Planning a Free & Easy Hokkaido Winter Trip – Essential Travel Tips

It’s the time of the year where many people are planning their winter vacation to Hokkaido! And this is when I often get questions from confused travelers on where they should visit, how to get around, which ski resort to go etc.  Basically how to even get started?

Free & Easy Hokkaido Winter Trip Planning 01

I don’t blame them.  The things about Hokkaido is, it changes rapidly over a year.  What you see at the start of a month may be gone by the end of the month.  It’s like cherry blossoms. Now you see it, now you don’t.  A trip done at the start of winter, would be vastly different from a trip done at the end of winter.

To get you started, so that you don’t waste time planning an itinerary and later finding out it simply doesn’t work for your travel dates, let me try to guide you into what you should consider when you plan your first Winter vacation to Hokkaido.

Planning A Hokkaido Winter Trip Feature

Image Sources include: Garinko | Veltra.com


When to go

Hokkaido’s winter is long.  Some would say half a year long, from November to April. Personally, I consider November and April as ‘change of season’ time.  And if you ask me, change for season time is NOT a good time to visit Hokkaido.  If I have time, I will write a post on what you can do in Hokkaido if you have no choice but to visit during those periods.  But for this post, let’s focus on WINTER, which to me is December to March.

My big question to you: What is your interest?

The first thing you need to consider is, what do you want to do in Hokkaido? Do you want to ski? Sightsee? Visit festivals? See animals? WHAT?? Don’t be greedy and tell me you want to do everything.  It’s not possible, unless you want to spend the entire winter there.  Hokkaido is HUGE and the activities are spread out across the months.  FOCUS!

Answer 1: I want to ski / snowboard!

If that’s the case, you can go anytime from December to March.   But let me state upfront that if skiing is your interest, you are at the wrong place.  This is my personal blog and I don’t ski. So I can’t give good advice on this.  I can recommend you the following readings from one of my preferred travel sites, Kids on Board (because I always have kids on board.  Like hellooo… My URL says bumble bee MUM.  But don’t worry, I welcome questions from readers who are not travelling with kids too!):

Answer 2:  I want to play with ice slides! Snow tubes! Ice sledding! Ice rafting! Snow mobile! blah blah blah…

Free & Easy Hokkaido Winter Trip Planning 03

If snow activities as such are what you are after, you should go in January – February.  The major ski resorts would have their snow parks (ice slides / snow tubing lanes) up by January.  In fact, in February, you don’t even need to go to ski resorts to play with ice slides and snow tubes – they are everywhere! Tourist attractions (e.g. Shiroi Koibito Park) build their own mini ice slides / snow tubing lanes in their premises.

Free & Easy Hokkaido Winter Trip Planning 24

Snow tubing at Shiroi Koibito Park in February


December is a tad too early for these snow activities.  Unfortunately, Singaporeans with school-going kids can only travel in December.. right? So if you want to up your chances of enjoying these activities but are restricted to December holidays, push your trip as far back to the end of December as you possibly can.

Free & Easy Hokkaido Winter Trip Planning 04

Ice Slide at Tomamu in early December


The only place I encountered snow slides and snow tubing in early December during my December 2014 trip was at TOMAMU.  Which is why I always recommend readers to go Tomamu for December trips. Not because Tomamu pays me. (I wish! If I got paid for every reader I recommended to go Tomamu, I can probably afford my next Hokkaido vacation by now.)

Answer 3: I want to see the snow festivals!

Free & Easy Hokkaido Winter Trip Planning 05

In this case, the best time to visit is the week of Sapporo Snow Festival (5 to 11 Feb every year).  But you can expect accommodation prices to be sky high during this time.

Besides the Sapporo Snow Festival, many other cities in Hokkaido have their own festivals.  So even if you travel outside of the Sapporo Snow Festival period, you can still catch other snow festivals.


The actual dates of the festivals vary year to year.  But as a rough guide, here are the dates from the past 2 years, sorted by region:

Area 2013-14 Season 2014-15 Season
Sapporo Snow Festival Central Hokkaido 5/2 – 11/2 5/2 – 11/2
Otaru Snow Light Path
Central Hokkaido 7/2 – 16/2 6/2 – 15/2
Chitose-Lake Shikotsu Ice Festival Central Hokkaido 24/1 – 16/2 30/1 – 22/2
Showa Shinzan Snowball Fight Central Hokkaido 22/2 – 23/2 28/2 – 1/3
Onuma – Hakodate Snow & Ice Festival Southern Hokkaido 1/2 – 2/2 7/2 – 8/2
Asahikawa Winter Festival Northern Hokkaido 6/2 – 11/2 6/2 – 11/2
Sounkyo Ice Fall Festival Northern Hokkaido 18/1 – 30/3 24/1 – 29/3
Tomamu Ice Village Eastern Hokkaido 29/11 – 22/3
Obihiro Ice Festival Eastern Hokkaido 31/1 – 2/2 6/2 – 8/2
Lake Shikaribetsu Ice Kotan Eastern Hokkaido 25/1 – 31/3 24/1 – 22/3
Tokachigawa Swan Festival Sairinka Eastern Hokkaido 24/1 – 1/3 24/1 – 1/3
Abashiri Okhotsk Drift Ice Festival Eastern Hokkaido 8/2 – 11/2 7/2 – 11/2
Shiretoko Fantasia Eastern Hokkaido 5/2 – 12/3 5/2 – 12/3
Lake Akan Ice Festival Fuyu-Hanabi Eastern Hokkaido 2/1 – 16/3 31/1 – 15/3
Kawayu Diamond Dust Eastern Hokkaido 23/1 – 24/130/1 – 31/11/2 – 28/2

(And hello, if you plan to copy and paste the above information anywhere, like TripAdvisor forum or Hardwarezone forum or your own blog, I honestly cannot stop you.  But at least give credit by linking back to this page okay? I spent a long time sieving through the internet in Japanese to gather all these dates.)

What I want to highlight in the table above is that, you can see that the festivals take place throughout the whole of Hokkaido, and the dates can vary as much as one week from year to year.  But as long as you travel any time from February to March, there will be some festivals for you to catch.

Answer 4: I want to take the ice breaker cruise!


Now.. this one requires a bit of luck.  Ice-breaker cruises operate from end January till April.  For e.g. The Icebreaker ship Aurora at Abashiri ran from 20 Jan to 5 April 2015.  But even if you go during this period, there is no guarantee you will be able to see drift ice  When I visited Abashiri / Monbetsu for 2 days in March 2010 for the purpose of taking the ice-breaker cruise at either city (I thought staying longer would up my chances), there was NO drift ice in sight for the whole of those 2 days.  Whereas on a random day in February 2010 when we took the Ryuhyo Norokko train, we saw drift ice from the train.  So you can plan to be at Abashiri / Monbetsu any time in February – March, but remember there is no guarantee.

Answer 5: I want to see the penguin parade!

Free & Easy Hokkaido Winter Trip Planning 08

The penguin parade at Asahiyama Zoo is again a popular must-visit on many people’s itinerary.  BUT, be mindful that it only starts in end December.  They cannot give an exact starting date because it is weather-dependent. As a rough guide, here are the starting and ending dates for the penguin parade for some of the years:

Start date for penguin parade End date for penguin parade
15 Dec 2005 26 March 2006
9 Dec 2006 18 March 2007
11 Dec 2007 20 March 2008
28 Dec 2008 31 March 2009
8 Dec 2009 7 April 2010
19 Dec 2010 28 March 2011

Translated from this page.

Can you see how much it fluctuates from year to year? So I would say to go in January – March to be safe.

Again, if you have no choice because you are restricted by Singapore’s school holidays, go as far back in December as possible.  And keep your fingers crossed.

Free & Easy Hokkaido Winter Trip Planning 25

Penguin parade at Noboribetsu Marine Park NIXE


There is a less well-known penguin parade at Noboribetsu Marine Park NIXE.  This parade takes place throughout the year.  You can read more about my visit here.

Answer 6: I want to enjoy onsen!

Free & Easy Hokkaido Winter Trip Planning 09

Image Source: Hotel Mahoroba


Doesn’t matter when you go then.  Onsen are open all year round and they are ubiquitous throughout Hokkaido.  But the best time to visit is again in Februrary – March, because there will be festivals at some of the onsen towns, such as:

  • Lake Shikotsu
  • Lake Akan
  • Tokachigawa Onsen
  • Sounkyo Onsen
Free & Easy Hokkaido Winter Trip Planning 10

Sounkyo Onsen Ice Fall Festival


Where to go

Again, this depends on your interest.

