early in the morning, it is doable. After the morning market, you can go do a quick visit of the red brick warehouse and Goryokaku tower.

          • CH says:

            I was checking out the car rental and one of the additional option is 4×4 to the car rental.

            1) During the period I am visiting, do I need them?

            2) Also based on my itinerary, do you think I can cut down further at some part for car rental & use Bus or train to reach those places instead?

            3) I understand the highway tolls is very costly, based on my plan route, is there alternative route to avoid paying those highways toll?

            Really appreciate your kind advice.

            • bumblebeemum says:

              Hi,

              1) No, there is no need for 4×4 in Hokkaido. You will need snow tyres though. Usually Hokkaido car rentals come with snow tyres during winter period, but if they put it as an option, then you should select that.

              2) Your itinerary is pretty tight, I would advise you to stick to car rental. Trains in Hokkaido are very infrequent, unlike other areas of Japan. And they don’t get to you to the onsen towns, you still need to transfer to bus, which have terrible frequencies. Furthermore you are travelling at low-peak season, so opening hours of places are shortened and public transport frequencies are reduced. Plus accumulated and melting snow around the pavements will slow down your movement (e.g. you may find difficulty pulling trolley luggage cases and you will need to walk very slowly to prevent slipping and falling).

              3) When you are there, ask the car rental company how to display alternative routes on the GPS. Usually GPS has the option to display 5 routes, prioritizing time taken / distance / use of tollway / use of national routes / avoid toll way etc. You can click through the various options to compare distance and toll fees. However if there is still a lot of snow on the road, I would advise you to stick to tollways for safety reasons and to avoid running into road closures. If you are renting from Tocoo, rent an ETC card from them. It would greatly reduce your toll fees.

  7. Fauziah says:

    Hello Bumble Bee Mum

    My Hubby, my toddler (2yr&7mths) and myself will be leaving for Tokyo and Osaka for our 2 weeks holiday in May.

    I just need help and clarification. We will adapt your itinerary – the self drive in Hakone and Mount Fuji region. We will be leaving from Hilton Disneyland to reach Odawara station where we will pick up a rental car via Tocco website (again, we are basically mirroring your itinerary the two nights we are there :)).

    Just need to ask you these questions below:

    1. Which station in Tokyo (preferably nearest to our Hilton Disneyland hotel) directly connects to Odawara station. We won’t mind trying the shinkansen as we wanna save time. Can you please advise which and where to take this train from?

    2. Once we have complete the Mount Fuji and Hakone tour, we will return to Tokyo Shinagawa Station from Odawara. I assume there is also a direct connection between these 2 stations right.

    This will be our first time in Tokyo and i heard the train service can be a nightmare. We appreciate all the advise we can get.

    Thanks a million in advance.

    PS: your blog rocks!

    Regards,
    Fauziah

    • bumblebeemum says:

      1. From Maihama station (Disneyland) to Odawara station, there is no direct train. The fastest route is to take JR Keiyo Line or Musashino Line (whichever comes first) to TOKYO station and transfer to shinkansen to Odawara.

      2. Yes, there is direct train from Odawara to Shinagawa. You can either take the shinkansen or if you want to save money and have time to spare, you can take the JR Tokaido Line.

      Tokyo trains stations are just extremely crowded and people move very fast. KEEP LEFT on escalators and keep your kids close to you (especially the 2 year old) so that they don’t stray off with the crowd. Avoid morning peak hour. Be prepared to walk a lot during transfer, the stations are HUGE. If you have stroller and luggage, you may want to make detours to find escalators and elevators. (Usually my hubby will just carry the stroller and luggage up and down the stairs.)

      Just allow yourself more time to make the transfer. Give yourself plenty of time to find the correct train platform. Do not wait until last minute to make your way to the train platform, because you may not be able to find the correct platform easily, or you may have to walk a big round to find the elevator to get up to the platform. If you take things slow, you will not feel so intimidated. It’s when you are rushing to catch a train and cannot find the platform that you’ll start to panic.

  8. Hi says:

    Where are good locations in Hokkaido for wedding photography?

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Depends on season. If July and August, the flower fields in Furano. Biei is also extremely beautiful in non-winter months. If May then you should go to Sakura spots instead. If September / october then go to Autumn foliage spots. Otherwise all year round nice places close to Sapporo are Mount Moiwa and Otaru. If you have rental car, drive to Lake Toya – the Silo observatory on the western side is a good photo spot. If you don’t mind venturing further, the most beautiful place in Hokkaido imo is Lake Mashu, provided it’s not shrouded by fog. Lake Akan, which is near Lake Mashu, is also very beautiful.

      In Sapporo you can also go Shiroi Koibito Park (for the fairytale look), Sapporo Beer Museum (for the rustic look) and Hitsujigaoka (for panoromic views and grazing sheep).

      • Hi says:

        Thanks! We are going in late July.

        • bumblebeemum says:

          Nice! That’s the best time to visit Hokkaido! Go to Tomita Farm (for lavender), Shikisai no Oka (for the looong colourful flower fields) and Himawari no Sato (for sunflowers) then. And slowly drive around Biei and just stop around randomly to take photos. I find the whole Biei town very scenic. There’s this cafe called Sanai no Oka Chaya Curve at Biei which has a small terrace and pavilion, maybe can take photo there (and drink the yummy affogato).

          • Hi says:

            Will the places be very similar and repetitive?

            • bumblebeemum says:

              If you want more variety (not just flowers), just visit Tomita Farm and Shikisai no Oka good enough. Other places in the region u can consider are Spoon Valley, Farm Chiyoda, and Ningle Terrace. You can also go Tomita Melon House (just next to Tomita Farm) to take photos on the tractors and with the giant melon.

  9. Ros says:

    Hihi! I am reading your Japan travel blog with interest. This is going to be our 5th trip there, def one of our most loved countries to visit.

    We noted that you’ve taken a local train to collect car at Odawara before heading to Hakone. Can I know why do you choose to travel this way, instead of collecting car at Tokyo itself?

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Hi, I think it is cheaper to take the train than to drive because of tolls. I didn’t check the actual toll fees, but I figured having to pay toll and navigate through central Tokyo, I would rather take the train out of central Tokyo.

  10. serene says:

    hihi,

    thanks for the info on Mt Moiwa and the markets that we can consider visiting.

    If we will reach Chitose in the morning and may opt to skip Asahikawa since we are not keen in the zoo, is it doable to drive straight to Takinoue/yubetsu for the shibazakura Park and kamiyubetsu tulip park ?

    I read about your blog on the resort at Tomanu. Is it a good time to visit in end May ? is there any places in obihiro that we can visit ?

    • bumblebeemum says:

      No, I don’t think you can do Takinoue and Kamiyubetsu from New Chitose Airport. It is too far! If you do not want to visit Asahiyama Zoo, I suggest you drive through Furano and Biei as a day trip before spending the night at Asahikawa.
      Click here to see the suggested route on Google Map.

      The highlight of Tomamu in summer is the Unkai Terrace. The tentative opening date is 16 May, you should be able to go up in end May. Their swimming pool and hot spring are also very nice.

      Obihiro is provides a rest point to break up the long drive between Lake Akan and Tomamu. You can visit Happiness Dairy, have lunch at Panchou and visit Rokkatei main store.
      Click here to view the route on Google Map.

      • serene says:

        Hi,

        thank you for the advice. I am very keen to try the Panchou (it looks so delicious!). Do I just need to key in the phone numbers for Happiness Diary and Panchou to locate these places with the english GPS ?

        As it is our 1st trip there, may I check how do we pay the toll charges ? by cash or we have to get a payment card ?

        • bumblebeemum says:

          For GPS, the most common methods for keying in destinations are using telephone numbers or map codes. Yes, you can just key in the telephone number of your destination on your rental car’s GPS. However not all businesses are registered on the GPS system. If telephone number fails, you can try using map codes instead. Again, map codes are not foolproof either. Map codes mostly work well, but there were occasions it brought me to roughly where I wanted to go but not precisely. My recommendation is to take note of BOTH telephone numbers and map codes. Try telephone number first. If the search fails, then try map code.

          I have provided both telephone numbers and map codes of popular food places in Hokkaido in the following posts (including Panchou and Happiness Dairy):
          Hokkaido Best Food (By Region)
          Hokkaido Best Sweets Cafe

          You can read more about searching for Map Codes on the following post:
          Japan Map Code Search

          For tolls, if you are renting a car from Tocoo, rent an ETC card from them. ETC card gives great discounts on toll fees. It works just like our ERP system: insert the card into the reader and just drive past the toll gantries. If you are unable to rent an ETC card, you can pay by cash. Collect a ticket when you enter the tollway and present the ticket to the staff when you exit. The staff will let you know how much to pay and you just pay him in cash. At the tollway entrances and exits, there will be lanes marked “ETC” and “一般”. If you have an ETC card inserted in the reader, use the ETC lane. If you are going to pay cash, use the 一般 lane.

          • serene says:

            Hi,

            May I ask about the parking and their fees in Hokkaido ? we intend to rent the car throughout the 7 days including the 2 nights in Sapporo. Is it difficult to find parking in Hokkaido especially in Sapporo and how is the charges in general ? Is it easy to find cheaper alternate parking near to the hotels in Sapporo ?

            • bumblebeemum says:

              Regarding parking, there is an abundance of coin parking in Sapporo. Hourly rates depend on location, from around 100 to 300 yen per half hour in central Sapporo. It is best to find out if your hotel has its own parking lot – that would be the cheapest option because they will charge you around 1000 – 1200 yen per day and you can drive your car in and out. Many coin parkings advertise “24時間 最大料金1200円” which means if you leave your car there, you will be charged 1200yen for 24 hours. However once you leave the carpark and go in again, the parking charges will start accumulating again up to a maximum of 1200 yen.

              Many hotels in Sapporo have limited parking lots, so do request for a parking lot when you make your hotel booking.

          • serene says:

            Hi,

            May I also ask any places in Biei that we can have a stopover during our day trip while heading Asahikawa so that we can search for their map codes ?

            • bumblebeemum says:

              For Biei, it is a countryside so you can just drive around to enjoy the scenery. There are two areas, Panorama Road and Patchwork Road.

              Main sightseeing spots around Panoroma Road are:
              – Shikisai No Oka
              – Sanai No Oka
              – Farm Chiyoda
              – Shinnei No Oka
              – Tree of Philosophy

              Farm Chiyoda has a restaurant which serves an awesome beef stew and there is a nice cafe called “Sanai No Chaya Curve” next to Sanai No Oka that serves very nice affogato if you just want to take a coffee break.

              Sightseeing spots around Patchwork Road area:
              – Hokusei No Oka
              – Ken and Mary Tree
              – Parent and Child Tree
              – Seven Star Tree
              and a whole bunch of other trees. My kids got bored of looking at trees after a while so I didn’t visit all of them.

              You should be able to find the Map Codes of most of the above spots on this post. (Scroll to the bottom where I have scanned the list of map codes I received from Toyota Rent-a-car.)

  11. Em says:

    Dear BumbleBee mum,

    I only just discover ur blog this morning and had a quick run through your blog – very detailed write up but bcoz I was running out of time due to a last min booking to Japan next friday but not knowing the following week is their Golden Week as this is our 1sttrip to Japan,
    and todate , I have not bought my JR Pass neither I have make any hotel reservation except for Tokyo and I dont know where to even start ;

    my travel itinerary
    Arrived Tokyo on April 24 ( next Friday night )
    Apri 26- 30 -Kyoto/Osaka or Hokkaido
    May 1- 5 – Tokyo

    initially one of the highlight of my trip is to see Sakura but guess the only area is up north
    What do you suggest and where should I go as I will be traveling with my 19 month old toddler and my husband

    your input and suggestion is very much appreciate – Feeling Lost

    Thank you so much in advance & hoping to hear from you soon

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Hi,

      You are indeed too late for sakura unless you fly up to Hokkaido. I suggest you visit the Fuji Shibazakura Festival near Mount Fuji instead.

      If you want to visit Kyoto and Osaka, you should purchase the Japan Rail Pass. Your toddler should be able to travel for free, so only you and your hubby need the pass.

      Suppose you purchase the 7 Day rail pass and use it from 24 April – 30 April.

      24 April: Stay in Tokyo. If you are arriving at Narita, use your rail pass to take the Narita Express (N’EX).
      25 April: Take shinkansen to Osaka. You can visit Osaka castle or Osaka Aquarium and then Dotonburi at night.
      26 April: Spend the day at Universal Studios Osaka.
      27 April: Take shinkansen from Osaka to Kyoto. Visit Kiyomizudera, Higashiyama, Ginkakuji.
      28 April: Take shinkanse to Odawara. Rent a car to explore Hakone. If weather is good, take the Lake Ashi cruise and Hakone Ropeway. Spend the night at Hakone.
      29 April: Drive to the Fuji Shibazakura Festival in the morning. Then drive to Fuji Safari Park after that, your toddler would love it. Spend the night at Kawaguchiko.
      30 April: If weather is good, you can take the Kachi Kachi ropeway in the morning. After that, visit Fuji Q Highland. The Thomasland there is great for toddlers. After that drive back to Odawara to return car and take the shinkasen back to Tokyo.
      1 – 5 May: Tokyo (I suggest spending 3 days at Disneyland and Disneysea. This is when you will run into Golden Week so Disney will get extremely crowded and you will spend a lot of time queueing for the rides, so maybe allocate 3 days for the two parks. Then spend 1 day at Odaiba. The 5th day will be back to airport.)

      If you are planning to rent a car in Japan, please note that you will need to apply for International Driving Permit and bring BOTH IDP and Singapore driving license with you to Japan.

  12. Hey, I think you can be a good tour guide or Japan travel ambassador! In fact just last month the hubby and I were planning for a honeymoon trip to Hokkaido. I will sure book mark this page and read through your comments and recommendations to plan one. We may go next year during Sakura bloom. I will probably have more questions that need your advice 🙂 Thanks for the wonderful effort and time to share 🙂

    • Not quite an ambassador, but definitely an addict! If I don’t go Japan for more than a year, I will start having sushi withdrawal symptoms.

      I’ve been to Hokkaido in summer, autumn and winter, but not yet in Spring. The problem with Hokkaido’s cherry blossom season is that it coincides with Golden Week, which is a bad time for foreigners to visit Japan.

  13. ann says:

    Hihi bumblebee mum

    I am planning to go japan in end Nov or dec for about 7D6N or 8D7N to Tokyo /kyoto/osaka. . I have never been to Japan hence nd some help in drafting. . I should arrive and depart from Tokyo right.

    I’m traveling with my hb and 7yr old son. Places hoping to cover include Disney land and zoo if it’s open in winter? Would be taking public transport since we not familiar with japan.

    Thks alot

    Ann

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Hi,

      To visit Tokyo / Kyoto / Osaka, you can consider flying in to Tokyo and out from Osaka or vice versa. Airlines that allow you to do that are SQ, ANA and JAL.

      To plan your train routes, hyperdia is your best friend.

      If you are flying in and out of Tokyo, you can consider getting the Japan Rail Pass. If you are flying in Tokyo and out Osaka (or other way round), then it won’t be worth it to get the Japan Rail Pass. You can use Hyperdia to check the total cost of your train routes to determine if it is worth it to purchase the Japan Rail Pass.

      Disneyland is definitely open in winter. As for zoo, not sure which one you are referring to.. Is it Ueno zoo? In general zoos should also be open in winter, but they may have shortened opening hours.

      Use Hyperdia to check the train you should take the Disneyland. The destination (train station) for Disneyland is called ‘MAIHAMA’. For Ueno Zoo, the station you want to go to is ‘UENO’.

  14. annie says:

    Hihi

    Thanks for replying.. Yeah should be the Ueno Zoo..

    Would you recommend to go Fukuoka? is it an interesting place to go to?

    End Novemeber or Early Dec is it a good time to travel to Japan?

    regards
    ann

    • bumblebeemum says:

      If you are flying in and out of Tokyo, I would not recommend Fukuoka because it is too far. I would recommend Fukuoka as a separate trip focusing on the Western end of Japan.

      For a round-trip from Tokyo with a 7-Day Japan Rail Pass, I would recommend going as far as Miyajima near Hiroshima. Miyajima is one of my favourite places in Japan and named as one of Japan’s 3 most scenic spots. Along the way there, you can visit Hiroshima and Himeji castle, all easily reached using the Japan Rail Pass.
      -> Click here to read about my trip that covered Himeji, Hiroshima and Miyajima using Japan Rail Pass. <- End November is an excellect time to visit Kyoto and Osaka for autumn foliage. Kyoto especially will be extremely beautiful at that time. At this time of the year, there are also some amazing illumination events taking place throughout Japan. So yes, it is a good time to visit Japan. 🙂

  15. serene says:

    Thanks, I have printed the map codes in one of your posts.

  16. Mei says:

    Hi hi

    I am visiting Hokkaido from 29Apr to 6May & have booked my accommodation as follows but have not planned out my route. Will pick up my car on 29Apr & drop off car on 3May at Sapporo.

    29Apr-nobobeitsu
    30Apr-1May -Hakodate
    2May-Otaru
    3-5-Sapporo

    Need you help to advise on the itinery to best utilise our days. Very impressed w yr blog! Thus hope u can provide some guidance. Thanks!

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Hi,

      Thank you for visiting my blog.

      You are visiting during sakura season, so sakura viewing will probably be the highlight of your trip.

      29 April: Refer to the map on this website for sakura spots around Noboribetsu. The most famous site is the one called “桜のトンネル” which means “Sakura Tunnel”. It is a 2km stretch of road lined with 2000 sakura trees.

      30 April – 1 May: In Hakodate, you would want to visit Mount Hakodate for its million dollar night view and Hakodate morning market. For sakura, you must visit Fort Goryokaku. You should also go up Goryokaku Tower for a birds’ eye view of the star-shaped fort.

      From Hakodate, plan to take a drive further South to Matsumae Castle. That is the largest sakura spot in Hokkaido with 10,000 sakura trees.

      2 May: Your drive from Hakodate to Otaru is extremely long. I suggest taking a break at Lake Toya. It is a very beautiful lake. You can have lunch at Sendoan, which I have listed under Hokkaido’s Best Food.

      In Otaru, visit Otaru canal and Sakaimachi.

      3-5 May: In Sapporo, the most popular sakura spot is Maruyama Park so you probably want to visit it.

  17. Ailindra Koh says:

    Hi, I’m pretty impressed with the planning and stuff that you did for self drive and I was wondering if you could help me.

    My kids would love to see snow but the packages are just too expensive for me. My kids are in their teens 12 and 14 this year and I’m planning to bring them to Hokkaido to experience real snow if it won’t be too expensive and dangerous as it will be our first time driving in snow.

    I researched in the internet and your blog and I would like to bring them to the following places.

    Do you think you can help me please? I was planning to go from 13/12/15 to 24/12/15. I copied and pasted quite a few paragraphs of your blog but half way through, I’m stuck.

    Draft Itinerary:
    Day 1
    Flight to Hokkaido (New Chitose Airport)
    Check into Mercure Hotel Sapporo
    Go to car rental office to collect car. http://www.toyotarentacar.net/english/
    Walk around
    In the evening, head to Odori Park for the White Illumination and German Christmas Market
    http://white-illumination.jp/en-us/
    http://www.sapporo-christmas.com/english/

    Day 2
    Morning head to Jyogai Ichiba (Sapporo Central Wholesale Market)
    – Free Shuttle Service pick up from hotel http://www.kitanogurume.co.jp/en/ arrange before hand
    We drove through Jozankei Onsen town to Houheikyou Dam – http://www.houheikyou.jp/english/ No need to take the electric bus. Can walk
    Proceed to drive to Otaru, via the Jozankei lakeline. The drive was extremely scenic – through Jozankei onsen town, pass Sapporo lake, Jozankei dam and Asari dam
    When arrive at Otaru, the first thing to do is to eat sushi! dine at somewhere less touristy (and hence cheaper): Toppii sushi, which was a short walk from Otaru canal. Toppii sushi had a free carpark for its patron, so it saved us the hassle of looking for a coin parking. There were high chairs available, and kids were entitled to the drinks bar – FREE!
    After lunch, quick walk to Otaru Canal. There’s a carpark (Time’s open air carpark) next to the canal.
    Beside Times carpark, you will find the famous ice-cream shop, Kita No Ice, in a small historic building. The ice-cream shop sells really strange flavoured ice-cream.. Like uni (sea urchin), squid ink and crab flavours.

    Walk through Sakaimachi. There are many shops selling intricate glass handicraft where you can experience glass-blowing, a candle workshop where you can make your own candle, and the famous music box museum at the end of Sakaimachi is definitely worth a visit. Along the way, there are cafes like Amato and LeTao where you can sit down and enjoy delicious Hokkaido sweets, and you can also find Rokkatei (六花亭) and Kitakaro (北菓楼) which are famous confectionary shops. In particular, Kitakaro has the most yummylicious ice-cream and cream puffs.
    http://www.otaru-orgel.co.jp/english/e_main.html
    drive to the Otaru Aquarium – http://uu-hokkaido.com/corporate/otaru-aq.shtml
    Drive back hotel

    Day 3 (If Farm Tomita is open during winter)
    drive to Furano to see the flower fields. made a brief stop at SA (i.e. service-area, referring to large parking areas with toilets, shops, restaurants and petrol kiosk) Sunagawa (SA 砂川)along the expressway, which was a nice place to take a break if you are driving from Sapporo to Furano. There was a cafe serving hot meals and a beautiful little park next to it. There were also Gashapon machines for the kids. If you have time and weather is good, you can visit Kodomo No Kuni (子どもの国 – translates to mean ‘Children’s Country’) – there was an entrance to it from SA Sunagawa.
    Drive on to Farm Tomita. http://www.farm-tomita.co.jp/en/

    Day 4
    In Sapporo go Shiroi Koibito Park also known as Ishiya Chocolate Factory (BJ’s biscuit)
    Mount Moiwa http://moiwa.sapporo-dc.co.jp/
    Sapporo Beer Factory

    Day 5
    The drive from Sapporo to Asahiyama Zoo took slightly more than 4 hours because of heavy snow (in good weather, it should take about 3 hours). There will be sight of snow and ‘Christmas Trees’ along the way! Some exhibits at Asahiyama Zoo close at 1pm and zoo closes at 3.30pm during winter. Penguin parade starts late December
    Snow Village. Located right next to Asahiyama Zoological Park. Snow activities.
    Go back Sapporo. Go Sapporo Station. Large souvenir shop selling famous confectionary and go up T38 Observatory for night view

    Day 6 – Check out . Accomation: Lake Toya Nonokaze resort (1 night)
    Drive to Noboribetsu Bear Park. Located on the mountain and can reach there by taking a gondola ride. We will be enclose in a cage for humans to observe the bears very closely. Also possible to experience feeding bears.
    Drive to Earth cape. Located on the cliff more than 100m high. Best views in Hokkaido.
    Reach Lake Toya

    Day 7 – check out
    Cruise in Lake Toya (45mins) and Lake Toya Observatory
    Check out and proceed to Hakodate (2.5 hours)
    Check in at La Vista Hakodate bay (2 nights)

    Day 8
    Morning: Hakodate port – Fresh Seafood market
    Night: Mount Hakodate by gondola ride for night view of Hakodate city
    Return hotel

    Day 9 – Check out and move to Niseko (2.5 – 3 hours)
    Skiing and hot spring spa

    I’m stuck after this. I would like to bring them to the following places as well.
    1) Hirafu ski slope
    2) Historical village of Hokkaido
    3) Hot Spring (by gender please)
    4) Hokkaido Animal House
    5) Arctic Fox House
    6) The wolves forest & The Ezo deer forest
    7) Penguin House

    Sorry for such a long list. But I’m not getting help from anywhere else and I’m lost.

    Thank you in advance.

    • Ailindra Koh says:

      Sorry. one more 8) Tomamu Ice Village

      • bumblebeemum says:

        Hihi,

        Firstly, you want to MINIMIZE driving in winter if it is your first time driving in snow. So I am going to recommend you do a combination of train + driving. Some places I would strongly advise against driving during winter are Sapporo city, Otaru, Niseko and Asahikawa. These places are much better reached by public transport during winter.

        Secondly, Hokkaido has very distinct seasons. I noticed you copied parts of the itineraries from my summer and autumn trips, but those places are not great for winter travel.

        Day 1: You definitely do not need a car in Sapporo, so hold off picking up the rental car. You can easily walk to Odori Park from Mercure Hotel Sapporo for the illumination using the underground shopping arcade that stretches from Susukino station to Odori station.

        Day 2: Again, you do not need the car and you should skip Jozankei and Houheikyou Dam because these are autumn destinations. Visit Jyogai Ichiba in the morning using the free shuttle service. After that, for the return shuttle bus ride, tell the driver to drop you off at Sapporo station instead of your hotel. At Sapporo station, catch the train to Otaru. You probably will not have time to visit Otaru Aquarium in winter due to shortened opening hours. Your children are old enough to enjoy some hands-on craft activities at the glass-blowing shops and candle-making shops in Otaru. That should occupy the rest of your day. At the end of the day, just take the train back to Sapporo station, and then the subway back to Susukino where Mercure Hotel is.

        Day 3: I do not recommend visiting Tomita Farm or Furano in winter. You can use this day to visit Historical Village of Hokkaido instead. It is accessible by public transport.

        Day 4: All these places are within Sapporo and easily accessible by public transport.

        Day 5: You can visit Asahiyama Zoo as a day trip from Sapporo. I highly recommend taking the train + bus instead of driving. It is faster and safer.

        Day 6 – 7: The region of Noboribetsu / Lake Toya are probably the only region you need a car. So you may want to rent a car for 2 days to visit this region.

        Day 8: You do not need a car for Hakodate as well. You should return the car and take a train to Hakodate instead. The drive is long and boring, the train will get you to Hakodate faster.

        Day 9: I really do not advice driving to Niseko. Of all the places in Hokkaido where I have driven in winter, Niseko was the scariest. From Hakodate, you can take the train to Kutchan station (with a transfer at OSHAMAMBE) where you can catch a bus to Niseko Grand Hirafu village.

        These places that you have listed:
        Hokkaido Animal House
        Arctic Fox House
        The wolves forest & The Ezo deer forest
        Penguin House
        I believe you saw them on this page? These places are all within Asahiyama Zoo (which you have planned for in Day 5).

        Hot spring will be included in your Lake Toya stay.

        As for Tomamu Ice Village, looking at your packed itinerary, I guess you can visit Tomamu as a day trip from Sapporo. There is a direct train from Sapporo station to Tomamu station where Hoshino Resorts Tomamu (the venue of Tomamu Ice Village) is.

        I would recommend you purchase the 5-Day Hokkaido Rail Pass for your itinerary. And to maximize its usage, you can rearrange your itinerary as follows:

        Day 1: What time are you arriving? If you arrive early, I would recommend you rent your car from the airport and begin with Noboribetsu and Lake Toya for the first 2 days of your trip. You pick up your car on Day 1 from Chitose, drive to Noboribetsu then Lake Toya.

        Day 2: Explore Lake Toya then drive back to Sapporo. Return the car to Sapporo outlet and check in to Sapporo hotel.

        Day 3: Sapporo (Historical village of Hokkaido in the day, Odori Park for illumination at night)

        Day 4: Sapporo (Shiroi Koibito Park, Sapporo Beer Factory and Mount Moiwa)

        Day 5: Visit Jyogai Ichiba in the morning and drop off at Sapporo station after that. START YOUR HOKKAIDO RAIL PASS. Use for return train ride to Otaru.

        Day 6: Use your Hokkaido Rail Pass for return train ride to Asahikawa. From Asahikawa station, catch the bus to Asahiyama Zoo.

        Day 7: Use your Hokkaido Rail Pass for return train ride to Tomamu.

        Day 8: Use your Hokkaido Rail Pass from Sapporo to Hakodate. Visit Red Brick Warehouse district and Mount Hakodate.

        Day 9: Visit Hakodate market in the morning. Use your Hokkaido Rail Pass from Hakodate to Kutchan. Catch a bus from Kutchan to Niseko (Hirafu village).

        Day 10-11: Niseko

        Day 12: Catch a bus from Niseko back to New Chitose Airport.

        If you are going to use the Hokkaido rail pass and do day trips by train, I advise you to find a hotel near SAPPORO STATION instead of staying at Mercure which is near Susukino station.

  18. Ailindra Koh says:

    Hi,

    I was so happy to receive your reply. I will definitely be going through the itinerary that you suggested in more detail tonight. Hope to have your patience should I have any more questions.

    Sorry if it’s a silly question but do we just stay in Sapporo throughout?

    Thanks and Regards with much appreciation

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Hi,

      No, you will definitely need to change hotel along the way. If you follow the itinerary I suggested,

      Day 1: Stay at a hot spring resort in Lake Toya. Nonokaze which you mentioned earlier is a nice hot spring resort.

      Day 2 – 7: Stay at Sapporo, preferably near Sapporo station.

      Day 8: Stay in Hakodate. Think you mentioned La Vista? That’s quite conveniently located.

      Day 9 – 11: Stay in Niseko. For Hirafu ski slope, the most convenient hotel is Hotel Niseko Alpen which is located right next to the ski slope.

  19. Ailindra Koh says:

    Hi,

    I will be following your itinerary.

    Day 1 – We have not booked the flight yet but if for planning, we will be reaching about 1pm. Will we have time to drive to Noboribetsu to Bear Park and then Lake Toya?

    I will figure out the transport distance via internet myself later.

    • bumblebeemum says:

      If your flight arrives at 1pm, you will not have enough time to visit Noboribetsu bear park and make it to Lake Toya before dark. I would advise you to book accommodation in Noboribetsu instead, it is also a hot spring town. Ticket sales for the bear park ends at 3.50pm in December. Depending on how long customs clearance and collecting the rental car takes (you will need to take shuttle bus to the rental car outlets, there is no direct collection of rental car at new chitose airport), you may or may not even make it to Noboribetsu bear park on the first day.

  20. Nicholas Yeo says:

    Hi Bumble bee mum, your Hokkiado blog was amazing.

    Can I ask if u can recommend any farm stay for a family travel? I have been searching for one in the area of Furano and Biel but has no luck looking for one. I am planning to travel mostly central hokkiado, self drive with family in Jul.

    Thanks for your help. 🙂

    regards..Nicholas Yeo (Avid reader)

  21. Nicholas Yeo says:

    thats great. thanks

  22. Serena Goh says:

    Dear Bumble Bee Mum,

    Firstly, a big thank you for your blogs! Thank you for sharing!

    I intend to visit Hokkaido (self-drive) during June (yes, very last minute decision).. for about 5 days minus flights (yes, very short stay)… with my hubby and 2 kids (13yo & 10yo). Our possible travel dates are between 4th – 19th.

    We love Japanese food, perhaps some strawberry picking, beautiful scenery, animals (farms?) and hopefully catch the festivals. Any good suggestions on a possible itinerary with 2 pre-teens? Where are the must-go, must-try places? Unfortunately I can’t afford more travel days 🙁

    Thanks in advance! 🙂

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Hi,

      For a short trip, I recommend staying close to Sapporo. You’re in luck because this year, the two festivals in Sapporo are taking place back to back, so you can catch both in your short trip!
      Yosakoi Soran Festival is taking place 10 – 14 June.
      Hokkaido Shrine Festival is taking place 14 – 16 June.

      So plan to be in Sapporo around that time and you will catch the festivals. For Hokkaido Shrine Festival, the main highlight (the parade around the city) will take place on the 16th, so you may want to be in Sapporo that day. You are read more about the festival on this post:

      Hokkaido Shrine Festival

      As for Yosakoi Soran Festival, I have never visited it. You can visit the official website here:
      http://www.yosakoi-soran.jp/
      From what I understand of Japanese festivals, the highlights tend to take place on the last day. So if I were you, I would plan to be in Sapporo from 14 to 16 June.

      For 5 full days, you can spend 1 day at Lake Toya. You can go strawberry picking at Sobetsu Fruit Village and the scenery there is beautiful. Stay at Toya Sunpalace, it is an onsen resort with a pool with slides for the children. There are no real farms near Sapporo, but you can go to Lake Hill Farm at Lake Toya where there are some animals in their lawn.

      Let’s say you have 5 full days (excluding flight) and you arrive on 13th June.
      13 June: Arrive at New Chitose Airport. Stay at Sapporo.
      14 June (Day 1): Visit Yosakoi Soran Festival. Stay at Sapporo.
      15 June (Day 2): Visit festivals stalls Hokkaido Shrine / Nakajima Koen. Stay at Sapporo.
      16 June (Day 3): Hang around for festival parade. Stay in Sapporo
      17 June (Day 4): Day trip to Otaru. Stay at Sapporo.
      17 June (Day 5): Pick up rental car, drive to Lake Toya. Visit Lake Hill Farm, Sobetsu Fruit Village. Stay in Lake Toya.
      18 June: Drive to New Chitose Airport for flight home. If your flight is late, drop by Lake Shikotsu on the way to the airport.

      During your extra time in Sapporo, you can slowly take in the sights and FOOD. You can visit the markets, Sapporo beer museum, Shiroi Koibito Park, Mount Moiwa etc.

      For places to eat, you can refer to my Hokkaido Food Guides:

      http://bumblebeemum.net/2015/03/30/hokkaido-best-food/
      http://bumblebeemum.net/2015/04/15/hokkaido-best-sweets-cafe/

      • Serena says:

        wow, thanks for your prompt reply!

        I managed to add more days for this trip!… question is whether to rent a car throughout or just on certain trips because the public transport seems rather accessible. any advice?

        11 June: Drive from Airport to Lake Toya. Stay @ Lake Toya.
        12 June: Lake Toya – Sapporo. Stay @ Sapporo
        13 June: Day trip to Otaru.
        14 June – 16 June: Festivities in Sapporo.
        17 June: Drive to Furano. Stay @ Furano.
        18 June: Tour Furano.
        19 June: Drive to Airport.

        • bumblebeemum says:

          You will not need a car in Sapporo. You can rent the car for 1 day to go from New Chitose Airport to Lake Toya to Sapporo and return the car at Sapporo. For Otaru, you can just take the train from Sapporo. Then on 17th, pick up rental car from Sapporo to drive to Furano, and around Furano and return the car to New Chitose Airport on 19th.

  23. serene says:

    Hihi,

    Thank you for the time and advice. I have based on your recommendations in our previous chats and planned our trip.

    As we will be taking a night flight out from Chitose, we plan a trip to Otaru for a few hours before we drive back to Chitose Airport for our flight. May I ask is there anywhere beside Otaru Canal and music box museum that you will recommend to visit in Otaru ?

    In Obihiro, is there anywhere else that we can visit (I have included Happiness Diary and have lunch at Panchou) ?

    In Tomanu, is Hoshino resort the only accommodation and am I correct this is where we go to the Unkai Terrace ? Any other places/activities that we can visit/do at Tomanu ?

    Is there any recommendation for stay at Asahikawa, Abashiri and near Lake Akan ?

    • bumblebeemum says:

      For Otaru, the whole stretch of shops along Sakaimachi between Otaru Canal and music box museum is very interesting. A lot of glassware shops, confectionary shops (my favourites are Kitakaro 北菓楼 and Le Tao) and a nice candle shop. You can even try out glass blowing and candle making.

      For Obihiro, I would recommend visiting Rokkatei’s (六花亭) main store. There is also a famous Koufuku station (幸福駅), but it’s not really my interest so I have never been there. You can google about it.

      For Tomamu, Hoshino resort is the only hotel in the area. There is a pension (homestay) nearby called Pension ING. However to go up Unkai Terrace, it is quite a hassle because you still need to drive from the pension to Hoshino resort early in the morning. Yes, Unkai Terrace is at Hoshino Resort. The gondola station is at their activity centre, which requires a shuttle bus ride from the hotel tower to reach. But don’t worry, in the morning everyone is trying to get to the gondola station, so the shuttle buses are running non-stop. There is nothing else in Tomamu besides Hoshino resort.

      For Asahikawa, the popular hotels are Asahikawa Grand Hotel and Loisir Hotel Asahikawa.

      For Abashiri, I only stayed in Toyoko Inn Abashiri before. It is typical Toyoko Inn hotel – small and clean rooms. (Toyoko Inn is a Japanese chain hotel, something like Singapore’s Hotel 81.)

      For Lake Akan, the best place to stay would be Akan Yuku No Sato. It is right smack opposite the shopping streets and short walk to the Ainu Kotan. The facilities within the hotel are also great. However it is expensive. If Yuku No Sato is out of your budget, you can stay at Hanayuuka which is much further down the road but much cheaper too. They are operated by the same hotel group, so you can catch a shuttle bus from Hanayuuka to Yuku No Sato and use the facilities there or to visit the shopping streets / Ainu Kotan.

  24. Mildred Koh says:

    Hi bumble mum, is nov a gd time to visit Hokkaddo? We are planning a self drive trip w my 4yo daughter & my elderly mother. Our 1st time to Hokkaddo & we don’t speak jap. Any suggestions on the itinerary? Tks!

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Hi,

      To be very frank, no, November is not a good time to visit Hokkaido. Are you able to go earlier, say October? You will still be able to catch some autumn foliage in October. By Nov, they will be all gone and it may start to snow, causing some difficulty in getting around with a young child and an elderly.

      • Mildred Koh says:

        Hi, I see. How about Jan or Feb? We are trying to avoid the school holiday period. Tks.

        • bumblebeemum says:

          February is the best! That’s when all the snow festivals are taking place. The biggest one is Sapporo Snow Festival (5 -11 Feb). And there are Otaru Snow Light Path, Asahikawa Winter Festival, Lake Shikotsu Ice Fall Festival, Onuma-Hakodate Snow Festival and many many more, depending on how much time you have.

          You can refer to the link below for the dates of this year’s festivals. 2016 dates are not confirmed yet, but it won’t differ much.
          Hokkaido Winter Festival 2015 Schedule

  25. Edenz says:

    Hi, I think I almost finalized my itenary. Could you give some tips or feedback on it?

    Day 1: Narita Airport > Fuji Five Lakes (rent a car) stay at Kawaguchi Lake.
    Day 2: Gotemba and Hakone > Narita Airport stay at a hotel nearby there.
    Day 3: Fly to New Chitose on the earliest flight then rent a car.
    New Chitose > Noboribetsu > Lake Toya (stay here)
    Day 4: Lake Toya > Niseko
    Day 5: Niseko
    Day 6: Niseko > Jozankei > Sapporo (stay here)
    Day 7: Sapporo > Asahikawa > Furano (stay here)
    Day 8: Furano > Tomamu (stay here)
    Day 9: Tomamu > Sapporo (stay here)
    Day 10: Visit Sapporo winter festival then fly back to Narita Airport on the last flight of the day.

    Is it too rushing? Can I know if with these route, do I need to get the HEP or ECT is more worth it if Im driving using the highways wherever possible? Have you drove before from Tokyo Airport to Mount Fuji? Can let me know the details too if possible. Thank you so much =)

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Your first two days look very rushed to me. Is your flight confirmed? Is it possible to fly to Haneda airport instead of Narita? Haneda is nearer to Hakone / Mount Fuji than Narita. There are also more frequent domestic flights to Hokkaido from Haneda compared to Narita.

      I checked the train route on Hyperdia on how to get from Narita Aiport to Kawaguchiko. It looks like a nightmare with multiple transfers and the fastest route takes 4 hours. I would recommend you take the train to ODAWARA (which is near Hakone) instead and rent the car from there, spending the first night at Hakone instead of Kawaguchiko. If you use the Narita Express and shinkansen, the ride from Narita Airport to Odawara only requires 1 transfer at Shinagawa and the ride takes only 100 minutes. Alternatively, just rent a car from Narita Express and drive to Hakone / Kawaguchiko. The tolls will be very expensive, but Narita Express and shinkansen are not cheap either. The drive from Narita Airport to Hakone / Kawaguchiko is around 2.5hours.

      The train route from Haneda Airport to Kawaguchiko also requires multiple transfers and takes 3 hours. However, if you fly to Haneda, I would recommend you just rent a car from Haneda Airport to drive to Mount Fuji / Hakone region. The drive will take about 1.5 hours.

      For Day 3, would you want to consider staying in Lake Shikotsu instead of Lake Toya? There is a winter festival at Lake Shikotsu, I wouldn’t want to miss that. If you stay at Lake Shikotsu on Day 3, you can still visit Lake Toya enroute to Niseko on Day 4.

      For Day 6, Sapporo – Asahikawa – Furano is a very long distance you are trying to cover in a day. If you are visiting Asahiyama Zoo, there is definitely not enough time to complete this route before sunset. Always bear in the mind that the sun sets at 4pm in winter and you need to double driving times estimated by google map due to snow.

      Your itinerary definitely looks too rushed for a winter trip. You will have to omit one place from your itinerary. Either Niseko or Asahikawa or Furano or Tomamu.

      ETC card is good enough. Your route will not require HEP since there are many days you will not be on the tollway.

      • Edenz says:

        Wow thanks for your kind explanations. How do u check the price of the tolls between places? How much would the toll be from Narita Airport to Kawaguchi Lake? ETC is good enough for this region? And yes apparently my flight is confirmed to Narita Airport touchdown at 9am. Hmm, I also do think the itenary is kind pack. The reasons for going Furano is so that i can go Tomamu right after that. If i would to omit Furano, what sequence do u think is the best and time saving?

        • bumblebeemum says:

          Hi, I used Tocoo’s toll simulator. It is a bit troublesome to use though, because you need to know the name of the expressway and entrance/exit names. As for Narita Airport to neighbouring regions, you can refer to this website for approximate toll fees. According to that site, toll fee from Narita Airport to Mount Fuji is 5090 Yen and Narita to Hakone is 4500 Yen approximately. Get an ETC card if you are able to, it should reduce the toll fee pretty significantly.

          You don’t really need to omit Furano, you just need to omit the star gazing activity. You can still fit in a day trip to Furano if you want.
          Day 7: Drive Sapporo to Asahiyama Zoo. Stay at Asahikawa.
          Day 8: Drive from Asahikawa to Furano. You can visit the wine factory and cheese factory at Furano and have lunch at Furano before driving to Tomamu. Alternatively, if you want to spend more time at Tomamu, then drive straight from Asahikawa to Tomamu.

          The sequence of your original itinerary is good. (Though I would really recommend you swap Lake Toya for Lake Shikotsu because of the festival at Lake Shikotsu.) The only problem was with Day 7, where you should plan to stay at Asahikawa instead of Furano to avoid driving after sunset. But you will miss the star gazing you originally planned to do.

          • Edenz says:

            How long do actually spend your time in Asahikawa Zoo? Since you really recommended Lake Shikotsu, i will omit Lake Toya then. But what would my route be now? New Chitose Airport to Noboribetsu > Lake Shikotsu or New Chitose Airport > Lake Shikotsu > Noboribetsu? The next day i would like to depart straight to Niseko for skiing already. Is the road from Lake Shikotsu to Niseko very difficult to drive? From google map I can see a lot of turnings and up and downhill roads haha!

            • bumblebeemum says:

              We didn’t get to spend much time at Asahiyama Zoo because the drive from Sapporo to Asahikawa took super long due to heavy snow. Think we arrived at 1pm and had to leave by 4pm because it was getting dark and it was a snowy drive back to the hotel. We covered at most half the zoo. You would expect to need more time because there would be the penguin parade when you are there. Usually there will be two session of penguin parade a day, at 11am and 2.30pm (please confirm again closer to your travel date). Do plan to leave Sapporo as early as possible.

              If you want to visit the festival at Lake Shikotsu, you should do New Chitose Airport > Noboribetsu > Lake Shikotsu, spending the night at Lake Shikotsu. The festival is more beautiful at night, because of the coloured lighting. If you’re lucky, there may even be fireworks!
              Lake Shikotsu Ice Festival
              Lake Shikotsu Ice Festival Fireworks

              All rural roads in Hokkaido have a lot of turnings and mountain passes. Especially so if you are heading to ski resorts since they tend to be at higher altitudes. And ski resorts have the heaviest snow fall. So the drive from Lake Shikotsu to Niseko is not going to be an easy drive, especially when you approach Niseko (the first half of the drive should be okay). But drive slow and safe in bright daylight, you should be fine.

              • Edenz says:

                Alright! Which road did you use from Lake Shikotsu to Niseko? How do I actually check whether the road that I am using is with toll or not? Some of the road they mentioned ‘highway’ for example Furano National Highway, does it means there is toll charge?

                • bumblebeemum says:

                  I have mapped out the route from Lake Shikotsu to Niseko on google map:
                  > Click here to view < 国道 (National Highways) are not expressways and have no tolls. They are pretty rural by Singapore standards. Expressways (自動車道) have tolls. If you use Google Map, they will tell you if the route has tolls.

  26. Anonymous says:

    Hi, just read through your wonderful blog and am wondering if you could give some advice on my itinerary for my Hokkaido trip in early July? We are bringing our 2 kids aged 3 and 6. My husband will be the only driver so I have planned the itinerary so be more relaxing and spaced out. We also prefer a more relaxed trip instead of rushing here and there and changing hotels every night.

    Day 1: Arrive at Sapporo at noon. Pick up rental car. Drive to Tomamu. Overnight at Hoshino Resort.
    Day 2: Unkai Terrace. Drive to Akan. Overnight at Akan.
    Day 3: Tour Akan, drive to Shiretoko Overnight at Shiretoko.
    Day 4: Tour Shiretoko, overnight at Shiretoko.
    Day 5: Drive to Sounkyo, overnight at Sounkyo
    Day 6: Tour Sounkyo, overnight at Sounkyo
    Day 7: Drive to Furano, overnight at Furano
    Day 8: Still at Furano, overnight at Furano
    Day 9: Drive to Sapporo, overnight
    Day 10: Sapporo
    Day 11: Sapporo
    Day 12: Return to S’pore

    A few additional questions..we want to visit the Asahiyama Zoo. Should we go on the way from Furano to Sapporo (day 9), or make it a day trip on day 8? For Sapporo, we also want to make a day trip to Otaru and the choc factory. My friend advised that it is best to drive to these 2 places. Is it true? At which point do you think I should return the car? Or better to keep the car until the last day to return at airport?

    Thank you for your patience!

    • bumblebeemum says:

      For Asahiyama Zoo, you should visit is on the way from Sounkyo to Furano. That will be Day 7 according to your itinerary. I have mapped out the route on google map, you can see that Asahiyama Zoo is right smack along the way from Sounkyo to Furano:

      Google Map from Sounkyo to Furano via Asahiyama Zoo.

      If you want to visit Asahiyama Zoo enroute to Furano, you can consider staying Sounkyo for 1 night and Furano for 3 nights. The main sightseeing areas for July are in Furano. There isn’t that much to see or do at Sounkyo, I would just stay one night to enjoy the onsen. Furthermore, I don’t usually stay more than 1 night at onsen resorts, because it would be the same onsen, same scenery and same food.

      Your friend is right. The chocolate factory is along the way from central Sapporo to Otaru. I would drive if I have young kids with me. Although Otaru can be visited by train, the main sightseeing area is still a 15-minutes walk from the train station. Similarly, the chocolate factory is also a 15 minutes walk from the nearest subway station. It would be faster to get around with a car, especially with kids.

      If you are keeping the car to drive to Otaru, you should just keep it all the way till you return to New Chitose Airport. In Sapporo, I highly recommend visiting Takino Suzuran Hillside Park with your kids in Summer. You can read about my visit there with my kids on > this post <. It is a lovely place but with very limited public transport. You can visit it easily if you have the car.

  27. Ashley says:

    Hi, bumble bee mum,
    We are planning to visit Tokyo/ Kyoto/ Osaka from 23 Dec to 1 Jan 16. This is our first trip to Japan. what do you suggest and where to stay with my hubby and 2 kids age 16 & 17.
    We have not book the fright yet, should we book sin – Tokyo- sin or sin – Tokyo – Osaka – sin?
    And we are not planning to drive in Japan. Is JR pass is a good selection?

    Thanks.

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Hi,

      Since your children are already in their teens, you can stay just about anywhere. I don’t have particular recommendations – it really depends on your budget. If you are looking for cheaper options, try the chain hotels like Toyoko Inn, Super Hotel, Dormy Inn, Smile Hotel etc. Their rooms tend to be smaller but cheaper, but they are always clean and well-maintained. They don’t usually have family rooms, so you would need to book two rooms. If you want family rooms, my friend recently used Air BNB for her Japan family trip. Within Tokyo, the only hotel with family room that I personally stayed in before was Centurion Hotel Grand Asakasa. Their family room can fit your family of 4 comfortably.

      For your flight, you should book SIN – TOKYO and OSAKA – SIN if possible. It will save you time. If you do that, you will NOT need the Japan Rail Pass. You can purchase single trip tickets along the way, it will work out to be cheaper than the Japan Rail Pass.

      If you purchase a round trip flight ticket between SIN and TOKYO, then it will make sense to get the Japan Rail Pass. The advantage of purchasing round trip tickets between Singapore and Tokyo is that you have more flight options, since there are airlines such as Delta and Scoot that flies to Tokyo, but not Osaka.

  28. Ashley says:

    Hi, additional a few questions, my kids like skiing, where is the best place for skiing? This is our first time planning for free & easy at winter time, how to handle the bulky luggage through out the tour?

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Hmmm… Your Japan – Kyoto – Osaka route is not particularly known for skiing. You can plan a day trip to Gala Yuzawa, which is the nearest ski resort to Tokyo. If you do it as a day trip, you do not have to bring your bulky luggage there.

      There is generally little snow in Japan – Kyoto – Osaka. Even if it snows, it’s unlikely to be the super thick kind that will make it difficult to roll your trolley bags. For us, we always limit our luggage to one trolley bag, which my hubby will carry if it gets stuck in snow or we encounter staircases. Hubby and I will each carry a backpack since one trolley bag is insufficient for winter clothing. You can also get your kids to carry a backpack each to distribute the load.

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Oh yes.. Earlier I mentioned that if you are doing a one way Tokyo – Kyoto – Osaka route, you will not need the Japan Rail Pass. If you are going to do side trips, such as the one to Gala Yuzawa, you may want to work out all your train routes, particularly the long ones that use the shinkansen (which are most expensive). Use hyperdia to check the cost of your train routes and add it up to see if it’s worth getting the Japan Rail Pass.

  29. Ashley says:

    Thank you very much for your reply:)
    One we have decided on the flight, we might need your help with the itinerary.

    • bumblebeemum says:

      You’re welcome. Feel free to pop by any time you need help. 🙂

      • Ashley says:

        Hi,

        which is easier to do free and easy, Tokyo+Osaka or tokyo+Hokkaido?
        Which is more suitable for the 2 teens?
        Both trips would not have car rental.
        Traveling period ard 11-12days.
        Thanks

        • bumblebeemum says:

          If you do not wish to drive, Tokyo + Osaka would be easier. Universal Studios at Osaka would be great for teens.

          You can get the Japan Rail Pass if you are doing a Tokyo-Osaka-Tokyo round trip. If you get the 7-day rail pass, what I advise is to use the rail pass only when you start the shinkansen travel towards Osaka from Tokyo. E.g. you can spend the first 3 days at Tokyo Disney Resort, then activate your rail pass to travel West to Kyoto / Osaka / Kobe / Nara / Himeji etc and return to Tokyo on Day 7 of the pass and spend the last day or two in Tokyo again.

          • Ashley says:

            Could you pls help to advice is my itinerary is doable. is it ok that I only stay at Osaka & Tokyo(one hotel each)?
            Note: I plan to fly to Osaka on day one transit from Tokyo.
            Is Japan rail pass worth for this trip?

            D1 – Fly from Singapore to Tokyo to Osaka
            D2 – Kyoto
            D3 – Kyoto/ Nara
            D4- Hiroshima
            D5- Osaka city tour, Osaka to Tokyo
            D6- Tokyo city tour,
            D7- hakone/ Mt Fuji
            D8- Disney land
            D9- Nikko
            D10 – skiing at Gala Yuzawa
            D11- Yokohama
            D12- Tokyo to Singapore

            • bumblebeemum says:

              Your itinerary needs some rearrangement. For eg, you should go to Hakone / Mount Fuji on your way back to Tokyo from Osaka. The area warrants at least 1 night stay, to do it as a day trip is too rushed.

              Because you plan to visit places like Hiroshima, Gala Yuzawa and Nikko, it may be worth it to get a rail pass. You can use hyperdia to compute the cost of all the shinkansen rides involved and compare it to the cost of the JR Rail Pass.

              If you decide to get the rail pass, you need to rearrange your itinerary so that you pack all those places requiring shinkansen ride into a 7-day windows. What I suggest is to put the city tours and Disneyland at the start and end of the the trip. During those 7 days where you have the rail pass, pack in Hiroshima day trip from Osaka, ride from Osaka to Odawara (Hakone), ride from Odawara to Tokyo, day trip to Nikko from Tokyo and day trip to Gala Yuzawa.

              If you complete the above in less than 7 days, you can use your rail pass for the day trip to Kyoto & Nara. And if you still have extra day, use it for Yokohama. (I’m actually not sure which trip cost more: Osaka-Kyoto-Nara-Osaka or Tokyo-Yokohama-Tokyo. Check the fees on hyperdia and use the pass for the trips that are more expensive.)

              • Ashley says:

                Thanks for yr reply.

                • Ashley says:

                  Hi, I had rearrange my itinerary

                  22/12 Tue D1 – Fly from Singapore to Tokyo to Osaka
                  23/12 Wed D2 – Kyoto, stay at Kyoto
                  24/12 Thursday D3 – Kyoto/ Nara, back to Osaka
                  25/12 Friday. D4- Hiroshima, back to Osaka
                  26/12 Saturday D5- Osaka city tour, Osaka to Hakone
                  27/12 Sunday D6- Hakone/mt Fuji, to Tokyo
                  28/12 Monday D7- Tokyo to Gala Yuzawa, back to Tokyo
                  29/12 Tuesday D8- Nikko, back to Tokyo
                  30/12 Wednesday D9- Disney Land, back to Tokyo
                  31/12 Thursday D10 – Tokyo city tour
                  1/1/16 Friday D11- Yokohama, back to Tokyo
                  2/1/16 Saturday D12- Tokyo to Singapore

                  As you can see from my itinerary, year end I am at Tokyo area, may I know is it suitable as I know there are closure of shops, attractive place, temple….
                  And 30/12 going to Disney land also not a good idea right?
                  Thanks

                  • bumblebeemum says:

                    Hi,

                    This post explains the pros and cons of visiting Japan during the New Year period:
                    http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2276.html

                    I guess it doesn’t matter which area you are visiting during that period, there would bound to be some closure. In fact, I would think that Tokyo being the busiest city, would be less prone to closure during the new year period compared to say Kyoto.

                    Disneyland would definitely be EXTREMELY crowded during that period of time though. Be prepared to queue a long time for rides. And they have shortened operation hours on 31 Dec.

                    You may want to consider visiting the New Year festivals on 1 Jan instead of going to Yokohama that day.

                    By the way, are you flying or taking shinkansen from Tokyo to Osaka? If you can squeeze your D1-D8 itinerary into 7 days, using the Japan Rail Pass from D1 to D7 is going to save you a lot of money. And to do that, if I were you, I would drop Nara and do a day-trip of Kyoto. It saves me the trouble of changing hotel from D1 to D4. Furthermore, you can see deers at Miyajima (at Hiroshima), a place I highly recommend if you are going all the way to Hiroshima. Alternatively, see if you can fly open jaw. i.e. Singapore-Osaka direct and Tokyo-Singapore back.

  30. Kai says:

    Hi BumbleBeeMum,

    I am going for a 11-day self-drive holiday in Hokkaido and your posts are super useful for the planning of my trip. Thank you so much.
    As I have 3 nights in Sapporo where my accommodation does not have parking lots, I’d like to check with you roughly how much are overnight parking charges for public carparks in Sapporo and if possible, can you recommend some cheaper carparks, preferably around Susukino?
    I am facing a tough decision because I planned to rent the car for the whole duration (collection and return at new chitose airport) because most companies only allow the purchase of the HEP if you collect and return the car at the same branch (correct me if I’m wrong). However, there are certain days where I really do not need a car, for e.g. when I roam around Sapporo city center. Hence, besides the overnight parking, I also need to find cheap parking lots in the day in Sapporo, Susukino area.

    Really appreciate your help.

    Cheers

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Hi,

      There are MANY coin parkings around Susukino. Most of them have a cap on parking fees. The market rate is 1200yen for a 24-hours block. Sapporo city is mapped out like a grid. The most expensive parkings in Susukino are those located near Susukino station, which is at South 4 West 4 (南4 西4). Each block to the west will become 西5, 西6 and so on. The parking gets cheaper and cheaper as you head further South / West from Susukino station. So e.g, parking at 南6 西8 will be much cheaper than 南4 西4, get what I mean? But really, I wouldn’t bother to park too far from my hotel to save that few dollars. I would just park anywhere near my hotel that has a parking cap. (Looks for signs that say things like “24時間 最大料金 1200 Yen!”)

      You are right, to purchase HEP, you must rent and return the car from the same outlet. Perhaps you could share with me your itinerary and I can see if it is really worth it to get the HEP for your case? Because the toll fees you save may not warrant the extra days of car rental. (It usually doesn’t frankly.)

      • Kai says:

        Good Morning,

        Appreciate your prompt reply and it certainly is helpful.

        Being a kiasu Singaporean, I actually have 3 versions of itinerary. I’m still trying to figure out which is the best in terms of cost savings as well as the areas covered. The one below is perhaps the most preferred option. The accommodations are all booked already so that is pretty much fixed.

        Day 1 (12 Jun) Morning arrive Shin Chitose Airport to Hakodate 🙂
        Day 2 Hakodate
        Day 3 Morning check out from Hakodate to Sapporo (festival 14-16 Jun) [Nakajima park is walking distance from hotel, Hokkaido Shrine]
        Day 4 Sapporo to Unkai terrace (2am) to Furano to Biei to Higashikawa to Asahikawa to Sapporo
        Day 5 Sapporo to Shakotan, Cape Kamui (optional) to Otaru to Sapporo
        Day 6 Check out from Sapporo to Noboribetsu to Sobetsu, Lake Toya to Noboribetsu
        Day 7 Noboribetsu
        Day 8 Check out from Noboribetsu to Chitose (Rera outlet) to Sapporo – Shiroi Koibito, Sapporo Factory, Beer museum
        Day 9 – Buffer –
        Day 10 Sapporo – Esta, Tanuki Koji, Hokkaido University, etc (all within walking distance)
        Day 11 Sapporo to Shin Chitose Airport [last minute shopping] to SG 🙁

        Some of the days maybe too cramped but just to be on the kiasu side, I’ll include more areas rather than think of where to go next at that point in time.

        Days 8-10 are the days where my hostel does not have parking spaces so what I’m still contemplating is whether to buy a Hokkaido JR pass (3 days or 4 days flexi) for the Hakodate leg + Day 11 to the airport and start renting in Sapporo (e.g. Susukino minami for Toyota where I can also get a HEP) from Day 4 through to Day 8 or 9. Another alternative is no HEP but get the ETC for discounted toll but I heaven’t really done the math for this. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not asking you to help me perform detail calculation which is cheaper (it should be my homework) but I just wanna get a quick opinion from an experienced Japan/Hokkaido traveler.

        Frankly speaking, I’m leaning towards driving throughout the entire trip because of the convenience. I don’t have to worry about train, bus schedules etc. I can also perhaps visit some areas which are not easily accessible by buses/trains.

        Apologies for the long post. Besides being kiasu, I’m also lo soh.

        Cheers

        • Kai says:

          Sorry car rental should start from Day 3 as I’m setting off early the next day.

        • bumblebeemum says:

          Your itinerary looks extremely ambitious! Day 4 and 5 have lots of driving.

          If I were you, I would ditch the car for the last few days definitely. It seems like a real waste of money to keep the car for those days. If you really want to get the HEP, you can return the car to New Chitose Airport on Day 8 after visiting Rera Outlet (because Rera Outlet is very near New Chitose Airport) and take the train or bus back to Sapporo.

          As for whether you should drive or take the train to Hakodate, it depends on the number of people. Generally, the more number of people, the more economical driving is. If it’s just 2 person, taking the train may be cheaper. Let’s say you decide to take the train. That means you only need to start renting the car on Day 3 night. You are saving 3 days of car rental! So compare the price of those 3 days of car rental with the total price for the rail passes for the number of people in your group to see which is more economical.

          You will be using the expressway quite a bit from what I see, so you should request for HEP. You have two options:

          Option #1: Rent a car from New Chitose Airport from Day 1 to Day 8. Request for HEP. Return the car at New Chitose Airport after visiting Rera Outlet and take bus back to Sapporo.

          Option #2: Rent a car from SAPPORO from Day 3 night to Day 8 night. Request for HEP. On Day 8, you can return the car back to the same outlet at Sapporo AFTER you complete your Sapporo itinerary for the day (i.e. you should plan to visit all the places in Sapporo that are most inaccessible by train on this day).

  31. Adeline says:

    Dear Bumblebeemum
    Our family of 3 adults are planning to go Hokkaido in mid July and will travel on our own. Still cant decide where to visit becos too many places to go with such a short stay. 8 days 6 nights. We will be staying in Susukino Sapporo for 6 nights but do not know whether we can manage to pay day trip to all these places
    Day 1 Sighting see in Sapporo
    Day 2 Otaru by train and back to Sapporo
    Day 3 Noboribetsu, lake toya back to Sapporo
    Day 4 Furano Biei, Ashikawa, and maybe to Unkai Terrace (maybe need to stay 1 night near Tomanu,
    Day 5 tour Ashikawa if stay 1 night in Tomanu and back to Sapporo
    Day 6 back to Chitose airport to fly off

    Undecided whether to stay a night in Nobribetsu or to go to Tomanu. Please assist to comment through your experience whether the itinerary is workable.

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Have you booked your accommodation? I don’t advise staying in Sapporo for all 6 nights and making day trips to Asahikawa / Furano / Biei /Tomamu region. You should spend at least 1 night in the region, maybe even 2.

      For the places you want to visit, I would go in the following order:
      New Chitose Airport to Noboribetsu to Lake Toya to Sapporo (with day trip to Otaru from Sapporo) to Asahikawa to Biei to Furano to Tomamu to New Chitose Airport.

      And I would change hotels along the way. Actually, I would skip Asahikawa. Is there any specific reason you want to visit Asahikawa? The only thing interesting there is the zoo, but I would only go there if I was travelling with kids.

      If you can provide me your flight arrival and departure time at Chitose, I can give you a more specific day by day recommendation.

  32. jeannie says:

    Hi, do you know if there is any car rental in Lake Toya, near its JR station? Thank you.

  33. Kris says:

    Hi Bumblebeemum,

    I am really impressed with your knowledge on Japan and your recommendations. For once I wonder whether you are Japanese (:

    I am actually planning for my first solo trip to Japan in mid August for around 6 days. Really appreciate if you could give me some recommendations on where to visit and places to stay for solo traveller.

    Thanks in advance.

    Regards,
    Kris

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Hi,

      Neh, I’m not Japanese.. 100% Singaporean, though I sometimes feel I know Sapporo better than I know Orchard Road.

      Solo trip sounds exciting!! Which part of Japan are you planning to visit? If you haven’t decided, August is a good time to visit Hokkaido. But you gotta book fast, because I heard accommodations are being snapped up really quickly for the summer.

      Alternatively, first time travellers usually do the golden route tour (Tokyo – Kyoto – Osaka). If you do a 7-day round-trip tour, I recommend the Japan Rail Pass.

  34. Kris says:

    Hi,

    I am thinking of the southern part of Japan initially, from Tokyo downwards but since you said Hokkaido is ideal for August, will try to see whether can get bookings.

    May I know what websites you use when planning for the places to visit and stay? I am even confused by looking at the JR pass website, still can’t understand the system.

    Cheers

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Hokkaido is nice in August because it is flowering season. But it may not be cheap if you are travelling solo. Sticking to the Golden Route (Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka), there should be more hostels along the way. So if you are looking for a budget solo trip, the golden route may be a better option. But if you don’t mind spending a bit more, then Hokkaido is beautiful in August.

      I usually use Japan-guide.com for places to visit. As for accommodation, I just use hotel booking sites such as Agoda, booking.com, hotels.com etc.

      JR Pass is basically like a concession pass that give you unlimited travel on trains operated by JR company. This includes the shinkansen (bullet train) routes. You need to purchase an exchange order from JTB at ION Orchard first. Then when you arrive at Japan, you look for an exchange office and show them the exchange order. They will give you a pass, which is basically a piece of card. With that card, you can just flash it to the staff stationed at the ticket gantries of any JR station and you can just waltz in and take the trains. When you arrive at your destination, flash the card to the staff at the ticket gantry again and you can walk out.

      For bullet trains (shinkansen), you can reserve a seat by going any reservation offices indicated by the green logo.

      At the reservation office, just tell them where you want to go, request for smoking / non-smoking seat, show them your JR pass, and they will print a seat ticket for you. To take the train, it’s the same thing: Just show your JR pass to the staff at the ticket gantry and he will let you through. Find your platform and go to the seat indicated on your seat ticket. If a train conductor comes along during the ride, just show him the seat ticket and your JR pass. When you get off the train, same thing, just flash your JR pass to the staff at the ticket gantry to exit.

      The only thing you need to remember when using the JR pass is, everyone will be tapping their cards or inserting tickets into the machine to pass through the ticket gantries (just like how we tap our EZ link card to pass through the MRT gantries), but you CANNOT do that. You need to look for the staff standing at the ticket office (quite similar to the office we have at our MRT stations that is located beside the gantries), show him your JR pass and he will let you pass.

  35. Kris says:

    Thank you so much for your reply. It really help me in my planning (:

    Look forward to your exciting trip guides (:

  36. Sue says:

    Hi! I have a question! Do you know if the hotels in Hokkaido in general are strict about kids staying with parents? We have 2 kids aged 3 and 5. Would like to book a twin room cos they can sleep with us. Hotel website states the max occupancy is for 2. Do u think we will encounter any problem if we go ahead with the booking for 2 only? For kids meals, is it ok if we only inform them when we reach? Thanks!

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Hi,

      Generally city hotels are not strict. My children have been bunking in with us in double / twin rooms. But resorts and onsen hotels are pretty strict. You can still book for 2 adults, but when you check-in, they will ask you to pay the additional fee for your children even if they are not using extra bedding. They will let you know how much to pay, depending on the meal type / hotel policy.

      Before you book, please check that the hotel allows children to stay. Some hotels in Japan do not allow children.

  37. Edenz says:

    Hi its me again! Wanted to ask you, do you think departing to noboribetsu from new chitose airport at 12pm then lake toya then stay the night at niseko is doable on 1 day? If u were to choose between noboribetsu and lake toya, which 1 u would prefer? And how is the condition of the road from lake toya to niseko if i were to drive at night?

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Erm.. You’re going in Winter yah? Please do not drive at night. It is very dangerous. Especially if you are going Niseko, the snowfall there is crazy heavy and you CANNOT see anything at night if it’s snowing heavily. Your headlights will be reflecting against the snow and blinding you instead of lighting up the road. You won’t be able to see the road at all.

      Between Noboribetsu and Lake Toya, I prefer Lake Toya.

      If you reach New Chitose Airport at 12pm and drive straight to Lake Toya, the sky will already be getting dark by the time you reach there. The sky starts getting dark at around 3pm and by 4+pm it’ll be totally dark in winter.

      Please do not rush a winter trip. Safety is of utmost importance. I would recommend you visit less places and keep your itinerary loose, ensuring you reach your accommodation each day by 4pm latest.

  38. CL says:

    Hi

    I’m planning a trip to Hokkaido from 6th to 15th Aug (3 adults) and was wondering if you could give me feedback with the itinerary below:-

    Day 1: Arrive at Chitose Airport 1.30pm. Collect car and drive to Furano. Stay in Furano.
    Day 2: Biei – Panorama Road & possibley Patchwood Road. Go Aoi-ike Blue Pond & Hokuryu (Sunflower). Cherry picking at Oh Cherry Farm.
    Day 3: Explore Furano.
    Day 4: Drive to Noboribetsu probably in noon and stay in Noboribetsu.
    Day 5: Overnight at Lake Toya
    Day 6: Overnight at Hakodate
    Day 7: ??
    Day 8: Drive to Sapporo and return car. Day trip to Otaru
    Day 9: Explore Sapporo
    Day 10: Early flight to SG

    We are probably not able to see lavender but didn’t want to miss the full bloom of sunflower, which is why we start off to Furano.

    Could you kindly suggest where we could go on Day 7 or if there’s any amendment we should make.

    Many thanks and hope to hear from you very soon!

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Your itinerary looks good, not too rushed. 🙂

      For Day 7, you would start your day with a visit to Hakodate Morning Market.

      After that, I recommend going to Niseko. You can have lunch at Prativo, and grab some yummy confectionery from Milk Kobo. (If you are too full from the semi-buffet lunch at Prativo, you can check in to your hotel and keep the confectionery in your fridge first and eat it later.. Haha!)

      For the rest of the afternoon, there are some activities at Niseko Village such as tree trekking and zipline. Refer to the website below for more information:
      http://www.niseko-village.com/en/green/pure-at-niseko-village.html

      There are also activities such as kayaking, rafting and canyoning conducted by NAC. Refer to the website below for more information:
      http://www.nacadventures.jp/

      • CL says:

        Many thanks for your quick respond. There might be some changes..

        My friend is asking if we should go to Sounkyo and the Ramen Village in Asahikawa, thus staying a night there on Day 4 – are these places worth going. We are not keen to go to the zoo though.

        Which means..

        Day 5: Drive to Noboribetsu probably in morning and stay in Noboribetsu.
        Day 6: Drive to Lake Toya. Visit Usuzan West Craters (or is there anything interesting in Lake Toya that we should spend a night there) Overnight at Hakodate
        Day 7: Overnight at Hakodate
        Day 8: Drive to Sapporo in morning (I think it’s about 4hr)Return car and explore Sapporo.
        Day 9: Day trip to Otaru
        Day 10: Early flight to SG

        In relations to Niseko, we may have to skip as my friends are not that adventurous ;p

        Could you kindly advise. 🙂

  39. CL says:

    Many thanks! That’s very helpful.

    I need some help with the car rental. Which companies would you recommend? I noticed some of the car rental companies do not offer rental of ETC card nor do they have English GPS.

    Where can I rent a ETC? In addition, if the car is in Jap GPS, would it be difficult to navigate around – I heard from someone who actually got lost…

    • bumblebeemum says:

      For ETC card, you can try booking your rental car through Tocoo and renting an ETC card from them.

      Can you read chinese? If you can, most of the buttons on the Japanese GPS are in kanji, which is the same as traditional chinese characters. Alternatively, get a WIFI Router from Changi Airport so that you can access google map on your phone as backup.
      https://www.changirecommends.com/owifi.aspx

      • CL says:

        I am actually in the Tocoo website but the car we are interested (cheapest) comes from Times Car Rental and based on the “Outlet Information”, it says they do not provide ETC card rental. Where else can we rent it from?

        Yes we can read Chinese. That means we will have to find out the Chinese names of the places we are interested in… or would you know any website I can obtain information from?

        • bumblebeemum says:

          You rent the ETC card from Tocoo, not from Times. Here’s the information:
          http://www2.tocoo.jp/en/contents/info/etc
          http://www2.tocoo.jp/en/contents/etc/index

          I have never rented an ETC card from them before, but it sounds to me like they rent out the ETC card independently of the car rental company. They will deliver the ETC card to your hotel, so it doesn’t matter which car rental company you book from. You just need to ensure that the car you rent has an ETC card unit (similar to the IU in our Singapore’s car).

          Oh, no no.. You need to know the Japanese name of the place you want to visit. I was referring to the menu buttons are in Kanji. E.g. 目的地,電話番号,距離優先
          etc. You can see a screenshot on Tocoo website:
          http://www2.tocoo.jp/en/contents/info/jpn_gps

          Basically you choose 目的地, then choose 電話番号, key in the telephone number of your destination, then select the destination from the list of options (the list will be in Japanese though) and choose ここに行く (the word 行 means go).

          Actually my memory is failing me, but I don’t remember whether the English GPS gives the destination names in English. I kind of remember it was just the menu and the audio instructions (turn left, turn right etc) that was in English. Along the way, all the road names appearing on the screen were still in Japanese. You can see Tocoo’s screen shots here:
          http://www2.tocoo.jp/en/contents/info/eng_gps

          Some car companies that do not provide English GPS will give you a ‘cheat sheet’ which shows you the English translation for each button and step-by-step instructions in English. Times is a pretty small car rental company, I am not sure if they provide such service. If you want to play safe, go with the bigger companies like Nippon, Toyota, Nissan, Honda.