For skiing:

Free & Easy Hokkaido Winter Trip Planning 11

Head to the ski resorts, the ones more well catered for foreigners being Niseko, Rusutsu, Tomamu and Club Med Sahoro.

For sightseeing:

Free & Easy Hokkaido Winter Trip Planning 12

I generally recommend going Eastern Hokkaido during winter.  A classic route I recommend is as follows:

1) New Chitose Airport
2) Tomamu
3) Obihiro (Tokachigawa Onsen)
4) Kushiro
5) Lake Akan
6) Abashiri
7) Sounkyo
8) Asahikawa
9) Sapporo (with day trip to Otaru from here)
10) New Chitose Airport

For festivals:

Free & Easy Hokkaido Winter Trip Planning 13

If you are there during the Sapporo snow festival period, then stay around Sapporo.  Go for the Sapporo Snow Festival and take side trips from Sapporo to visit Otaru Snow Light Path, Asahikawa Winter Festival and Chitose-Lake Shikotsu Ice Festival.

If you are visiting after the Sapporo snow festival has ended, then go to Eastern Hokkaido.  You can see from the snow festivals table above that Eastern Hokkaido has the most festivals stretching into March.

Choosing a ski resort in Hokkaido

What is the difference between Niseko / Rusutsu / Tomamu / Club Med Sahoro? How to choose?

Again, let me put a disclaimer that I do not ski.  I am assuming you are asking this question as someone who, just wants to try skiing for a day or two, as part of a larger sightseeing trip.  If you want to know which ski resort is best for skiing per say (like how powdery is the snow, how challenging are the runs, how good are the instructors, is there ski-in ski-out etc.), please find a website that is specific to skiing.

Let’s say you are like me, just want to play in the snow, maybe just go for a ski lesson to try try. This is what I think of each of the above ski resorts.


Main draw:

  • They are extremely foreigners friendly.  Everyone there speaks English, from the hotel concierge to the service staff at restaurants.
  • Their ski instructors come from all over the world.  You will not encounter language barrier during ski lesson.
  • You are not restricted to one ski area or one resort.
  • You have a wider variety of dining options.

Main drawback:

  • It lacks Japanese character.  I did not feel like I was in Japan while I was there. I felt like I was in some ski resort in just about any other country that speaks English.


Main draw:

Main drawback:

  • Expensive


Main draw:

Main drawback:

  • Dining options are limited to what is offered within the resort

Club Med Sahoro

Free & Easy Hokkaido Winter Trip Planning 17

Image Source: Club Med Sahoro


Main draw:

  • All inclusive resort

Main drawback:

  • Expensive (but then again, considering it is all-inclusive, some may think it is not really that expensive after factoring in cost of ski equipment rental, lessons and food.)
  • Dining options limited to what is available in the resort

So my conclusion?

If you have never skied before and really want to learn to ski, spend a few days at Club Med Sahoro to pick up skiing.

If you know how to ski already, and want to improve your skiing, go to Niseko.

If you are a leisure traveller who just wants to spend a day trying out skiing, go to Rusutsu or Tomamu, whichever is along the way where you are going.  (i.e. if you are staying around Central Hokkaido, I recommend Rusutsu.  If you are going to Eastern Hokkaido, I recommend Tomamu.)

Do you have something less run of the mill?

If you have more time and would like to get off the beaten track in Hokkaido,  here are some other things you can consider doing.

Winter Sightseeing Trains

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There are 3 trains that run in Hokkaido ONLY in winter: Okhotsk-No-Kaze, Ryuhyo-Norokko and SL Fuyu-No-Shitsugen.  You can read more about them here.

Swim in Drift Ice

Free & Easy Hokkaido Winter Trip Planning 23

Image Source: Veltra.com


That’s right.  The icebreaker cruise is not the only way you can enjoy the drift ice up close.  You can actually join adventure tour groups to walk and swim with drift ice at Shiretoko!  Visit the official website of the adventure company, Goziraiwa Sightseeing.

Snow Monkeys

Free & Easy Hokkaido Winter Trip Planning 28

Image source: Hakodate Travel

From December to early March, you can find snow monkeys enjoying  a hot spring bath at Yunokawa Onsen near Hakodate.  You can find out more from Ling’s account on kidsonboard.net.


Every year around Christmas, cities around Japan light up with their own illumination events.  If you are from Singapore, this is akin to our annual Orchard Road light-ups. The most famous illuminations in Hokkaido are Sapporo White Illumination (read about my visit here) and Hakodate Christmas Fantasy.  While they are pretty small compared to illuminations in other parts of Japan, such as the Kobe Luminarie or Sagamiko Illumillion (read about my visit here), they are still worth checking out if you are in Hokkaido in December.

Should I self-drive or take public transport?

Free & Easy Hokkaido Winter Trip Planning 18

As a general rule of thumb, if you have never driven in snowy condition before, I would say MINIMIZE your driving.  However, some scenic areas in Hokkaido are just difficult to get around without a rental car.

If you want to go skiing, there is really no need to self-drive.  Ski resorts are the most difficult places to drive, because of the heavy snowfall and mountainous roads.  Use buses (or train for Tomamu) to get to and fro ski resorts.

But if you are doing a scenic tour of nature spots and national parks, then you may want to consider self-driving.

You can also do a combination, for e.g. if you want to visit Eastern Hokkaido, you can take train till Kushiro.  From Kushiro, rent a car to drive to the crane area (Tsurui) and around Akan National Park.

Is it safe to drive in winter?

In short? Honestly? NO.  But in Hokkaido, when visiting scenic areas such as Akan National Park, you may not have much of a choice unless you join tour groups.  (Then again, when I was in Hokkaido in December 2014, a tour bus carrying a Singaporean tour group got into an accident, skidding off the highway.  So you really never know.)

What can you do to prevent accidents

  • Drive SLOW.  And by slow, I mean not exceeding 50km/h. Even on expressways.
  • Double Google’s driving time estimates for winter drive.  No kidding. If google says you need 2 hours to get from Point A to B, allocate 4 hours for that drive.
  • Drive in bright day light.  Make sure you plan to reach your accommodation of the day by 4pm. The sun sets at 4+ and it is pitch dark by 5pm. NEVER drive after dark in winter.
  • Do not be tempted to speed.  I know, this is the same as the first point.  But I cannot emphasize this enough.  Hokkaido is HUGE and when you have hundreds of kilometres to cover, YOU WILL BE TEMPTED TO SPEED.  It takes a lot of discipline (or in my case an accident + near accident from 2 previous trips) to learn that you should NEVER speed when driving in winter.
  • Step on that brake WAY in advance.  You cannot e-brake in winter. You see a traffic light coming up? Start slowing stepping on the brake bit by bit to slow down in advance.  You see the road sign saying there’s a curve coming up? Start applying those brakes.
  • Get ready to make your turnings.  Your GPS says you need to make a turn soon? SLOW DOWN.  Don’t attempt a last minute turn. If you miss your turning, just miss it. Find a safe place to U-turn back. (e.g. turning into a roadside convenience store and going back where you came from.)

What are some of the things that may happen when driving in winter?

Where are the lane markings???

They are covered by snow.  Careful not to drive onto oncoming traffic! Look for a sign hanging from the top in the middle of roads that says “中央線” with an arrow pointing down. It is pointing to where the centre divider is so that you don’t drive onto oncoming traffic.

How about I just keep as far left as possible on the road?

No.  If you keep too near your side of the road, you may end up driving into a roadside ditch.

That’s complicated!

Follow the tyre markings left behind by the previous cars.

But there are no tyre markings! It’s all a piece of white!

Yeah, it happens.  When it snows too heavily, the fresh snow covers up tyre markings very quickly.  Which is why you should use well-travelled routes (e.g. expressways) as much as possible.  The more cars that use the road, the higher chance there will be tyre markings.  Makes sense? Winter is NOT the time to skimp on toll fees.

Did I just stop in the middle of a pedestrian crossing?

Yes you did! In winter, you cannot see the stop lines at pedestrian crossings.  Plus if you are still getting used to the braking distance required, you may find yourself stopping at a red light too late and ending up on the pedestrian crossing.  You’ll get stares by the pedestrians.  But just remember my point on braking early and do an estimate of where the stop line would be!

Sometimes junctions will have a sign that says “停止線”. It indicates where the stop line is. Stop behind that sign, otherwise will be stopping on the pedestrian crossing.