  40. Florence says:

    Hi BumbleBeeMum

    I have read of your blog on Hokkaido and really impressed with your knoweldge of Japan. We a family of four, all adults going on a trip to Hokkaido this mid July. We have booked a Air and Drive Package to Hokkaido for 7 days and covering places like Sappora/Otaru/Hakodate/Lake Toya and Furano/Biei. I need to consult you regarding the Map Code of each destination. Do we need to have a Map Code for Otaru-Hakodate-Lake Toyo-Furnao-Sappora? Or do we just key in the hotel addresses and phone numbers? zip code (if any)? I have tried your method to get the Map Code of these places but cannot make it. Do you have the Map Code of these places? Would appreciate your advise.

    Thank you so much for all the informations that you have provided in the blog.

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Hi,

      You would need the map code or telephone number of each destination (place of interest / hotels / restaurants etc) that you are visiting. You can find a list with map codes of popular tourist attractions on this post:

      http://bumblebeemum.net/2013/10/30/self-drive-holiday-to-hokkaido-with-kids-part-2-itinerary-for-autumn-foliage-telephone-numbers-and-map-codes-for-gps/

      (See the images at the end of the post.)

      This list was provided by Toyota Rent A Car. When I tried it, most of them worked fine, except for Houheikyou Dam which is not on your itinerary. Accommodation wise, you can key in the phone number. Major hotels should be registered on the GPS system. I did encounter one occasion where my hotel was not registered on the GPS though. Do prepare Map Codes just in case.

      What was the problem you encountered with Mapion? I tried it for my Okinawa trip and was able to generate map codes for all the places I wanted to visit and they worked perfectly with my rental car GPS. Maybe I can try to help you figure out the map codes for your hotel.

      • Florence says:

        Hi BumbleBeeMum

        Thank you for your reply. I would appreciate if you could help me search the Map Code of the following hotels:
        – Hotel Nord Otaru
        – La Vista Hakodate Bay
        – The Lake View Toya Nonokaze
        – Hotel Park Hills
        – Sapporo Aspen Hotel
        At least we can drive straight to the Hotels and not get lost.

        Perhaps I am not a very computer savvy person and do not understand the Japanese language.

        • bumblebeemum says:

          Hi,

          Here are the map codes from Mapion:

          – Hotel Nord Otaru 493 690 586
          – La Vista Hakodate Bay 86 041 861
          – The Lake View Toya Nonokaze 321 519 513
          – Hotel Park Hills 349 882 534
          – Sapporo Aspen Hotel 9 552 159

          Do also stand-by the telephone numbers of the hotels just in case the map code search doesn’t work. Telephone numbers usually work well for hotels.

          • Florence says:

            Hi BumbleBeeMum

            Thank you so very much for the Map Codes you have provided. It really helps us alot. Yea, we have the telephone numbers of all the hotels. Abundant of thanks and appreciation.

            Cheers

  41. dex says:

    Hi Bumblebeemum,

    Have you travelled to Asahikawa before?
    I am planning a self-drive to that area prior hitting back to Lake Toya.
    Any recommendations would be most appreciated.

    Thank you.

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Hi,

      Yes I have been to Asahikawa. When would you be travelling and what is your purpose of visiting the area? Asahikawa itself has nothing much beside the zoo and ramen village. But it is a good base for exploring nearby regions. It really depends on the season you are travelling. In Summer, you can use it as a base to explore Biei and Furano. In Autumn, to visit Daisetsuzan National Park. In Winter, Asahiyama Zoo is worth a visit. In late spring, people do a day trip to Takinoue for shibazakura and Kamiyubetsu Tulip Park from there.

  42. Edenz says:

    Hi,

    Can i know whats the differences between renting a car from tocoo and nissan-rent-a-car directly? why is that cheaper at tocoo? can we get the etc card from tocoo? from your previous trips, did u opt for the accident damage waiver or something like that?

    Thanks!

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Generally I find Tocoo is cheaper than renting from car rental companies directly if you do not know Japanese. Japan car rental companies often have very good promotions that are only advertised to their Japanese customers, so if you know Japanese and book through car rental companies directly using their Japanese campaigns, it can be cheaper than Tocoo.

      Yes, you can get an ETC card from Tocoo. But if you are going to rent from Nissan through Tocoo, I believe you can get the ETC card from Nissan too if you put in a request for it?

      I did not opt for accident damage waiver because my travel insurance has that covered.

  43. twsam21Ronald Sam says:

    Hi Bumble Bee,

    Thanks for all the Valuable tips on travelling in Hokkaido.

    As we are going to visit Hokkaido this Autumn, can you please advice the following:

    1. a compact car rental for 7 days that cost S$700 , is this expensive (inclusive of Zero CDW + GPS + pickup fee from a diff location)

    2. since we are visiting only in October (2015) , should we book the car now or later?

    Thanks in advance

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Hi,

      1) $100 a day for a compact car sounds expensive to me. But I think if it’s Toyota or Nippon Rent-A-Car, then it should be around there if you factor in CDW and pick-up fees. Your pick-up fee is from where to where? If it is long distance like Asahikawa to Chitose or Hakodate to Chitose, it should be about 7000 yen. But if it’s short distance like Chitose to Sapporo, it should be nominal (less than 1000 yen).

      2) Is the booking window open already? Usually I check around 3 months before I travel because the car rental companies run seasonal campaigns. Most rental companies should be running summer campaigns now, so maybe check some time in July or August to see if any autumn campaigns have started.

  44. Ivy says:

    Hi Bumblebeemum,

    I thinking to visit Japan, first time for me and i will be bringing my 3yo and 1yo along with my hubby. I have a total of 10 days but yet i am clueless where to go.
    I can choose between Tokyo or Osaka to “touch down” but thereafter i have no idea how to go about.
    You have been to Japan so many times, can you pls provide your guidance whereby it is kids friendly?

    Thanks.

  45. Ken says:

    Hi Bumblebeemum, I’m planning a 9D7N trip to Hokkaido with my wife and this is our first time to Hokkaido and we don’t speak Jap. We will arrive at CTS airport at 8.30am and will head to Noboribetsu right away(what do we do with the luggage since we can’t check into hotel at this hour?).

    Is it a must to rent a car or can we just commute using the railways if we plan to change hotel at different areas every one or 2 nights ? If we just use the railways how abt our luggage when we sight seeing, shopping etc?

    Here’s our planned itinerary :
    Day 1 Noboribetsu
    Day 2 Hakodate
    Day 3 lake Toya
    Day 4 furano, Biei
    Day 5 otaru, tomamu
    Day 6 & 7 Sapporo

    Looking at the places that I plan to visit are 7 nights too long or 6 nights would be just nice ? Is the itinerary workable ? Would u have arrange it this way? Appreciate your valuable feedback thanks

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Personally, I find public transport a real hassle in Hokkaido. The onsen towns like Noboribetsu and Lake Toya do not have train stations, you will still need to catch a bus from the nearest train stations. And buses are not that frequent. Of course it is not a MUST to rent a car because sometimes the onsen resort you book may even provide free shuttle services from the nearest train stations. But I just like having the freedom of moving around (e.g. at Lake Toya, it is so much easier to have a car to drive to the ropeway, or the Lake Hill Farm, or the Silo Observatory, or to Sobetsu Fruit Village) rather than be constrained to the immediate vicinity of the resort I’m staying at.

      As for the itinerary, I would go in this order:

      Day 1 Noboribetsu
      Day 2 Hakodate
      Day 3 Lake Toya
      Day 4: Otaru
      Day 5: Sapporo
      Day 6: Furano / Biei
      Day 7: Tomamu

      7 nights is not too long. The above itinerary looks just about right. In fact a bit tight for Sapporo and Furano / Biei. It really depends on what you want to see in Sapporo and which season you are visiting (if you are visiting in Summer / Autumn, Furano and Biei warrants 2 days of sightseeing).

  46. May says:

    Hi Bumblebeemum

    I would like to ask if reservation contents and information form different in tocoo?
    Do I still need to tick the box in ‘Select addition options’ for ETC card rental when my reservation contents already showed ETC card option chosen?

    Thank you in advance.

    • bumblebeemum says:

      The one that is already shown, does it say ‘ETC Device’? That refers to the device in the car for inserting ETC cards, not the card itself. Under ‘Tocoo! Option’, you will still need to tick the option for ETC Card rental to rent an ETC card. Having the device is useless without the card, it’s like having the IU in our Singapore car without having a cashcard inserted inside.

      • May says:

        Hi

        Thanks for your quick reply! I realized I could click on the links though. haha
        Noted with thanks! 🙂

      • May says:

        Oh! I would also like to ask how do I know if I have purchased CDW from tocoo?

        • bumblebeemum says:

          Is there an option to add that during booking? According to their website, you can add it when booking. Alternatively, you can get the coverage from the car rental company.
          http://www2.tocoo.jp/en/contents/info/cmpns_cvrg

          • May says:

            (y)

            I would like to also ask if you have any idea if there is any difference between Multilingual voice GPS plan and Nippon Car Rental Hokkaido Special?

            • bumblebeemum says:

              Does the Nippon Car Rental Hokkaido Special plan have ‘Multilingual GPS’ highlighted? If it does then I don’t think there’s a difference, just take whichever is cheaper. It should be a discount campaign. Car rental companies often have stuff like Winter Special plan, Summer Special Plan, or area specific special plans such as Hokkaido or Kanto region special plans etc. which are all discount campaigns.

  47. Matthew Loh says:

    Hello….we are planning a family trip to Hokkaido in July / Aug period. Some comments that I read is that most hotels are not equipped with air conditioning and can be an issue in Summer months. Is this true?
    I am travelling with a 6 year old active boy. What are your suggestions to keep him happy and interested? We are planning a 7 days trip.
    Thank you

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Hmmm.. To be honest, I have never paid attention to the air conditioning in Hokkaido hotels because I have been visiting during colder months and was more concerned about the heaters. But when I visited in June, I didn’t encounter any hotels that weren’t equipped with air conditioning. I went to Agoda and clicked on a few random hotels in Furano (Furano Natulux, Naturwald and Edel Warme) and under ‘Room Details’, they all have air conditioning.

      Be warned that if you are visiting in July / August this year, your accommodation choices may be pretty limited in the Furano region. Many people have told me accommodations are already fully booked for July.

      My kids enjoyed simply walking around the huge flower fields around Furano and Biei. It’s something they don’t get to see in Singapore. You can ride tractors / ATV around the larger flower fields like Shikisai No Oka / Flower Land Kamifurano / Hill of Zerebu. My boys really enjoyed the tractor ride.

      In Summer, you can also go fruit picking. My kids love fruit picking. Near Furano, there is Ohashi Cherry Farm which looks extremely child-friendly.
      http://www.oh-cherry.com/foreign/english/english.html

      As for Sapporo, I recommend visiting Takino Suzuran Hillside Park. There are lots of stuff for children to play there. A reader just returned and told me her family loved it there, even the adults.
      http://www.takinopark.com.e.bn.hp.transer.com/

      Also, spend some time at New Chitose Airport. It is a destination in itself and a super fun place for kids.
      http://bumblebeemum.net/2015/02/21/hokkaido-new-chitose-airport-with-kids/

  48. yuanlovepang says:

    Hi, Enjoy reading ur blog.

    Am gg Osaka, Kyoto, Kawaguchiko and lastly Tokyo this mid oct with 2 boys 16months and 4 years old.

    The trip flow will be:

    osaka/kyoto – 8 days – iternary details not decided yet.
    kawaguchiko for 2 nights – any suggestion for nice hotel.
    tokyo – last 4 nights will focus on disneyland.and maybe a daytrip to Odaiba.

    The biggest headache is food for 16months old. Should we cook?
    Any suggestions on places to go with kids.
    And transportation between osaka and kawaguchigo.
    Hotels/apartments recommendations

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Hi,

      Regarding food for your 16 month old, it really depends on your comfort level and how strict you are about not allowing your young children to eat outside food. I am super lazy to cook on vacations and am fine with giving my toddler udon from the restaurants. Just wash it with some water to get rid of the salty soup. If there is chawanmushi, I would order one for him. At sushi restaurants, I give him egg sushi. And I also buy bread and banana along the way for the toddler.

      For Osaka, places you can visit include Osaka Aquarium and Universal Studios. Kyoto is not really a kids place, it’s all historic sites. Hakone to Kawaguchiko has lots of kids-friendly attractions. You can read more about them on the following posts:
      http://bumblebeemum.net/2013/12/04/self-drive-holiday-with-kids-to-japan-hakone-and-mount-fuji-region/
      http://bumblebeemum.net/2015/04/30/japan-thomas-land-and-themed-hotel/

      Tokyo would have a lot more kids-friendly stuff. Disneyland, Disneysea, Legoland Discovery Centre, Sanrio Puroland etc just to name a few. You can read about our Tokyo trip with kids here:
      http://bumblebeemum.net/2013/12/06/tokyo-vacation-with-3-year-old-and-11-month-old-kids/

      Transport wise, from Osaka, I recommend taking the shinkansen till Odawara. From there, rent a car to drive around the Hakone and Kawaguchiko area.

      As for accommodation, I am quite a budget traveller and usually just find the cheapest deal on hotel booking sites such as Agoda, Expedia, booking.com etc. Or chain hotels such as Toyoko Inn, Super Hotel, Dormy Inn etc. But they are not particularly family-friendly. Hotel rooms in Japan are notoriously small and not meant for families, but I just bear with it to save money. If you want something really kids-friendly, you can see the following posts regarding themed hotels in Tokyo:
      http://bumblebeemum.net/2015/06/02/tokyo-with-kids-accommodation-themed-hotels-character-rooms/

      As for Osaka, Hotel Kintetsu Universal City looks totally awesome with its Sesame street themed room.
      http://www.miyakohotels.ne.jp/hotel-kintetsu/index.html/

      • yuanlovepang says:

        Thanks for the reply.

        Saw that you have stay in Yamadaya Hotel before, can share more about this hotel. I see that they do not provide electric kettle, how do you get your hot water? And the meals provided. Do they have menu for kids and do we order in advance. I read that at night all shops will be closed. So quite worry on the kids meals.

        • bumblebeemum says:

          When I stayed at Yamadaya Hotel, I did not opt for their meal plans. You may want to find resorts that have buffet meals, because you usually can find something in the buffet spread that the kids can eat. So far all my onsen stays with kids, I either opt for buffet meal plan or I opt out and eat outside. Yamadaya is in a pretty secluded area, it won’t be easy to find food around there. Perhaps a resort at Kawaguchiko would better suit your needs.

  49. KimKim says:

    Debating between Hokkaido or Osaka in late September with kids (2yrs and 4 yrs) – which would you recommend?

    • bumblebeemum says:

      If you want a scenic trip, Hokkaido would be beautiful at that time with autumn foliage and flower fields still in bloom. If you want a trip with fun activities for the kids, then Osaka. Personally I prefer Hokkaido. It’s good to expose the kids to nature and let them experience the seasons.

  50. Matthew Loh says:

    HI….will be travelling to Hokkaido over the 1st and 2nd week of December 2015 with a 6 year old. Have not been to a winter holiday before, so a bit clueless on what to prepare, garment wise. What will be your recommendation for keeping warm yet flexible movements. Please advise. Thank you

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Stock up on heat-tech inner wear from Uniqlo.

      Head: Wear a beanie that can cover the ears.
      Body: Wear a heat-tech long sleeve, followed by a layer of vest (something to keep the chest warm), followed by a thick sweater / cardigan and finally a waterproof winter jacket meant for sub-zero temperatures.
      Bottom: Wear a heat-tech leggings, followed by thick waterproof pants.
      Feet: Wear a pair of long socks, layered by a pair of thick short socks and high waterproof boots.
      Hands: Waterproof winter gloves

      It is important that the outermost layers are waterproof, because you really do not want to get wet in winter. Do not neglect the shoes. They must be absolutely waterproof and high enough so that snow will drop into the shoes.

      Additional stuff: You can buy heat packs from Daiso. I especially like the sticky ones that can be stuck to clothes / under the socks. You can stick them to the your clothes to keep yourself warm. The ones to be stuck to the bottom of the socks are a life-saver, because the feet which is in constant contact with the ice and snow on the floor always gets cold very quickly.

      • Matthew Loh says:

        Thank you for the advise.
        This will be a totally new vacation for me and my family. Hope its worth it. Any recommended brand of shoes? Its a bit tricky to get such shoes in tropical countries like Malaysia.
        I will be going on business to Taipei in a week’s time. Hope to stock up the winter needs then.

        • bumblebeemum says:

          Actually we bought our winter boots only after arriving in Hokkaido. You should be able to find stores selling winter boots at reasonable pricecs along Tanukikoji in Sapporo.

        • Matthew Loh says:

          We actually engaged a private tour with driver to take us around since it will be very challenging to move around public transport in the cold.
          Pls. do recommend where to bring my 6 year old boy for best snow and play experience?
          From the initial itinerary….we will be moving from Chitose to Lake Toya to Rusutsu to Otaru and finally to Sapporo.
          Thank you

          • bumblebeemum says:

            In early December, I actually recommend Tomamu. The other snow resorts will only have skiing and snowboarding. Tomamu is the only one that had ice slide and snow tubes up in early Dec. Rather than going West, I recommend going East in Winter towards Kushiro and Lake Akan. Winter is the time to head there to see the cranes.

  51. Daria says:

    Hello Bumble Bee Mum!!!

    Thank you for coming up with such an informative blog :). It was very heart-warming and enjoyable to read through, along with the pictures and funny bracketed comments throughout.

    I am planning a honeymoon trip to Japan, but have not decided on where and when (exactly) to go yet :(. The fiancé wish to go somewhere with snow, and me…(after reading up on Japan), would like to try dipping into hot springs and view the sun setting/rising. I’m also not very akin to cold temps, but will try to bear it all for the fiancé…haha! We both love seafood, and sushi and sashimi (only in Singapore lah…it’s better there for sure). With that, a friend who have frequented Japan recommended Hokkaido.

    Period of travel is 18th – 30th January or 8th – 20th February (8 and 9th is CNY. would it be busy in Japan?) next year. Which period would you recommend for us couple to travel on? We do not mind driving around, or use any other transport means, but would like to have it free and easy since it’ll be our first time travelling further than SEA. We would like to stay for more than 7 days. Your last blog happened to be in December (somewhat similar season), but the places you portrayed were more for family with kids. Are there any sites you recommend for us both?

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Hi,

      Based on what you said, your friend is right. Hokkaido has the most awesome hot springs, sun sets / sun rise, SEAFOOD (for sure) and no lack of snow. The only thing is that you have to bear with the frigid cold. All in the name of love I guess. Haha…

      Looking at your dates, there is no doubt that 8-20 Feb is a better time because it is SNOW FESTIVAL SEASON (woohoo!). But yes, it will be EXTREMELY crowded because of the fact that snow season is going to meet CNY next year, each of which brings in millions of visitors a year. So going at that time will mean insanely jacked up accommodation prices and tons of tourists. If you want to go at that time, please book plane tickets and accommodation NOW.

      But snow festivals in Sapporo is something really worth visiting. Of course, you can always go Hokkaido during snow festival season another year when it does not coincide with CNY. It will still be insanely crowded, but probably less so.

      With that being said, the choice is simply: Do you want to see snow festivals more? Or do you want to go during a relatively quieter time (which seems more romantic to me)? If you want to see snow festival, go in Feb. If you want a romantic honeymoon, go in Jan.

      You can refer to my visit in 2010 where we drove around to visit snow festivals, see the cranes, drift ice + ice-breaker cruise (that did not appear when we were there but it would have been awesome if they did) and simply enjoy hot springs and beautiful scenery in Eastern Hokkaido:
      http://bumblebeemum.net/2010/03/04/self-drive-trip-to-eastern-hokkaido-february-march-2010/

      The above trip was just a fraction of what I did in that winter. I stayed in Sapporo for 1 month back then, and during that time, I also visited Sapporo Snow Festival, Hakodate + Onuma Koen winter festival, Otaru Snow Light Path, Lake Shikotsu Ice Festival, Asahikawa Winter Festival + Asahiyama Zoo and rode on the winter seasonal trains. I didn’t have time to blog about all of them, here are some posts I managed to churn out:
      Hokkaido Seasonal Winter Trains
      Sapporo Snow Festival
      Otaru Snow Light Path

      Argh, I really should blog about the other stuff so that you can see just how awesome Hokkaido is in winter, especially during the snow festival period. If only there were more than 24 hours a day!

      As for driving, please note that driving in winter is quite dangerous. You can read some winter driving tips in my reply to Julie (first comment) on this page:
      http://bumblebeemum.net/2015/01/21/itinerary-for-17-day-hokkaido-self-drive-with-kids-december-2014/

      • Daria says:

        Wow!!! Thank you so much or your reply :).

        I’ve checked the hotel rates in Sapporo for the two different periods. Oh MY!!! What a difference in price. Sky-rocketing in Feb huh -___-“. Mercure Hotel sets at about $75 in Mid Jan, and then triples in early Feb…Gosh! Yes, maybe I will visit Hokkaido again when it is not near CNY. But then again, the prices would still be the same during this period for the Snow Fest right?

        I read up your posts. I would really like to see Akan-ko and Mashu-ko with my own eyes, the cranes dancing at Kushiro, and try the hot spring in Noboribetsu, and visit Otaru Canal. We also wanna catch he penguins at the Asahiyama Zoo up close. But I think 10 days too hectic for all, right?

        We both would like to try our hands on skiing. I suppose we shall just venture to Sapporo, Otaru, then head to Niseko for skiing and then enjoy the hot spring in Noboribetsu?

        • bumblebeemum says:

          Haha.. Unfortunately, yes, as long as it is snow festival season, hotels in Sapporo are going to be expensive.

          If you drive, it is possible to complete those place you named in 10 days. Just don’t bother going Sapporo.

          Day 1: CTS – Tomamu
          Day 2: Tomamu – Kushiro
          Day 3: Kushiro – Lake Akan
          Day 4: Lake Akan – Abashiri
          Day 5: Abashiri – Sounkyo
          Day 6: Sounkyo – Asahikawa
          Day 7: Asahikawa – Otaru
          Day 8: Otaru – Lake Toya
          Day 9: Lake Toya – Noboribetsu
          Day 10: Noboribetsu – CTS

          But if you are going late Jan / Feb, I recommend you replace Noboribetsu with Lake Shikotsu. Because Lake Shikotsu has an Ice Festival that starts in late Jan.

          If you follow the above itinerary, you can try out skiing at Tomamu.

  52. Yvonne C says:

    Hi Bumblebeemum,

    I stumbled upon your blog as I embark upon the mammoth task of planning our end-year Japan holiday. I’ve yet to plough through the great wealth of info in your blog, but I’ve a few quick questions I hope you can help me with to start me off. This is our first trip to Japan altho we’ve done many free and easy self-drive trips in Australia, USA, Canada and Taiwan. We are a family of 4, with 2 kids aged 12 and 14 and we will be travelling to Tokyo in early December for about 2 weeks. Here are the places we hope to cover:

    Tokyo:
    Shinjuku and Shibuya
    Harajuku
    Asakusa
    Ueno
    Tokyo Disney sea (only Disney Sea, have done Disneyland elsewhere many times already)

    We wanted to visit Hakone and the Fuji Five Lakes area, but not sure if we should given the volcanic quake activities in Hakone region. Is the whole area off limits and we should skip it or can we still do parts other than the Owakudani area? If we should skip Hakone totally, where else we can take a side-trip to outside Tokyo for a few days where there’s nice scenery and relaxing atmosphere?

    We are planning to stay in 3 areas: Tokyo (probably Shinjuku), DIsney resort area (Tokyo bay) and side-trip outside of Tokyo (around 5 days). Could you please give me some rough idea how I should plan the itinerary? And we haven’t booked our air tickets yet, but very likely to go with ANA cos the tickets are much cheaper. Should we fly into Haneda or Narita? We are thinking of either flying into Handeaand out from Narita or vice versa, Any suggestion based on our itinerary, ie which airport is most economical for us to fly into/depart from?

    Sorry so lor sor! Hope to hear your input but certainly don’t wish to take up too much of your time!

    Thanks in advance! 😉

    • bumblebeemum says:

      If the volcanic quake activities are still going on in December, I recommend you just skip Hakone and focus on Fuji Five Lakes region. There is plenty to explore around Fuji Five Lakes for a few days.

      Personally, I do not feel there is a difference between Haneda and Narita. Most people will recommend Haneda because it is technically nearer and cheaper to get to central Tokyo. But what I found annoying about Haneda was that I had to change train at Shinagawa to get to just about anywhere. I actually like flying to Narita and staying at Ueno, because there is a direct Keisei Line from Narita Airport to Ueno station. And accommodation at Ueno is relatively cheaper compared to Shinjuku. Even if you stay in Shinjuku, Narita Express is a direct train from Narita Airport to Shinjuku. I am personally somewhere who would rather spend 1 hour on a direct train, than say 40 minutes but have to change trains. Especially when I have luggage.

      For the places you want to go, I would plan it in such a way:

      1) From airport, go to Tokyo first. Explore the places you want to explore in Tokyo.
      2) Take the side-trip to Fuji Five Lakes. Along the way, I recommend visiting Sagamiko for the winter illumination:
      http://www.sagamiko-resort.jp/illumillion/
      3) Go back to Tokyo and stay at Tokyo Bay, visiting Tokyo Disney Land and Sea during this time.
      4) Return to airport straight from Tokyo Bay. There is direct bus:
      https://www.limousinebus.co.jp/en/bus_services/haneda/tdr.html

      • Yvonne C says:

        Thank you for your input! I’ll keep that in mind when I do the planning. I’m so glad I found your blog! Thanks for putting all these info online! 🙂

        • bumblebeemum says:

          You’re welcome. Thank you for visiting my blog. 🙂

          • Yvonne C says:

            Hi Bumblebeemum,

            We’ve booked our air tickets, managed to get good fare for December period 😉 We will be flying in via Narita and flying out from Haneda, a total of 15 nights! Here’s our initial itinerary plan; would appreciate your valuable input!

            Day 1-4 (4 nights) Tokyo Ueno area (is staying near Tokyo Skytree a convenient location?)

            Day 5-10 (6 nights) Outside of Tokyo: thinking of visiting Hakone, Fuji Five Lakes, Matsumoto (advisable to go in winter?), any other areas around there that you’d recommend we visit? (We are open to renting a car. Where will be a good base for the 6 nights?)

            Day 11-13 (3 nights) Tokyo Shinjuku area (visiting Shibuya, Harajuku etc)

            Day 14-15 (2 nights) Tokyo Bay area, visiting Disneysea for 1 day. (which disney resort official hotels would you recommend?)

            Because there are 4 of us, 2 adults and 2 kids aged 12 & 14, we are thinking of renting apartments from either Homeaway or Air BnB. Have you got any experience with these? Any issues we should take note of? It’ll be cheaper than getting 2 hotel rooms I think.

            Thank you so much for taking time to offer your advice! <3

            • bumblebeemum says:

              Day 1-4: Tokyo Skytree looks convenient. It seems there are direct buses between Tokyo Skytree and the airports. 🙂
              http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e3064.html

              Day 5-10: What do you want to do at Matsumoto? It is pretty far from Mount Fuji region and definitely you’ll need to change hotels along the way. Matsumoto is in Nagano which is a ski resort area. Are you planning to ski? I would go Matsumoto if I want to go skiing at Hakuba and visit the snow monkeys at Jigokudani Monkey Park. So maybe 3 nights around Mount Fuji and 3 nights around Hakuba. But what are your exact travel dates? If you want to ski, you may have to push this all the way towards the end of the trip because the ski resorts will only open some time in December. If you go right at the start of the month, the ski resorts may not be open yet.

              I have not had any experience with rental apartments, but you can read this:
              http://kidsonboard.net/blog/tips/tips-on-choosing-holiday-homes-from-airbnb/

              I haven’t stayed in any of the Disney resort hotels before. But by words of mouth, Sheraton and Hilton sounds amazing:
              http://bumblebeemum.net/2015/06/02/tokyo-with-kids-accommodation-themed-hotels-character-rooms/

              • Yvonne C says:

                Hi Bumblebeemum,

                Thanks so much for your valuable input! Our dates are 1-16 Dec. Taking a night flight so will arrive on 1 Dec morning.

                1.Ueno
                The apartment we are looking at is stated as 4 min from the Oshiage Station. Is that a convenient station? I still haven’t quite figured out the train network in Tokyo.

                2. Fuji/Matsumoto
                We’ll be in these areas around 5-10 Dec, think it’s too early for the ski season. I had wanted to go to the Japanese Alps and Alpine Route but I think that area is closed in December. Besides Mt Fuji area, where else would be good to visit in December? Is Hakone totally out if the volcanic activities are still going on?

                From Tokyo, do you suggest we rent a car and drive to wherever we would use as a base for the 6 nights, or take a train to that town/city and rent a car from there?

                The Jigokudani Monkey Park looks interesting! Can we do a day trip?

                Sorry to take up your time and thanks for your help! 😉

                • bumblebeemum says:

                  1. Oshiage is not the most convenient station on the network. But usually my main concern is getting between the airport and accommodation, because that is when we have luggage and navigating the train station and making transfers is a real pain with luggage in tow. Once luggage has been dropped off, I personally find there is no difference where I stay on the Tokyo metro network. From Tokyo Skytree, Oshiage is not the only station you can use. There is also ‘Tokyo Skytree’ station. And if you are feeling up for a walk, you can walk to Asakusa (which we did, but regretted. Just take the train.)

                  2. Yeah, 5-10 Dec may be too early for ski season. The Alphine Route, contrary to popular belief, opens in summer and not winter. Hakone is not totally out. Only the region around Owakudani and the Hakone Ropeway is out. The Lake Ashi cruise, for example, is still operating. There are lots of explore around Mount Fuji area. I went twice, once for a more scenic trip and once for a more kids-friendly trip. Both were very enjoyable.
                  http://bumblebeemum.net/2008/11/27/self-drive-holiday-to-hakone-mount-fuji-region-kawaguchiko-fuji-five-lakes-autumn-foliage-season/
                  http://bumblebeemum.net/2013/12/04/self-drive-holiday-with-kids-to-japan-hakone-and-mount-fuji-region/

                  You may want to consider driving from Tokyo for convenience. Your children would need train tickets, so driving may even be cheaper in spite of hefty toll fees.

                  Jigokudani can be done as a day trip from Matsumoto. But not from Mount Fuji, that would be too much distance to cover in a day during winter.

  53. Only me says:

    Hi Pa Pa Zai Mummy,

    Firstly, I want to let you know that I enjoy reading your japan travel blogs. All the information that you shared are really helpful!

    I am planning my first visit to Hokkaido and am writing to seek your kind advice and recommendations.

    My husband and I will be touring Tokyo and Hokkaido from 19 to 30 Dec.

    We have visited Tokyo twice before but this gonna be our first to Hokkaido.

    I reckon I will be doing almost all of my shopping in Tokyo so I plan to go to Hokkaido first then Tokyo, due to luggage issues – travelling with 2 big bags and 2 hand carry bags. And as I want to see as much snow as possible in Hokkaido, I plan to visit Hakodate first before Sapporo. We intend to take public transport in Hokkaido. I have a rough itinerary as follows:-

    19 Dec – Arrive in Haneda at 3.35pm. Then Haneda-Hakodate by budget domestic airline.

    Hakodate – 1 or 2 days
    Lake Toya – day trip or overnight
    Niseko – day trip or overnight
    Otaru – day trip or overnight
    Sapporo – 2 days

    Tokyo – 4 days

    We are not into onsen and skiing, and it would be lovely if we can enjoy falling snow and some beautiful snowy scenery. We at most will try snow mobiles, or may even skip it.

    As this will be our first visit, we would be visiting most of the main tourist attractions at each location.

    I plan to fly to Hakodate first as I have read that it doesn’t snow as much in Hakodate area. By doing Sapporo last, I hope to see a very snowy Sapporo.

    Hakodate – I plan to see the snow monkeys at Yunokawa. Would 1 day be too rushed to cover all the main tourist attractions? I am also afraid that I may miss the night view from Mt Hakodate in case I only stay 1 night and it is foggy or misty on that night.

    Is Onuma Koen worth a visit during that time of the year? I understand the winter activities there like ice fishing etc are only offered from January onwards as the lake is not fully frozen yet in Dec.

    Lake Toya – Would I be able to travel to Lake Toya via public transport?

    My husband can drive if necessary. He has winter driving experience from his 3-year stay in Canada some 25 years ago. He last drove in winter in Toronto 2 years ago. We also worry about getting lost as we both are super duper road direction idiots (please pardon my language) even with GPS in Singapore. We also are skeptical about how useful an English GPS is in Japan. And I understand that driving in winter in Hokkaido is not recommended.

    If I am visiting Lake Toya, do I still need to visit Lake Shikotsu? Do they offer almost the same?

    Noboribetsu – I reckon it is not worth a trip there if we are not into onsen? My husband prefers body massage!

    Niseko – Would love to just see and enjoy the famous powder snow whilst in Hokkaido and since Niseko is so famous, I thought we might as well just make the trip there. But most likely, we would just make a day trip there as Niseko accommodation now starts at $500 and above per night if I remember correctly.

    Otaru – You mentioned at your blog that one easily needs a full day to do Otaru. Would you recommend we stay 1 night in Otaru? Yes, we will be doing all the touristy things at Otaru 🙂 But I also read at Tripadvisor that many found nothing much to do at Otaru and they said just half a day would suffice.

    Sapporo – Mercure Sapporo is nearly $200 a night for the dates of our visit. Which would you next recommend – Richmond Odori or Holiday Inn ANA Susukino? I would like to stay as right in the smack of Susukino as possible but at a cheaper rate than Mercure.

    Any hotel recommendations for the other different locations that you may have would be greatly appreciated.

    Another of my concern is where am I going to ‘deposit’ our baggage if we were to make those day trips en-route from Hakodate to Sapporo.

    Or would it be better if I fly into Sapporo first and then make day trips from Sapporo to Otaru etc, and then fly out of Hakodate to Haneda?

    I can only book the domestic budget air tickets 2 or 3 months before date of travel? Do you know the estimated cost?

    What do you think of Yokohama? I am not too sure if I should make a day trip there as I would already be able to do all my shopping in Tokyo.

    Actually, I would love to try a private open air onsen in a snowy garden landscape. I found a ryokan in Hakodate offering this but at a room rate of USD 700 per night! Do you know of any such at a cheaper rate, including those that offer hourly use.

    Thank you for your time and any comments or recommendations that you can offer will be greatly appreciated.

    Thank you once again.

    Regards
    Only me 🙂

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Hi,

      Firstly, by end December, you will have no problems seeing falling snow in Hokkaido. There will be a lot of it.

      Given your husband’s experience in driving in snowy condition and the amount of luggage you have, you should consider driving at some parts of your trip.

      At Hakodate, if you want to see the snow monkeys, you should spend at least 2 nights in Hakodate. 1 days is definitely too rushed in winter, due to difficulty in moving around and shortened daylight hours. The good news is that winter nights tend to be clearer. There is a saying that the colder the night, the better the night view. Not too sure how true it really is, but as far as my experience was concerned, it was true. I got the best night views during my winter trips.

      Regarding Onuma Koen, yes, snow activities are only available from Jan onwards when the lakes are totally frozen over. I have not visited Onuma Koen in December before, I visited in February and found it absolutely gorgeous and worth visiting.

      If you are staying 2 nights at Hakodate, you can consider visiting Onuma Koen if you have time after visiting all the main sights. Onuma Koen is pretty accessible as the scenic area is a short walk from the train station.

      While it is possible to visit Lake Toya by bus, I recommend driving for the area. Lake Toya is very scenic, and having a car makes it much easier to get to the ropeway and observatory.

      The GPS in Japan generally works well in rural areas. If you are concerned about getting lost, I recommend taking trains between the major cities, and limiting your drives to rural areas such as Lake Toya. E.g. You can take the train from Hakodate to Toya and rent a car from there just for Lake Toya. After that, you can train back to Sapporo.

      Yes, Lake Shikotsu is pretty similar to Lake Toya. Lake Shikotsu is really beautiful in winter because of the snow-capped alps that surround it. Lake Toya is special because of the island in the middle. They are beautiful in their own ways. Between the two, Lake Toya town is more happening. So if you have limited time, I recommend going Lake Toya and skipping Lake Shikotsu.

      As for Noboribetsu, yeah, if you are not into onsen you can skip it.

      For Niseko, I wouldn’t recommend spending that kind of money to stay there if you have no intention to ski. The first time I visited Hokkaido in winter, I didn’t visit Niseko at all despite spending 1.5 months there. Because it is a place for hard-core skiers. If you are driving, then sure, you can just drive there to see see look look and EAT, then leave before sunset. The snow in Niseko is terrible and roads are pitch dark with zero visibility after dark. So please leave after lunch. I recommend visiting Niseko Milk Kobo and having lunch at Prativo.