Woohoo, I’m in a tunnel and there is no snow on the road at last! Can I pick up speed now?

Yes you can, when you are safely inside the tunnel and the road is dry.  But note that the entrances and exits of tunnels tend to be very icy.  So once you see some snow or ice on the road towards the end of the tunnel, slow down immediately.  The first moment you go back onto the snow / ice is the easiest to skid.

I think I would stick to the train

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If you are using the train extensively, you may want to consider getting the Hokkaido Rail Pass.  You can read more about it here.  To determine if it is worth it to get the pass, add up the total cost of your rail trips using hyperdia and compare it to the price of the pass.

If you are only using the rail sparingly, some other cost-saving passes include:

This is all too complicated.  Can you just plan an itinerary for me? I am travelling in …

Fine.  In my next post (not sure when so don’t hold your breath), I will suggest some classic itineraries for various periods of travel in Hokkaido during winter.  Till then, hope this post has been useful in getting you jump started!  And if you need any help, feel free to leave a comment.

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  • Edmund Woo says:

    Fantastic writeup. I’m from KL and just wish to record my greatest appreciation and thanks for your great blog. I’ve just returned from a 15 day self-drive itinerary last week. I’ve planned nearly 70% of my itinerary with invaluable information from your blog. They were all spot on especially the recommendations on the best eats. Thanks again.

  • Gwen summer says:

    Hi ü we are planning to go to Sapporo on Dec 25 with our kids ages 6-1. Our plan is to stay in a Sapporo hotel and then just make daytrips to different sites especially since the rates in ski resorts are already double or even triple. Where would you recommend for us to go so we can do some snow activities like sledding or tubing? Also, would it be possible to go to Tomamu on a daytrip so we can visit the Ice Village? Thanks in advance

    • bumblebeemum says:

      By late December, most of the ski resorts should have their snow activities up and running. Tomamu, Rusutsu and Niseko would all have them by the time you are travelling. Yes, it’s possible to do a day trip to Tomamu. There is direct train from Sapporo to Tomamu, and you can check the train timings on hyperdia:

  • june says:

    hi bumble bee mum. it’s me again. you advised me on my recent summer trip to hokkaido and now we’re planning a winter trip. just want to say great write-up again!! it’s like you read my mind and pre-empted my questions. I know you had all these information somewhere in all the various posts and replies coz I’ve read them before but this summary is just amazing. all that I need.

  • Charles Jordan says:

    Bumblebee mum, total how many days you spent? I couldn’t find the number of days you were in Hokkaido. >.<

  • Super mum says:


    We plan to visit Hokkaido in mid March. Still can’t decide to go club med or just at Sapporo. May I find out from you whether will we still get to see snow or ice sculpture in Sapporo ? As we opt not to drive in winter, how easy is it to arrange for day trips ? Any agency you can recommend ? What activities would be available if we stay around Sapporo ? Would you know any day trip to lake kussharo ?

    Appreciate your advice.

    • bumblebeemum says:

      By mid-March there will not be any more snow and ice sculptures. The last of the snow festivals are mostly at Eastern Hokkaido (Tomamu / Sounkyo). If you want to see snow and ice sculptures, I recommend heading to these places.

      Whether or not to go Club Med depends on whether you want to learn skiing. If you want to learn skiing, Club Med is a good place to do so since it is all-inclusive.

      From Sapporo, there are usually direct buses or trains to other towns – though the further ones are not recommended for day trips and it’s better to spend a night there. In Sapporo, it is mostly sightseeing: Mount Moiwa, Shiroi Koibito Park, Jyogai Ichiba (Central wholesale market), Nijo Market, JR Tower, Sapporo TV Tower and shopping (Susukino district / Sapporo station district). Many people do a day trip to Otaru from Sapporo.

      Lake Kussharo sounds a bit far from Sapporo to do as a day trip. Any particular reason you want to visit Lake Kussharo?

      • serene says:

        hi, thanks for the reply. I have looked up Tomamu and it seems there may still be some snow fun activities still available. Sent them an query to get a confirmation. We just want some fun experience with snow especially for my young boy. If we do go Tomamu, is there coach services that we can get between sapporo city (or direct from airport) and vice versus? as we may want to spend 1-2 nights in Sapporo city, its seems we can only venture to the few places you mentioned. We have been to shiroi Koibito park this may, anything different in winter for the chocolate factory ? Do you know of any day tour operator that we can check it out ?

        • bumblebeemum says:

          Tomamu and Sapporo are directly linked by JR train. There are also direct buses between Tomamu and Sapporo / CTS:

          If you have been to Shiroi Koibito before, then I don’t think it’s worth going again. You can check out this page for day tours from Sapporo:

          • Anonymous says:

            Thanks. Will have a look but may need your help to understand the bus schedule ..

          • Serene says:


            I am confused over the shuttle bus schedule and hope you can assist. For eg on the trips between new chitose airport and tomamu, what does the ride only (red) and getting off (blue) works ? shouldn’t the timing works both ways (pick up n drop off at same location)?

            • bumblebeemum says:

              Hmm… It looks like they got the colours mixed up for the Tomamu to CTS direction. I believe for the Tomamu to Sapporo direction, blue dot refers to pick-up points and red dot refers to drop-off points.

              Basically you see each bus as a one-way route rather than a continuous loop, that’s why boarding and alighting times at the same stop will not coincide.

              Maybe this page (after you click ‘Reservation (English)’) is clearer:

              • serene says:

                hi, thanks for the clarification on the bus schedule.

                May I find out do we need to get different type of shoes if we are heading to Tomamu for snow fun (not ski though) ? If so, any recommendation ?

                • bumblebeemum says:

                  Make sure you get boots that are waterproof and at least halfway up the knee (if you can find knee high boots would be better). The snow is very deep, so if your boots are not high enough, the snow will fall from the top. For men, I usually recommend the dads to just wear their army boots.

                  • serene says:


                    appreciate your advice to plan for our winter trip.

                    we intend to go straight from Chitose to Tomamu since we will arrive in noon time and spent 3 nights in the resort and last 2 nights in Sapporo.

                    we are going for 5 nights so do you feel 3 nights at Tomamu is long enough and there should be emu snow activities at the resort for us to cover (concerned there is nothing much by time we are there and how to spend 3 nights then)?

                    for the next 2 days, we intend to stay in Sapporo city but thinking where we can go to keep us occupied (hehe).

                    If we do want to go Mount Moiwa (for night scene) or the central fish market or even Otaru, is it easy for us to take public transport (we did self drive in our last trip) ?

                    • bumblebeemum says:

                      Do you want to ski / snowboard? For any ski resort, I think 2 nights is enough for people who just want to experience some snow activities and skiing. Only if you are looking at skiing / snowboarding to a certain level of competency do you need to spend more time there.

                      Mount Moiwa and Otaru are easily accessible by public transport. Sapporo Central Wholesale Market is accessible by free shuttle bus service by Kita No Gourmet. You need to get your hotel concierge to arrange for the shuttle bus to pick you up.

                      I keep myself occupied in Sapporo by eating and eating. I just go from cafe to cafe, confectionery shop to confectionery shop, just browsing through all the beautiful products and buying a bit here and there.

                    • serene says:

                      Ski is not the priority. just want to experience winter snow but restricted to the mar holiday. so thinking of tomamu and trying to catch the ice village which is till mid Mar. since we plan 5 nights and not driving, we thought maybe 3 nights at tomamu to cover those snow activities (tubing, sledding and those listed in their website under basic snow activities).

                      If 2 nights will be sufficient, then now i have to see how to spend the extra day. Is it actually okay to drive within Sapporo or nearby ?

                    • bumblebeemum says:

                      I don’t think you have that much time. With 5 nights, I envision it would go something like this:

                      Day 1: CTS – Tomamu (rest, visit onsen, go to the Ice Village in the evening)
                      Day 2: Half-day ski / snowboard in the morning, do some snow activities in the afternoon.
                      Day 3: Do some more snow activities in the morning, then head back to Sapporo. Spend the evening exploring Susukino district + Tanukikoji + underground shopping arcade
                      Day 4: Day trip to Otaru
                      Day 5: Visit market in the morning, then catch the free shuttle to Sapporo station. Do some shopping or cafe / confectionery shops hopping. At 3pm, start making your way to Mount Moiwa where you can watch the sunset and night scenery.
                      Day 6: Head to CTS after check-out. Plenty of stuff at CTS to play, shop and eat.

                    • serene says:

                      thanks for the suggested itinerary. Will take into consideration. my return flight is late evening so have more time to spend at sapporo before catching my flight.

                    • serene says:


                      a thought just popped out so wanted to find out more from you.

                      We have not tried the JR system before. If we would like to give it a try, is there any where you will recommend we can take the JR and do a day trip ?

                    • bumblebeemum says:

                      You are going to Tomamu yah? JR train goes to Tomamu. The train between Sapporo and Otaru is also JR. You can check train schedules using hyperdia:

                    • serene says:


                      May I ask is there coach bus that we can take from Sapporo to Chitose Airport ? Or please advise how best we should go to Chitose Aiport to catch our flight back home (considering a big luggage to carry with us) ?

                    • bumblebeemum says:

                      Yes, there is airport limousine from Sapporo station / Susukino back to CTS. You can check with your hotel where the nearest airport limousine bus stop is to catch the bus back. If you are staying near Sapporo station, you can also use the train to get to CTS.

                    • serene says:


                      need your advice on the transport back from tomamu to sapporo (or chitose airport).

                      if i interpret the snow liner schedule correctly, i see there is only 2 departure from resort to sapporo (8am and ano are 5pm) and it takes more than 4 hours (reach 11.40am) to reach sapporo as it has to go to the chitose airport first.

                      If this understanding is correct, we are considering whether should we take the resort free shuttle bus service (i think they offer) from resort to tomamu station for guests to take the JR.

                      Do you have experience on this to advice whether is it easy for first timer to opt for this option (free resort bus shuttle–>tomamu station–> JR to Sapporo station) in the winter with our big luggage ? Am I correct that it will take 2 hours traveling time via JR ?

                      Or you will advise to stick to the snow liner route though will take double the time to reach Sapporo ?

                    • bumblebeemum says:

                      Hi, sorry for the late reply as I have been overseas.

                      In general, train is definitely faster than bus, especially in winter. The train from Tomamu to Sapporo is one straight train that takes 100 minutes, which is less than 2 hours. Some people like to take bus because it is more direct and there is no need to go around crowded train platforms with their luggage looking for elevators and all. But unless your hotel is one of the bus drop-off points, you will still need to move around with your luggage to get to your hotel after alighting from the bus. Hence, I would opt for train to save time.

                      And yup, the resort has shuttle service to bring you to Tomamu station.

      • supermum says:

        hi, you have previously suggested we can visit the susukino and tanukikoji area for shopping. as we have never been there before, may I find out from you whether these can be easily accessible (by walk or JR) from grand sapporo or hotel gracery sapporo ?

        • bumblebeemum says:

          Yes, it is walkable. From Grand Sapporo Hotel, it is about 10 min walk to Tanukikoji. From Hotel Gracery it is about 15 min walk. Sapporo JR Station is connected to Tanukikoji and Susukino by a long underground shopping arcade. The walk from Sapporo to Susukino along the shopping arcade is about 1.5km. It may sound far but personally I think it is walkable because there is shopping and cafes along the way.

      • Gao Quan says:


        My family intend to go to Hokkaido in last week of November 2017 by taking Thai Air from Singapore due to promotion fare and school break.

        Can you please recommend us hotels near JR station or bus terminals or tour desks which we can easily join day tour or hotels with pickup points for day tours?

        Or no day tours will be available in November as tour operators are preparinf for Dec 2017 winter activities?

        Thank you


        • bumblebeemum says:

          For hotel recommendations, you can refer to this post:

          You can find tourist information desks at JR Sapporo station. I remembered my first time in Hokkaido, we went to JR Sapporo station and picked up several brouchures for day trips from Sapporo. But you are right that in November, many of the winter activities would be have begun operation yet. I suggest for November, you stay around Sapporo, Otaru, Lake Toya and Noboribetsu.

          • SL says:

            Hello BumbleBeeMum! 1st timer to Hokkaido.
            i am one with 2A2C in Dec. checking out the flights and thinking of either flying out on 4th dec or 11th dec, spending about 10 full days there. in view with activities, hotel booking, which period do you is more feasible? intend to cover snow play (snow motor, dog sled), zoo, Hakodate, city, sight seeing and food!

            can you help suggest an itinerary to kick start with? i am considering to drive but may not have the confidence.. how “easy” is it to get by with public transportation?

            looking forward to your advice! thank you in advance!

            • bumblebeemum says:

              For now play, try to go as late as possible. Most snow resorts only go into full operation starting from the week of Christmas, so either 4th or 11th may be too early. But between the two, you have better luck with going on 11th and putting the snow resort visit all the way at the end. Rusutsu would be your best bet for dog sledding and snow mobile.

              If you want to go to Hakodate and Rusutsu, there is no need to drive. I would recommend the train instead.

              You can try something like this:

              11 Dec: CTS – Sapporo
              12 Dec: Sapporo (day trip to Otaru)
              13 Dec: Sapporo – Hakodate
              14 Dec: Hakodate
              15 Dec: Hakodate – Sapporo
              16 Dec: Sapporo (day trip to Asahikawa)
              17 Dec: Sapporo – Rusutsu
              18 Dec: Rusutsu
              19 Dec: Rusutsu
              20 Dec: Rusutsu – CTS

  • June says:

    Hi Bumblebee mum,

    I saw that you indicated that Tomamu Ice village open from 11/11 this year, could I check where did you get the info from as I couldnt find anything on this date from the official web.
    Besides, I guess the resort stay in Tomamu are not open in Nov?

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Nooo.. It’s a typo!! Thank you for alerting me to it! Tomamu Ice Village is scheduled to open on 1 Dec 2015 this year. And 2015 actually referred to the season of 2014 (end) – 2015 (start). Let me change the heading so that it’s clearer.

      And yup, Tomamu Resort is not open in Nov. It will only open for the winter season on 28 Nov 2015.

  • Hi Bumblebee mum,

    Currently, I’m planning for my honeymoon with my wife on this end of December 2015 for Hokkaido Winter Trip.

    After search and noted you have posted such blog, appreciated you sharing the useful travel tips (^_^). Based on above info regarding sightseeing, kindly advise how long should i spend if I want to enjoy the Eastern Hokkaido that you recommended? Also, except the part of sightseeing, what kind of places that suitable for couple to go (eg. romantic place etc). (^0^)

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Romantic? Just sitting at the lakes of Hokkaido and soaking in the scenery sounds romantic enough for me. In Eastern Hokkaido, my favourite lake is Lake Mashu. And nearby at Iozan, there is a little ice-cream kiosk called Cream Douwa where you can sit there, enjoy ice-cream and watch the fumes from the mountain. Not sure if that’s your idea of romantic? Ice-cream at a remote location sounds romantic to me!

      More conventionally romantic things to do include taking a stroll along Otaru canal in the evening, or riding the ropeway up Mount Moiwa at Sapporo to see the twinkling city lights at night.

      You can indulge one night in a room with a private bath at Lake Akan like this one:
      Pricey, yes. But sounds romantic to me. Haha… Honeymoon, once in a lifetime!

      Any Hokkaido trip should be 1 week minimum (excluding flight).

  • SW says:

    Hi, Bumblebeemum,

    I will be going to Hokkaido in Feb 2016. Planning to ride the SL & Rhuhyo train. Is the train tickets difficult to buy(sold out)? My sis will be in Tokyo early December 2015, I wonder if she can help me buy the tickets in Tokyo, 3 months in advance.

    • bumblebeemum says:

      It was not difficult to get the tickets, as long as you are not travelling during the Sapporo Snow Festival period. You may not be able to get reserved seats during that week, but outside of that it shouldn’t be a problem getting a reserved seat just before the ride.

  • ST says:

    Dear Bumblebeemum

    I am planning travel to hokkaido from 22 dec – 5 jan 16.
    a quick question regarding Tomamu resort.
    As the rate is currently crazy high, i was contemplating should we stay a night there or just make a day trip to let my 5 years old experience skiing (first time).
    But we are most interested in the ice village which I understand its best visited only at night.
    Does that mean we definitely hv no choice but to stay at the resort right?
    thanks to advise


  • supermum says:


    we will be traveling in March. May I get yr advice whether should we go direct from Chitose airport (reach around 12 noon) to Tomamu or it is advisable to have a night at Air Terminal Hotel first ?

    • supermum says:


      we are going for 7 nights and will spend 2 nights at Tomamu. We also intend to spend a few days at sapporo for 2 day tours. In your opinion, do you think we are able to travel to Lake Akan,Mashu and Kussharo and do a day tour ? If so, how many days this will require including the traveling to/fro ? what are the modes to go there from Sapporo if we are not driving ?