      Nope, I do not recommend spending a night at Otaru if you are not driving. Stay in Sapporo and do it as a day trip from there by train to save yourself the trouble of bringing your luggage around. I can easily spend a full day at Otaru (though by full day, I mean up till 4pm because sun will set by then). Because I enjoy just sitting at all the lovely cafes there and chilling. And doing some hands-on glass blowing, candle making etc. So if you chill out at 2 or 3 cafes (I usually visit more than that.. haha..), participate in 2 hands-on activities, visit the music box museum, that is one full day already.

      If you want to stay right smack in Susukino, Holiday Inn ANA Susukino would be a good choice. You can also check out Toyoko Inn Susukino.

      Between Hakodate and Sapporo, you will have to bring your luggage with you unfortunately. Which is why I recommended renting a car at Toya. With a car, luggage is not of a problem.

      I don’t think there is much difference whether you fly in Sapporo and out Hakodate or vice versa.

      I would think SGD300 would be the maximum I would pay for return budget flight between Tokyo and Hokkaido.

      Yokohama is more for sightseeing than shopping. I like the Chinatown there. And most people go there for the cup noodle museum.

      For private open air onsen, you can try Lake View Toya Nonokaze at Lake Toya.

  54. fleurxcent says:

    Hello! I’ll be going to Osaka, USJ, disneyland, disneysea and Tokyo with 2 other friends from 18 to 31 dec 2015 and it’s our first time going there, and we’re 18 year olds. Could you give us some recommendations on cheap hotels or hostels, and any places worth spending more time on, and any things to look out for or something? thank you so much! 🙂

    • bumblebeemum says:

      If you are looking at budget hotels, try the hotel chains such as Toyoko Inn, Dormy Inn, Route Inn, Super Hotel, Smile Hotel etc. For a group of 3, I especially recommend Super Hotel because they have triple rooms at very reasonable rates and even include free breakfast.

      As for hostels, I have kind of outgrown that stage in my life (lol!) and haven’t quite looked into them before. But the one I tried before and really liked is Khaosan Tokyo.
      http://www.khaosan-tokyo.com/en/index.html

      Hmmm.. I frankly have no idea what 18 year olds these days like to do. If theme parks are your cup of tea, there are TONS of theme parks that can be done as side-trips from Tokyo. Since you are travelling in December, I highly recommend the ones that have illumination events. In the evenings, you can go for rides among the illumintaion. The ones I know of reachable from Tokyo include:
      Sagamiko Illumillion
      Toshimaen
      Yomiuriland Jewellumination

  55. MS says:

    Hi, I’ve found some very useful information on your blog for my upcoming trip to eastern Hokkaido – thank you very much. I wonder if you have tried renting a pocket wi-fi in Hokkaido? If so, is the coverage good in the ulu places? I’ve done some research and it seems that Global Advanced Communications is very popular (though not necessarily the cheapest) and they recommend the premium pocket wi-fi for Hokkaido. Can you share your experience? Thanks!

    • bumblebeemum says:

      You’re welcome. Glad that the info in my blog helps!

      I have never used a pocket WIFI because I am not a fan of perpetually being connected to the internet while on vacation. But most Singaporeans go for the one from Changi Airport because it’s just more convenient for us:
      https://www.changirecommends.com/owifi.aspx

      • MS says:

        Wow, that was fast. If you are a pocket wi-fi service, I’d definitely subscribe to you, heh. Agree, I prefer to be disconnected while on holiday too but I will be travelling with my parents this time and I want to be as prepared as I could for any last-minute changes on the road. Thanks!

  56. Edenz says:

    Hi, what would your route suggestion be if i wanna visit niseko 3 nights, tomamu 1 night, lake toya, noboribetsu, lake shikotsu, sapporo, jozankei? Im planning a 7 nights stay in hokkaido. And do u think obihiro and kushiro is worth visitting?

    • bumblebeemum says:

      I don’t think you can visit all those places in 7 nights. I would cut out Tomamu because it is away from the rest of your destinations. And Obihiro / Kushiro would be even further. You would need to choose 1: Either cover the central region (Niseko / Jozankei / Lake Toya / Lake Shikotsu / Noboribetsu) OR the eastern region (Tomamu / Obihiro / Kushiro / Lake Akan). In 7 days, there is no way you can cover both.

      A possible 7-nights itinerary would look something like this:

      Day 1: CTS – Sapporo
      Day 2: Sapporo – Jozankei
      Day 3: Jozankei – Niseko
      Day 4: Niseko
      Day 5: Niseko
      Day 6: Niseko – Lake Toya
      Day 7: Lake Toya – Lake Shikotsu OR Noboribetsu
      Day 8: Back to CTS

      • Edenz says:

        What does obihiro and kushiro have to offer? Are they worth visiting? If possible i would not want to stay at those lakes as the accomodation price is very expensive. Probably drive back to the nearest city with cheaper accomodations do u think its okay?

        • bumblebeemum says:

          Obihiro itself has nothing much, besides the buta don :p. It is Kushiro that I like to visit in Winter because it is near the cranes’ winter feeding grounds. And nearby Akan National Park (Lake Mashu, Lake Kussharo, Iozan) is very scenic. Kushiro is a city so accommodation there is pretty cheap. It is possible to drive around Akan National Park as a day trip from Kushiro.

          But then again, Kushiro is pretty far East. I wouldn’t recommend trying to squeeze it into your current itinerary which is quite focused on the central region.

          • Edenz says:

            So it is possible to Drive to Akan National Park (Lake Mashu, Lake Kussharo, Iozan) in 1 day trip from kushiro? Its just scenery over there? How about activities? Or things to do there?

            • bumblebeemum says:

              Yup, it is possible if you have a full day. I have plotted out Kushiro, Tsurui (the area where the cranes gather), Lake Kussharo, Iozan and Lake Mashu on google map for you:
              https://goo.gl/maps/YY4c9

              If you set out early, you should be able to get back to Kushiro before sun set. It is all just sightseeing, no activities.

              • Edenz says:

                Icic. Hmm, how long do u think the drive is from kushiro back to sapporo in winter? The places seems interesting and nice.

                • bumblebeemum says:

                  The distance from Kushiro to Sapporo is more than 300km! It is definitely not something to be covered in a day. If you drive continuously at 50km/h, it would take 7 hours. Chances are you will not drive continuously for 7 hours, and sometimes when the snow gets super heavy, you will go below 50km/h. If you want to visit Kushiro, I definitely recommend spending at least a night at Tomamu in between. In fact I usually recommend 2 breaks: At Tomamu and Obihiro.

                  • Edenz says:

                    true enough 300km but i see its on dato expressway right? will we still be driving at 50kmh in a highway? my plan is take a flight straight to kushiro, then stay 1 night in kushiro, next morning go to tomamu and stay there, then the next morning drive to niseko instead? will the travelling from tomamu to niseko be tiring and take very long time?

                    • bumblebeemum says:

                      Yes, it’s expressway all the way. In winter, the speed limit even on expressways is 50km/h. Visibility was very bad when I drove along that expressway last December. 50km/h is actually an optimistic average speed to estimate driving time in winter. It gets way slower than that once you enter city areas because of traffic lights and heavy traffic.

                      Tomamu to Niseko is still a very long drive. 200+ km. If you have plans to visit Lake Shikotsu, you may want to slot it in between Tomamu and Niseko to break up the long drive.

  57. Angela says:

    Hi!! I have lots of fun reading your blog, specially the Japan travel part 🙂
    I am planning to visit Tokyo in Mid Nov for 11 days. I will go with my hubby and a 3.5 yo daughter.

    My rough plannings are as follows:

    Hotel : Hakone area
    Day 1, Wednesday: Reach HND at 06.15 AM. Proceed to go to Hakone taking the HND Airport Express.
    Explore the area (tozan train / lake ashi cruise). I can still buy the tickets for sightseeing at Hakone Yumoto station, right?
    Day 2, Thursday: Hakone till afternoon then proceed to take local train / romance train to Shinjuku.
    Any suggestion of places to visit in Hakone without having to drive?

    Hotel : Shinjuku area
    Day 3, Friday: Sanrio Puroland.
    Day 4, Saturday: Roppongi, Ometosando, Shibuya,
    Day 5, Sunday: Shinjuku, Harajuku

    Hotel : Tokyo Bay area
    Day 6 – 8, Monday – Wednesday: Tokyo Disneyland + Sea. Stay in Tokyo Bay area

    Hotel: Ueno / Tokyo area
    Day 9, Thursday. Fujiko F. Fujio Museum + Shin Ramen Museum (do you think it is a good combination)? Or if not, I will use this day to visit Odaiba area.
    Day 10, Friday. Tsukiji, Ginza, Tokyo Sky Tree.
    Day 11, Saturday. Ueno, Asakusa,then proceed to Narita for 8.30 PM flight.

    Can you please give comments on my route planning? I probably have to stay in 4 hotels throughout 11 days, do you think that’s effective ? Or should I leave the Disney park to the end? I put Disney in the middle considering it’s less crowded on weekdays ( I hope!!) and my child is not too exhausted yet.

    Thank you in advance.

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Day 1: Yup, you can purchase the Hakone Free Pass from Hakone Yumoto station.
      Day 2: Hakone Open Air Museum and Gora Park are easily accessible by public transport.

      Day 9: Yes, it is possible to do Fujiko F Fujio Museum + Ramen Museum in the same day. The direction makes sense. But I would advise doing in on Day 10. Because on Day 9, you are planning to change hotel right? In the morning, you need to check out, move your luggage to the next hotel before heading out again. I would keep the itinerary that day more relaxing and keep it close to the hotel. So you may want to swap the things you want to do for Day 9 and 10.

      I can see why you would want to keep changing hotel because you want to fit in Disney mid week. But if you want to reduce changing of hotel (which yes, is a real hassle because of how large, crowded and confusing train stations in Tokyo are – even without luggage), stay put in Tokyo Bay for the last few days. i.e. I would probably stay in Tokyo Bay from Day 6 all the way to Day 11. It’s easier to take train out for sightseeing without luggage than to keep changing hotel imo.

      • Angela says:

        Hi Bumblebeemum, thanks so much for your quick reply.
        I have done some reading for going to/from Hakone.
        – Do you know if it’s convenient to just bring along my luggages to Hakone trips with me? I will be taking HND Express bus to Hakone-Yumoto. Can I just buy the ticket on the spot?
        – For Day 2, besides Hakone Open Air Museum and Gora Park, do you think there is enough time if I make a visit to Gotemba? I saw that the free pass covers Gotemba too.
        – Since I buy the Hakone 2 days free pass in Hakone-Yumoto instead of Shinjuku (JPY 4000 for adult), do I still need to prepare 1 way local train fare from Odawara to Shinjuku?
        – Any hotel around this area to recommend?

        Considering the inconvenience of changing hote, now I am thinking to just stay in Shinjuku and proceed to Urayasu during the Disney time to avoid commuting.
        So, I probably have to arrange the itinerary as belows. Do you think this is good?
        Hotel: Shinjuku
        Day 3, Friday: Sanrio Puroland, Shinjuku.
        Day 4, Saturday: Roppongi, Ometosando, Shibuya, Harajuku
        Day 5, Sunday: Tsukiji, Ginza, Tokyo Sky Tree.
        Day 6, Monday: Fujiko F. Fujio Museum + Shin Ramen Museum
        Day 7, Tuesday: Ueno, Asakusa, Odaiba in the afternoon.

        Hotel : Urayasu
        Day 8, Wednesday: Transfer to Disney. Disneyland.
        – Is it a better idea to take direct bus from Shinjuku west station ? Or to take train (transfer in Tokyo station)? I have to bring all the luggages with me.
        Day 9, Thursday: Disneyland.
        Day 10, Friday: Disney sea.
        Day 11, Saturday: Aeon Makuhari and proceed to Narita with airport bus.

        Thank you.

        • bumblebeemum says:

          Since you are going Hakone straight from the airport, you would have to bring your luggage with you. Try to stay near Hakone Yumoto station then. You can check out Kappa Tengoku. They are right next to Hakone Yumoto station, though it requires a climb up a long flight of stairs with luggage to get there.

          You should be able to buy bus tickets on the spot.

          If you are not driving, I don’t recommend going to Gotemba. It is a bit far, and I’m not a shopping person so I find the journey there not really worth the time. If you want to go shopping, please check the bus timetable carefully to make sure you don’t miss the last bus back.

          Yes, if you buy the free pass within the Hakone area, you will still need to buy the one-way ticket back to Shinjuku.

          Your new itinerary looks good. With luggage, I would opt to take a direct bus from Shinjuku to Disney, rather than change train.

  58. kaixin says:

    Hey there, I am planning for a December trip to Hokkaido as well as Tokyo in December.
    Date would be 11th Dec to 18Dec in Hokkaido, and from 18 Dec to 24th i will be in Tokyo.

    The problem is i will be travelling with 7 adults , 3 kids and 1 infant. My plan was to book with a tour agent , $3800 per pax, for the tour in hokkaido. But apparently, they said we do not have enough to do private tour. Thus it has to be cancel.

    Can you please advise me, would it be cheaper if i were to book air tickets, hotel, own transportation myself? or continue following a group tour with the fact of so many adults and many problematic kids.

    I would like to bring my kids to the popular ski resort Tomamu and not sure where is the place to shop as well as the must visit place. Would it be also better to rent a car and travel our self or book a bus and local tour guide to bring us around.

    Appreciate you fast revert 🙂

    • bumblebeemum says:

      If you have such a huge group, you may be better off joining a tour group. It may not be private tour, but at least your accommodation and transport will be well taken care of. It is really not easy to arrange accommodation and transport for a large group. And transportation is a particularly big problem in winter. If you want to drive, you will need 2 cars. Driving in winter is difficult enough as it is, and having to make sure 2 cars stay together is even more challenging. And private drivers in Hokkaido are EXTREMELY expensive.

      If you want to go free & easy, I recommend you stick to cities with good public transport. Sapporo, Otaru, Tomamu, Asahikawa. Maybe even Hakodate, depending on how many days you have. I recommend you base yourselves in a hotel directly connected to Sapporo station and take side trips from there. Do not carry your big luggage everywhere. Let’s say you want to go Tomamu for 2 nights, ask the Sapporo hotel concierge to hold your big luggage cases for you and bring a smaller bag (preferably backpack because trolley bags are a pain to roll around when there is snow on the pavement) for the side trip. Same goes for Hakodate. Otaru and Asahikawa (for the zoo) can be done as day trips from Sapporo.

  59. Edenz says:

    I read in your blog that you suggested to rent a car through tocoo. Any idea why it is particularly cheaper than renting straight from the company (i.e: nissan rent a car)? And where can i get the ETC as well as hokkaido expressway pass? Do u think i will need them if i am travelling from kushiro > tomamu > noboribetsu > niseko > sapporo > lake shikotsu > new chitose?

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Hi,

      For your route, a HEP will not be necessary. You can rent an ETC card from Tocoo if you book through them.

      Renting a car through Tocoo is similar to booking a hotel through hotel booking websites such as Agoda / Booking.com etc. You noticed hotel prices on booking websites such as Agoda are usually much cheaper than booking directly with the hotel? It works the same way. The rental companies give Tocoo a good rate, Tocoo brings them customers. It’s a win-win for both. Imagine if the rental company does not offer Tocoo a rate that is better than their own, why would Tocoo help them to get customers? Tocoo plays an important role in bringing rental companies non-Japanese speaking customers as a middle man.

  60. Yvonne C says:

    Hi, thanks so much for your input! Makes a lot of sense! 🙂 I’ll plan along these guidelines….

    For our 6 nights outside of Tokyo, which town/city would you recommend for us to stay for 6 nights as a base to visit Mt Fuji, Fuji Five Lakes, Gotemba (outlet shopping!) and Hakone? Or do you think we should stay in two places?

    Thanks again for your time! God bless!

    • bumblebeemum says:

      I would say 2 nights at Hakone and 4 nights at Fuji Five Lakes. You can hop around the Five Five Lakes, don’t just stick to one resort, unless you are the type of traveler that dislikes changing hotels. I personally don’t mind changing hotels. I seldom stay in an onsen resort for more than 1 night, because I like to try different onsen, see different scenery and try different food.

      Since you have so much time on hand, you may want to drive over to Sagamiko on one of the nights at Fuji Fives Lakes for Illumillion like we did. It is a 1-hour drive along the toll way from Kawaguchiko, but well worth the time and money. But if you want to do so, you may want to opt out of the meal plan at the resort for that evening.
      http://www.sagamiko-resort.jp/illumillion/

      While in Hakone, there are also illumination events at Little Prince Museum, Gora Park and Hakone Glass Forest. These are much smaller illumination events, so you probably won’t miss dinner because of them.
      http://www.odakyu.jp/english/feature/illumi_newyear/

      • Yvonne C says:

        Hi Bumblebeemum,
        Thanks so much! I’ll go read your blog posts in detail then. Your blog is such a gem! 🙂

        • Yvonne C says:

          Hi Bumblebeemum,
          I have a quick question: there being so many different lines for trains and subway, is there a particular line that we should stay near that will get us to most sights in Tokyo? I realise that having to change train often can be quite costly. Trying to decide on our Airbnb accommodation. Thanks!

          🙂

          • bumblebeemum says:

            This is why I personally feel anywhere you stay within central Tokyo makes little difference, because wherever you stay, there are bound to be some places that are more accessible and some that requires more change of trains. I feel the most important leg is the transfer between airport and hotel, because that’s when we have all our luggage with us. Once luggage has been dropped off, it is less of a hassle even if transfers are required.

            Personally I like Ueno if I’m flying Narita because Keisei line connects Ueno to Narita directly. Ueno is a stop along the very important JR Yamanote line which goes to Akihabara, Tokyo, Shibuya, Shinjuku, Ikebukuro etc. It is also a stop along Tokyo Metro Ginza line which brings me to Asakusa, Ginza, Akasaka-Mitsuke, Shibuya etc. But for visiting say Tokyo Disneyland, I would need to transfer. But I don’t think there is one station that would get you to everywhere without transfers. Give and take.

  61. Wayne says:

    Hi Bumblebeemum,
    I’m currently planning a family (3A3C) vacation to Tokyo/Hokkaido in late nov/early dec. Would like to seek your advice on the following:
    1. Do you think it is easier and more convenient to self-drive to Hakone for the 1st 3D/2N since we have 6 pax (vs taking the Odakyu Romance car or JR shinkansen)?
    2. Is it advisable to immediately pickup the rental car from Haneda airport and drive immediately to Hakone? I am slightly apprehensive as we will only be landing in Haneda at 3.35pm and given that sunset at 4+/5pm then and journey takes about 1.5hrs. I’ve also never driven in Japan.
    3. Wrt to our entire itinerary of 16D/15N, the plan is to stay 2N in Hakone, 2N in Tokyo, 3N in Tokyo Disneyland, 4N in Sapporo and 4N in Niseko. What do you think and would you have any suggestions please?
    Thanks very much in advance!

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Hi,

      1. Yes, self-drive is definitely easier. The problem is finding a car that can fit all 6 of you WITH LUGGAGE. Especially if the children still require car seats. Unless you can persuade everyone to travel very light (which seems a bit impossible since you are travelling in winter), I’m not sure how you all are going to fit into 1 car. My suggestion is to make use of left luggage service at the airport. So only bring small bags that you all can put on your laps for those 3 days and leave everything else at the airport. Then you all should be able to fit into a 7 or 8 seater.

      2. Yes, you can pick up the rental car from the airport and drive straight to Hakone. But yes, that means you will be driving in pitch dark if you arrive at 3.35pm. You still need to factor in time to clear immigration and collect the car. I would say you would reach 6pm EARLIEST. You may have to play around with your itinerary, maybe start with the 2N in Tokyo.

      3. Oh wait.. If you are still going to other parts of Tokyo, you can’t make use of the left luggage service because you would need all your luggage! I guess if you all cannot fit yourselves and all your luggage into a car, you would have to take train to Hakone, drop your luggage at your accommodation at Hakone then rent a car from there to move around. Another alternative is to do 1N Tokyo – 2N Hakone – 1N Tokyo. This would allow you to leave your large luggage case in Tokyo and just bring small bags to Hakone via self-drive.

      But frankly, with your entourage, I would skip either 2N Hakone or 2N Tokyo. 15N is a pretty long and tiring trip. I may not want to move around so much, unless I am driving all the way. But using public transport is very tiring and I would minimize movement if I were using public transport.

      • Anonymous says:

        Thanks very much for your insightful advice! Think I may spend the 1st 2N in Odawara Hilton instead and use it as a base for Hakone. And will probably take a train there since Odawara is slightly nearer and better connected. And I can rent a car from Odawara before catching the Odakyu railway back to Tokyo.

        • bumblebeemum says:

          If I’m not mistaken, Odawara Hilton is not near Odawara train station. You may want to check their shuttle bus timings before confirming your stay. I kaypoh went to their website to take a look, they say they have shuttle buses on Mon – Fri to Odawara and daily to Nebukawa. No idea how frequent these shuttle services are. But wow, they look pretty family friendly, with a nice spa and bowling and all. 🙂

  62. eco says:

    I have 16 days to spend in Hokkaido from end of July to early of August 2016, I am started read and wish to find out more from you.

    We are a family of 4, with 2 children 11 and 9 by then. Prefer to see nature sightseeing and go with some kid activities if possible. I know July is the best month for flower season so definitely cannot be missed.

    If I may ask your advise to have a quick plan with the name of the place for 16 days, how is the best route I should group it together in order to save time and cost?

    For cost saving wise, would you recommend me self drive or take bus / train to each city and attraction?

    You may reply if you wish and can. Appreciated in advance.

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Since you have so many days, you can take it easy and slowly go around to admire the scenery. I recommend taking self-drive, it should work out to be cheaper since your children require train tickets at their age. And many parts of Hokkaido are not very accessible without rental car. With the time you have, you can go all the way to Shiretoko at the Northeastern tip of Hokkaido which is very scenic, but many people miss because of the distance.

      A possible itinerary would be something like this:

      Day 1: CTS – Lake Shikotsu – Noboribetsu
      Day 2: Noboribetsu – Lake Toya
      Day 3: Lake Toya
      Day 4: Lake Toya – Sapporo
      Day 5: Sapporo (Day trip to Otaru)
      Day 6: Sapporo
      Day 7: Sapporo – Asahikawa
      Day 8: Asahikawa – Abashiri
      Day 9: Abashiri – Shiretoko
      Day 10: Shiretoko
      Day 11: Shiretoko – Lake Akan
      Day 12: Lake Akan
      Day 13: Lake Akan – Furano
      Day 14: Furano
      Day 15: Furano (Day trip to Biei)
      Day 16: Furano – CTS

      Self-driving throughout would probably be your cheapest option. A family of 4 should be able to fit into normal 5-seater sedan if you pack light. Rent an ETC card to save on toll fees.

  63. Kenny says:

    Hi Bumblebeemum,

    I wish I found out your blog before I booked my Air tickets and hotel. I found your blog very informative and you are so helpful in sharing your tips.

    My wife and I are planning a self-planned trip to Tokyo for 8 days. But effectively there are only 6 full days as 1st day the flight will only reach Tokyo late afternoon and last day the flight is in the afternoon 4pm.

    We have 2 adults and 3 kids (two teenagers and a 4-year-old). Is Japan and Tokyo stroller friendly?

    What are the nice places in Tokyo? We are ok with little of everything (Sightseeing, shopping (for stuff you don’t see in Sgp), food, parks, cultural stuff, etc.)
    Any must try food in Tokyo?

    We also intend to visit Mt Fuji in a day trip. Any advise how to do it?

    Besides Mt Fuji, any nearby places that is nice out of Tokyo I can do a day trip?

    The reason why I book all my hotels in Tokyo is I have 4 big luggages and a few hand- carry. It will be very difficult to transfer by train.

    If you have good idea I may consider cancelling one of the nights in Tokyo and stay one night out of Tokyo.

    Thank you in advance.

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Tokyo is not extremely stroller friendly. Some of the older train stations only have stairs between the train platform and the gantry level. The stations are HUGE and even if there are escalators / elevators, it sometimes require making a huge detour to find them. You should also take note to avoid bringing stroller onto trains during peak hours. They are packed to the brim, with conductors having to shove people in. However, with young children, I will still bring a stroller particularly for their naps. In between, just carry them up and down stairs and move around during non-peak periods.

      Outside of trains and train stations, you should find Tokyo and Japan pretty stroller friendly. They are afterall an ageing society, so wheelchair-friendly amenities should be easy to find at department stores and around the city.

      You can easily spend 3 days at Tokyo Disneyland. On another day, you can go to Asakusa for the temple, then catch a Tokyo Bay cruise over to Odaiba and spend the rest of the day there. I would also not miss the Tsukiji Fish Market on one of the mornings. To experience a more hipster culture, head to Harajuku / Shibuya area, preferably on Sundays where the cosplayers tend to hang out around Harajuku. That should be about all the time you have for.

      There are plenty of day trips out of Tokyo. Yokohama is one, with a very popular ramen museum. I personally love Nikko where I did a day-trip to before, but I do find it a bit rushed and would recommend spending a night there.

      As for Mount Fuji, a day trip is possible though again it is very rushed and your chances of seeing Mount Fuji may not be very high (more than half the time, Mount Fuji is hidden by clouds – I usually stay a few days in the region to increase my chances to seeing it). But if you want to do a day-trip, with the number of people you have, I recommend self-drive.

      There’s no particular must-try food at Tokyo imo, because seriously everything is nice. Just go around and try whatever food looks interesting to you. But if you really want, you can go and join the long queue for Sushi Dai or Sushi Daiwa at Tsukiji. I have never done that because I think it’s insane to queue hours for sushi in Japan – when actually good sushi is ubiquitous there.

      With the amount of luggage you have, I suggest you stay put in Tokyo. I travel very light (my entire family of 4 always has at most 1 check-in bag + 2 carry-on backpack that hubby and I will each carry), that’s why you will see in our travels that we move around a lot, changing hotels all the time. But with so many pieces of luggage, moving around may not be a good idea. Find a hotel which can be served by direct airport limousine bus and just stay there.

  64. Edenz says:

    Hi, I would like to ask regarding the ETC card rental. I am planning to rent a car from Tocoo as you have suggested earlier and it has the ETC card rental option. Does all the cars in Tocoo comes with the ETC device in order to use the ETC card? I am taking the car from Nissan rent a car from Tocoo by the way.

  65. Regina says:

    Hi Bumblebee Mum,

    I have read your Japan travel blogs a couple of week ago and am impressed that you knew so much about Japan. You could possibly be a guide tour in Japan!

    I am just wondering if you could help us out a bit in our upcoming Hokkaido trip in December. My husband and I together with our 6 years old son will be there from 6/12 to 12/12. Basically just 5 full days there. This is our first trip to Hokkaido.

    1. What are the must go/see places and interesting things to do as a family?
    2. Good food that should not be missed?
    3. Any children activities?
    4. Things/souvenirs to buy?
    5. Where to buy winter apparels upon arrival in Hokkaido for a reasonable price?

    Better still if you have any sample itineraries, we would very much appreciate it. We will be hiring a driver throughout our holidays.

    We wanted to go to Rusutsu Resort and their ShinChan Kid’s Park/Dog sledding. Do you think it is open and ready during these dates?

    Regina

    • bumblebeemum says:

      1. Are you interested to visit a ski resort? If you are, you can visit Tomamu. Other than that, Asahiyama Zoo is great for families.

      2. You can refer to my Hokkaido food guides:

      > (Part 1): Kids-friendly restaurants in Hokkaido
      > (Part 2): Hokkaido Best Food by Region
      > (Part 3): Hokkaido Best Sweets Cafe

      3. Tomamu should have the ice slide and ice tubing by then.

      4. There are LOTS of confectionery to buy from Hokkaido! You can just leave it to the end and grab them from CTS.

      5. Since you only have 5 days, I recommend you buy them in Singapore. Get the heat-tech inner wear from Uniqlo, a thick sweater and a waterproof winter jacket suitable for sub-zero temperatures from shops like Winter Times. Also get waterproof boots with non-slip soles, I have seen them at Winter Times as well.

      If you have a driver, I recommend going to Eastern Hokkaido where you can see the cranes and the beautiful scenery around Akan National Park. A possible itinerary would be as follows:

      6/12: CTS – Tomamu
      7/12: Tomamu – Kushiro
      8/12: Kushiro – Lake Akan (Visiting the cranes, Lake Masshu, Iozan and Lake Kussharo)
      9/ 12: Lake Akan – Sounkyo
      10/12: Sounkyo – Asahikawa (visiting Asahiyama Zoo & Asahikawa ramen village for dinner)
      11/12: Asahikawa – Sapporo
      12/12: Sapporo – CTS

      Shinchan kid’s park will not be ready by your dates. If you are headed to Eastern Hokkaido, you probably won’t have time to go to Rusutsu.

  66. Regina says:

    Dear Bumblebee Mum,

    Thank you for your reply and suggestions plus your sample itinerary.

    Yes, we would love to visit a ski resort, not to ski though but just to have some fun. Ice slide and ice tubing will be interesting for the whole family, having not experience any snow before and yes, I would suspect that Shinchan kid’s park will not be opened during our dates, hence I am quite reluctant to go all the way to Rusutsu esp having to pay such an expensive room for the night.

    I see, if prices for the general confectionery is more or less the same throughout Hokkaido, I will take your advise to only purchase them at the very end before I fly out.

    Unfortunately no Winter Times here in East Malaysia, winter apparel sold here are rather bulky and not 100% waterproof, only water resistance, so I guess I will have to get them through the internet. Yes, I have bought some heat tech innerwear from Uniglo recently in Taipei. Do you think with a layer of heattech, a t-shirt, uniglo ultra warmth downs jacket(bought them as they are so light and easy to pack in their own pouch) plus a waterproof and windproof jacket as the outer layer will be sufficient?

    As for boots, will a Columbia Outdry Waterproof runners do any good while playing/walking in the snow? They claim to have non-slip soles.

    Your suggestion of going to Eastern Hokkaido sounds great. Have you actually done this route before? If so, do you mind sharing with me the hotels that you have stayed in each of the town? If not, any recommended hotel will be of help. We love onsens, do you know any hotels which has an onsen in these towns?

    We are expected to touchdown in CTS at 8.30pm. After clearing Immigration and collecting our luggages, do you think we can go to Tomamu straight away? How long will be ride be? (Hired driver) Is this doable? Or else, we plan to spend the night at ANA Crown Plaza Hotel at Chitose and only proceed to Tomamu in the morning. What is the best time to start our drive (from Chitose) in the morning so we can have enough time to play at Tomamu?

    Sorry for bombarding you with so many questions.

    Last questions, how long is the drive from Sounkyo to Asahikawa? Considering if we only visit Asahikawa Zoo and have an “early dinner” at Ramen Village, can we make it back to Sapporo before late evening(overnight at Sapporo)? Or should we stay a night at Asahikawa and proceed direct to CTS early next morning? Our flight departs at 12.30pm.

    Thanks a million in advance for your thoughts.

    • bumblebeemum says:

      The clothing you mentioned, I don’t think it is sufficient for Hokkaido’s winter. You definitely need a thicker and more solid outermost layer. Same for your bottoms, you would need something thick and waterproof. Are there any sporting shops near you? Nautica? Columbia? Northern Face? Or trying buying online?

      Yup, those waterproof runners sound good. Even with non-slip soles, please exercise caution when walking on ice. No amount of non-slip soles can prevent slipping on ice. I even tried adding metal spikes to my boots and there were still times I slipped a little (though I never fell on my butt before – something very common among tourists). Just got to walk really slow when you are walking on ice – ESPECIALLY when crossing to road because the moment you step on and off the roads are the most slippery points.

      Are your waterproof runners at least above the heel? If you are going to play in the snow, your boots need to be high so that when you step into ankle-deep snow, the snow won’t fall in through the top of your shoes. If they are not high enough, just try to walk on well-threaded paths and not trample into deep untouched snow.

      You can refer to the following posts for my Eastern Hokkaido trips of the areas I recommended:
      > Asahikawa / Akan National Park (Dec 2014)
      > Kushiro / Tomamu (Dec 2014)
      > Eastern Hokkaido (March 2010)

      Hoshino resorts tomamu has onsen. In Kushiro, Super Hotels have onsen. In Lake Akan, there are numerous onsen resorts along the lake, the most famous (albeit pricey) one being Akan Yuku No Sato. For a more budget option at Lake Akan, try Hanayuuka. It is ran by the same resorts group at Akan Yuku No Sato, so you can take a shuttle bus over to Yuku No Sato to use the onsen there.

      If you are arriving at CTS at night, the itinerary I provided would not be feasible. I recommend you spent the night at Air Terminal Hotel and start your tour the next day. I generally recommend NOT being on the road at night in winter. In that case, I suggest you skip Sounkyo & Sapporo.

      6/12: CTS
      7/12: CTS – Tomamu
      8/12: Tomamu – Kushiro
      9/12: Kushiro – Lake Akan (Visiting the cranes, Lake Masshu, Iozan and Lake Kussharo)
      10/ 12: Lake Akan – Asahikawa (this is a long drive, you can stop for sightseeing at the gorges around Sounkyo area along the way.)
      11/12: Asahikawa (visit Asahiyama Zoo and dinner at Asahikawa Ramen Village)
      12/12: Asahikawa – CTS

      If you don’t want to ski and just want to play with snow at Tomamu, one day at Tomamu would be sufficient. No need to rush, just have your breakfast at Air Terminal Hotel and head off to Tomamu after that.

      You would have to head out early from Asahikawa on your last morning to catch your flight. But I rather do that than to go to Sapporo after dinner on 11/12 because that would involve being on the road at night which is dangerous. Your dinner would not be early enough to beat the sunset, since the sun sets at 4+pm in winter.

      • Regina says:

        Thank you so much, Bumblebee Mum for your insights and recommendations. I will have to read up all your links and check out the hotels that you have mentioned.

        Should I have any questions along the way, will drop you a note.

        By the way, if I need to be at CTS at 9.00am, what time should I head out from Arashikawa?

        • bumblebeemum says:

          Hmmm.. Thought your flight is at 12.30pm? Why do you need to reach CTS so early? I would say to set off 3 hours before to be safe in winter. Maybe you should ask your driver to give you a timing based on the actual weather and road conditions when you are there. Because it makes a lot of difference to the driving time when there is heavy snow or not.

          • Regina says:

            Thanks Bumblebee mum, will do that.

            By the way, may I know what sort of boots and waterproof pants that you are using for your kids and yourself during winter in Hokkaido? Which brand? I want to check out the specs from the internet. Definitely don’t want to fall and get hurt and wet, rather invest and have a safe and enjoyable holidays.

            Super Hotel in Kushiro mentioned that triple room can only be booked through telephone. Did you actually did that from SIngapore prior to your travel? (fromyour dec/2010 trip)Can’t seem to get any email address from their website.

            • bumblebeemum says:

              Get those pants specifically for skiing. I didn’t buy but borrowed from a friend. The pants she had was Columbia brand iirc. Something like the bugaboo pants here:
              http://www.columbia.com/activity-skisnow/?pg=2&

              Yes, staying dry is extremely important in winter. So make sure all outermost layers are waterproof.

              The triple room must be booked by telephone? Their english website doesn’t accept booking for triple room? Hmm… I think it is hotel dependent then. In Singapore, we can get our credit card company’s travel concierge service to make the call and book for us when phone bookings are required. Not sure if the Malaysia banks have such service?

              • Regina says:

                Thanks for your reply.

                Yes, they mentioned in their website that their triple rooms are limited and therefore only accept phone bookings…hmm…I wonder why too..anyway, will check with my bank here if they do offer travel concierge service..if not, maybe will consider other hotels.

                Thanks for the link too.

  67. irene says:

    Dear Bumblebee Mum,
    We are planning a trip to Osaka from Singapore with 2 year old and 4 year old. I was told not to bring a stroller. What is your opinion on this? I think it’s too heavy to carry the 2 year old around in baby carrier all day, and he does not walk much at all.
    I am also looking to stay at tatami style hotels. I think this is great because I don’t need to worry about my kids falling off the beds. Which hotel would you recommend for tatami style hotel? Have you tried air B&B?
    Thank you!
    Irene

    • bumblebeemum says:

      I would bring a stroller with kids so young. Just fold them up when on the trains if it’s crowded. And I rather carry the stroller up and down stairs occasionally, than to have to carry the kids all the way, especially when they are napping! Strollers are life-savers during nap times – for the 4 year old.

      Usually I search for hotels using booking websites such as Agoda and booking.com. Look for hotel rooms that say ‘Japanese style room’ for tatami style. And nope, I haven’t tried AirBnb.

  68. ms shu says:

    Dear bumbeemum,
    I am plainning 9 days to hokkaido,me and my friend will arrive in hakodate and depart at sapporo.
    We are planning to rent a car.
    Day 1 hakodate [hotel book]
    day 2 lake toya [hotel book]
    day 3 noro [hotel book]
    day 4 otaru [hotel book]
    day 5 unkai + furano
    day 6

    then i abit unsure whether to plan further up as i want to see Shiretoko famous site.
    can u kindly advise?

    many thanks
    ms shu

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Hi, when is your period of travel? Hokkaido is very different in the various seasons and you should choose your destinations based on the season.

      Btw, what noro? Noboribetsu?

      • ms shu says:

        hi..we are going in mid october..
        yes noro is noboribetsu.

        • bumblebeemum says:

          For mid-october, I recommded spending some time at Jozankei Onsen, visiting Houheikyou Dam. It is very beautiful at this time of the year. The flower fields around Furano and Biei will still be blooming (though no lavender), so I recommend spending 2 days at least in the region. They may (or may not – it really depends on mother nature) be autumn foliage around Tokachidake and Shirogano onsen at that time.

          In 9 days, you will not have the time to go all the way from Hakodate to Shiretoko.

          A possible itinerary would be as follows:

          Day 1 hakodate [hotel book]
          day 2 lake toya [hotel book]
          day 3 noboribetsu [hotel book]
          day 4 Visit Jozankei / Houheikyou dam enroute to Otaru [hotel book]
          day 5 Sapporo
          day 6 Sapporo
          day 7 Furano
          day 8 Furano (day trip to Biei / Shirogane Onsen)
          day 9 Tomamu

  69. joey Tee says:

    Hi Bumblebee Mum,

    planning a trip to Hokkaido in mid January next year with both my kids three & five years old for 10 days. I would like to see the penguin parade& Lake Akan.
    You mentioned it we should take train from Sapporo to Asahikawa instead of self drive during winter, if I take a train there how should I go Lake Akan?

    • bumblebeemum says:

      You will need to take a bus to Lake Akan from a nearby station. For e.g. Tsuruga group has shuttle buses to Lake Akan from various stations:
      http://www.tsuruga.com/en/access/shuttlebus.html

      So for Asahikawa, you would need to take the train to Kitami and catch the shuttle bus from there.

      • joey Tee says:

        can I assume self drive will be more convenience if I travel with kids? How about from Sapporo to Otaru, should I take train or drive there?

        • bumblebeemum says:

          Generally, I find self-driving more convenient with kids. Because there is no need to carry luggage AND kids while moving around. And they can get their nap comfortably during the long drives. But for winter travels, you need to weigh this convenience against the dangers of driving in snowy conditions. Where possible, I would advocate taking the train where possible in winter, and minimizing movement with luggage. i.e. you base yourself in Sapporo, leave the luggage in the hotel and take side trips. So places like Otaru and Asahiyama Zoo should be done as a side-trip from Sapporo by train.

  70. Anonymous says:

    Would like to check with you my below itinerary:-

    Chitose -> Sapporo (3 night at Mercure Hotel)
    1. Otaru (by train)
    2. Shiroi Koibito Park (Ishiya Chocalate Factory)
    3. Sapporo Beer Factory
    Drive from Sapporo -> Asahikawa (2 night )*** visiting Asahiyama Zoo & Asahikawa ramen village
    Asahikawa -> Tomamu (2 night) (**ice village, Shinchan kid’s park)
    Tomamu  CTS (1 night)

  71. Anonymous says:

    13 Jan to 24 Jan

    • bumblebeemum says:

      If you are travelling in winter, looking at the places you want to go (Asahikawa & Tomamu), I would not drive. I would use the train instead.

      And btw, Ice Village is at Tomamu while Crayon Shin-chan Kids Park is at Rusutsu. They are different ski resorts.

  72. Joey Tee says:

    I plan to visit 13-24 Jan.

    I noticed Sappora have bus company provide day tour (http://teikan.chuo-bus.co.jp/en/)

    Sapporo Variety One-Day Tour (http://teikan.chuo-bus.co.jp/en/course/1998)

    Otaru Bay Story Tour (http://teikan.chuo-bus.co.jp/en/course/258)

    Would like to seek some of your opinion? does the day tour over price?

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Day tours are definitely pricey. I always just use day tour itineraries as reference and go around on my own to save money. But of course, there is no detailed explanations when we go on our own and you probably can learn a lot more joining tours. If you just want to see see look look take photos, then I guess no need to join tour. But if you really want to learn about the city’s history, culture etc, guided tours can tell you more.

  73. Anonymous says:

    Many thanks for your advice.

    Accept for Asahikawa zoo for penguin parade; I do have interest on ice breaking cruise;

    Did you think I got chance to meet “Drift ice” during mid Jan?

    How should I plan my itinerary?

    Many thanks your advice

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Mid-Jan may be a bit too early. As a rough gauge, the Aurora icebreaker cruise started on 20 Jan 2015 this year. Actual dates may vary year to year because it is weather dependent, but I would think mid-Jan is too early. If you want, you can push it all the way to the end of your trip to try your luck. But you may be disappointed because nobody can really tell when there will be drift ice. (During my trip in March 2010, we never made it for the ice breaker cruise because there was no drift ice on the days we were there.) Note that Abashiri is a 6 hours train ride from CTS / 5 hours trains ride from Sapporo / 3.5 hours from Asahikawa. If you want to put Abashiri all the way at the end of your trip, you are going to have a loooong ride back to New Chitose Airport. If you haven’t booked your air ticket, I would advise you to fly out from Memanbetsu airport instead of New Chitose Airport if you are ending your trip at Abashiri.

      For a round-trip from CTS, Abashiri should preferable be somewhere in the middle of an Eastern Hokkaido trip. So the train route to take would be CTS – Tomamu – Kushiro – Abashiri – Asahikawa – Sapporo – CTS.

  74. Joey Tee says:

    Actually we don’t prefer day trip, too rush can not really enjoy. Planning to stay Tomamu for two night & Asahikawa for one night. Actually we would like to have snow drive, never try it before. We try to minimize our driving and do not further to Lake Akan.

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Train from Asahikawa to Tomamu requires a transfer at Sapporo.

      If you want to experience snow driving, there are certain areas that are better for first-timers than others within Hokkaido. The route from Asahikawa to Tomamu cuts through Biei and Furano. The region is rural with heavy snow falls and poor visibility. Generally, anywhere which has ski resorts have heavy snow falls and are most difficult to drive. Furano and Tomamu are ski areas. Hence, I really do not advise you to drive the Asahikawa to Tomamu route for experience.

      On the contrary, Lake Akan is where you should go if you want to experience winter self-driving, complemented with train rides. Following the standard “CTS – Tomamu – Kushiro – Abashiri – Asahikawa – Sapporo – CTS” train route, pick up a rental car from Kushiro to explore the cranes around Tsurui, and then the lakes around Akan National Park (Lake Mashu, Lake Kussharo, Lake Akan). This would require 2 days to complete, with a stay at Lake Akan. You may want to consider a one-way car rental, picking the car up at Kushiro and returning it to Abashiri.

    • SER says:

      Hi,Bumble Bee mum,

      After going through your sharing, we feel so lucky,finally we hv someone to consult to on our trip to Hokkaido.

      We have about 15/14 nites In Hokkaido. (8~22/11/15)We are 3 adults and a child.

      We will be landing In CTS,On 8/11/15 9.am.We plan for a self drive.During these times,it may be a bit headache for me to plan for a skii, I guess.
      Below are our suggested iteninary:

      Day 1 Cts ~Noboribetsu: Bear park

      Day 2 Noboribetsu~Lake Toyo

      Day 3 & 4 Lake Toyo~ Hakodate [what are the must visits]

      Day 5 & 6 Sapporo ~ Otaru, [ for Sapporo Otaru city, what are the must visit places ]

      Day 7 & 8 Sapporo ~ bibai~Takikawa~ Ashahikawa

      Day 9 & 10 Either Kitami~Abashi or Shibetsu [ we hv no idea whether we should headed]

      Day 11 Furano~Ashibetsu

      Day 12-14 Sapporo city again

      Please guide….Thanks In advance

      • bumblebeemum says:

        For Hakodate, the typical tourist spots are Hakodate morning market, Goryokaku Tower, Red Brick Warehouse District and Mount Hakodate for its ‘million dollar night view’. Looking at your dates, you should definitely drop by Onuma Koen for autumn foliage.

        For Otaru, the sightseeing area is around Otaru canal and Sakaimachi.

        For Sapporo, typical tourist attractions are Mount Moiwa, Shiroi Koibito Park, Sapporo Beer Factory, Odori Park and basically just shopping and eating around Susukino / Sapporo station area / Underground shopping arcade.

        If you are planning to visit Asahiyama Zoo, please check to see if they are open on the date you are there. It looks like you may be visiting during their change of season period, where they close the zoo in preparation for the winter season.

        I don’t think I would go to Furano in November. I would recommend from Asahikawa, head towards Sounkyo – Lake Akan region. I love the lakes and gorges in that area which is very scenic.

  75. Joey Tee says:

    Tomamu Resort one night stay is about $300- $400 rite?

    How you compared the ski resort between Tomamu & Niseko? the journey between this two as well?

    • bumblebeemum says:

      The price for Tomamu looks about right for ski season in Jan.

      Between Tomamu and Niseko, it really depends on which area of Hokkaido you are visiting. If you are visiting Eastern Hokkaido, go to Tomamu. If you are visiting Central Hokkaido, go to Niseko. To get between Tomamu and Niseko requires going through either CTS or Sapporo.

  76. joey Tee says:

    I have not booked my air ticket yet, really thanks for your advise. If I opt to fly out from Memanbetsu airport. How should I arrange my itinerary?

    CTS – Sapporo – Asahikawa/Tomamu – Lake Akan – Abashiri

    Which part can I self-drive?

    • bumblebeemum says:

      If you fly out of Memanbetsu, what you can do is:

      CTS – Tomamu – Sapporo – Asahikawa – Abahisiri (all by train). Then from Abashiri, rent a car to explore Akan National Park and the crane area, returning car back to Abashiri.

      So roughly, you can do this:

      13th: CTS – Tomamu
      14th: Tomamu
      15th: Tomamu – Sapporo
      16th: Sapporo (Day trip to Otaru)
      17th: Sapporo
      18th: Sapporo – Asahikawa
      19th: Asahikawa – Abashiri
      20th: Abashiri – Lake Akan (rental car)
      21st: Lake Akan – Tsurui – Abashiri (rental car)
      22nd: Abashiri Ice breaker cruise
      23rd: Flight back from Memanbetsu

  77. Joey tee says:

    Many thanks for your kind advise…

    I decide to change my date to February after Chinese new year in order to see the ice breaker (18-27 Feb)

    18th: CTS – Sapporo
    19th: Sapporo (Day trip to Asahikawa Zoo)
    20th: Sapporo (Day trip to Otaru)
    21th: Sapporo – Tomamu
    22th: Tomamu
    23th: Tomamu – Kushiro
    24th: Kushiro – Lake Akan (rental car)
    25th: Lake Akan – Abashiri (rental car)
    26st: Abashiri Ice breaker cruise
    27nd: Flight back from Memanbetsu

    Did you think I can self drive from Tomamu to lake Akan without passing Kushiro? I prefer driving instead of take train from Tomamu to Kushiro and self drive from Kushiro to Lake Akan….

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Sure, you can self-drive starting from Tomamu as well. But car rental options are pretty limited in Tomamu.

      The only reason I recommended you to end your trip in Abashiri and flying out of Memanbetsu was because your travel dates were in late Jan. But if you are travelling in mid-Feb, you may want to do the CTS – Tomamu – Kushiro – Abashiri – Asahikawa – Sapporo – CTS loop. And in mid-Feb, I recommend you slot in Sounkyo Onsen between Abashiri and Asahikawa because there is a lovely snow festival there at that time.

      Here’s a birds eye view of the festival at Sounkyo:

      You may also want to slot in Tokachigawa onsen between Tomamu and Kushiro for the festival there:

      The trip I would recommend in mid-Feb would be pretty similar to this trip:
      http://bumblebeemum.net/2010/03/04/self-drive-trip-to-eastern-hokkaido-february-march-2010/

      But for the above trip, I didn’t think the drive up to Shiretoko was really worth it, which is why I recommend you go straight to Abashiri after Lake Akan. Also the above trip was done AFTER we had spent an entire month in Hokkaido visiting places like Sapporo, Otaru, Asahikawa etc, that’s why we went to Lake Shikaribetsu instead after Sounkyo. But for you, I recommend you head towards Asahikawa and Sapporo after Sounkyo.

  78. Joey tee says:

    As I travel with kids by train, so trying to minimize the hotel move… (now I have four hotel move only Sapporo, Tomamu , lake akan & abashiri)

    18th: CTS – Sapporo
    19th: Sapporo (Day trip to Asahikawa Zoo)
    20th: Sapporo (Day trip to Otaru)
    21th: Sapporo (Sapporo Clock tower, Sapporo Beer Factory, Ishiya Chocolate factory)
    22th: Sapporo – Tomamu
    23th: Tomamu
    24th: Tomamu – Lake Akan (rental car)
    25th: Lake Akan (rental car)
    26th: Lake Akan – Abashiri (rental car)
    27st: Abashiri Ice breaker cruise,Flight back from Memanbetsu (night flight 18:30)

    What are the transport should I use from CTS – Sapporo?

    Where should I stay at Sapporo? since I need to take train to Asahikawa Zoo , Otaru & Tomamu? what are the cheaper train pass I can purchase?

    How long it the driving time from Tomamu to lake akan? can we arrive in 3 hours?

    you mentioned the car rental options are pretty limited in Tomamu, where can I get the infor? as I will return the car at difference place?

    Did you think I should return the car at Memanbetsu Airport or just when we arrive Abashiri?

    What are the hotel you can recommend in Abashiri for ice breaking cruise?

    Again here, really appreciated your important infor….

  79. Michelle says:

    Hi Bumblebee Mum,
    We are planning our 1st time for free and easy trip to Tokyo for 8days with my 2 kids (9 & 7 yrs old) on end Nov’15. But effectively there are only 6 full days as 1st day we reach Tokyo ard 11am and returning to Spore in the morning flight ard 11am. Till now, we till don’t know how should we planning our trip
    My friend has recommended me to stay first three day in Disney (Hilton Tokyo Bay) and last four day in Tokyo, and also recommended to go Hakone/ Kinsai / Tokyo Tokyo Tower / Fish Markwt / Harajuku / Mt Fuji / Maggie mee factory(don’t know the exact name). what do you suggest & where to stay?
    Thank you and look forward to your reply.
    Best regards,
    Michelle

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Hi,

      Yes, usually I would also recommend spending 3 days at Tokyo Bay to visit Tokyo Disney Resort when going to Tokyo with kids.

      Next, among the places you listed, you are talking about 2 things: Places within central Tokyo (Tokyo Tower / Tsukiji Fish Market / Harajuku), and places around Hakone / Mount Fuji region. Considering you only have 6 days, I would advise you to pick one.

      I’m not sure if Kinsai is a typo for Kansai? If you are referring to Kansai, you do not have enough time for that if you spend 3 days at Tokyo Disney. As for the Nissin cup noodle museum, it is located at Yokohama, which can be done as a side trip from Central Tokyo, so you can classify it under central Tokyo.

      If you choose to stay in central Tokyo, I personally feel there is no difference where you stay, as long as it is near a train station. Some stations are interchanges, so it gives you more direct access to places, but accommodation tend to be more costly near those stations – particularly Tokyo station. If you want something more budget, my personal favourite station to stay near is is Ueno station, especially if I am flying via Narita. But the more ‘happening’ places to stay would be Shinjuku or Shibuya or even Ikebukuro. Tokyo station provides great accessibility, but the hotels near Tokyo station are very expensive.

      If you want to visit Hakone / Mount Fuji, I recommend you self-drive. If you self-drive, choice of accommodation is a lot more flexible as you don’t need to be near train stations. You can just go through hotel booking websites and take your pick. I usually recommend 1 night Hakone and 2 nights Mount Fuji (Fuji Five Lakes region).

      Since you are travelling in end November, I recommend the latter. Because it is autumn foliage season in Hakone and Fuji Five Lakes area. The area is really very scenic at that time. Versus Central Tokyo, which doesn’t matter which time of the year you are there. You can refer to the following posts for ideas on self-drive trips around Hakone + Mount Fuji:

      > Hakone + Mount Fuji with kids (more kids-centric attractions)
      > Hakone + Mount Fuji without kids (more scenic)

  80. Joey Tee says:

    train from CTS airport to Sapporo station & Saporro to Tomamu, does both train also operate by JR? should I purchase the 5 day pass?

  81. Joey tee says:

    Again me, I think I have ask too many questions…. I saw quite a number of company operate the drift ice, which one are more worth to try? Are they only sailing on friday and Saturday? Did u have the information ?

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Haha.. No worries. There are indeed more than 1 company operating drift ice cruise. I don’t think it makes a difference which one you go for. Abashiri Aurora is the more famous one, and their ship runs daily during the season:
      http://ms-aurora.com/abashiri/en/#prices

      Monbestu Garinko is another popular one. If I’m not mistaken, it also runs daily during the season. Its advantage over Abashiri is that it is slightly nearer to Sapporo. So it is recommended for people who are in Sapporo and just want to take a icebreaker cruise as a day trip from there.
      http://www.garinko.com/

      But if you are coming up from Lake Akan, Abashiri would be nearer.

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Anyway just to let you know.. If you can afford more time, there is more than the icebreaker cruise. There are tours such as kayaking on drift ice, swimming with drift ice (in wet suits), horse riding on drift ice etc. I read about them long time back when planning for my 2010 trip, but I think they are conducted around Shiretoko which is much further Northeast. Not sure if Abashiri has similar tours. You can try googling about it if you can extend your trip.

  82. Joey tee says:

    Thanks. I couldnt find the train run by JR from sappro to Tomamu? And CTS to Sapporo, Can u guide me?

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Go to http://www.hyperdia.com/
      Inside ‘FROM’ type ‘Sapporo’ and select Sapporo(JR) from the drop down.
      Inside ‘TO’ type ‘Tomamu’
      Change the date / time to roughly when you are travelling.
      Click SEARCH.

      For CTS to Sapporo, same thing.
      Inside ‘FROM’ type ‘New Chitose Airport’
      Inside ‘TO’ type ‘Sapporo’ and choose Sapporo(JR).

  83. Sher says:

    Dear Bumblebee Mum,
    I am a solo female traveller hoping to explore the food, nature and culture of Hokkaido in November for 3 weeks. However, I do not drive nor speak Japanese language. From your experience, will I have trouble exploring the place with the help of Google translate or map? And how safe will it be?

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Hi,

      Hokkaido is generally safe. I did some solo traveling while in Hokkaido the first time I was there. I stayed in a hostel and made friends and in a way, I didn’t travel solo so much because I went around with my newly-made friends to visit places like Shiroi Koibito Park, Sapporo Beer Museum, Otaru, Asahikawa etc. We even shared a car to visit Lake Shikotsu.

      It is not difficult to get around Hokkaido at all if you keep to major cities. It may be a bit hard to go to more remote areas because those require driving and it is not safe to drive alone in winter. But if you are moving around by public transport, you shouldn’t have a problem. Just ask for help if you get lost. If you say the name of the place you want to go, most Japanese would be happy to point you in the correct direction.

  84. Edenz says:

    Hi,

    You told me before you rented from Tocoo previously right? How do you rent the ETC card then? I tried to proceed for the car rental reservations through Tocoo but there was no ETC card option, however there was only ETC device option. How do i actually rent the ETC card via tocoo?

    Thanks!

  85. Joey tee says:

    Hi mummy, I saw yr reply regarding the winter wear, cant find it now. Dont mind can share with me.

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Here you go:

      For winter clothing, stock up on heat-tech inner wear from Uniqlo.

      Head: Wear a beanie that can cover the ears.
      Body: Wear a heat-tech long sleeve, followed by a layer of vest (something to keep the chest warm), followed by a thick sweater / cardigan and finally a waterproof winter jacket meant for sub-zero temperatures.
      Bottom: Wear a heat-tech leggings, followed by thick waterproof pants.
      Feet: Wear a pair of long socks, layered by a pair of thick short socks and high waterproof boots.
      Hands: Waterproof winter gloves

      It is important that the outermost layers are waterproof, because you really do not want to get wet in winter. Do not neglect the shoes. They must be absolutely waterproof and high enough so that snow will drop into the shoes.

      Additional stuff: You can buy heat packs from Daiso. I especially like the sticky ones that can be stuck to clothes / under the socks. You can stick them to the your clothes to keep yourself warm. The ones to be stuck to the bottom of the socks are a life-saver, because the feet which is in constant contact with the ice and snow on the floor always gets cold very quickly.

  86. Joey Tee says:

    usually where you purchase your winter clothes? specially the water proof shoes.

    • bumblebeemum says:

      My winter boots were bought from Hokkaido. But you can try winter wear shops like Winter Times / Cold Wear etc. or winter gear shops like The North Face, Columbia, Nautica etc.

      • ros says:

        Hi bumblebee mum, May I know roughly how much it’ll cost to get a winter boots in hokkaido? Iszz cheaper than getting in Spore? As both my boots are not waterproof…

        • bumblebeemum says:

          Hi, sorry for the late reply as I have been overseas. If you just want to get a simple (not very fashionable) plastic winter boots, you should be able to get a cheap pair from Tanukikoji. But if you are looking for something more fashionable from the department stores, they are not cheap.

  87. Pearline says:

    Hi Bumblebee mum,
    Thanks for your very informative information on Hokkaido! My husband and I together with our 2 kids (age 3 & 6) are heading over to Hokkaido late Sep for the first time and your blog has totally helped us planned our days there. 🙂
    Just wanted to seek your advice in what the fastest way to transit from Tokyo Narita airport to Tokyo Haneda airport. We have not very cleverly chosen the flight which requires a transit between the 2 airports and now I’m freaking out that 3 hrs may not be sufficient time to travel between the 2 airports to catch the connecting flight to Hokkaido!!! What should we take – the trains or the limousine bus or something else? And how much time do we need to check in in advance at Haneda?
    Thanks a million in advance for any advice that you may provide!

    • bumblebeemum says:

      OMG… Transferring from Narita to Haneda? The direct airport limousine would be your best choice:
      https://www.limousinebus.co.jp/en/bus_services/haneda/narita.html

      If you are using the same airline for your (assuming you are from Singapore) SIN – NRT and HND – CTS flight, you are most likely to have checked in for your HND – CTS flight in Singapore. Which means you would already have your boarding passes with you, and the only thing you need to do at HND is to drop off your luggage. Hence, you don’t really need to worry about the check-in time. Just move as fast as you possibly can to the luggage drop off and boarding gate once you arrive at HND.

      • Pearline says:

        Hahaha… OMG is absolutely what I’ve been feeling!!! Thanks for the quick reply and the advice. Yes we are on the same airline and will make sure we get all our boarding passes beforehand! Thanks again and wish us luck! 🙂

  88. Regina says:

    Hi Bumbeeble Mum,

    I wrote to you earlier about planning my first Hokkaido trip and thanks to your advise and recommendation, got all that sorted out.

    By the way, have you ever heard of Kiroro Resort? Just to play snow, slide, stay a night, just the fun stuff for families, is that a better choice as compared to Rusutsu?

    Now, we decided to extend our stay in Tokyo from 13/12 to 17/12 before flying back to Malaysia. Can you suggest a few place that we should visit during that time of the year or better still base ourselves outside of Tokyo and make Tokyo as a sidetrip only?

    We have been to Tokyo and explore a fair bit couple of months back including Hakone. Not interested in Disneyland or sea, been to Osaka and Kyoto too.

    Can you recommend any cities/town that is like within 1 hr from Tokyo by train that is worth a visit, esp for families? Some say Yokohama, but I’m not sure. Maybe you can suggest a itinerary, if this is not too much. ETA tokyo 13/12 at 4pm and leaving 17/12 at 5pm.

    Thanks

  89. Regina says:

    ok, thanks for the suggestions and ideas. Will check out the illumination ones. Sounds interesting.

  90. Anonymous says:

    Hihi bumble bee mum
    For early dec tour in central japan (osaka;kyoto; tokyo) do we need down jacket? Is it better to bring along all the thermal long John too?

    Ann

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Hi,

      Personally, I don’t think you need thermals for Central Japan in December. BUT THEN, that depends on your tolerance for cold. I don’t even use thermals in Hokkaido. Simply because I find them extremely uncomfortable. And I will probably find myself sweating if I put on thermals in Central Japan. But I know many Singaporeans who cannot take the cold very well and so they wear thermals for temperatures close to 0. If you are not sure of your own tolerance level for the cold, bring your thermals and if you find yourself shivering without them, then put them on, especially at night.

      One thing I should warn you about wearing thermals is that Japan tends to over-compensate on the heating during winter. The moment you step indoors or onto trains, the heater will really heat you up. That’s when thermals get very uncomfortable since you can’t just remove them.

      As for down jacket, again depends on your tolerance for cold. I only use my down jacket for sub-zero temperatures in Hokkaido. But if you are unsure, you can just bring it and wear less layers underneath if you find yourself too hot in it.

      In general, I recommend dressing in layers. You can add on / remove layers according to how cold you feel. And you can remove the top few layers once you go indoors to stay comfortable.

      • Anonymous says:

        Hey

        Thanks for replying… I guess won’t need down if there’s no chilling wind.. it’s freaking freezing cold when we went korea last yr that even down wasn’t enough.. thanks alot. An

        • bumblebeemum says:

          Korea as in Seoul? I find Seoul’s winter comparable to Hokkaido. Tokyo / Kyoto / Osaka’s winters are milder in comparison. Just do layering, I find layering much more effective than just using a set of thermals.

  91. Lucida says:

    Hello again. I am now contemplating whether i should go furano or niseko for the ski experience. My kids are 9 n 5 years old. I am thinking og staying 2 days in sapporo -> 2 days in tomamu (should hv come here direct from chitose but i have book the accommodation in sapporo for the first 2 days already…) -> then here is where i am thinking if i should go furano or go back sapporo then from there go asahikawa zoo, niseko n otaru.. what would u recommend?

  92. Lucida says:

    In addition, have 14 days in sapporo .. but now i am thinking might be too long so thinking to stopover tokyo to go disneyland.. so maybe cut short to 10 days in sapporo instead.. should i??

  93. MS says:

    Hi, I’ve returned from Hokkaido and tried many of your recommendations eg sanmanma in Kushiro, Panchou in Obihiro, choux cream puff at Lake Akan. They were all fabulous. I especially loved the tip I read on your blog about how we can stay at Hanayuuka and make use of the awesome onsen facilities at the higher-end sister hotel. It was one of the highlights of the trip. Thank you and keep up the good work.

    Btw, if your readers need a pocket Wi-Fi in future and don’t want to rent one at Changi, they can try http://www.globalmobile.co.jp/. The rates are very competitive and the daily usage is unlimited. We enjoyed very stable coverage throughout Hokkaido, except the extremely remote areas.

    Thanks once again. Will recommend your blog to my friends.

  94. Edenz says:

    Hi,

    I would like to have some advise from you regarding my winter trip to Hokkaido. For a 2 days 1 night, what are the attractions or activities you would suggest me to go in Sapporo? and for a day trip to Jozankei, what is your recommendations as well? The dates are fixed at 30/31 of January 2016. Thanks!

    • bumblebeemum says:

      For 30/31 Jan, I would probably go to Lake Shikotsu to catch the winter festival.

      • Edenz says:

        I plan to go to lake shikotsu on 2/2 instead after i cover jozankei and sapporo actually. The festival is still available by then right? So for the 2 days 1 night, what are the attractions or activities you would suggest me to go in Sapporo? and for a day trip to Jozankei, what is your recommendations as well?

        • bumblebeemum says:

          I don’t think I would do a day trip to Jozankei. It is an onsen town, so a visit to Jozankei should involve a stay at one of the hot spring resorts. Can you update me what is your itinerary for the rest of the trip first, then I can see what else you can visit for the remaining time?

  95. Ding says:

    Hi Bbbmum, luckily find ur blog in the first place. We planning to go Hokkaido – Tokyo end of nov for 7-10 days with 2 daughters 8 & 10yrs old. Can u pls give me some ideas of how to plan my itinerary? How many days should we spend in Hokkaido n Tokyo? Thks.

    • bumblebeemum says:

      November is frankly not a good time to go to Hokkaido. Any chance of changing dates? Anyway 7 – 10 days doesn’t sound like a long time for both Hokkaido and Tokyo, I recommend you stick to just one. If I am going Japan in end November, I would just go to Tokyo + Mount Fuji / Hakone region because it is autumn foliage season. Or maybe Kyoto, again for its stunning autumn foliage.

      • Ding says:

        Hi good to hear frm u. The exact date is 28 nov.

        • bumblebeemum says:

          Still, not really the best time to visit Hokkaido imo, unless you really want to see snow or you want to ski / snowboard. And if you plan to go Hokkaido, I recommend you spend all 7/10 days in Hokkaido rather than try to fit in both Hokkaido and Tokyo. Maybe you can let me know which places you really want to visit, then I can help to see if it is doable in that short duration and whether it is recommended for the period you are visiting?

          • Ding says:

            The main purpose is to bring the girls to see n play in the snow. Places like tomamu, ice village, otaru, asahiyama zoo, etc.hoping for free n easy schedule.. Not thinking to join the tour.. Travel by train.

            • bumblebeemum says:

              If you want to visit Tomamu, Otaru, Asahiyama, I would say to spend at least 1 week there. Let’s say you have 7 days inclusive of flight – usually first and last day you can’t do much so that’s 5 full days. I would recommend 2 days Tomamu, 1 day Otaru, 1 day Asahiyama Zoo and 1 day Sapporo. So I guess if you want to do Tokyo as well, you will be looking at a 10 days trip with just enough time in Tokyo for Disney Resort.

              • Ding says:

                Bbb mum, thanks for ur advice. better spend one night to think abt it. 🙂

                • bumblebeemum says:

                  haha… I usually spend months thinking about my vacations. Feel free to pop by later if you need any more help. 😉

                  • Sunnie says:

                    Hi Bbbmum, sorry for bothering u again.. ok I have made up my mind and booked our flight ticket this morning. I will be going Hokkaido first then Tokyo next. ( haven’t decide when to Leave sapporo for Tokyo )So, I need ur help to set up my itinerary from arriving day 1 (30 nov) til day 14 (13 Dec), Day 15 depart Haneda Airport to KL. Pls also providing me some clue on the transportation from and to of each destination. No confident at all. But still look forward to our 14 days trips in Japan. Many thks..

                    • bumblebeemum says:

                      Do you have an idea which places you want to visit in Tokyo and Hokkaido? And are you up for self-driving in Hokkaido, taking into account there many be snow? If you let me know which places you want to visit and whether you want to use public transport solely or don’t mind self-driving, it is easier for me to advise you on the route to take. You can start off your planning with this post:
                      http://bumblebeemum.net/2015/08/29/free-easy-hokkaido-winter-trip-essential-travel-tips/

                    • Ding says:

                      My plan:

                      Public transport solely, i think.

                      (Arrival at Sapporo 6.30am)
                      Day 1 Sapporo
                      Day 2 Sapporo – Asahiyama Zoo (Day trip)
                      Day 3 Tomamu ( Stay 2 nights at the resort)
                      Day 4 Tomamu
                      Day 5 Sapporo – otaru (Day trip)
                      Day 6 Sapporo – chocolate factory & chitose rera
                      outlet
                      Day 7 Sapporo – Lake Toya
                      Day 8
                      Day 9 Tokyo?
                      Day 10 Tokyo?
                      Day 11
                      Day 12 Tokyo disneyland
                      Day 13 Tokyo disneyland
                      Day 14 Tokyo disneyland
                      Day 15 Departure at Haneda Airport ard 11.30pm

                    • bumblebeemum says:

                      You can do something like this:

                      Day 1 Sapporo
                      Day 2 Sapporo – Asahiyama Zoo (Day trip)
                      Day 3 Tomamu ( Stay 2 nights at the resort)
                      Day 4 Tomamu
                      Day 5 Sapporo – otaru (Day trip)
                      Day 6 Sapporo – chocolate factory & chitose rera
                      outlet
                      Day 7 Sapporo – Lake Toya
                      Day 8 Lake Toya – Sapporo
                      Day 9 Sapporo – Tokyo
                      Day 10 Tokyo
                      Day 11 Tokyo
                      Day 12 Tokyo disneyland
                      Day 13 Tokyo disneyland
                      Day 14 Tokyo disneyland
                      Day 15 Departure at Haneda Airport ard 11.30pm

                      For your time in Tokyo, there are lots to explore and you can refer to this guide to see which places you would like to go:
                      http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2164.html

                    • Ding says:

                      Hi Bbbmum, any recommendation on hotel in shinjuku? Thks.

                    • bumblebeemum says:

                      You can try Keio Plaza Tokyo, especially if you are planning to visit Disney. It is one of the Tokyo Disney Resort Good Neighbor Hotels, offering free shuttle service to Disneyland and Disneysea. And it is very near Shinjuku station.

                    • Ding says:

                      Checked this one already, but there are no room available on the date then i actually make it to book hilton bay for my 3 days disneyland (11-13/dec). However, i havent make any hotel reservation on the 9-11/dec.

                    • Ding says:

                      Anyway, thanks for your link. Amazing blog.

  96. Lee Meng says:

    Hi , I had left some queries on your blog on 1st Oct but when I login later, it doesn’t thee. Also drop two message thro FB but also not answered.

  97. Lee Meng says:

    Hi, so happy that I can see my post above. I happen to stumble on blog and you are really fantastic…so much info, advice, so adventurous & independent and travelling with two young boys :))

    I could not contain my find but share your blog (URL link) with my family members and colleagues the next day …. good things have to be shared

    Now I need your advice:

    My family of 4 (with 2 grown up children in their twenties) be going to Hokkaido from 4 Dec to 10 Dec . Arrive on 4 Dec noon and depart on 10 Dec 2030H flt. Short trip due to leave constraint.

    It is our first trip to Hokkaido.

    We have limited cold wear as we only have been to Tokyo a few years ago (also in Dec); we usually travel to warmer places. We intend to other cold wear upon arrival in Sapporo.
    Is this recommended ? Will it be snowing &do we need to buy water proof boots ?

    Due to the short duration,we will be at Sapporo & Otaru.

    We will be staying at Mecure Sapporo from 4 to 7 Dec
    Staying at Dormy Inn Premium Otaru from 7 Dec to 9 Dec .
    9 Dec to 10 Dec accommodation, I have not book.

    So far, i have plan to visit Yoichi Whiskey while we are in Otaru.

    Besides visiting Sapporo and Otaru town itself, what else would you recommend ?

    Thank You.

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Thank you for sharing my blog, and sorry about its messed up comments. Not sure why my replies are not showing up on my blog in the proper order. 🙁

      Yes, it will be snowing in Hokkaido in December. I recommend you prepare your winter wear before you reach Hokkaido. Water proof boots are recommended, though I don’t think it is absolutely necessary if you are just staying in Sapporo and Otaru. Just be careful not to trample into deep snow if you do not have waterproof boots and keep to the pathways where the snow has been cleared off. But if you want waterproof boots, for guys, I usually recommend wearing your army boots. Otherwise, shops like Winter Times / Cold Wear etc do sell winter boots.

      For winter, I usually recommend staying at least 1 night at an onsen resort. Winter is the best time to enjoy onsen! You can try Noboribetsu.

      • Anonymous says:

        Thanks for the prompt reply.

        Won’t Noboribetsu take up a lot of travelling time ? If we were to go to Noboribetsu for 1 night, which osen would you recommend? And mode of transport to Noboribetsu.

        Although I have booked Mecure Sapporo (4 to 7 Dec) and Dormy Inn Premium Otaru (7 Dec to 9 Dec ), I am free to cancel them without any charges incurred; the only worry is I may not be able to book them again as they are pretty popular.

        Is there any day trip that u would recommend for any operators or Chuo buses ?

        I am quite interested in the day trip to Lake Toaya etc but my son thinks otherwise. He had backpacked in Europe for 3+ months after his graduation and he opined there is not much to see in Winter. What is your view?

        Could you recommend our itinerary for trip?

        Day 1 4 Dec Fri Arrival at noon
        Day 2
        Day 3
        Day 4
        Day 5
        Day 6
        Day 7 AM / 830 PM Flt back to Singapore.