      • bumblebeemum says:

        Hmm? With 7 nights in total? Yup, there should be enough time to go to Lake Akan.

        Day 1: CTS – Tomamu
        Day 2: Tomamu
        Day 3: Tomamu – Lake Akan
        Day 4: Akan National Park
        Day 5: Akan – Sapporo
        Day 6: Sapporo
        Day 7: Sapporo

        If you stay with Tsuruga groun at Lake Akan, they do have a shuttle bus to go back to Sapporo:

        As for going there from Tomamu, you probably need to take a train from Tomamu to Obihiro and catch the shuttle bus to Lake Akan from Obihiro.

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Hi, sorry for the late reply as I have been overseas. If I arrive at CTS at 12 noon, I would head straight to Tomamu. Just in time to check in, wash up and visit the Ice Village if it’s still on. 🙂

  • Mildred says:

    Hi bumblebee mum, I read that the roads at Hokkaido is very slippery during winter. How do I prevent my 4 year old from falling? We are going in feb 2016 for the winter festival. Thanks.

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Hi, sorry for the late reply as I have been overseas. The best you can do is to tell him not to run. There are spikes you can purchase to tie to your kids’ boots that can help a little, but it is still possible to slip with them. Though I do find them better than nothing – especially on icy pavements. Just teach your kids to look out for ice and walk slowly. THe place most people slip is when first stepping on or off the road at pedestrain crossings – so just be aware. And try to use the underground arcade as much as possible.

  • Tang says:

    Dear Bumblebeemum,

    Im planning to go hokkaido in mid jan 2016 for two weeks. Yes is abit rush & last minute. Hence, need your advice on the itinerary.

    Dont think will drive and maybe like what you say, would like to try try skiing for a day or two. Would niseko be a good place to go? If yes, beside niseko, where else should I attempt to visit? Would love to see any festival (if any). I would also like to visit otaru again. Was there in aug this year & like the food there…

    Hear from you soon…


    • bumblebeemum says:

      Sure, you can visit Niseko. It should be pretty happening in mid-Jan, though I’m not sure if you can still get accommodation there at such last minute. Accommodation at Niseko during ski season tends to get booked out quite early.

      Mid Jan is a little early for festivals. Most festivals start at the tail end of Jan. E.g. Lake Shikotsu Ice Festival starts on 29 Jan. The only one that would have started would be Tomamu Ice Village.

      You can try your luck on the ice-breaker cruise at Monbetsu. It is supposed to start running from 10 Jan 2016:

      Places I can recommend you visit in mid-Jan would be Asahiyama Zoo (for the penguin parade), Monbetsu (for ice-breaker cruise), Lake Akan + Akan National Park (for the cranes) and Tomamu (for the ice village). This essentially goes in a loop around Eastern Hokkaido.
      > Click here for Google Map location

      You don’t really need a car for these places, except Akan National Park. I do recommend getting a car to explore Akan National Park. But if you really don’t want to drive, you can engage a private driver for a day to go to see the cranes, Lake Mashu, Iozan and Lake Kussharo.

      • Tang says:

        Hi Bumblebeemum,

        Thank you for your reply…

        The dates we are going, unfortunately the hotels are all fully booked. Hence got to give the snow festival a miss.

        Wanted to get your opinion if the below itinerary was feasible and bear in mind that we will not be driving:

        Day 1 – chitose to asahikawa
        Day 2 – asahikawa zoo
        Day 3 – asahikawa to lake akan
        Day 4 – lake akan, lake mashu, lozan
        Day 5 – kushiro, obihiro to see cranes or cranes is at lake akan?
        Day 6 – obihiro to tomanu
        Day 7 – niseko
        Day 8 – niseko
        Day 9 – otaru
        Day 10 – sapporo
        Day 11 – sapporo to sg

        Need your advice if the route was smooth (means we do not go back & forth from place to place) and also is it easy to get from place to place by train or other form of transport?

        Hope to hear from you soon…

        Thank you for your advice…

        • bumblebeemum says:

          I would go in this order for a smoother travel:

          CTS – Tomamu – Lake Akan – Asahikawa – Sapporo – Otaru – Niseko – CTS

          The cranes are at a town called Tsurui which is in between Kushiro and Lake Akan. So you can go there either from Kushiro or Lake Akan, with Kushiro being nearer. I recommend that after Tomamu, you spend a day at Kushiro to visit Fisherman Wharf MOO, Washo Market and the cranes. After that, catch the bus from Kushiro to Lake Akan and explore Lake Mashu, Iozan and Lake Kussharo from there.

          As for Obihiro, it’s not particularly interesting. The only reason I went there was to eat buta don. So if you want to eat the buta don, during the train ride from Tomamu to Kushiro, you can just hop off the train at Obihiro, eat buta don for lunch and hop back on the train to Kushiro.

          • Anonymous says:

            Thank you for the reply…

            Most likely got to forgo Tomamu as the resorts are fully booked.

            Is this route ok? Wanted to use Sapporo/Otaru as last stop as we foresee will buy stuff at this two stop.

            CTS – Lake Akan – Asahikawa – Niseko – Sapporo – Otaru – Sapporo – CTS


            1) Can all these places be reached by JR? Probably need some help on how to read the JR timing

            2) any thing we can do in Asahikawa beside visting the zoo?

            Hope to hear from you soon…


            • bumblebeemum says:

              Hmm… Your route looks a bit inefficient. If you really want to go these places, I would recommend this order:

              CTS – Lake Akan – Asahikawa – Sapporo – Otaru – Niseko – CTS

              1) Lake Akan is not reachable by JR. Tsuruga resort operates shuttle bus from CTS to their resort at Lake Akan:
              Then to go from Lake Akan to Asahikawa, you can take the public bus:

              Asahikawa to Sapporo to Otaru is easily done by JR.

              Niseko is not directly accessible by JR. If you are staying at Grand Hirafu area, the nearest station is Hirafu which is about 5km from the ski resort area. From Otaru, there is a direct train to Hirafu and you probably need to cab to your accommodation from there. Alternatively, you can also take the train until Kutchan station where you can catch the Niseko United Shuttle.

              To check any train timing, just use hyperdia and key in your start / end train station names:

              2) Asahikawa is just famous for the zoo and the ramen village:

  • MissC says:


    Thanks for the informative posts about Hokkaido! 🙂 Would like to hear your advice about my itinerary. Hope you don’t mind.

    I am planning to go Hokkaido with my husband early next year during the winter season. We are planning Sapporo > Otaru (Day trip) > Tomamu > Noboribetsu > Niseko. I wanted to visit Tomamu’s ice village, but it seems to be a bit out of the way (we have to go to Niseko.).

    So we are thinking if we should go Hakodate instead of Tomamu? But is it worth it to visit Hakodate in winter instead of the ice village in Tomamu? We are first timers to Hokkaido. 🙂

    Thanks in advance!

    • bumblebeemum says:


      It’s true that Tomamu is out of the way from the rest of the places you plan to go. But if you want to see the Ice Village, you can just go to Tomamu as a day trip from Sapporo. The train ride from Sapporo to Tomamu is direct and takes about 100 min, so it can be easily done a a day trip.

      Hakodate is even further than Tomamu, so I wouldn’t go Hakodate unless I have a lot of time on hand. Unless your travel dates coincide with the Onuma-Hakodate Snow Festival, that is the only time in winter I would recommend visiting Hakodate. Between ice village and Hakodate (without the snow festival), I would opt for Ice Village.

  • mary wong says:

    dear bumblebeemum, i’m from penang and shall travel to hokkaido from 13-11-16 to 20-11-16 and would like to seek for advice as we only have 4 person and we do not plan to drive . how should i plan my trip as we are 1st time in japan and we dunt have any plan yet.

  • Elda Ainza says:

    Wow! such informative and timely post. We(4 ladies in our 40’s) are also aiming for a free and leisurely winter travel to hokkaido from feb 20 – march 01. Below is our tentative itinerary:
    Feb 20: manila – hakodate by plane(evening arrival)
    Feb 21: hakodate
    Feb 22: hakodate
    Feb 23: hakodate – noboribetsu
    Feb 24: lake toya (day trip)
    Feb 25: noboribetsu – sapporo
    Feb 26: asahikawa (day trip)
    Feb 27: skiing (teine or similar nearby)
    Feb 28: otaru (day trip)
    Feb 29: sapporo
    March 01: new chitose – manila

    Is this itinerary efficient and easy?
    Planning on buying the 4 day flexible hokkaido pass for train travel to noboribetsu, lake toya, sapporo and asahikawa. Would you recommend?
    Any other suggestion/tips would be greatly appreciated.
    Thanks in advance.

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Your itinerary looks pretty straightforward and easy enough. Although I would probably opt to stay at Lake Toya and do a day-trip to Noboribetsu from there instead of vice versa. I find Lake Toya hotels a lot more scenic than Noboribetsu.

      To determine if a rail pass is necessary, you need to use hyperdia to calculate the total price of the train routes and compare it to the cost of the rail pass.

      It looks to me that it will probably be more worth it to buy the 5-day consecutive Hokkaido Pass (which cost the same as 4-day flexible). With the 5-day Hokkaido Pass, swap your itinerary for Feb 27 and 28 and use the pass from Feb 23 to 27.

      Feb 20: manila – hakodate by plane(evening arrival)
      Feb 21: hakodate
      Feb 22: hakodate
      Feb 23 (rail pass day 1): hakodate – noboribetsu
      Feb 24 (rail pass day 2): lake toya (day trip)
      Feb 25 (rail pass day 3): noboribetsu – sapporo
      Feb 26 (rail pass day 4): asahikawa (day trip)
      Feb 27 (rail pass day 5): otaru (day trip)
      Feb 28: skiing (teine or similar nearby)
      Feb 29: sapporo
      March 01: new chitose – manila

      • Elda Ainza says:

        Thanks for the quick reply 🙂
        i’m weighing whether to stay for 2 nights in Lake Toya or Noboribetsu. If Nobo, I’m looking at Oyado Kiyomizuya(ryokan). Any reco for Lake Toya area? Accommodation aside, which has more things to do (sightseeing, scenic views etc)?
        For the Hokkaido rail pass, will it be hassle free if I purchase at Hakodate station? Will fill up downloadable form beforehand.
        Also, will Sounkyo be worth a visit? the ice village?

        Thanks again.


        • bumblebeemum says:

          If I have 2 nights, I would do 1 night Noboribetsu and 1 night Lake Toya. I like to try different ryokan. And staying in the same ryokan for 2 nights mean using the same onsen, looking at the same scenery and eating the same food. Hence, I usually stay only 1 night for ryokan.

          Generally all the ryokan along the Southern shore of Lake Toya offer a great view. For something more budget-friendly, you can try Toya Sun palace. If you are willing to splurge, go for Lake View Nonokaze.

          For the Hokkaido Rail Pass, it’s pretty straightforward. I bought it many years back so I can’t remember the exact process, but I don’t remember it being a huge hassle.

          If Sounkyo is along the way and the ice village is on, I do recommend spending a night there to check out the ice village. I enjoyed my stay at Sounkyo Choyo Tei a lot when I was there during ice village season.

  • christy says:

    Dear Bumblebeemum,
    I am very much interested on visiting Hokkaido prefecture during the snow festival. Kindly please advise on my itinerary plan :
    Day 1 : New Chitose-Abashiri-Shiretoko
    Day 2 : Shiretoko-Asahikawa for Asahiyama Zoo
    Day 3 : Asahikawa-day trip to Tomamu-Sapporo
    Day 4 : Sapporo
    Day 5 : Sapporo day trip to Otaru
    Day 6 : Sapporo-New Chitose
    It will only be 6D5N, very limited time, but its all i have and i wish i can make the best of it

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Day 1 doesn’t looks practical. That is too much distance you are covering in a day. I recommend you skip Shiretoko – it’s not very interesting in winter. Even then, going Abashiri from CTS will mean spending a whole day on the train!

      In winter, daylight hours are very short. 5 nights is a very short time for Hokkaido, so you will have to be realistic and focus on just a small area. Otherwise you will be spending your entire trip on the train.

      If you want to go for the ice-breaker cruise, focus your travel on Asahikawa, Sounkyo (there is a festival there) and Abashiri. That’s about all the time you have for.

      If you are willing to forego the ice-breaker cruise, then I suggest you base yourself in Sapporo. From there, take day trips to Asahiyama Zoo, Tommau and Otaru.

  • Evelyn says:

    hi Bumblebeemum
    We (2 couples) in our 50s would like to visit Hokkaido sometime mid August for 7 to 10 days. Is that a good time to visit Hokkaido? can u recommend places where we can go?

  • supermum says:


    we are planning a short trip to Hokkaido in march. we have not tried the JR before and considering to take the JR from Tomamu Resort back to Sapporo so as not to restrict ourselves to the snow liner shuttle time schedule. May I seek your help on the hyperdia link ?

    Do I search the station “Tomamu” and “Sapporo (JR)” on the available train sessions ?
    And what is the difference between “Fare” and “Seat Fee” ?
    Under “Seat Fee, I see 3 different categories “Green, Reserved and Unreserved”..may I ask what is the difference ? Which type would you recommend ?
    Do we need to purchase a ticket for child under 7 years old ?
    Do we need to purchase the tickets way in advance or we can get on the spot at Tomamu Station ?

    And may I ask do you have experience taking the JR from Tomamu to Sapporo ? If so, is it easy during winter considering the luggage and kid with us ?

    Thanks in advance for your advice.

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Green is like first class, which I don’t think is necessary. Reserved guarantees you a seat while unreserved does not guarantee you a seat and you will have to stand if there’s no seat or sit apart from each other. But if you go during non-peak period, you probably won’t need reserved seats.

      For 7 years old, I think they need a ticket. Child ticket is usually half price.

      If you want to keep your itinerary flexible, then get the tickets on the spot. There is no ticket counter at Tomamu station. Just hop onto the train and the conductor on the train will come to you. The train carriages will be marked “Green”, “Reserved” and “Non-Reserved”. I suggest you hop onto a “Non-Reserved” carriage, find a seat and wait for the conductor to come to you.

      I haven’t taken the train before, but I heard from a reader that there is no lift at Tomamu station, so you would need to carry your luggage up and down the stairs to the train platform. You can read the comment from that reader here:

  • Yvonne C says:

    Hi Bumblebeemum,
    It’s me again…. last year-end I got many useful tips from you for our first trip to Japan (Tokyo and Hakone) and thanks to your help we enjoyed our trip very much. And now we are hooked! We are planning to explore Hokkaido this December cos the kids said we didn’t get to see snow last Dec. I’ve been reading up on your articles but still have a very vague idea of how to go about planning the trip. I know it’s still way too early but I like to start looking into it to give ourselves something to look forward to. Perhaps you can give us some ideas on how to plan the itinerary? Here’s some details:

    Dates: prob fr 2nd week of Dec or if later means we can see more snow/do more snow stuff, we can consider going later and come back after Christmas. For about 14-16 days.

    Things we’d like to do: see lots of beautiful scenery, learn to skii (first time for my kids and myself), shop a bit, eat lots!

    We usually like to spend more time in one place rather than rushing through many different places, so which are the few areas you would suggest we visit as a first-timer in December? (We spent 16 days last Dec just covering Tokyo, Hakone and Fuji Five Lakes.) We are open to driving or taking public transport.

    Thanks in advance!

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Date wise, you will definitely have more snow activities if you go later in the month. Most snow resorts only go into full swing starting from Christmas week. Also, the penguin parade at Asahiyama zoo only starts in end Dec.

      I recommend you focus your trip in Eastern Hokkaido. I find the region most scenic in winter. Go to Tomamu for the snow activities and Ice Village, Obihiro for the good food, Kushiro for the market and cranes, Lake Akan for onsen and beautiful scenery around Akan National Park and Asahikawa for the zoo.

  • oopiez says:

    Hi Bumble Bee Mum,
    Am thinking of going Hokkaido in mid May – Sapporo (with day trips to Otaru, the zoo), Lake Toya, Hakodate, via public transport.

    Is mid May generally a good time to visit Hokkaido? Do you have any suggested route? 😛

    It’s been a while since I last took a flight requiring transit. ANA is providing options with about 1hr15min transit @ NRT on the way there, and 1hr10min transit @ HND on the way back to Singapore. Are these transit timings sufficient? :/


    • bumblebeemum says:

      If the transit is within the same airport, 1 hour is enough time to do the transit.

      Mid-May is not a very good time to visit Hokkaido. You are too late for cherry blossom and too early for shibazakura. You may be at the right time for tulips though. I just wrote a post on visiting in early Summer with sample itineraries, maybe you can read through it first and let me know if you still have any questions:

      • Oopiez says:

        Hi bumblebeemum,

        I think I will be going ahead in mid May, as the flowers seem hard to get to without a car too. Haha.