        Thank You very much 🙂

        • bumblebeemum says:

          Noboribetsu is relatively near to Sapporo. You can try Hotel Mahoroba. They have a shuttle service from Sapporo:
          http://tohoresort.com/access/mahoroba_Change_bus_en.html

          If you are talking about scenery, in a way, yeah I don’t think Hokkaido’s mountains and lakes can compare to say, the Swiss Alps. But what I like about Lake Toya is the total experience of enjoying good food and onsen while looking out at the lake. Resorts such as Toya Sunpalace and Lake View Nonokaze provide shuttle services from Sapporo.

          Actually is there any reason you are spending so much time at Otaru? I personally feel Otaru can be done as a day trip from Sapporo.

          Ideally I would recommend you rent a car and drive the Sapporo – Lake Toya – Noboribetsu – Lake Shikotsu – CTS route.

          Day 1 CTS – Sapporo
          Day 2 Sapporo
          Day 3 Otaru (day trip from Sapporo)
          Day 4 Sapporo – Lake Toya
          Day 5 Lake Toya – Noboribetsu
          Day 6 Noboribetsu – Lake Shikotsu – CTS
          Day 7 Flight back

          Is there a typo when you typed “Day 7 AM / 830 PM Flt back to Singapore.” I can’t tell if it means your flight is in the morning (AM) or night (PM). If you have a morning flight, I generally recommend spending the last night at Air Terminal Hotel at CTS.

          If you do not wish to drive, I suggest you only visit one onsen town as a side trip from Sapporo, making use of the resort’s shuttle service:

          Day 1 CTS – Sapporo
          Day 2 Sapporo
          Day 3 Otaru (day trip from Sapporo)
          Day 4 Tomamu (day trip from Sapporo)
          Day 5 Sapporo – Lake Toya
          Day 6 Lake Toya – Sapporo
          Day 7 Flight back

          • lee meng says:

            Option 1
            Day 1 CTS – Noboribetsu
            Day 2 Noboribetsu – Sapporo
            Day 3 Sapporo & Yoichi
            Day 4 Sapporo & Mt Moiwa
            Day 5 – Sapporo – Any short side trips recommended? (Night at Otaru)
            Day 6- Otaru
            Day 7 Morning at Otaru or Sapporo / 830 PM flt back to SG
            Option 2
            Day 1 CTS – Sapporo
            Day 2 Sapporo & Yoichi
            Day 3 Sapporo & Mt Moiwa
            Day 4 Sapporo – Noboribetsu
            Day 5 Noboribetsu- Sapporo- (Night at Otaru)
            Day 6- Otaru
            Day 7 Morning at Otaru or Sapporo / 830 PM flt back to SG

            As our arrival at CTS is noon, am I right to say that we miss the Express Donan bus to Noboribetsu? (The Express Donan takes only about 1 hr to reach, much faster as compared to option 2) If we were to take the train, it would mean multiple transfers with our luggage.

            Thus i guess I have to take option 2.

            Please give your view.

            i google on Hotel Mahorobagou and there were many good reviews.

            May I know if there is private use of the osen in Hotel Mahorobagou ?

            Also is the time sufficient (we reached at 3 pm and depart at 10 am ) to visit Jigokudani and other attractions besides enjoying the baths at the hotel. Are there other departure times ? Or other modes of transport that we could take for late departure?

            Thank You very much for sharing your knowledge with all of us, really appreciate it 🙂

            • bumblebeemum says:

              That’s the thing about taking public transport in Hokkaido. You either have to make multiple transfers if you do not want to go back and forth between the towns and Sapporo, or you always have to go through Sapporo as most towns are connected to Sapporo by direct bus. This is why I always end up self-driving in Hokkaido. From the looks of it, you would have to go with Option 2, unless you self-drive.

              How are you planning to get to Yoichi? Yoichi is near Otaru, why are you going Yoichi and Otaru separately? Seems like a lot of back and forth going on and hence time wasted on the road.

              I don’t recall Hotel Mahoroba having private onsen. But they do have rooms with onsen baths within the room. And yes, you should have enough time for Jigokudani is you arrive at 3pm.

  98. Linda says:

    Thanks for your reference BBM! Much appreciated.

  99. Ping says:

    Hi Bumblebee,

    I have read with interest your blogs on Hokkaido. I am planning for a 8D7N (still flexible) trip in the first week of January 2016 with my sister and we are in our 30s. I am not interested in skiing and only want to do some snow activities. We don’t mind onsens (but don’t want to be onsened-out) and we wish to travel via public transport. I have a rough itinerary (see below) but have hit a road block in my planning for the remaining 3 days of my stay. We want to contain costs where possible (if there is a need to splurge, we would) and want some variety in our travel, if possible, and enjoy good food.

    I am not sure if I should proceed to the east or stay around central Hokkaido. There are no snow festivals in eastern Hokkaido at the point we are there in early January, so I don’t know where I should go after Asahikawa. Do I move further :
    a) east and do a loop of Sounkyo Onsen, Abashiri, Kawayu, Kushiro, Obihiro before returning to Sapporo OR
    b) south and do a loop of Noboribetsu, Lake Toya and Hakodate?

    I really welcome any suggestion that you might have for my 8D7N Hokkaido trip. Even the suggested itinerary below could be changed on a wholesale basis. By the way, we have been to Japan previously – Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, Takayama, Shirakawago and Kanazawa.

    Suggested itinerary
    1 – Arrive 8 am – at Sapporo Chitose airport – Sapporo city tour
    2 – Day trip to Otaru
    3 – Day trip for ski & snow activities Takino Suzuran Park
    4 – Day trip to Asahikawa Zoo
    5 – Road block
    6- Road block
    7 – Road block
    8 – Depart for Kuala Lumpur at 9.05 am from Sapporo Chitose airport

    Thanks in advance for your feedback. Looking forward to your response.

    Regards,
    Ping

    • bumblebeemum says:

      If you want to travel by public transport, I would advise you to stick to the big cities. This would mean, perhaps Hakodate. Places like Lake Toya, Sounkyo and Eastern Hokkaido are all not that great without rental cars. I usually would recommend going to Kushiro and Lake Akan in winter to see the cranes, but you need to drive.

      If you really do not wish to drive, you can spend one more day in Sapporo just to enjoy the good food (plenty to eat there). Or head south to Hakodate – The morning market there is worth a visit. From Hakodate, you can visit Yunokawa Onsen which is reachable by street car.

      You can consider purchasing the Hokkaido Rail Pass which you can use for the return train rides to Hakodate and the day trip to Asahikawa.

  100. Michelle Liang says:

    Hi there, I love browsing your site! I am thinking of visiting Tokyo next year with a one and three year old and would like to know if u can recommend any travel concierge? I plan to visit and stay at thomas land and Tokyo disney land and want someone to help with the bookings and pick up/transfers as I don’t want to self-drive.

  101. Edenz says:

    Hi,

    I would like to rent from ToCoo as per your advise, but do u think Times Rental Car in ToCoo choices of car companies reliable and can deal well with foreigner? They seemed to rent out Mazda cars =)))

    • bumblebeemum says:

      I have never tried Times Car Rental before. They seem to have a pretty good English website – which is usually a good sign. But in general, for Hokkaido, the people don’t speak much English. Especially for winter drives, I would recommend sticking to companies like Toyota, albeit more expensive but they have English emergency hotlines. You need to make sure that if anything happens *touch wood*, you can communicate where you are and get help.

  102. eco says:

    Hello Bumblebeemum

    May I know have you personally been to Abashiri, Shiretoko and Akan National Park during Summer July – August? I am browsing your blog it seems can’t find any, maybe I am wrong therefore check with you here.

    By reading Japan Guide these 3 places seems best to visit during Winter time to see the ice and snow.

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Nope, I haven’t been to that region in Summer, only in winter.

      Abashiri is famous for the ice-breaker cruise, that’s why I was only there once during ice-breaker cruise season.

      Akan National Park is great for all seasons, just that in winter, you get the additional advantage of seeing cranes gathered at the feeding grounds. But in summer, you can cruise out to see Marimo, which is something that you cannot do in winter.

      As for Shiretoko, it is actually more scenic in summer and autumn than in winter. My friend visited in July this year and her photos look gorgeous. Also, there are whale watching cruises and other wildlife cruises in Shiretoko in summer. So if you ask me, summer is actually a better time to visit Shiretoko than winter. In winter, we visited because of drift ice, though there was no drift ice the days we were there which made it quite a wasted trip.

      I think the most important thing is time. The reason why Shiretoko is often missed out is because it is at the very extreme end of Hokkaido, which means you need to have a lot of time if you want to go there. Hence, most people who fly in and out of CTS for a 1 week trip only have time to reach Furano & Biei where the flower fields are and they have to start heading back. If you want to visit Shiretoko and Akan in summer, I would say to plan for at least 2 weeks. Alternatively do an open-jaw flight, going in to Memanbetsu airport and out of CTS.

    • eco says:

      FYI this is the Japan Guide that I refer, click on the name of the place to see attractions

  103. eco says:

    Thank you for your prompt reply and advice that convince me to visit these places

    I have 16 days actually flying in and out minus two days left actually 14 days which it seems I am short of time can fit all my original itinerary that suggested by you neatly

    Previous Itinerary for 16 days is here:
    Day 1: CTS – Lake Shikotsu – Noboribetsu
    Day 2: Noboribetsu – Lake Toya
    Day 3: Lake Toya
    Day 4: Lake Toya – Sapporo
    Day 5: Sapporo (Day trip to Otaru)
    Day 6: Sapporo
    Day 7: Sapporo – Asahikawa
    Day 8: Asahikawa – Abashiri
    Day 9: Abashiri – Shiretoko
    Day 10: Shiretoko
    Day 11: Shiretoko – Lake Akan
    Day 12: Lake Akan
    Day 13: Lake Akan – Furano
    Day 14: Furano
    Day 15: Furano (Day trip to Biei)
    Day 16: Furano – CTS

    So, I am thinking which place I should give a miss.

    I will be taking night flight for Day 1, reach CTS Day 1 in the morning,

    For return trip, my flight is early morning in Day 16, meaning to say that I can’t do anything on Day 16 and I should be back to CTS back end of Day 15

    My flight arrive CTS airport, where do you think I should rent and pick up my car? In the airport itself or Sapporo town?

    Thanks again

    • bumblebeemum says:

      I would reduce to 1 night in Lake Toya and 1 night in Lake Akan to cut it down to 14 days.

      You should collect and return the car at CTS.

      • eco says:

        I have sorted a better itinerary with date and day for the year of 2016

        Summary:
        Day 01 28/7 Thu: Depart from KL to CTS
        Day 02 29/7 Fri: CTS – Lake Shikotsu – Noboribetsu (Noboribetsu, 1 night)
        Day 03 30/7 Sat: Noboribetsu – Lake Toya (Lake Toya, 1 night)
        Day 04 31/7 Sun: Lake Toya – Sapporo (Sapporo, 1 night)
        Day 05 01/8 Mon: Sapporo (Day trip to Otaru) (Sapporo, 1 night)
        Day 06 02/8 Tue: Sapporo (Sapporo, 1 night)
        Day 07 03/8 Wed: Sapporo – Asahikawa (Asahikawa, 1 night)
        Day 08 04/8 Thu: Asahikawa – Abashiri (Abashiri, 1 night)
        Day 09 05/8 Fri: Abashiri – Shiretoko (Shiretoko, 1 night)
        Day 10 06/8 Sat: Shiretoko (Shiretoko, 1 night)
        Day 11 07/8 Sun: Shiretoko – Lake Akan (Lake Akan, 1 night)
        Day 12 08/8 Mon: Lake Akan – Furano (Furano, 1 night)
        Day 13 09/8 Tue: Furano (Furano, 1 night)
        Day 14 10/8 Wed: Furano (Day trip to Biei) (Furano, 1 night)
        Day 15 11/8 Thu: Furano – CTS (Chitose, 1 night)
        Day 16 12/8 Fri: CTS back to KL

        Dear BUMBLEBEEMUM should you have good budget accommodation (prefer homestay) welcome and kindly please share with me. Thanks in advance.

  104. eco says:

    Sorry, correction should be reach CTS airport on Day 2 not Day 1

  105. eco says:

    Thanks BUMBLEBEEMUM, appreciated your advice and replanning it now

  106. eco says:

    One more question, will it be better I cover Furano first or later in my itinerary?

    I start my trip in last week of 28 July till 2nd week of 12 August, which time best to see full blooming of Lavendar and best farm visit?

  107. eco says:

    Thanks BUMBLEBEEMUM

  108. Alice says:

    Hello Bumblebeemum, 🙂

    Chanced upon your blog whilst trying to plan our trip in Feb to Hokkaido.
    Great stuff! Thanks for sharing.

    If you don’t mind, may I know your recommendation on our itinerary.
    We are travelling in Feb for about 8D7N. We have cars. Thinking of,

    Day 1: Arrive Hakodate (Night view, winter illumination, etc). Overnight Hakodate

    Day 2: Hakodate Morning Market, walk around town – Rusutsu. Overnight Rusutsu

    Day 3: Day Ski/snow activities in Rusutsu. Overnight Lake Toya

    Day 4: Sightseeing in Lake Toya area – Noboribetsu. Overnight Noboribetsu

    Day 5: Move to Sapporo. Winter festival. Overnight Sapporo

    Day 6: Day trip to Otaru. Overnight Sapporo

    Day 7: Sapporo sightseeing/shopping. Overnight Sapporo

    Day 8: Depart from Chitose

    Some of us feel it’s too packed.
    But is any of the place (Hakodate, Toya, Noboribetsu) worth staying more than 1-night?
    I’m just worried there’s nothing to see.

    And, Is Noboribetsu even worth staying 1-night? People just go there for onsen?
    Have you been to Mitsui outlet? Worth going?

    Would so appreciate your feedback on our plan. 🙂

    Thanks!

    Alice

    • bumblebeemum says:

      It does look a bit packed to me. You don’t seem to have much time for Hakodate, and if you want to ski, you should spend a full day (2 nights) at Rusutsu. I would strike off Noboribetsu and do this instead:

      Day 1: Hakodate
      Day 2: Hakodate (sightseeing) – Lake Toya
      Day 3: Lake Toya (Sightseeing) – Rusutsu
      Day 4: Rusutsu
      Day 5: Rustsu – Sapporo
      Day 6: Sapporo
      Day 7: Sapporo (Day trip to Otaru)
      Day 8: Sapporo – CTS

      I don’t really think outlet malls are worth visiting in winter because they are selling mainly winter wear then. Just stay in Sapporo for Day 5 and 6 and enjoy the festival if you are there during Sapporo Snow Festival period. The festival is huge with 3 venues, and the Odori and Susukino venues are worth visiting in both day and night as they look different with lighting. You can read more here:
      http://bumblebeemum.net/2010/02/10/sapporo-snow-festival/

      • Alice says:

        Thanks for your reply and recommendation. 🙂
        Why did you strike off Noboribetsu? Is it not worth the visit?

        • bumblebeemum says:

          Because of lack of time. For winter trips, I always advise spending less time on the road so that you have more time for sightseeing and enjoying the food, snow activities and scenery. Let me plot the route out on the map so that you can see why I recommend striking off Noboribetsu.

          Here is the map from Hakodate to Noboribetsu to Lake Toya to Rusutsu to Sapporo:
          > click here for google map route

          Here is the map if I strike of Noboribetsu:
          > click here for google map route

          Do you notice the detour you need to make if you want to visit Noboribetsu? Whereas if you strike off Noboribetsu, it is one straight route up. An 8 days trips in Hokkaido is really not a lot – Hokkaido is a lot larger than it seems and winter makes it worse because you can’t drive fast and daylight hours are short. Hence I recommended removing Noboribetsu.

          • Alice says:

            Aah I see. In that case, would you recommend Noboribetsu or Rusutsu?
            We are not skiiers, just that we heard skiing in Hokkaido is very nice and just wanted to give it a try.

            • bumblebeemum says:

              You are driving yah? I would recommend Rusutsu. It is more along the way. Niseko is again a slight detour from your route. And I found Niseko much harder to drive to than Rusutsu. The snow and visibility there is pretty bad.

  109. eco says:

    Car Rental

    Meanwhile I am looking for option for car rental.

    1) May I know which website you use to make car reservation?
    2) What is the rate for a 5 seater sedan car as per your suggested or what car suit us for 4 pax (2 children).
    3) Is this website good enough? Sapporo Toyota Car Rental http://www.toyotarentacar.net/english/
    4) Do we need to convert our Malaysian driving license to English version?

    Thank you

    • bumblebeemum says:

      1) Usually I recommend readers who do not speak Japanese to rent from Tocoo. They are usually cheaper than renting direct from car companies, unless the car companies are having some special campaigns.
      http://www2.tocoo.jp/en

      The company I personally use in Hokkaido, Sky Car Rental, does not deal well with travellers who do not speak any Japanese, but they are quite cheap:
      http://www.skyrent.jp/skymark.html

      2) It really depends on how much luggage you have. I pack VERY light (1 suitcase for the entire family) so that I can fit into the cheapest 5 seater available. If you have a lot of luggage, you probably will have problem fitting all your luggage into the boot since all the passenger seats will be occupied and will need to get a 7-seater. I would say a 5-seater should not cost more than 7000 yen per day, while a 7-seater should not cost more than 10,000yen per day.

      Toyota is a good company – reliable and deals well with foreigners with English emergency hotline. But they are one of the more expensive companies. If you rent from them, I recommend getting the Fielder which is a 5-seater with huge boot.

      4) You will need to apply for an International driving license and bring BOTH the IDP and your Malaysia driving license with you to Japan.

      • eco says:

        Dear BUMBLEBEEMUM, thank you for your reply and helpful

      • eco says:

        Hello Bumblebeemum,

        Q1: I would like to seek your advice about the self-drive travel distance in hour from one place to another base on my itinerary below:

        16 days Itinerary
        Day 01 28/7 Thu: Depart from KL to CTS. Chitose to Sapporo is 1hr by train
        Day 02 29/7 Fri: CTS – Lake Shikotsu – Noboribetsu (Noboribetsu, 1 night)
        Day 03 30/7 Sat: Noboribetsu – Lake Toya (Lake Toya, 1 night)
        Day 04 31/7 Sun: Lake Toya – Sapporo (Sapporo, 1 night)
        Day 05 01/8 Mon: Sapporo (Day trip to Otaru) (Sapporo, 1 night)
        Day 06 02/8 Tue: Sapporo (Sapporo, 1 night)
        Day 07 03/8 Wed: Sapporo – Asahikawa (Asahikawa, 1 night)
        Day 08 04/8 Thu: Asahikawa – Abashiri (Abashiri, 1 night)
        Day 09 05/8 Fri: Abashiri – Shiretoko (Shiretoko, 1 night)
        Day 10 06/8 Sat: Shiretoko (Shiretoko, 1 night)
        Day 11 07/8 Sun: Shiretoko – Lake Akan (Lake Akan, 1 night)
        Day 12 08/8 Mon: Lake Akan – Furano (Furano, 1 night)
        Day 13 09/8 Tue: Furano (Furano, 1 night)
        Day 14 10/8 Wed: Furano (Day trip to Biei) (Furano, 1 night)
        Day 15 11/8 Thu: Furano – CTS (Chitose, 1 night)
        Day 16 12/8 Fri: CTS back to KL

        Q2: Asahikawa, is it nice to visit in Summer? Do we get chance to see the penguine parade? How long do we need to spend there to cover the visit? I found this Cherry Picjing at Ovashi Farm is pretty interesting. http://www.oh-cherry.com/foreign/english/english.html so I am thinking if I have enough time to cover both places say morning drive from Sapporo to Abashikawa (Day 07 03/8 Wed: Sapporo – Asahikawa (Asahikawa, 1 night)) to visit Cherry Farm for cherry picking and then next day visit Asahikawa zoo before depart to Abashiri (Day 08 04/8 Thu: Asahikawa – Abashiri (Abashiri, 1 night). Is it advisable?

        Q3: For these 3 days as below here:
        Day 02 29/7 Fri: CTS – Lake Shikotsu – Noboribetsu (Noboribetsu, 1 night)
        Day 03 30/7 Sat: Noboribetsu – Lake Toya (Lake Toya, 1 night)
        Day 04 31/7 Sun: Lake Toya – Sapporo (Sapporo, 1 night)

        I am referring to the Hokkaido map from the japan-guide.com, which route to use best to save time and get to enjoy better scenery / view? Would you recommend once I touch down at Chitose airport, pick-up the car from the airport and then drive to Lake Shikotsu via Tomakomai > Noboribetsu? After last visit at Lake Toya, shall we detour with the same route or better go forward to Niseko > Kutchan and then Otaru > Sapporo one round?

        • bumblebeemum says:

          1. For driving times, please use Google map for estimation. I have found Google map estimations pretty accurate for summer driving.

          2. Asahikawa is not very interesting in summer. There is no penguin parade at the zoo. What is more interesting at that time of the year would be Himawari no Sato (sunflower field) which you can visit enroute from Sapporo to Asahikawa.
          http://en.visit-hokkaido.jp/travelPlanner/details.php?code=6102002000043

          Yes, the cherry picking looks interesting. I would definitely do that if I am in the region during cherry season. So what you can do on Day 07 would be:

          Sapporo – Ohashi Cherry Farm (cherry picking)
          Ohashi Cherry Farm – Himawari no Sato Sunflower Park
          Himawari no Sato Sunflower Park – Asahikawa (visit Asahikawa Ramen Village for dinner)

          You can do the zoo the next morning.

          Q3. This is the route I would take to go CTS – Lake Shikotsu – Noboribetsu – Lake Toya – Sapporo
          https://goo.gl/maps/V1DSwXt7U172

          But yes, you can also go to Otaru after Lake Toya before returning to Sapporo – that route would be quite scenic:
          https://goo.gl/maps/tpkpHpoa5HH2

  110. Elaine says:

    Hi bumblebeemum,

    I am so glad that I chanced upon your blog. I hope you can help me with our itinerary to Hokkaido and Tokyo as the trip was fixed just less than 2 weeks ago and we are leaving in early Dec.

    We have a total of 15 days to play around with. Initially we intend to spend the bulk of the trip in Hokkaido but Tokyo light-up seems attractive too, plus the day trips out of Tokyo. We will not be going to the theme parks in Tokyo though.

    We are a family of 6, with 1 teenager and 3 kids and we are not considering self-driving. Could you advise how we can make the best out of the trip?

    Thank you.

    • bumblebeemum says:

      If you don’t self-drive, my suggestion is to spend maybe 3 days in Sapporo (with 1 day trip to Otaru from Sapporo) and 3 days at a ski resort. If your kids like zoos, you can do a day trip to Asahikawa from Sapporo, so that would mean 1 more day in Sapporo. If you have more time, you can even take the train down to Hakodate and spend 2 days there.

      Back in Tokyo, without self-driving, i would say to do a 2-days side trip to Hakone. And for the rest of the trip, base yourself in Tokyo. If you don’t want to visit theme parks, you can visit Asakusa, Odaiba, Tsukiji Market, Shibuya, Shinjuku, Ikebukuro just to name a few popular spots. You can also take a day trip to Yokohama.

      • Elaine says:

        Hi Bumblebeemum,

        Thank you for your reply.

        We are considering the following and is it feasible? Just realised the trains are very infrequent.

        Day 1 – Sapporo
        Day 2 – Day trip to Otaru
        Day 3 – Noboribetsu/Jigokudani
        Day 4 – Lake Toya then back to Sapporo
        Day 5 – Tomamu
        Day 6 – Tomamu
        Day 7 – Sapporo

        • bumblebeemum says:

          Yes, trains are very infrequent in Hokkaido compared to mainland Japan. Which is why I always self-drive in Hokkaido. If you do not wish to self-drive, I would advise taking out Lake Toya from your itinerary. Noboribetsu can be done as a side-trip via shuttle service by Hotel Mahoroba if you are staying there.

          I would opt to go back to CTS from Tomamu (i.e. shift the last day in Sapporo to the front.)

      • Elaine says:

        Due to the poor train timing, we are also considering self-drive part of the trip like from Sapporo to Lake Toya and Noboribetsu. Is it difficult to drive in this route? Other than low visibility during snow and slippery roads, how is the traffic like and are the road signs helpful, especially within city area? Is the GPS reliable?

        • bumblebeemum says:

          If you don’t mind self-driving, then Sapporo – Lake Toya – Noboribetsu – Sapporo (or the other way round) is quite a nice route to drive. It is less snowy compared to areas such as Niseko and Tomamu. You can read my winter driving tips on this post:
          http://bumblebeemum.net/2015/08/29/free-easy-hokkaido-winter-trip-essential-travel-tips/

          GPS is not entirely reliable in built up areas, but you will get the hang of it eventually. So far none of my readers or friends who have driven in Sapporo have expressed problems with driving in Sapporo. Some had problems with the use of map codes, so always stand by telephone numbers of your destinations in case the map codes don’t work. Driving in rural areas is very straightforward with the GPS and signs.

          For the route from Lake Toya to Noboribetsu, please check weather forecast for the day. If it is snowing heavily, use the expressway. If the sky is clear, the route via Orofure Pass is pretty cool, like driving through Narnia. You can read about our drive on this post:
          http://bumblebeemum.net/2015/01/21/hokkaido-with-kids-december-2014-part-4-chitose-lake-shikotsu-niseko-lake-toya-noboribetsu-rusutsu/

          But remember to only take the Orofure Pass only if weather is good.

          • Elaine says:

            Hi bumblebeemum,

            Other than Hotel Mahoroba, do you have other ryokans to recommend? They are out of non-smoking rooms…. Or it doesn’t make a difference?

            • bumblebeemum says:

              I am not fussy over smoking / non-smoking rooms. Sometimes I put in a request to deodorize the room. The room I stayed at during my stay at Hotel Mahoroba was a smoking room – because it had an ash tray in the room. But if not for the existence of the ash tray, I wouldn’t have known that it was a smoking room – it was not reeking of tobacco smell or anything.

  111. Elaine says:

    Dear Bumblebeemum,

    Thank you very much for the info. Unfortunately Tower@Tomamu is fully booked from mid Dec onwards. If I were to shift the Tomamu trip to the 1st stop, i.e. 6 – 10 Dec, will it likely be ready? Or make it a shorter stay to just experience the place or skip it totally and replace it with Niseko?

    Thank you again for your time and advice.

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Yes, Tomamu Ice Village and ski / snowboard area will be open by 6 – 10 Dec. You can plan a shorter stay if you have no intention to ski / snowboard. But if you want to ski / snowboard, I recommend at least 3 nights.

      You can also replace with Niseko. Niseko is slightly more happening and crowded, but they do not have an Ice Village like Tomamu. It is purely for skiing in early – mid Dec.

  112. Anonymous says:

    Am back from our Osaka Kyoto Fuji and Tokyo 15 days trip. Fun but tiring with 2 kids, Many thanks for your advices and informative blog.

  113. Jackson Chai says:

    Hi Bumble Bee Mum,

    We are going to Hokkaido on this coming December. From dec 20-27. And we are planning to rent a car to go for day trip in Niseko as we didn’t manage to book any accommodation in Niseko. Do you think is it worth to visit in a day ?

    From you blog, i understand that the food is not as good and expensive there. But the scenery really nice. Especially in a snowy day. So I want to know do it worth to go for a day trip just for the scenery ?

    Also, have you visited Sapporo Teine Ski resort before ? That one is much nearer to Sapporo main city. But I not sure the scenery there. Don’t know how much different compare to Niseko.

    During that period of time, will be snowy all around Hokkaido right ?

    Best Regards,
    Jackson Chai

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Niseko is more for skiing imo. Beautiful scenery is abundant throughout Hokkaido, I actually think the scenery around Lake Shikotsu and Lake Toya was nicer than Niseko. Because in Niseko, it snowed so heavily that the snow obstructed the view of the mountains around most of the time. If were to do a day trip from Sapporo for scenery and food, I would go to Lake Toya and Lake Shikotsu instead.

      Teine ski resort is mostly for skiing, not for sightseeing. So only go there if you want to ski.

      Yup, by end December it should be snowy all around Hokkaido. 🙂

  114. lili says:

    Hi Bumblebeemum,
    I m Lili. We are leaving for Hokkaido:Nov 19-29.
    we are a couple with 2 boys: 4+ 8 years old.
    My children would like to do some snow tubing, so Niseko was the most likely place of ski resort open.
    Our flight is landing at 9 am on 20th.

    Can i get your advice on itinerary and when we should drive.

    20th Nov: Outlet shopping
    20th Nov: Noboribetsu or Lake Toya ( drive or train?)(Nobo or Lake Toya)
    21st Nov: Hakodate (1 or 2 nights? ) ( is the monkey plc : Jigokudani open by then?)
    23rd Nov: Sapporo / Otaru ( train or drive to Sapporo/Otaru?)
    26th Nov: Niseko (or any other ski plc ? (-chldren want snow tubing)
    28th Nov: Chitose hotel
    29th Nov: fly home

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Unfortunately, for your dates, you are not likely to be able to do snow tubing in Niseko. It is too early. The earliest snow tubing lanes to open in Hokkaido are at Tomamu’s Ice Village – but this year it is starting on 1 Dec so you’re going to miss it:
      http://www.snowtomamu.jp/winter/icevillage/

      The monkey place I believe you are referring to is Yunokawa onsen? (Jigokudani snow monkeys are in Nagano in mainland Japan.) According to this website, they are can be seen all year round, but they only warm themselves in the onsen from 1 Dec to March:
      http://www.hakodate.travel/en/things-to-do/top7/yunokawa/

      If you are visiting Yunokawa onsen, you may want to stay 2 nights at Hakodate. If just Hakodate city centre, 1 night is sufficient.

      Looking at the places you want to visit, I suggest you do a rail trip instead.

      19 Nov: Where are you planning to stay? And which outlet mall are you planning to visit?
      20 Nov: Train to Noboribetsu + Cab / bus to the onsen town.
      21 Nov: Train to Hakodate
      22 Nov: Hakodate (Yunokawa onsen)
      23 Nov: Train to Sapporo (you can visit Onuma Koen en-route)
      24 Nov: Sapporo
      25 Nov: Sapporo (Day trip to Otaru)
      26 Nov: Sapporo
      27 Nov: Bus to Niseko
      28 Nov: Bus to CTS
      29 Nov: Flight home

      It is unlike you will get to snow tube, but you can go to Niseko just to play with the snow.

      • lili says:

        Hi Bumble bee mum,
        thanks for your immediate reply.

        Can i know why you suggest rail trip instead of a car ?
        Is Nobo better or Lake Toya?
        If Lake Toya, would having a car be essential?

        Grand Hirafu resort is open on Nov 21st. They dont provide any snow tubing?
        Should I stay in Hiton Village or Freshwater at Hirafu?

        Thanks

        • bumblebeemum says:

          Rail is faster and safer in winter. Especially if you are going all the way to Hakodate.

          Lake Toya is more scenic compared to Noboribetsu, but you would need a car for Lake Toya.

          The ski resort opens in end November purely for skiing and snowboarding. Snow tubing will only be available much later in the season (usually end Dec or early Jan) because they need to accumulate enough snow to build the tracks.

          Hirafu is a bit more interesting than Niseko Village (where Hilton is) – with more dining options.

          • loh lili says:

            Hi Bumbleebee mum,
            I can imagine the massive head breaking you go through to answer all questions!

            Can i seek your advise again:

            wat about this route :

            Nov 20: Chitose to Hakodate? (car or train?)
            Nov 22: Hakodate to Lake Toya (car)
            Nov 23: Lake Toya to Sapporo (car)
            Nov 24: Sapporo (return car)
            Nov 25: Otaru
            Nov 26: To Niseko or any other resort? ( Since snow tubing is not available anywhere? ) ( by train?)
            Nov 28: Chitose

            Btw, which outlet would be good for us on 1st landing day as we will be there at 9 am.

            End Nov : Hirafu freshwater/ alpen doesnt provide any shuttle.
            Driivng in the morning before 12 noon is really not advisable?

            THanks again

            Lili

            • bumblebeemum says:

              If you are driving, then you should drive all the way from CTS. One-way car rentals from Hakodate to Sapporo will incur quite a hefty drop off fee. Whereas if you pick up from CTS and drop off in Sapporo, the drop off fee is nominal (some companies don’t even charge drop off within Chitose-Sapporo region).

              You should go to Chitose Rera Outlet – it is very near CTS.

              To get to Niseko, you can use Hokkaido Resort Liner:
              http://www.access-n.jp/resortliner_eng/winter/

              I guess if you really want the convenience, you can just drive all the way. Just be prepared to drive very slowly and carefully around the Niseko region. With the car, you can visit Niseko Milk Kobo easily.

              If you want to drive all the way, I suggest you rearrange your itinerary in the following order:
              CTS – Hakodate – Lake Toya – Niseko – Otaru – Sapporo – CTS

              • lili says:

                Hi Bumble bee mum,
                Yes, your route would be best.

                However we chose to go Niseko last, because we were hoping the ski resort would be opened by then. And there would be more snow.

                So, if were to stick to Niseko last, which route would be better to drive?

                Chitose-Sapporo-Otaru- Lake Toya ( should we go to to Noboribetsu & Lake Shiokutsu ? ) – Hakodate – Niseko- Chitose

                OR

                Chitose -Nobo/ Lake Toya – Hakodate – Sapporo-Otaru-Niseko.

                Whichever better route, can u plot the map for me, please….??

                Thanks

  115. Jackson Chai says:

    Thanks a lot for your reply. Really appreciate it. But from your picture in Niseko have those thick powder snow. Really tempting.

    By the way, is it hard to drive there during winter time ? How long to take to drive there from Sapporo city ?

    • bumblebeemum says:

      It was very hard to drive in Niseko frankly. I didn’t have much trouble driving in other regions in Hokkaido – only in Niseko because the snow was so heavy which meant very poor visibility. But I guess it’s precisely because of the heavy snow that you can get fresh powdery snow every morning. I would say it is about 3 hours drive from Sapporo to Niseko in winter.

  116. eco says:

    Hi Bumble Bee Mum,

    What is the rate for the fuel charge in Hokkaido?

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Hmm… On average, maybe about 150 yen per litre? It is generally cheaper in the large cities and more expensive in the rural areas. I would say a budget of about 10,000yen should be sufficient for fuel.

  117. Jaclyn says:

    Hi Bumblebeemum,

    Really enjoy reading your resourceful blog.
    I am travelling to Hokkaido with hubby in end Nov for an 8D7N trip.
    Half way drafted the route, and stuck now, as I’m not sure I should go to Furano or Noboritbesu, keen to spend one day for ski and one day for onsen.

    Day 1 – Arrive New Chitose Airpport 9am (Stay at Sapporo)
    Day 2 – Asashikawa day trip (Stay at Sapporo)
    Day 3 – Otaru (Stay at Sapporo)
    Day 4 – Ski activity???
    Day 5 – ???
    Day 6 – ???
    Day 7 – ??? (Stay at Air Terminal Hotel)
    Day 8 – New Chitose Airport, back to KL (Flight: 9:30AM)

    Thanks.

    • bumblebeemum says:

      I wouldn’t go to Furano in November. If I want to ski in Nov, I would go to Niseko. But that’s a bit too far to be done as a day trip. I don’t think the ski resorts near Sapporo will be open by Nov though. If you want to ski, I recommend spending at least 2 nights at a ski resort. And not sure when your dates are, but Niseko Grand Hirafu only opens 21 Nov 2015:
      http://www.niseko.ne.jp/en/lift/

      When you say you want to have one day onsen, does it mean you want to stay at an onsen? Or visit an onsen town as a day trip? Usually for onsen, it is best to stay one night with half board for the full experience. And anyway, if you just want to experience soaking in an onsen, you can book a resort with onsen at Niseko. Kill two birds (ski + onsen) with one stone. 😉

      You can do something like this:

      Day 1 – Arrive New Chitose Airpport 9am (Stay at Sapporo)
      Day 2 – Asashikawa day trip (Stay at Sapporo)
      Day 3 – Otaru (Stay at Sapporo)
      Day 4 – Sapporo Sightseeing
      Day 5 – Sapporo – Niseko
      Day 6 – Niseko
      Day 7 – Niseko – CTS (Stay at Air Terminal Hotel)
      Day 8 – New Chitose Airport, back to KL (Flight: 9:30AM)

  118. Cherynn says:

    Hi, understand that u r an expert in Japan trip. My family is going to japan Tokyo in dec. can I check with you, the JR Tokyo wide pass states that children from 6-11 is 5000yen. So my kids are 5, they do not need the Jr tickets? In this case, for the ride from Tokyo to gala yuzawa through the Shinkansen, they do not have a seat?

    • bumblebeemum says:

      For children below 6, they can travel on public transport for free. But yes, that means they don’t have a seat. If there are empty seats around, they can just occupy them. But if there are no empty seats, they will have to sit on the adults’ laps.

  119. frances says:

    HI,im planning a two weeks trip to Japan.Here’s my little draft (i have limited clue about Japan in fact)..

    1)Fly into Osaka and stopover in Kyoto -day trips to Osaka,Kobe and Nara beside hang
    around within Kyoto.

    2)Move to Nagoya for a day or two to visit a friend.

    3)Move to Takayama -day trip to Shirakawa.

    4)Move to Tokyo-day trip to Mt.Fuji and Disney Land.

    Please advice.Thanks for advance.cheers.

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Sounds like a pretty classic tour to me. 2 weeks sounds like a reasonable time for the trip, not too rushed. The only thing I would do differently would be to stay near Mt Fuji for at least 1 night between Takayama and Tokyo.

  120. Edenz says:

    Hi,

    Have you booked a car from tocoo before? I have just booked with Tocoo, they give me a confirmation email d. Should i just show this confirmation email to nippon-rent-a-car on the pick up day or will there be a confirmation email from nippon rent a car themselves?

    Thanks!

  121. ENS says:

    Hi,
    My family will be going to Hokkaido in coming Dec. Upon reaching CTS airport, we will take public coach to head towards Niseko
    Day1-Day5 ==> Niseko/Hirafu skiing
    Day6-Day8 ==>Hakodate (Train from Kutchan to Osahmambe to Hakodate)
    Day9 ==> Sapporo (Train from Hakodate to Sapporo)
    Day10 ==> Asahikawa Zoo (Train from Sapporo to Asahikawa back to Sapporo)
    Day 11 ==> Otaru (Train from Sapporo to Otaru back to Sapporo)
    Day 12 ==> Sapporo
    Day 13 ==> CTS (Train from Sapporo to CTS airport)

    Quiries
    1) Is it worthwhile to buy 4 days flexible JR pass or single tickets for each train?
    2) Can we buy the single trip tickets in Singapore? As well as reserve a seat for Asahikawa Zoo Train? How can I secure all the train tickets before reaching Japan?
    3) I can only either take 19Dec or 20Dec for Asahikawa Zoo visit (only these 2 days have Zoo train service), it coincides with Japan winter school holidays start from 19Dec. Will the train/bus/zoo super pack that could dampen the visit?
    4) From Kutchan ==> Osahmambe==>Hakodate, Once in Osahmambe, how and what is the direction to get to the Hakodate train platform? Wonder if there is escalator or lift since we have luggages.
    5) I have 2 days in Hakodate, what would be the recommended places of visit and food? Which stall in Asaichi market is recommended to try grill and soup crab/squid and famous donbori? And what is good to buy in the market?
    6) I am staying at Cross hotel in Sapporo, could you advise how can I get to the hotel without having to drag the luggages in the snow? If there is an underground path will be idea
    7) Pls advise how to make my way from Cross hotel to Sapporo factory and Nijo market? Can I use Sapporo JR underground route and how to move about? Likewise can I also use the Sapporo underground route to Odori park / Parco / Mandarake?

    Thanks in advance.

    • bumblebeemum says:

      1) I did a quick check on hyperdia for the train fares for your routes:
      Kutchan – Hakodate = 5790 Yen
      Hakodate – Sapporo = 8630 Yen
      Sapporo – Asahikawa = 4610 Yen
      Asahikawa – Sapporo = 4610 Yen
      Sapporo – Otaru = 640 Yen
      Otaru – Sappor = 640 Yen

      Add them up and see if it’s more or less than the Hokkaido pass. 😉

      2) If you are using the rail pass, you can only reserve your seats after you reach Japan.

      3) Umm.. The Asahiyama Zoo Train operates only when there is demand, so it is not a coincidence you can only ride it during their school holidays weekend. So yes, you can expect it to be crowded. But since seats on the Asahiyama Zoo train are strictly by reservation, it won’t be overcrowded since people can’t just board the train and stand around without a reserved seat. If you are using the JR Pass, you can reserve your seat once you have activated your pass. So you can make the reservation at Kutchan station (basically you can reserve seats for any JR train from any JR station).

      4) Never taken the train there before since I always self-drive, so not sure about the platforms. Train stations in Japan are pretty well-signed, I woudn’t worry too much about directions. Though you may not always have escalators or elevators.

      5) You can read about our Hakodate visit on this post. I recommend the stall we ate crabs at (it faces the train station, I have a photo of the store in the post) and the small stall we ate Uni at. Squid fishing in ubiquitous in the market. And you should buy those Hori corn chocolate at the shop inside Hakodate Morning Market Square (also mentioned in the post).

      Beside the market, do visit Lucky Pierrot. It’s a fast food chain only found in Hakodate and extremely popular. I’m not a big fan of their chicken burger (which I think is their best seller) and prefer their Hotate burger.

      6) Cross Hotel doesn’t look like it’s connected to the station. If you want to minimise the walk in the open, I think you will need to make your way to Exit 1 of the Underground shopping arcade, or Exit 22 of Toho Subway Line. You can refer to the map on the Japanese page:
      http://www.crosshotel.com/sapporo/access.html
      Click on the A B C to see the various routes from Sapporo station.

      Just to clarify.. Are you Sapporo Factory or Sapporo Beer Museum? They are different places. Sapporo Beer museum requires a bus ride (Loop 88 Factory Line). Sapporo Factory can be accessed by subway (Bus Centre Mae station).

      Nijo Market – I would just walk there. Get into the underground shopping arcade and head South until you see the exit for Tanukikoji. If you are walking Southward, you should take the exit for Tanukikoji on your LEFT. Then continue walking along Tanukikoji (a sheltered shopping arcade) all the way till the end and when the shelter ends, you will see Nijo Market right in front of you. Here is route on Google Map via underground shopping arcade + Tanukikoji:
      https://goo.gl/maps/ouitFUYHNu92

      7) Odori Park and Parco are linked to the underground shopping arcade. Not so sure about Mandarake though. For Mandarake, you can again exit the underground shopping arcade at Tanukikoji exit, but this time use the exit on the RIGHT (different direction as Nijo Market). Then at the first traffic junction you hit along Tanukikoji, turn left and walk a bit in the open and you should see Mandarake already.
      > See Google Map

  122. bluemoon88 says:

    Hi Bumblebeemum!! So glad to come across your blog while searching for tips for free&easy Hokkaido. Basically, we are a party of 2 going in June 2016 and we have 10 full days. We are trying to minimise driving.

    Could you recommend if we should get any kind of rail pass based on itinerary below? Also for Day 10 is there anything interesting to stop by driving back from Akan to Sapporo. thx in advance!!

    Day 1: Reach early morning. Sapporo Sightseeing (stay Sapporo)

    Day 2: Day trip to Otaru by train (stay Sapporo)

    Day 3: Sapporo Sightseeing (stay Sapporo)

    Day 4: Take train from Sapporo to Hakodate. take a scroll around Onuma Koen. Hakodate sightseeing. (stay Hakodate)

    Day 5: Visit Hakodate Morning Market. Then take train from Hakodate to Chitose and rent a car. Drive to Niseko visit Mishima San’s Shibazakura Garden. Catch Lake Toya fireworks at 8.45pm. (stay Lake Toya)

    Day 6: Explore Lake Shikotsu Mount Usu etc. Drive to Noboribetsu (sightseeing) and Tomamu. Stay at tomamu

    Day 7: Go up Unkai Terrace in the morning. After that, head to Furano. Night Furano

    Day 8 : Drive to Biei. Sightseeing at Biei/Shirogane Onsen. Night Furano

    Day 9: Drive to Akan National Park. Night at Akan National Park

    Day 10: Return Car. Stay Sapporo

    Day 11: Morning flight back to Singapore

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Day 5: This is way too rushed. I suggest you skip Niseko and head to Lake Toya directly.

      Day 6: Go in this order: Lake Toya – Mount Usu – Noboribetsu – Lake Shikotsu – Tomamu

      Day 9: I would return the car back to CTS and stay at Air Terminal Hotel instead of going back to Sapporo. You can stop at Obihiro to eat buta don and visit Rokkatei main store.

  123. bluemoon88 says:

    Hello again, come to think of it, we may want to go to Shakotan Peninsular instead of Akan National Park (since it feels similar to Lake Toya). This might mess up the itinerary tho, any idea how we could incorporate this in?

    Also, appreciate your help to recommend if we should get any kind of rail pass??

    [draft]

    Day 1: Reach early morning. Sapporo Sightseeing (stay Sapporo)

    Day 2: Day trip to Otaru by train (stay Sapporo)

    Day 3: Sapporo Sightseeing (stay Sapporo)

    Day 4: Take train from Sapporo to Hakodate. take a scroll around Onuma Koen. Hakodate sightseeing. (stay Hakodate)

    Day 5: Visit Hakodate Morning Market. Then take train from Hakodate to Chitose and rent a car. Drive to Niseko visit Mishima San’s Shibazakura Garden. Catch Lake Toya fireworks at 8.45pm. (stay Lake Toya)

    Day 6: Explore Lake Shikotsu Mount Usu etc. Drive to Noboribetsu (sightseeing) and Tomamu. Stay at tomamu

    Day 7: Go up Unkai Terrace in the morning. After that, head to Furano. Night Furano

    Day 8 : Drive to Biei. Sightseeing at Biei/Shirogane Onsen. Night Furano

    Day 9: Drive to Akan National Park. Night at Akan National Park

    Day 10: Return Car. Stay Sapporo

    Day 11: Morning flight back to Singapore

    • bumblebeemum says:

      I don’t think it’s practical to go all the way from Hakodate to Shakotan in a 10 days trip. HOkkaido is HUGE! If you want to go Shakotan, I suggest you skip Hakodate and focus on Eastern Hokkaido. i.e. Sapporo – Tomamu – Akan – Shakotan – Abashiri – Biei – Furano – CTS

  124. Anonymous says:

    hi bumblebeemum, is going hokkaido not advisable during the period 20 – 25 March 2016? some people say its the end of winter, where snow has melted. and it will be slippery.

  125. HC says:

    Dear “Bumble Bee Mum”, thanks for this great blog! My wife and I are planning to do self drive over 8 days to see the cherry blossoms in Hokkaido in end Apr to early May 2016. This will be our second trip to Hokkaido; the first was also self-drive in autumn October, covering key places on the western side eg Jozankei, Niseko, Hakodate, Lake Toya and Nobiribetsu. As before, we will probably start and end at Sapporo. Of interest are food and scenic. Would appreciate your suggestions on the route, places of interest and any other tips from your experience. Thank you in advance. =)

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Hi, sorry for the late reply as I have been overseas. Cherry blossom period in Hokkaido happen to coincide with Golden Week in Japan, so do expect crowds and accommodation / car rental to be more expensive than in Autumn.

      For cherry blossom viewing, the main spots are Matsumae Castle and Hakodate Goryokaku and Sapporo. There is also famous cherry blossom avenue near Noboribetsu. So you should not go wrong planning a route going South: Sapporo – Noboribetsu – Hakodate – Matsumae.

  126. eco says:

    Hi bumble bee mum,

    Below is my itinerary:

    Summary:
    Day 01 28/7 Thu: Depart from KL to CTS
    Day 02 29/7 Fri: CTS – Lake Shikotsu – Noboribetsu (Noboribetsu, 1 night)
    Day 03 30/7 Sat: Noboribetsu – Lake Toya (Lake Toya, 1 night)
    Day 04 31/7 Sun: Lake Toya – Sapporo (Sapporo, 1 night)
    Day 05 01/8 Mon: Sapporo (Day trip to Otaru) (Sapporo, 1 night)
    Day 06 02/8 Tue: Sapporo (Sapporo, 1 night)
    Day 07 03/8 Wed: Sapporo – Asahikawa (Asahikawa, 1 night)
    Day 08 04/8 Thu: Asahikawa – Abashiri (Abashiri, 1 night)
    Day 09 05/8 Fri: Abashiri – Shiretoko (Shiretoko, 1 night)
    Day 10 06/8 Sat: Shiretoko (Shiretoko, 1 night)
    Day 11 07/8 Sun: Shiretoko – Lake Akan (Lake Akan, 1 night)
    Day 12 08/8 Mon: Lake Akan – Furano (Furano, 1 night)
    Day 13 09/8 Tue: Furano (Furano, 1 night)
    Day 14 10/8 Wed: Furano (Day trip to Biei) (Furano, 1 night)
    Day 15 11/8 Thu: Furano – CTS (Chitose, 1 night)
    Day 16 12/8 Fri: CTS back to KL

    Earlier you recommend me Hotel Mahoroba http://www.h-mahoroba.jp/ for Noboribetsu however I can’t see this hotel on booking.com. I tried their website it is in Japanese even I clicked on the English button. May I know how did you check the information and booking last time? Between, how far from Chitose drive up to Lake Toya? The reason I asked because I found out there are very limited accommodation available on booking.com. Will it be better I put up a night at Lake Toya on Day 02 29/7 instead of put a night at Noboribetsu?

    You have also very kind recommend Toya Sunpalace http://toyasunpalace.co.jp/ to me for Lake Toya but again, I can’t see it available on booking.com too. And I don’t understand Japanese from their website.

    If the drive from Chitose airport drive up to Lake Toya is not too long, is it advisable I put a night at Lake Toya on Day 02 29/7 and then next day drive back to Sapporo – Mercury Hotel?

    What to expect at Noboribetsu on Summer time? From your post http://bumblebeemum.net/2015/01/21/hokkaido-with-kids-december-2014-part-4-chitose-lake-shikotsu-niseko-lake-toya-noboribetsu-rusutsu/ you went to the Noboribetsu Marine Park NIXE is it suitable for 11 & 9?

    Thank you.

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Hi,

      Hotel Mahoroba may not be open for booking for July / August next year yet which is why you don’t see it. Try again about 6 months before your travel. Same applies for all other accommodation in other parts of Hokkaido.

      Do you children like aquariums? If they do, then you can considering going to Noboribetsu. There is a small retro amusement park next to it and the penguin parade should be quite interesting for them.

      Personally, I am not a big fan of Noboribetsu and prefer Lake Toya. So it is possible for you to skip Noboribetsu and just drive CTS – Lake Shikotsu – Lake Toya.

  127. AW says:

    Hi Bumblebeemum, planning a trip to Fukuoka next April, first time for us (2) – is 9 days too long – no idea on itinerary at all. Need your advise. Thank you.

    • bumblebeemum says:

      I have never been to Fukuoka so can’t provide you any first-hand experience. But when I am visiting a new region, I usually go to a travel agency to pick up brochures for their package tours and roughly follow their itinerary. From the package tour routes, I will remove places I’m not interested in then google for places along the route to slot in. I usually stay with japan-guide.com for destinations. With 9 days, I wouldn’t restrict myself to Fukuoka. I would rent a car to go around Kyushu island.

  128. XinDi says:

    Hi BB mum,

    Happened to chance upon your blog and it is really interesting and detail. However, I have some questions which need answers but can’t really decide which directions/answer to follow… Need your help on the following:-

    1) I’ll be taking ana flight from sg to new chitose via narita. My transit time is 1hr20min, will there be sufficient time to do so? (I’ll be moving with a group of 8 which includes 3 kids). Am I required to clear customs pick-up my luggage and check-in again?

    2) We have no one driving as none of us are comfortable driving overseas. Currently, I have otaru, Sapporo factory, wholesale market, ishiya choco factory tanuki street, underground shopping in my itinerary which can be covered over 3 days. I have 3 more days being empty, meaning I’ll be in hokkaido for 6 days and later heading to tokyo for another 4 days. Where to go during end may – 1st week of june in Hokkaido that can be accessed by public transport? I wish to visit a hot spring (if there are private ones even better), fruit farms & flower parks/garden.

    3) I’m looking at local tours or land tours, do you have any recommendations?

    Sorry to trouble you, I might have more questions coming u 😛 & many thanks!

    • bumblebeemum says:

      1) Yup, you should have enough time if it’s ANA all the way and your arrival and departure is both at Narita. You would have gotten both boarding passes at Singapore airport so there is no need to check-in again at Narita. The only thing you need to do is pick up your luggage, follow the direction signs to ‘Domestic transfer’ and drop your luggage off again at the counter. There is no immigration to clear for the domestic sector so you just proceed to board your domestic flight.

      2) I don’t think you can visit fruit farms in Hokkaido in end May as they probably just finished scrapping off the snow and planting seeds for the year. As for flowers, it is definitely too early for the famous flower fields in Furano / Biei, BUT it is the best time for shibazakura at Takinoue and tulips at Kamiyubetsu. You can join a day trip from Sapporo if nobody wants to drive:
      http://www.yokoso-japan.jp/en/22880.html

      Otherwise, for train travel, I recommend going South to Hakodate.

      3) You can try to same website above for day trips. I have never joined any of them though, since I always self-drive. No idea how well they cater to non-Japanese speaking travellers. But they have a good English website so that at least is a good start. :p

  129. Selena says:

    Hi Bumblebeemum, I am planning a summer self drive to Hokkaido from 22 July – 1 August but to my horror whilst I am still working through the research, that the onsens in Noboribetsu and hotels in Sapporo are fully booked! There is limited choices in Sapporo at much higher prices and I do not dare check for Furano/Lake Toya. This is our first trip to Hokkaido although we have been to other parts of Japan using JR pass. For Hokkaido peak season, do I have to book 1 year in advance? Grateful for any advice

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Erm.. I don’t think they are fully booked. I think they haven’t opened for booking for summer 2016 yet. Try the booking sites again about 6 months before your travel. 🙂

      But yeah, that is Hokkaido’s peak travel period so accommodation will be expensive.

  130. Dorothy Cheong says:

    Dear Bumblebeemum,

    Thank you very much for your advice. I have a good, interesting and wonderful trip to Hokkaido from 9-19 Dec 2015, self-drive. No issue with driving in the snow. Experience snow falling heavily. Driving with HEP helps save substantially.
    Most memorial impression: Morning Market ( Hakodate Asaichi) – large-sized king crab, hairy crab, scallop & squid; Hoshino Resort Tomamu – excellent service, food, stay and snow activities; Lake Akan – serene & beautiful lake; Asahiyama Zoo – able to see all the animals that we wish to see eg penguins, red foxes, wolves, etc.; Asahikawa Ramen Village – samurai ramen (scallop); Richmond Hotel Sapporo-Odori – in the centre of shopping, food, sight-seeing and coin laundry; Shiroi Koibito Park & Sapporo Curb Market – large-sized King crab, snow crabs, scallops, oysters & clams.

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Haha.. Looks like you all ate quite a lot of large-size King crabs! Glad you had fun.. I miss Hakodate Asaichi and Tomamu already. Haven’t been to Asahikawa Ramen Village yet, think I really should visit it one day. Hope I remember the Samurai Ramen then!

  131. XinDi says:

    Thanks alot! I’ll go thru the yokoso web to see any day tours!

    Btw the location to pick up my luggage is it pretty far away from the domestic area? (because i know of some airport it is almost from 1 end to another which is almost 20-30min walk)

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Nope, it’s not far if you are transferring from ANA to ANA. You basically pick it up from the belt, walk out the door and you’ll see the counter to drop off your luggage again. Just remember to follow the sign that says ‘Domestic Transfer’.

  132. hazel lim says:

    Hi Bumblebeemum,

    I am planning for a trip to Hokkaido in June 2016 for a 10-day trip. Not sure whether to do a self-drive or is it possible to travel around Hokkaido by public transport. May I know what is your recommendation? It is difficult to adjust to the left-hand drive in Japan? I am a bit sceptical on driving in Hokkaido. it’s a pretty daunting thought for me.
    Thank you in advance for your advice.

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Are you from Singapore? Japan uses right-hand drive – same as Singapore. So Singaporeans usually have no problems driving in Hokkaido.

      Whether to drive of use public transport depends on where you want to visit. If you are visiting the major cities such as Sappooro, Otaru, Hakodate – then rail should suffice. But if you want to hit the more rural and scenic parts of Hokkaido, then I recommend you get a car. In particular, if you are visiting in late June and planning to visit the flower fields of Furano and Biei, I recommend you get a rental car. If you are worried about driving long distances, you can take a train until Furano and rent a car from there.

  133. SG says:

    Hi,
    Read your blog ion driving in winter in East Hokkaido. I intend to visit with 3 friends in early Feb. How hard is it to drive during winter ? I have asked various sites and most discourage it as when I mention we are from Singapore. I thought of getting a 3 day JR Pass but moving with luggages on public transport and local buses in winter seems quite daunting..
    Appreciate your advice.
    SG

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Many of our readers did self-drive over the last December holidays and said that it was okay. There are dangers, but the important thing is to be very patient and drive slow – do not be tempted to speed. Plan a very loose itinerary to give yourself ample time for driving without feeling the need to rush. If you want to cover more places and spend less time on the road, you can take the train to the nearest city and rent a car from there. For e.g. if you are planning to visit Lake Akan, you can take the train to Kushiro and rent a car from there to explore Akan National Park.

      I have written tips for driving in winter on this post:
      http://bumblebeemum.net/2015/08/29/free-easy-hokkaido-winter-trip-essential-travel-tips/

      If you have any more concerns after reading it, feel free to drop it under the comments.

  134. sukey27 says:

    Dear Bumblebeemum,

    Your blog is really wonderful giving me some ideas on how to start up on our Hokkaido trip planning coming Summer.
    We are travelling in a group with 7 adults and 2 children ( 5 year and 1+ year old). Appreciate your advise on
    the draft itenary below.

    Day 1 6/8 (Sat): Depart from KL to New Chitose

    Day 2 7/8 (Sun): New Chitose to Sapporo by train (Sapporo, 1 night)

    Day 3 8/8 (Mon): Sapporo to Furano (Driving)

    Day 4 9/8 (Tue): Biei, Asahikawa (Ramen Village)

    Day 5 10/8 (Wed): Furano/Biei/Asahikawa to Hakodate by driving (Hakodate, 1 night)

    Day 6 11/8 (Thu): Hakodate

    Day 7 12/8 (Fri): Hakodate to Sapporo by car ( Sapporo , 1 night)

    Day 8 13/8 (Sat): Day trip to Otaru by train (Sapporo, 1 night)

    Day 9 14/8 (Sun): New Chitose to KL

    For Day 3 and 4 need your suggestion on where should be a better place to stay ?
    The accomodation prices in Furano and Biei is high. Is there other town that we should consider
    to put up nights ?

    Travelling to Hakodate is a long journey, in the blog there is mention of Lake Toya is it possible
    to fit it into the itenary ?

    Thank you in advance for your advice.

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Your driving on Day 5 from Furano to Hakodate is too long. I suggest you split it up by spending 1 night at Lake Toya.

      Also, I would do the Otaru day trip on Day 3 and on drive back to CTS directly from Hakodate.

      Day 1 6/8 (Sat): Depart from KL to New Chitose
      Day 2 7/8 (Sun): New Chitose to Sapporo by train (stay Sapporo)
      Day 3 8/8 (Mon): Otaru day trip (stay Sapporo)
      Day 4 9/8 (Tue): Sapporo to Furano (stay Furano or Asahikawa)
      Day 5 10/8 (Wed): Biei, Asahikawa (stay Furano or Asahikawa)
      Day 6 11/8 (Thur): Furano – Lake Toya (stay Lake Toya)
      Day 7 12/8 (Fri): Lake Toya – Hakodate (stay Hakodate)
      Day 8 13/8 (Sat): Hakodate – CTS (stay Air Terminal Hotel)
      Day 9 14/8 (Sun): New Chitose to KL

      Accommodation in Furano and Biei is very expensive in August because it’s the peak period for visiting the flower fields in the region. If you want to save money, stay at Asahikawa. The hotels in Asahikawa city will be much cheaper.

      • sukey27 says:

        That is such a good suggestion on the itenary. Than you.
        I am looking into car rental arrangement and saw that you have recommended to rent from ToCoo for non Japanese speaking visitor. Since there is 7 adult and 2 children (5 and 1+), what would be a good option on the car ?

        2 cars ?
        – 1 car for 4 passengers ( where 2 adult and the children).
        Is a 600cc car enough for this ? Does it have enough boot space for a stroller ?
        – 1 car for 5 passengers ( where 5 adult would sit)
        Does it have enough boot space for 5 adult luggage?

        I have tried to put in the search date in August 2016 , however it was not enabled for choosing. Does it work like the accommodation where it is only available 6 months before travel date ?

        The other car rental mentioned in your feedback to others is skyrent. I tried using google translate on some of the item on their web page. Is there an option to rent from Sapporo and return it at the new chitose ?

        Thanks again.

        • bumblebeemum says:

          With 7 adults and 2 cars, you definitely need 2 cars. I don’t recommend a 600cc car. At least get a 5-seater 1300cc sedan for both comfort and safety. Winds can be quite strong in Japan and when I drove a 1300cc car on my last trip, I could feel the car being blown by the horizontal wind. And I doubt a 600cc car would have much boot space. My 1300cc car could only fit 1 big luggage case and we had to put the stroller at the leg space in front of the rear seats.

          For 1300cc car, it really depends on model. The one I got on my last trip, as I mentioned, could only fit 1 large luggage case into the boot. So with 2 cars, you only have space for 2 large luggage cases. If you have a lot of luggage cases, you would need a 7 seater. The last time I went to Hokkaido as a group of 5 adults, we had to rent a 7 seater (Toyota Wish) to fit all our luggage.

          Hence if you all have a lot of luggage, I recommend getting a 1300cc + a 7-seater. Use the 1300cc for 2 adults + 2 kids + stroller, and use the 7-seater for the remaining 5 adults and all the luggage. Limit the entire group to 5 luggage cases.

          It’s too early to book for August 2016 now. Try about 3 months before your travel date.

          For Skyrent, you can try their English booking form:
          http://www.sky-rentacar.jp/e-reserve/index2.html
          You can select different office from pick-up and return on the form.

  135. Jason Lim says:

    Dear BumbleBeeMum,

    I am planning to visit Hokkaido this coming May 2016 (14 to 25 May), as this is my 1st trip to Japan I need some advice from you (your blog on Japan is Great).

    I will be flying from Singapore by Korean Air (Singapore (transit @ Korea) to New Chitose Airport). However, there are too many places that my wife wish to visit and I really do not know where to start (I will end at Sapporo), what to wear and should i drive as 1st time to Hokkaido?

    My planned is
    14 to 18 May (4 nights) – Hakodate
    19 to 21 (2 nights) – Biei & Furano
    22 to 25 (3 nights) – Sapporo, Otaru and Noboribetsu

    Sample attraction to visit…
    Sapporo and Otaru (around 14 attractions)
    e.g. Mt. Okura Observatory, Odori Park, Sapporo JR Tower Observatory T38, Lake Shikotsu,
    Otaru Canal, Otaru Aquarium, Mt. Tengu, Lake Toya etc

    Noboribetsu (can’t decide to go or not)
    Jigokudani (Hell Valley), Noboribetsu Gateway Cente, River Oyunuma Natural Footbath &
    Noboribetsu-Date Historic Village

    Biei & Furano (around 12 attractions)
    e.g. Blue Pond, Shikisai No Oka Garden, Panorama Road, Shirahige Falls, Glass Forest in FURANO, Farm Tomita, Farm Tomita Lavender East & Flower Land Kamifurano etc

    Kato District & Kamikawa (can’t decide to go or not)
    e.g. Shikaribetsu Lake, Taushubetsu Bridge, Ogigahara Observatory, Tokachigaoka Observatory, Daisetsuzan Sounkyo Ropeway, Kamikawa Ice Pavilion, Ginga and Ryusei waterfalls etc

    Hakodate (12 attractions)
    e.g. Mount Hakodate (Hakodate-yama),Goryokaku Park, Mt. Esan, Morning Market, Onuma Park Walking Path etc

    Please advise.

    Thanks.
    Jason Lim

    • bumblebeemum says:

      When planning a Hokkaido trip, I usually recommend looking at the season and prioritizing based on the season. So if I’m going during your dates (late May), I will skip Furano & Biei because they are better for summer (July / Aug). I will also skip Daisetsuzan because that’s an Autumn place. But I would try to visit Takinoue for shibazakura and Kamiyubetsu for tulips:
      http://takinoue.com/?english
      http://www.town.yubetsu.lg.jp/tulippark/en/

      Takinoue & Kamiyubetsu can be done via day trip from Sapporo, either by rental car or joining a day tour like this one:
      http://www.yokoso-japan.jp/en/22880.html

      You can do something like this:

      14 May: CTS – Sapporo
      15 May: Sapporo city sightseeing
      16 May: Sapporo (day trip to Otaru)
      17 May: Sapporo (day trip to Takinoue + Kamiyubetsu)
      18 May: Sapporo city sightseeing
      19 May: Sapporo – Noboribetsu
      20 May: Noboribetsu (day trip to Lake Toya by rental car)
      21 May: Noboribetsu – Hakodate (Bay Area + Goryokaku Tower)
      22 May: Hakodate (Onuma Koen + Mount Hakodate)
      23 May: Hakodate (Mount Esan)
      24 May: Hakodate (Morning Market) – CTS
      25 May: Flight back

  136. Michellevoo says:

    Hi Bumblebeemum,

    Me and my friends are travelling to Hokkaido from 18th – 23rd March 2016. We want to experience snow + nature together but we are not interested in skiing. So what places can we go that is still thick with snow?

    We are hoping to do this as a day trip from Sapporo. Thanks alot!

    • bumblebeemum says:

      You can head to Abashiri or Monbetsu for a day trip to catch the ice-breaker cruise:
      http://www.garinko.com/
      https://ms-aurora.com/abashiri/en/

      Will you be interested in visiting Asahiyama Zoo? Not really nature but there’s the famous penguin parade and you will be able to see animals in the snow:
      http://www5.city.asahikawa.hokkaido.jp/asahiyamazoo/

      • michellevoo says:

        Thanks. I’ve drafted my itinerary as follow :

        Day 1 KIX to CTS
        Day 2 Sapporo
        Day 3 Day trip to Otaru
        Day 4 Day trip to Obihiro (Going to Lake Shikaribetsu)
        Day 5 Day trip to Asahikawa (Going to Asahidake Ropeway)
        Day 6 CTS to KIX

        Day 3 – 5, will be using Hokkaido Rail Pass

        • bumblebeemum says:

          Hmm.. You have chosen some pretty far flung destinations that are not near the train stations. Have you figured out your transport to Lake Shikaribetsu and Asahidake? It looks to me that you will be spending a lot of time on transport. Please check the timetable very carefully because buses to these places will be very limited and time your train rides properly the catch the buses.

          • michellevoo says:

            I’ll be going by train then bus. Yeah, I’ve emailed to the tourism in Japan to check out the bus schedule and so far it’s good in terms of transit from train to bus. I’ve checked the train schedules using hyperdia.

  137. Edenz says:

    Hi,
    I will be visiting Hokkaido end of January. I was planning a trip from Niseko to Sapporo via the Shakotan Peninsula way to catch the nice scenery of the ocean and capes. Do u have any idea are they open for visit during winter? And would you recommend me to go for it? Is there any other places which i can have a very nice scenery of the ocean and capes available?

  138. Edenz says:

    Why would you go to shakotan penisular in winter? Do you have any idea if they are open or not? And initially for my Kusharo trip, u suggested i do Tsurui Ito Tancho Sanctuary > Lake Kussharo > Iozan > Lake Mashu. Do you mind pointing out the entrance point of these locations on google maps?

    • Edenz says:

      wouldnt*

    • bumblebeemum says:

      I would think it would be open since it’s a nature spot, but I’m really not sure since I haven’t been there in winter before. The restaurants and accommodation in the region are closed in winter, so I imagine the area should be pretty deserted. I went to Shakotan mainly for their seafood, so if the restaurants are not open, I wouldn’t bother driving all the way there. It is quite a big detour.

      Here is the google map location of the scenic spots at Akan National Park in the order Tsurui – Lake Mashu – Iozan – Lake Kussharo – Lake Akan:
      https://goo.gl/maps/L7jirsGWvDS2

    • Edenz says:

      Thanks for your feedback! Shakotan view during winter is nice? Regarding the Akan National park,is it possible todo all those in 1 day then back to stay at Kushiro?

  139. edenz says:

    So do u think its possible to do all Tsurui – Lake Mashu – Iozan – Lake Kussharo – Lake Akan in 1 day then back to stay at Kushiro for the night accomodation?

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Hmm.. I would do Tsurui on a separate day. If it’s just Lake Akan, Lake Masshu, Iozan and Lake Kussharo, it is doable if you set off early:

      7 – 9am: Drive Kushiro – Lake Akan
      9 – 10am: Lake Akan sightseeing
      10 – 11.30am: Drive Lake Akan – Lake Mashu
      11.30am – 12 noon: Lake Mashu sightseeing
      12 – 12.30pm: Drive Lake Mashu – Iozan
      12.30 – 1.30pm: Sightseeing + lunch at Iozan
      1.30 – 2pm: Drive Iozan – Lake Kussharo
      2- 2.30pm: Lake Kussharo sightseeing
      2.30pm – 4.30pm: Drive Lake Kussharo – Kushiro

      The sightseeing at Lake Mashu, Lake Kussharo and Iozan will not take very long because the carparks are right next to the scenic spots.

      • Edenz says:

        You actually suggested on one of my day in Hokkaido to spend 1 day in Lake Shikotsu to watch their ice festival. If i am to arrive at Lake shikotsu around 12pm, then depart back to my hotel in New Chitose at 7pm, do u think its sufficient for me to see the necessary things over there?

        • bumblebeemum says:

          That’s more than enough time for the festival. The festival is not big, so you don’t need that much time actually. But I recommend going after dark because it’s nicer with the lighting.

  140. Julie says:

    2 adults traveling with 18 and 20 year old daughters November 2016
    We are interested in viewing Fall colors as well a a day at Tokyo Disney Sea.
    What would be a good 10 day itenerary to include highlights of Japan that time of year?
    Which airline from the US would you recommend?
    Any other tips highly appreciated!
    Thank you so much for your information!

  141. Angeli says:

    Hi! I’ve been reading your travel blog for two nights already, and I find it very informative :–)) Would you please help my family and I in planning our trip to Japan on May? I already booked our flight to Narita on the 19th, and we’re staying in the country until the 29th. We haven’t booked our domestic flight from Haneda to Sapporo yet, since I’m still finalizing our itinerary. I’ll be traveling with my husband and four kids – 14, 13, 9, and two years old respectively. We plan to rent a car in Hokkaido. We also wanted to know your recommended sakura spots that we could visit? Here’s our itinerary :–))

    Day 1: Arrival at Narita at 12:10 pm (Book a hotel in Ueno/Ginza)
    Day 2: Tokyo City tour (Tsukiji Market, Tokyo Skytree, Ginza, Tokyu Hands)
    Day 3: Tokyo City Tour
    Day 4: Tokyo to Mt. Fuji (We wanted to drive to Mt. Fuji, but we were wondering if taking this tour is a bit more practical?

    https://www.govoyagin.com/activities/japan-yamanashi-breathtaking-scenery-mtfuji-hakone-one-day-tour/876

    We’ll be staying in one of the ryokan hotels with private onsens in the balcony with the Mt. Fuji view. I was wondering if ryokan hotels are strict with the number of people in one room? For example, if I book a room for 3 adults, will they find out at the check-in counter that we’ll be 6 people in the room?)

    Day 5: Mt. Fuji to Tokyo to Sapporo

    Will there be shuttle buses at the ryokan hotels to bring us to the train station back to Tokyo? Which is more practical: to take the regular train or the bullet train?

    We’ll be arriving in Sapporo at night. Where can we stay, in hotels in Susukino or in hotels near Sapporo Station?

    When can we start the rental for the car in Hokkaido? Can we already rent one while still in Sapporo?

    Day 6: Sapporo Sightseeing

    *Odori Park, Sapporo Tower, Kirin or Nakajima Beer Garden, food trip, Takino Suzuran Hillside Park, Chocolate Factory, Maruyama Park

    Day 7: Sapporo to Otaru

    *Otaru Canal, Music Box Museum, Otaru Aquarium

    Day 8: Asahikawa (zoo, ramen), Takinoue, Kamiyubetsu

    Day 9: Higashimokoto, Matsumae Castle, Lake Toya (optional)

    Do you think we’re visiting too much flower fields and sakura spots?

    Day 10: Sapporo (?)
    I haven’t booked our flight from Sapporo to Haneda, but we need to be there by 9:30 pm.