        How does this sound?

        Day 1: singapore to Sapporo, R&R
        Day 2: day trip to otaru
        Day 3: Sapporo to noboribetsu
        Day 4: noboribetsu to lake toya
        Day 5: lake toya to Hakodate
        Day 6: Hakodate
        Day 7: Hakodate back to Sapporo
        Day 8: day trip to asahikawa zoo
        Day 9: Sapporo
        Day 10: Sapporo? Lol

        If possible, I may shift some of the days around to take a bus tour to the eastern hokkaido area for the pink moss.

        Thanks 🙂

  • shgoh says:

    Hi , I plan to travel Hokkaido in April 21st – April 29 2016. Place interested Hokadate and Niseko. We will reach Sapporo airport on 22nd 8am , and plan to take public transport to Hokadate.

    Do you have any recommended itinerary to visit Hokkaido and any Tulip fair in month of April ?

    Kindly advise.

    • bumblebeemum says:

      April seems a bit too early for tulips. But if you want to try your luck, you can visit Takino Suzuran Hillside Park at Sapporo.
      You can check their website closer to the date to see if the tulips are in bloom when you are there. Takino Suzuran Hillside Park can be done as a day-trip from Sapporo.

      A possible itinerary visiting Niseko and Hakodate would go like this:

      21 April: Sapporo
      22 April: Sapporo (KIV: day trip to Takino Suzuran Hillside Park)
      23 April: Otaru (day trip from Sapporo)
      24 April: Sapporo – Niseko
      25 April: Niseko
      26 April: Niseko – Hakodate
      27 April: Matsumae Castle (day trip from Hakodate)
      28 April: Hakodate
      29 April: Hakodate – CTS

      Depending on what time your flight is on 29th, if you have a morning flight out, I recommend you return to CTS on 28th and spend the night at Air Terminal Hotel.

  • Mag says:

    Hi, I wanted to plan my honeymoon trip from 4-12th April which I realise it is not a good time to go from your blog, unfortunately I already book the ticket! Nevertheless, can you give me some advice of where to go as I’m totally confuse to plan for winter or spring. We would prefer scenic places, onsen and some must try gourmet. Look forward to your reply. Thank you.

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Early April is in between seasons, so it’s neither winter nor Spring. For in between seasons, I generally recommend visiting places like Sapporo, Otaru and Hakodate that are good in any season. A possible itinerary would go like this:

      4th (assuming you fly in early): CTS – Noboribetsu (enjoy onsen)
      5th: Noboribetsu – Onuma Koen – Hakodate
      6th: Hakodate
      7th: Hakodate – Lake Toya (enjoy onsen and scenery)
      8th: Lake Toya
      9th: Lake Toya – Sapporo
      10th: Sapporo
      11th: Sapporo (day trip to Otaru)
      12th: Home

      For must-try gourmet, you can check out the following posts:
      > Hokkaido Best Food
      > Hokkaido Best Sweets

      If you are interested to visit a snow resort, Niseko should still be operating at that time.

  • Vins says:

    Hi Bumblebee! Lovely Info you have in this blog.

    I will be going Hokkaido for 7 days and thinking of following itinerary.

    Day 1 – arrive CTS 10.30am. Sapporo. Day trip to Yoichi and Otaru.
    Day 2 – Sapporo. Day trip to Tomamu for ski
    Day 3 – Noboribetsu, Lake Toya
    Day 4 – Asahikawa
    Day 5 – Sapporo
    Day 6 – Sapporo
    Day 7 – Sapporo

    Because of the locations it looks a bit inefficient. Do you have a better suggestion?

    And do you think I should get rent a car for a day to Noboribetsu, Lake Toya?


    • bumblebeemum says:

      If it’s winter with short daylight hours, day 1 is too rushed. And I don’t advise you to do Noboribetsu and Lake Toya in 1 day.

      This is what I would suggest:

      Day 1: (Rent a car) CTS – Noboribetsu (stay there)
      Day 2: Noboribetsu – Lake Toya (stay there)
      Day 3: Lake Toya – Yoichi – Otaru (stay there)
      Day 4: Otaru – Sapporo (return the car). Sightseeing in Sapporo.
      Day 5: Sapporo (day trip to Asahikawa by train)
      Day 6: Sapporo (day trip to Tomamu by train)
      Day 7: Sapporo

  • Nicole says:

    Hi BumbleBeeMum,

    We are travelling with 6 adults + 2 years old child from 9/May/2016 – 14/May/2016 for Hokkaido Cherry Blossom Trip.

    Appreciate comments on our Itinerary.

    Currently, plan to rent Alphard/Vellfire for entire 6 days. (Enough for 6 adults plus 1 child, with 3 big and 2 small luggages???)

    Day 1: Landed at New Chitose @ 820am –> Hakodate —> Fort Goryokaku —> MT. HAKODATE

    Doable?? Still able to see sakura?

    Day 2: Morning Market —> Lake Toya —> Noboribetsu

    Day 3: Noboribetsu half day trip —> Otaru—> Sapporo at night

    Day 4: Sapporo 1 day Cherry Blossom Trip

    Day 5: Sapporo —> Furano

    Day 6: Furano —> Biei —> New Chitose

    Day 7: Leave Hokkaido @ 7am

    Any Ski resort still open at May?

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Hmmm…. I’m not sure if a 7 or 8 seater can fit all of you with so much luggage. I would go for 2 five-seater sedans. I find that renting 2 five-seaters is sometime cheaper than renting an 8-seater. Just that you need to coordinate the movement of the two cars and have more drivers.

      Whether or not you are still able to see sakura will depend a lot on luck. Typically cherry blossom in Hokkaido bloom in early May, so you are about a week late. But we never know how these things go because it depends on Mother nature. But your decision to go straight to Hakodate is the best bet you have.

      Personally, I would skip Noboribetsu. It is a bit of a detour if you are going to Otaru after that. Your current itinerary leaves too little time for Otaru. I would just go Hakodate – Lake Toya – Otaru. Spend less time on the road, more time enjoying the food and scenery and onsen.

      In Sapporo, you may want to make alternative plans for Sapporo in the event cherry blossom season has ended by the time you get there.

      By mid-May, the ski resorts would have closed.

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Hmmm…. I’m not sure if a 7 or 8 seater can fit all of you with so much luggage. I would go for 2 five-seater sedans. I find that renting 2 five-seaters is sometime cheaper than renting an 8-seater. Just that you need to coordinate the movement of the two cars and have more drivers.

      Whether or not you are still able to see sakura will depend a lot on luck. Typically cherry blossom in Hokkaido bloom in early May, so you are about a week late. But we never know how these things go because it depends on Mother nature. But your decision to go straight to Hakodate is the best bet you have.

      Personally, I would skip Noboribetsu. It is a bit of a detour if you are going to Otaru after that. Your current itinerary leaves too little time for Otaru. I would just go Hakodate – Lake Toya – Otaru. Spend less time on the road, more time enjoying the food and scenery and onsen.

      In Sapporo, you may want to make alternative plans for Sapporo in the event cherry blossom season has ended by the time you get there.

      While there is nothing wrong with going Furano and Biei in Spring, do realise that it is not going to be as beautiful as the travel photos you see of the colourful flower fields and lavender fields. There is no lavender in Spring. There will be some other flowers, but not super spectacular.

      By mid-May, the ski resorts would have closed.

      • Nicole says:

        Hi BumblebeeMum,

        Thanks for your prompt reply. In that case, do you think we should head straight to Sapporo since cherry blossom bloom later in Sapporo compared to Hakodate, which we will have a higher chance to see sakura there?

        Do you have any other places that you recommend us to go? We are thinking if not for sakura, we don’t see a point for travelling so far to Hakodate.

        One more question, any advice for us as self-drive traveller? Is it easy to find parking in Hokkaido? What is the parking rate there?


        • bumblebeemum says:

          Actually I think your best bet is Matsumae Castle which is further South from Hakodate. I read somewhere before that Matsumae’s cherry blossom season tends to last a bit longer. And I think the cherry blossom at Fort Goryokaku is something quite special. I would take my chances with Hakodate if I were you.

          It is very easy to find coin parking in Hokkaido cities. Rate can be anywhere from say 100yen to 400yen for 30 minutes block. Most coin parking have a cap at, say, 1200yen per 24 hours. Higher for the more touristy areas, lower as you get further from the tourist areas. In rural areas, parking is generally free and there will be parking lots near major attractions.