    Day 11: 1:30am flight back to our country

    Thanks for your help :–)) We really appreciate it.

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Firstly, your dates are a tad too late for sakura. If you are in Hokkaido in late May, I suggest you go for the shibazakura and tulips instead.

      Regarding Mount Fuji, with your number of people, I would opt for self-drive.

      Yes, ryokans are strict about the number of people. If you book for 3 adults, you will still need to pay for the children during check-in.

      Regarding train between Tokyo and Mount Fuji, if you are driving, you won’t need to take the train. But if you want to take the train, regular train is much cheaper than bullet train (about half the price) but slower. So it’s really a matter of which is more important: To save time or to save money.

      Regarding accommodation in Sapporo, staying in Susukino would be more happening at night and you can walk to Odori Park / TV Tower from there. But staying in Sapporo will allow you easier access to Otaru by train. I personally prefer Susukino.

      I suggest you go to Otaru by train on your second day in Sapporo and start your car rental on the third day.

      Day 6: You are trying to cover too many places in a day.

      Day 8: It is not possible to cover Asahikawa Zoo + Takinoue + Kamiyubetsu in one day.

      Day 9: Again, it is not possible to cover Higashimokoto + Matsumae in one day – there are on different ends of Hokkaido.

      Your time in Hokkaido is very short and Hokkaido is huge. You won’t be able to cover a lot of places, so this is what I would suggest:

      Day 5: Arrive in Sapporo at night
      Day 6: Otaru Day trip from Sapporo
      Day 7: Rent a car and visit Takino Suzuran Hillside Park, Chocolate Factory and Beer Garden.
      Day 8: Drive Sapporo to Asahikawa, visit Asahiyama Zoo
      Day 9: Drive Asahikawa to Takinoue to Kamiyubetsu and back to Sapporo. Return the car if the car rental office is still open, if not return it first thing the next morning. Either ways it should be considered 3 days rental if your return time is not later than pick-up time.
      Day 10: Visit Odori Park and Sapporo Tower (walkable from Susukino). You will have time for one more place if your flight is at night, so I recommend you go to Nijo Market for food (walkable from Susukino / Sapporo Tower).

  142. Angeli says:

    Hi! Thank you for your prompt reply.

    Are there any sakura spots in Sapporo? We’ll just try our luck :–))

    If we drive ourselves to Mt. Fuji, would you know what the travel time is and how much the rent is for the car? Will it also be easier to get to Komagatake Ropeway and Lake Ashi if we are driving or should we still get the tour package?

    Will there be enough time to get from Mt. Fuji to Haneda Airport, if our flight is at 5:30 pm? What time would you suggest we leave Mt. Fuji?

    Regarding Day 8, are you suggesting that we’ll stay in Asahikawa? Any hotel recommendations?

    What is the travel time from Asahikawa to Takinoue? Also from Kamiyubetsu to Saporro?

    Thank you again! 🙂

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Here are the cherry blossom spots in Sapporo:
      http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e5316.html

      Depending on which part of Tokyo you are starting from. If you start from Shibuya and drive direct to Hakone non-stop via the expressway, it should take 1.5 – 2 hours. From other parts of Tokyo, you will still need to navigate your way through Tokyo to the expressway entrance near Shibuya and that alone can take quite a long time.

      I would leave Mount Fuji by 1.30pm if I have a flight at Haneda at 5.30pm.

      For Day 8, yup, I suggest you stay at Asahikawa for the night. You can try JR Inn Asahikawa.

      Asahikawa to Takinoue is about 2 hours, Takinoue to Kamiyubetsu is about 1 hour and Kamiyubetsu to Sapporo is about 3.5 hours.

      • Angeli says:

        Thank you very much! Your travel tips and suggestions are highly appreciated. God bless you and your beautiful family! 🙂

      • Angeli says:

        Hi, what’s more practical: to rent an ETC card or to get an HEP? We’ll be renting at Toyota ?

        • Angeli says:

          Hi, sorry I forgot to include our itinerary. What’s more practical, to rent an ETC card to to get an HEP? We’ll be renting at Toyota.

          Here’s our plan:

          May 24: Arrival in Sapporo
          May 25: Otaru by train
          May 26: Sapporo (self-drive, rent a car)
          May 27: Sapporo to Asahikawa
          May 28: Asahikawa to Takinoue to Kamiyubetsu
          then back to Sapporo (Return car)
          May 29: Sapporo to Chitose

          Thanks 🙂

          • bumblebeemum says:

            For a 3 days rental, you can consider getting the HEP. Think the return toll fees between Sapporo and Asahikawa if you pay cash would cost more than 5100yen (the price of a 3-days HEP).

  143. Dwie says:

    Hi,

    I will like to plan a winter trip to Hokkaido with my family next year.

    Will like to seek your advise how many days is sufficient for Hokkaido.

    Some places on mind, arashiyama zoo, hoshino resort tomanu, otaru, shiroi kiobito park. Any other places suitable for kids ? As I will be taking trains will like to go to places which is easy access for train rides. Thanks. 🙂

    • bumblebeemum says:

      For the places you listed, a week should be sufficient. For places that are accessible by train, you can consider visiting Hakodate. You can also consider visiting Noboribetsu Marine Life Park NIXE which is near Noboribetsu station and Onuma Koen near Hakodate.

  144. Kira Lim says:

    Hi.

    My parents will be traveling to Japan in June.

    I’m helping them on the itinerary and the schedule is Osaka, Kyoto, Nagoya, then back to Tokyo.

    I’m wondering do you have any advice or suggestion? Or any recommendations on these cities?

    Thank you.

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Hmm.. What are your parents interested in? If it’s my parents, I would probably recommend the following:

      Osaka: Osaka Castle, Dotonburi, Side-trips to Himeji Castle and Nara
      Kyoto: Kiyomizudera, Gion, Arashiyama, Kinkakuji. Not sure how mobile they are, but if they are able to climb (very) long flights of stairs, I recommend Fushimi Inari Shrine.
      Nagoya: I don’t think Nagoya is very interesting frankly. I suggest going to Hakone instead.
      Tokyo: Asakusa, Imperial Palace, Tsukiji Market

      • Kira Lim says:

        Thank you for the reply.

        My parents can walk, and they wanted to see some special Japan culture.

        Your suggestions are very useful, I’ll look into it.

        Thank you once again.

  145. Michelle says:

    Hi bumble bee mum, thank you for your blog, i love reading it!

    I am going to Tokyo in March and am a bit overwhelmed with planning the itinerary.
    I will have a 3 year old boy (who loves trains) and a 9 month old baby with me.

    Will be covering disneyland and thomas land before I return to Tokyo for 3 days. Could u give some recommendations for things to do and places to eat for the 3 days that I have in Tokyo itself?
    I will be staying at an apartment in Ueno.

    Thank you very much

  146. Peisan says:

    Hi bumblebeemum…I’m so impressed with your Japan posting…so detailed.

    I will be heading to Narita airport on 13/Feb, I would like to plan a visit to Hokkaido.

    Would like to seek for your kind advise the route I should be plan for this short trip?
    We are 2 adults and would prefer scenery sights or snow festival. Our airticket are currently booked for 5D4N but is considering to extend if Hokkaido has more to visit or the airlines has available seats.

    Looking forward to hear from you.

    • bumblebeemum says:

      You are too late for snow festivals in Sapporo, Asahikawa, Otaru and Hakodate. I suggest you head East – the festivals at Tomamu, Tokachigawa Onsen, Lake Akan will still be running in late Feb.

      If you have 5 full days, this is what I suggest:

      Day 1: CTS – Tomamu (Tomamu Ice Festival)
      Day 2: Tomamu – Tokachigawa Onsen (Sairinka Festival)
      Day 3: Tokachigawa Onsen – Kushiro (see cranes)
      Day 4: Kushiro – Lake Akan (Lake Akan winter festival)
      Day 5: Lake Akan – CTS

      If you are able to extend, you can continue this way:

      Day 5: Lake Akan – Abashiri (ice-breaker cruise)
      Day 6: Abashiri – Sounkyo (Sounkyo Icefall festival)
      Day 7: Sounkyo – Asahikawa (Asahiyama zoo for penguin parade)
      Day 8: Asahikawa – CTS

  147. Wong Cheng Heng says:

    Hi.Bumble Bee Mum

    Lake Toya and Noboribetsu? which one do you prefer?

  148. Wong Cheng Heng says:

    Dear B.B Mum,

    Thank you for your prompt response. OK! i skip Noboribetsu then

  149. Deepak Deshpande says:

    Hi bumblebeemum
    My family is planning for a one week trip to japan. This will be the first time travel to Japan. We would like to seek your advice on how to plan our trip. We are located in Singapore and wish to see the fuji mountain and disneyland.

    Also we are Indian vegetarians, therefore would prefer to cook our own food during our travel. Will there be a possibility to rent out service apartments instead of staying in hotels.

    Please advice us how to plan our trip. We are planning to go either end of march or early april.

  150. joannagoy says:

    hi there! i’m so glad i chance upon your site. I’m travelling to japan from 22 apr to 2 may with 3 kids ( 6 months, 1 year and 4 year).

    i’m interested in your golden route via train though ( i have no confidence driving abroad) and this will be our first trip to japan. i’m hoping we can cover disneyland, mt fuji and as much iconic places that we can go. could you please advice?

    • bumblebeemum says:

      If you are doing a round-trip, you can get the 7-days Japan Rail Pass. Suppose you start / end at Tokyo, a typical trip would go like this:

      22 April: Tokyo
      23 April (Day 1 of Rail Pass): Tokyo – Hakone
      24 April: Hakone (I recommend renting a car to go around)
      25 April: Hakone – Kyoto
      26 April: Kyoto
      27 April: Nara / Osaka / Himeji
      28 April: Nara / Osaka / Himeji
      29 April (Day 7 of Rail Pass): Osaka – Tokyo
      30 April: Tokyo Disney
      1 May: Tokyo Disney
      2 May: Home

      To get to Hakone with Japan rail pass, use the shinkansen to go to Odawara and change to Odakyu line from there. Alternatively, you can rent a car from Odawara station to go around Hakone and Mount Fuji area. With kids, a rental car is recommended. You can refer to this post for ideas:
      http://bumblebeemum.net/2013/12/04/self-drive-holiday-with-kids-to-japan-hakone-and-mount-fuji-region/

      If you do not like to keep changing hotel, for the days you are in Kyoto and Osaka, you can base yourself in Kyoto and explore Nara and Osaka from there.

      Kyoto is not very exciting for kids, but I think a visit to Kiyomizudera and Gion district is pretty essential been-here-done-that experience. I personally like Fushimi Inari Shrine, but the walk through the tori gates goes up a mountain and I’m not sure if your kids would be up for the hike. Kinkakuji is another super famous must-visit site in Kyoto, but I haven’t been there. :p

      In Osaka, the kids will love Universal Studios. But if you think it’s too much theme park, Osaka Aquarium is a nice alternative. At night you can visit Dotonbori.

      If you are using the rail pass, I would also recommend visiting Himeji Castle. Himeji is easily reachable via shinkansen and Himeji Castle is very beautiful.

  151. Michelle Liang says:

    Dear bumblebee mum

    Can u recommend a car rental company in Tokyo? I plan to drive from Tokyo Disneyland resort area to FujiQ highland, then return to Ueno Tokyo area after 2 days. There will be 3 adults and 2 kids (3 yr and 9 months)

    Also, do u have any sightseeing areas in FujiQ area to recommend?

    Thank u very much

  152. trish says:

    Hi bublebeemum,

    Such an amazing blog and what great adventures you have been with your family!

    I’m planning for a trip to Hokkaido for 6 days (5nights). It’ll be a self drive trip with the family and my 2 years old toddler. We will be there during the Golden Week period.

    Do you mind giving some pointers on where we should head to?

    Sapporo/Otaru, Hakodote, Furano, Beie? Would you recommend anywhere else or is this just nice for the trip?

    Thanks mommy!

    • bumblebeemum says:

      6 days is pretty short for Hokkaido. I suggest you skip Furano and Biei and focus on Sapporo, Otaru and Hakodate. Golden Week should be cherry blossom in Hokkaido. I recommend you visit Goryokaku at Hakodate and Matsumae Castle south of Hakodate.

  153. Sammy says:

    Hey Bumblebeemum!

    I need your advice on my itinerary. Five of us (grown ups) will be travelling to Hokkaido on this coming March for 7 days. My route is leaning towards the west of Hokkaido. Here we go!

    These are the destinations on my list:
    1. Sapporo
    2. Otaru
    3. Niseko
    4. Lake Toya
    5. Hakodate
    6. Asahikawa Zoo & Blue Pond

    I tried to come out with my own itinerary, let me know what you think 🙂

    Day 1:
    Arrival at 8am at New Chitose. Travel to Sapporo to leave our suitcases at the hotel. Explore Sapporo eg, Odori Park, Shrine, JR Tower, Chocolate Factory & Susukino to wrap up the night.

    Transport:
    Would like to know should I purchase any metro/subway tickets for the above places within Sapporo City. Or walking in the snow would be a better option?

    Day2:
    Day trip to Otaru > Return to Sapporo

    Transport:
    I saw you saying something about the Sapporo – Otaru Welcome Pass (should I purchase the pass online beforehand?)

    Day 3:
    Check out and head towards Niseko. spend a solid half day here, then travel to lake toya and check in at the onsen.

    Transport:
    Should I purchase the Hokkaido Round Tour Pass or Hokkaido Rail Pass on this day. 3 days pass for us to go back and forth to hakodate as well. & from niseko, i guess we need to rent a car to lake toya isnt it?

    Day 4:
    Waking up to Lake Toya and depart to Hakodate after lunch. Explore the monkey onsen, fort goryo, and sight seeing at mount hakodate. spend the night there.

    Transport:
    Should I return to Niseko, for car returning, and also riding the railway to hakodate. or would you reckon ,returning the car some where nearby, and catch the nearest train to Hakodate.

    Day 5:
    Explore Hakodate morning market and check out the lucky pierrot burger (friend’s recommendation). Hitch straight to Sapporo and rest.

    Transport:
    I believe we are still using the Hokkaido Round Tour Pass or Hokkaido Rail Pass as this would be the third day.

    Day 6:
    Get a bus to Asahikawa zoo, spend half a day there as it closes at 330pm. and rent a car to the blue pond. Hope we can make it back to Sapporo by night time!

    Day 7:
    Explore Curb Market and walk around in Sapporo and chill as our returning flight is at 9am the next day.

    THE END

    Can you please advice on the itinerary? How can I make it better, or is there anything that I should re-consider. Thank you so much!

    • bumblebeemum says:

      You should get the Sapporo-Otaru welcome pass on Day 1. You do not need to purchase it beforehand. You can purchase it at Sapporo station when you arrive. The pass comes with a one-day subway ticket and return train tickets for Otaru. You should use the one-day subway ticket on day 1.

      Day 3 looks too rushed to me. It is true that the best way to get from Niseko to Lake Toya is by rental car, but if you decide to drive, I do not recommend rushing to 2 places (Niseko & Lake Toya) in a day.

      Day 6 is not feasible. Asahiyama Zoo closes at 3.30pm for a reason – because it’s getting dark by then. There is no way you can rent a car after that and drive to the blue pond before it gets totally dark. 5pm is already night time. I suggest you do a day-trip to Asahiyama zoo and go back to Sapporo after the zoo. There is a pass you can purchase from JR that includes return train tickets, return bus tickets and zoo entrance.

      This is what I would recommend to you:

      Day 1: Sapporo. (You may not be able to finish visiting everything in the list, so prioritize.)
      Day 2: Day trip to Otaru.
      Day 3: Take train to Toya and rent a car from there. Visit Lake Toya and stay there.
      Day 4: Day trip to Niseko from Lake Toya.
      Day 5: Return car to Toya, take train to Hakodate.
      Day 6: Train from Hakodate to Sapporo.
      Day 7: Day trip to Asahiyama zoo from Sapporo.

      • Sammy says:

        Hi BUMBLEBEEMUM,

        Thanks for the advice, really appreciate it! We have worked out a revised itinerary, kindly check it out!

        Day 1:
        Remain as per, Sapporo, full day, will take your advice to prioritize our destinations

        Day 2:
        Travel to Toya, from Sapp and spend a day there including lake toya, and rest

        Day 3:
        Day trip to Niseko for skiing, and then travel to Hakodate around evening, by train to catch the morning market the next day.

        Day 4:
        Spend the entire day at Hakodate. and enjoy the night view, spend another night at Hako.

        Day 5:
        Travel back to Sapp, and spend a day there

        Day 6:
        Buy the Otaru Welcome Pass for have a day trip at Otaru. rest at Sapp

        Day 7:
        Go to the zoo by the bundle package suggested by you.

        No more Blue Pond 🙁

        Will consider using car rental as most of our transportation because train fare is expensive taking into account of travelling as a group of 5. What about this version? Can’t wait for your next reply 😀

        • bumblebeemum says:

          Yup, this itinerary works too.

          It is true that in a group of 5, driving may be more economical than train. However, because it is winter, I strongly advise against driving in the dark. This will require tweaking your itinerary so that you arrive at your accommodation by 4.30pm latest – which essentially gives you less time for sightseeing. Plus driving in winter is much slower than train.

          For e.g. from Sapporo to Asahikawa, the train ride is 90 minutes. But when we did the drive in winter, it took us about 3 hours. Imagine you leave at 8am, you reach there 11am. You walk for 2 hours and by 1pm you need to leave to give yourself ample time to get back to Sapporo before dark. That’s 6 hours of driving for 2 hours of sightseeing which is definitely not enough for Asahiyama Zoo.

          Another e.g. for the current itinerary you have. On Day 3, suppose you use the train. You can stay at Niseko until about 2.30pm and start your drive back to Toya station to return the car. Subsequently you hop on the train to Hakodate and it will turn dark while you are on the train. However if you choose the drive, the drive from Niseko to Hakodate may take about 4 hours in winter. Which means if you want to reach Hakodate before dark, you need to leave Niseko at 12.30pm latest. That is 2 hours less you get to spend at Niseko.

          You may want to use hyperdia to calculate the total cost for the train rides for:
          1) Sapporo to Toya
          2) Toya to Hakodate
          3) Hakodate to Sapporo
          4) Sapporo to Asahikawa to Sapporo

          I suspect this total will cost more than the price a 4-day flexi Hokkaido Rail Pass. So what I recommend is for you to get the 4-day flexi Hokkaido Rail Pass for Day 2, 3, 5 and 7. So you don’t need to purchase the package for Asahiyama Zoo, but you should still get the Sapporo-Otaru Welcome Pass.

  154. eco says:

    Hi BumbleBee Mum.

    If to do the tour within Sapporo area will it be best to take subway or drive?

  155. Evon says:

    Hi there!

    I will be traveling to tokyo with my 19mo twins next week. There’s 6 adults and 2 toddlers and we’ve more or less finalized our itinerary. I would just like to ask your advice a little because i am in awe with how well you know japan! Below is our itinerary :

    Day 1: touch down at hnd and transfer to accommodation at shibuya area. Check out surrounding and visit meiji shrine and shopping at shibuya or shinjuku.

    Day 2: tsukiji for breakfast, ueno and asakusa, then to kinshincho (for akachan honpo)

    Day 3: tokyo metropolitan observation + disneyland

    Day 4: probably divided to 2 groups, adults to shopping at harajuku and skytree (where else can they shop along the route?) while hub and i bring the girls to ueno park (or any other suggestions within tokyo for the girls to play?)

    Day 5: hakone day trip via train (could you suggest an itinerary for this?)

    Day 6: yokohama for cup noodles museum and anpanman musuem

    Day 7: checkout. rent a car and drive to motherfarm (have you been here before? My girls love animals and i saw a blogger talking about this). Head to aeon for last minute shopping and to narita airport back to sg (9pm flt)

    Would also like to slot in the Imperial Palace but not sure where it fits.

    I’ve personally been to tokyo but for the rest of the entourage its their first time there. I am trying to balance between letting the girls have fun whilst the adults satisfy their cultural absorption and shopping. Also, my parents might not want to go to Disneyland with us and I’m cracking my head where can i “deposit” them. I think they can sit whole day in a pachinko centre though haha. Any suggestions where they can hang out indoors?

    Thank you very much for ur help!

    • bumblebeemum says:

      With a big group like yours, especially with kids, I wouldn’t plan too many places in a day.

      Day 2: I would cut down the number of places to visit for this day. If you are going Tsukiji, you can group it with Imperial Palace after that. I would go to Ueno and Asakusa together with Day 4.

      Day 3: If going Disneyland, that would be the only place I would plan for the day.

      Day 4: You can go to Ueno Park + Ueno + Asakusa on this day. While you are going Ueno Park, maybe the adults can shop at Ameyoko. After that you all can go to Asakusa together.

      Day 5: If planning for a day trip, you can just stick to the standard Hakone round-course. However note that Hakone ropeway is still suspended and is currently replaced by a shuttle bus service.
      http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e5210.html

      Day 7: Yes, I just visited Mother Farm. It’s very fun for the kids. I suggest you only plan for Mother Farm because it is very big. I don’t think you have time to go to AEON.

      If your parents don’t want to go to Disneyland, I suggest they just explore the area around the hotel. There are tons of shopping and cafe at Shibuya area.

  156. Ebo says:

    Hi BumblebeeMum

    Very informative and useful blog you have for Japan!

    Want to seek your help on maiden trip to Hokkaido in late Nov and Early Dec.

    If just be in Hokkaido for 7 days, is it necessary to drive or take train to Sapporo and Hakodate with 2 young kids? And if driving, rental car can be picked up at Sapporo City? As I want to explore the city before driving towards Hakodate.

    Then my dilemma is that my to and return flight will be at Chitosan airport. So I have to drive from Hakodate way back to Chitosan?

    What is your suggested itinerary if I want to include a 1 or 2 night stay at ski resort or onsen ryokan?

    Thanks
    Ebo

  157. ebo says:

    And also you mentioned on the flight saving tip for option one “The greatest advantage of this option is that you need not fly in and out of the same city in Hokkaido since ANA and JAL have numerous flights from Haneda / Narita to various cities of Hokkaido.” Does that mean we need to book one way trip for to and fro? Eg Singapore to Chitose and Hakodate to Singapore,

  158. ebo says:

    Hi Bumblebeemum

    Need to seek your help on the itineraries below. Is either one of those doable from the end Nov to early Dec? I think had to leave out Hakodate as want to try explore the eastern part of Hokkaido. As the route seems quite a distance from Sapporo to Lake Akan and is winter time, I do not want to stress myself and complete in 4hrs or longer in a day as per your advice in previous blogs.

    For Day 3, not sure if there is any particular interest in Furano during winter.

    Day 1: CTS-Sapporo
    Day 2: Sapporo to Otaru (Day Trip by Train)
    Day 3: Sapporo to Furano (Car)
    Day 4: Furano to Lake Akan (Car)
    Day 5: Lake Akan to Kushiro (Car)
    Day 6: Kushiro to Obihiro (Car)
    Day 7: Kushiro to Tomamu Ski (Car)
    Day 8: Tomamu Ski to Sapporo (Car)
    Day 9: Sapporo
    Day 10: Sapporo to CTS

    Alternatively

    Day 1: CTS-Sapporo
    Day 2: Sapporo to Otaru (Day Trip by Train)
    Day 3: Sapporo to Tomamu Ski (Car)
    Day 4: Tomamu ski
    Day 5: Tomamu ski to Lake Akan (Car)
    Day 6: Lake Akan to Kushiro (Car)
    Day 7: Kushiro to Obihiro (Car)
    Day 8: Obihiro to Sapporo (Car)
    Day 9: Sapporo
    Day 10: Sapporo to CTS

    From the Google maps it seems the driving require toll fees for those routes, so advisable to rent an ETC?
    Base on your experience, 2 full tanks are sufficient for the 5 days trip?

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Hmm… When you say end Nov, you really got to look at the exact dates to see if skiing at Tomamu is feasible. You need to check Tomamu website closer to the date to see exactly when their ski season starts.

      I wouldn’t go to Furano in winter. So I would go for the second itinerary, but I would push Tomamu all the way to the end because by early Dec, Tomamu should have started their ski season.

      So I would plan for something like this:

      Day 1: CTS-Sapporo
      Day 2: Sapporo to Otaru (Day Trip by Train)
      Day 3: Sapporo
      Day 4: Sapporo – Obihiro (by train)
      Day 5: Rent a car from Obihiro, drive to Kushiro.
      Day 6: Drive Kushiro to Lake Akan.
      Day 7: Drive around Akan National Park.
      Day 8: Drive Akan to Obihiro and return car. Train to Tomamu.
      Day 9: Ski at Tomamu.
      Day 10: Tomamu to CTS by direct bus.

      If you do the above, you will not be using the toll road much. And 2 full tanks is more than sufficient.

  159. ebo says:

    Thanks for your time to advise on the itinerary. If want to switch the date to last 2 weeks of Dec instead of Nov, is your itinerary still applicable or some amendment require?

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Yup, the itinerary would still be applicable in December. I would still recommend you go to the ski resorts as late as possible in Dec.

      • Anonymous says:

        Thanks so much BBMum! =)

        • ebo says:

          Hi BBMum

          Need your help again. =)

          If I can only spend 7 days and last day to travel back, it is still possible to drive and visit Lake Aka? Not sure what can i fill in from Day 4 to 6 base from your previous proposed itinerary.

          And if my flight on the 8th day is 2pm, is it feasible to take the earliest coach from Tomamu to CTS?

          Day 1: CTS-Sapporo
          Day 2: Sapporo to Otaru (Day Trip by Train)
          Day 3: Sapporo
          Day 4: ?
          Day 5: ?
          Day 6: ?
          Day 7: Ski at Tomamu/Snow Village
          Day 8: Tomamu to CTS by direct bus.

          • bumblebeemum says:

            I think it is still possible to visit Lake Akan if you skip Furano.

            Day 1: CTS-Sapporo
            Day 2: Sapporo to Otaru (Day Trip by Train)
            Day 3: Sapporo
            Day 4: Sapporo – Kushiro
            Day 5: Kushiro – Lake Akan
            Day 6: Lake Akan – Obihiro – Tomamu
            Day 7: Ski at Tomamu/Snow Village
            Day 8: Tomamu to CTS by direct bus.

            If you take the 9.20am direct bus from Tomamu to CTS, it is scheduled to reach CTS before 12 noon so it is definitely feasible.
            http://www.snowtomamu.jp.e.vc.hp.transer.com/bus/

            • ebo says:

              Hi BBMum

              I just confirm that we are able to extend more days from our work commitment (Hooray!)

              So will be continue to follow your initial suggested itinerary below.

              Day 1: CTS-Sapporo
              Day 2: Sapporo to Otaru (Day Trip by Train)
              Day 3: Sapporo
              Day 4: Sapporo – Obihiro (by train)
              Day 5: Rent a car from Obihiro, drive to Kushiro.
              Day 6: Drive Kushiro to Lake Akan.
              Day 7: Drive around Akan National Park.
              Day 8: Drive Akan to Obihiro and return car. Train to Tomamu.
              Day 9: Ski at Tomamu.
              Day 10: Tomamu to CTS by direct bus

              I notice that for Kushiro mentioned not much of the activities except for crane watching. Do you think is worth to remove Kushiro and spend more day at Obihiro, Lake Akan or other places?

              And from your past stays at Hotel Mecure, do they allow for 2 adults and 2 young primary school kids to stay in a room without additional charges?

              Really appreciate much for giving advices to my changing itinerary and endless queries!

              Cheers!

              • bumblebeemum says:

                Actually in both Obihiro and Kushiro, there is nothing much in terms of sightseeing. I go to these places just to eat. Haha.. Just relax, drive slowly and enjoy the scenery along the way and food. That’s what Hokkaido is all about.

                Day 4: Be sure to eat buta don when you arrive at Obihiro. Then go check out Rokkaitei and Ryugetsu main stores. In the evening, you can check out Kita no Yatai.

                Day 5: After breakfast, set off from Obihiro. In between, you can visit Ikeda Wine Castle and Happiness Dairy. When you reach Kushiro, you can visit Washo Market. Then check-in to the hotel, rest, and visit Fisherman Wharf Moo.

                Day 6: Leave Kushiro for Tsurui (crane area) then head to Lake Akan.

                For Mercure, I don’t think their standard rooms can fit 2 adults and 2 primary school kids. They have bigger rooms / connecting rooms but you would have to contact the hotel to book from them directly.

                • ebo says:

                  Thanks again BBMum! For Mecure, they did quote me $200 per night during end nov Friday and Saturday. Sunday is cheaper at just $100. Not too sure whether their peak season has started that time.

  160. King Chiew Kwang says:

    Hi Lin Ying, thank you for your reply. May I know average how much we need to budget for your last Okinawa self drive trip. I have family of five, two boys in their 10 and 8, and one girl in her 5 years of age. I mean from airfare, car rental, hotels, and shopping etc.

    Thank you very much for your kind advice.

  161. Rochelle says:

    hi bumblebee mum
    read one of your earlier blogs recommending signing up as car rental member to be eligible for better deals. I tried for Times car rental but they don’t accept English names, what shall I do? how did you register as member

    • bumblebeemum says:

      If I’m not mistaken, TIMES membership is for people residing in Japan only. But if you want to try, there are websites where you can translate your name into Japanese like this one:
      http://www.kanjizone.com/

      I use that to translate my name to hiragana to get past those Japanese hotel booking websites.. hah.

  162. Esther er says:

    Hi

    I’d like to thank you for blogging so much information about Hokkaido which makes it easier when I am currently planning for my Hokkaido trip.

    I do have some questions and would like to ask you. Hope you don’t mind. Firstly, do you rent the pocket wifi router from tocoo? And may I know how can I purchase wifi SIM card or router cheaply in Hokkaido? I’ll be traveling to Hokkaido in June 2016 and your blog contain so much information about self drive and places of attraction which I’ll definitely be going!

    Thank you

    • bumblebeemum says:

      I don’t rent from Tocoo. Most Singaporeans find it most convenient to get the pocket WIFI from Changi Recommends because they can pick up and drop off at Changi Airport.
      https://www.changirecommends.com/owifi.aspx

      Alternatively, you can just google ‘Japan WIFI router rental’. There are many Japanese-based companies offering WIFI rental where they can deliver to your hotel or you can pick up from the post office etc. It is quite competitive so the rates are pretty reasonable across the board.

      • Cindy says:

        Hi, did u rent ur wifi router from changi? How’s the coverage in Hokkaido? Thanks alot

        • bumblebeemum says:

          I haven’t rented their router before but will probably be trying it out when I’m in Hokkaido in June. When is your trip? If it’s after June, check with me again after June and I should be able to tell you then.

          • Junel says:

            Hi there! so was the egg wifi good in hokkaido?:) Would you recommend it?

            • bumblebeemum says:

              It works well in the cities. But at rural areas, sometimes there is no reception. Having a pocket WIFI is always a good back-up especially if you do not know Japanese or you like to find places to visit or eat along the way. We did use it quite a bit to search for cafes whenever the weather was bad. :p

  163. YENNIE says:

    Hi, BB Mum, thank you for sharing your itinerary.

    I am planning to go to to Hokkaido from 30 May to 4 June with my kids (8 and 5 years) and my parents. Will be flying there from osaka.

    This will be our first time to Hokkaido and I hope we can still see some nice flowers during that time.

    Can you help to suggest the itinerary/route for around 6 days? Which part of your itinerary I can skip, please?

    Is it easy to self-drive and it will be more economical for 5 people to drive?

    Thank you in advance for your advice.

    Yennie

  164. Nestizo says:

    Hi Bumblebeemum! Chanced upon your blog when I was looking for some tips in bringing a toddler to Japan (I have a 2yo boy). Really really useful information here and I have planned my literary based on your previous trips (with and without kids).

    This would be my first trip to Japan that purely on holiday (non-business related). I’ve never explored since my colleagues and company normally either picks me at the airport or drives me around town.

    We have divided our 12-day trip into 3 legs:
    1st leg: Narita -Tokyo.

    Day 1: We will be staying near Tamachi station and arriving close to 3PM JST. I’ve planned to go to Shibuya in the afternoon and go around the area with my wife and 2yo. Any suggestions on places to eat (we do not have any diet restrictions). I normally eat ramen at any of the Ippuden shops near the area. Plan on going to Tokyo Metropolitan Government building in the evening then go back to our hotel.
    Day 2: Imperial Palace – Asakusa Kannon Temple – Odaiba Aqua city (via river bus)
    Day 3: Tokyo Disneyland
    Day 4: Shibuya-Harajuku-Ginza shopping tour
    Day 5: still contemplating on what to do any suggestions?

    Leg 2: Osaka-Kyoto (7-day JR Pass will be activated)
    Day 1: Hotel near Dotonbori (Hommach station). Plan on going around dotonbori (any budget friendly recommendations for shopping?)
    Day 2: USJ (Harry Potter)
    Day 3: Kyoto day tour
    Day 4: Half day Osaka exploration before going back to Tokyo (again any suggestions is appreciated)

    Leg 3: Osaka-Tokyo-Narita:
    Day 1: Arrival from Osaka. Plan on going to Tokyo Tower/Shibuya again
    Day 2: Day trip to Gala Yukawa (for snow action!)
    Day 3: last full day in Tokyo (do you have any other recommendations)
    Day 4: Half day in Tokyo then flight back to SG (evening flight)

    Appreciate all your help on these and keep up the good work. This is truly helpful.

    -Nestizo

  165. Gloria Kah See Ying says:

    Dear hi Bumblebee mum,

    Love your Japan travelling blogs especially this Hokkaido self driving trip.

    We are planning to do the same thing in this summer. Hope you can give me some advise.

    We are a family of eight. I have 6 girls. Hubby is going to rent a 9 seated car.

    My itinerary as follow:

    21/7 landed Chitose 4pm. Chitose-Noboribetsu.
    22/7 noboribetsu- Lake Shikotsu – Lake Toya.
    23/7 Lake Toya – Hakodate.
    24/7 Hakodate – Niseko.
    25/7 Niseko – Shakotan Peninsular- Yoichi – Otaru.
    26/7 Otaru – Furano.
    27/7 Furano – Biei – Tomamu.
    28/7 Tomamu – Obihiru – Sapporo.
    29/7 Sapporo.
    30/7 Sapporo.
    31/7 Sapporo – Chitose.

    Can you advise me on the accommodation with car park facility?

    Thanks a lot.

    Gloria.

    • bumblebeemum says:

      6??!!! How do you all manage??? Okay, sorry. That’s besides the point.

      Does you husband have a license to drive a 9 seater? Our class 3 license can only rent up to an 8 seater in Japan.

      22/7: Going back to Lake Shikotsu seems like a bit of a detour. I would go CTS – Lake Shikotsu (spend the night) – Noboribetsu – Lake Toya

      Looking at your dates, I would spend 1 more day at Furano and 1 less day in Sapporo.

      Ryokans in onsen towns like Noboribetsu / Lake Shikotsu / Lake Toya will have their own carpark. It’s the hotels in the big cities that may not have. The ones I stayed in before that have carparks are Mercure Sapporo, Hakodate Kokusai Hotel and Hotel Vibrant Otaru.

      • Gloria Kah See Ying says:

        Hi bumblebee mum,

        Yes. 6 girls. Haha…actually I don’t know how I handled them. But times flies..my youngest is 12 this years.

        I think I overlooked the license issue. Will check it out.

        Yes. Might need to detour on 22/7.

        Spending 1 more day in Furano will be a very good idea.

        Might add Obihiru in my itinerary on 29/7. Worth going for the buta don lunch? :p

        Thinking of add Jouzankei in my itinerary also. On 22/7?

        I am so happy I found your travel blog. Enjoy reading it.

        Gloria.

        Ps. I seem to have problem posting.

        • bumblebeemum says:

          I’m a total foodie so yes, I did drive all the way to Obihiro just to eat buta don. Paying toll fees and all. Whether or not it’s worth it depends on how much you love food. :p

          I will skip Jozankei in July. It is more of an autumn destination.

          It’s not that you have problem posting. Just that I need to approve your comments before you can see it if you are using a different I.P. address. I received all your previous comments.. haha.

          • Kah see ying says:

            Huh…oh. Ok. Thought I have problem posting…

            Haha..we love good food. Might drive to Obihiro and try out the buta don.

            Thanks for your helpful info and quick reply. Really appreciate.

            Gloria.

  166. ebo says:

    I guess my threads are the longest in your blog so have to start with a new thread. =P

    I thought you will want to try APA Ekimae as is just opp Mecure. Not sure if either APA hotels allow young kids to stay for free in a room. EkiNishi seems to be a better deal though for huge room and lower cost with bigger group.