  • Joanna says:

    Hello! I read everywhere that April and May are not recommended months to visit, but unfortunately that’s all our schedule allows. Would you have any suggestions on what to do/where to do in Hokkaido? Thanks!! 🙂

    • bumblebeemum says:

      If you can go in late April / early May, it is actually cherry blossom season there. You can visit Southern Hokkaido, particularly Hakodate (Goryokaku Fort) and Matsumae Castle for cherry blossom.

      • Joanna says:

        hello again!

        it looks like we are heading only in 2nd or 3rd week of May (after golden week).

        what would you think of the following? it’s our first time travelling to Hokkaido, while the timing is not ideal, we are travelling with a 4 year old so i’m not too keen on rushing around.

        day 1: arrive Sapporo in afternoon, hang around Sapporo
        day 2: day trip to Otaru
        day 3: day trip to Ashahikawa
        day 4: should we head to Noboreitsu and spend one night there or spend more time in Sapporo? would taking a train to Noboreitsu ok?
        day 5: head to Hakodate in morning, spend the day and night at Hakodate
        day 6: Hakodate to Tokyo flight at noon

        If i could spare 1 more day in Hokkaido, what other places could we fit in for May? I guess Biei and Furano are out too.

        • bumblebeemum says:

          If you want to go to Noboribetsu, you should spend a night there. Book an onsen ryokan with half board. That’s the best way to experience Noboribetsu. Personally, I prefer Lake Toya to Noboribetsu. You can choose one of them. Find a ryokan that provides free shuttle service from Sapporo to the ryokan to save on transport. Some examples are Toya Sunpalace at Lake Toya or Hotel Mahoroba at Noboribetsu.

          If you have one more day, just spend the time relaxing in Sapporo and go around to enjoy the good food.

          • Joanna says:

            thank you so much for your invaluable advice!

            lake toya does sound more fun, i think one night there might be a good idea and a good stop from sapporo to hakodate. thanks again! 🙂

  • Miyako says:

    Hi is it possible to do all the above that you mentioned in a week? I want to snow ski/board, see the penguin parade, snow monkeys, ice scruptures, ride on the ice breaker, etc. I’m looking at traveling from end Dec till beginning Jan this year.

    • bumblebeemum says:

      It is possible to ski / snowboard at Tomamu, visit some ice sculptures (mainly igloos and ice slide) at Tomamu Ice Village, see penguin parade at Asahikawa and ride the ice-breaker cruise at Abashiri in a week. Snow monkeys are in Hakodate all the way South, so I wouldn’t try to squeeze that in.

      • Miyako says:

        Hi which hotel/resort do you think is optimal to do all these? And which pass should I get? I’m bringing my elderly parents and seeing that snowfall is heavy in Hokkaido, is it difficult to walk or travel around? It’s the first time we are going to a place with negative temperature, hence I’m quite worried. Asking the Japanese would be irrelevant as they are used to the snow. I would like to hear a Singaporean’s point of view. Thank you.

  • Alice says:

    Hi Bumblebee Mummy 🙂

    Thank you so very much for your information in this blog 🙂 Hope you can help give some advise as I will be going to Hokkaido 22/12 to 4/1.

    1) My intended itinery is as follows. what is your opinion?
    22/12 – 27/12 – Asahikawa (stay and do day trips)
    27/12 – 31/12 – Tomamu (stay at ice village and do day trips to biei/furano etc)
    31/12 – 4/1 – Sapporo (stay and do day trips)

    2) how do you book the hotels in ice village?

    3) where would you recommend for day trips while I am in Asahikawa and Tomamu?

    Thank you very much bumblebee mummy!

    • bumblebeemum says:

      1) What day trips are you planning to go from Asahikawa in winter besides Asahiyama Zoo? And I wouldn’t go Biei and Furano in winter either.

      2) Ice Village is not for staying, it’s just igloos with ice bars, santa’s house etc. You can go there and walk around and play with the slides and ice-skating rink. It is located at Hoshino Resort Tomamu and you can book a room there through their official website. But they are not open for 2016-2017 winter season yet.

      3) At Ashikawa, I would only spend a day to visit the zoo. From there, I would move to Sounkyo or Lake Akan. These are onsen towns which deserve at least a night stay at an onsen resort, rather than visiting as a day trip. As for Tomamu, I wouldn’t go anywhere. I would just stay there for skiing, snowboarding and other snow activities.

      • Alice says:

        Wow, thanks so much Bumberbee mummy for your fast respond XD

        Yes, after thinking about it, I decided to stay just 3 nights in Tomamu. and okie will wait for the booking for Hoshino Resort to open for winter season 🙂

        22/12 – 27/12 – from chitose airport (will land abt 6pm)head straight to Asahikawa (stay and do day trips)
        27/12 – 30/12 – Tomamu
        30/12 – 4/1 – Sapporo (stay and do day trips)

        1) is the above itinery fesible?

        2) Is Asahikawa a good base for travelling out for day trips? or is it better to stay at Kushiro?

        3) where would you recommend for day trips around Asahikawa or Kushiro? I have 2 big boys around 16 to 21 and my 81 yrs old dad. we would like to go places with beautiful scenery and theme parks for adults would be great if any 🙂

        Thanks Bumberbee mummy!

        • bumblebeemum says:

          2) For winter, I think Kushiro is a better base than Asahikawa. However, you do need a car to get around the crane area and Akan National Park from Kushiro.

          3) In winter, theme parks will be closed. So it is mostly about enjoying the scenery and food and onsen. I recommend driving around Akan National Park – it is very scenic. If you want to visit Asahikawa for the zoo, you can do it as a day trip from Sapporo.

          • Alice says:

            Thank you so much Bumberbee mummy 🙂

            Really appreciate all your info and advise. yap! I will change my base from Asahikawa to Kushiro. So will this itinery be better?

            22/12 – 27/12 – from chitose airport (will land abt 6pm)head straight to Kushiro (stay and do day trips)
            27/12 – 30/12 – Tomamu
            30/12 – 4/1 – Sapporo (stay and do day trips)

            • Alice says:

              O 2 more questions Bumberbee mummy XD

              1) If I am not comfortable to drive, is it still a good choice to spend 5 days in Kushiro as a base for days trips near that area?

              2) do you know of any website where I can book apartment type of accommodation in Hokkaido?

              Thanks again !

              • bumblebeemum says:

                1) If you are not comfortable to drive, it is going to be very hard to make day trips from Kushiro. In fact, it is very hard to visit many places in Eastern Hokkaido without a car.

                In my opinion, the best way to enjoy the region is by car and staying at the onsen towns. If I had 5 days, I would do the following:

                22/12: If you are arriving at CTS in the evening, spend the night at Air Terminal Hotel.
                23/12: Train to Obihiro, eat buta don and visit Rokkatei. Then rent a car and drive to Tokachigawa onsen. Spend the night there. If you want to save money, then skip Tokachigawa onsen and spend the night at a hotel near Obihiro station and pick up the car the next morning.
                24/12: Drive to Lake Akan.
                25/12: Drive around Akan National Park.
                26/12: Drive to Tsurui to see the cranes, then to Kushiro to visit Washo Market and drive back to Obihiro to return the car. Spend the night at Obihiro.
                27/12: Train from Obihiro to Tomamu.

                2) Apartments are not common in Hokkaido with the exception of Sapporo city. You can try AirBnb. If you are on a budget, try the chain hotels like Toyoko Inn / Super Hotel etc. I particularly like Super Hotel because they have rooms with a bunk bed. At Obihiro, I recommend Richmond Hotel. They have big family rooms that are very reasonably priced.

                • Alice says:

                  Okie XD

                  Thank you very much Bumberbee Mum! I should try driving for the first time in winter, haha.

                  Have a great day!

  • Syairul says:

    Thanks for ur writeup. I plan going for 2d1n 1st week december 2016 at hokkaido with family and kids. Travelling by shikansen from tokyo. Just to experience snow play. No skiing… Pls suggest where should i go?

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Hmmm.. What kind of snow play are you looking for if not skiing? 1st week of December is too early for stuff like snow rafting and snow mobile. The only place I can think of with ice slide and snow tubing in 1st week of December would be Tomamu Resort. But it’s a long way from Tokyo by train. To get to Tomamu from Tokyo, you need to:

      1) Take shinkanse from Tokyo to Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto (270min)
      2) Take a limited express train from Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto to Minami-Chitose (173min)
      3) Take another limited express train from Minami-Chitose to Tomamu (60min)

      If you just want to roll in the snow and build snowman, you can also go to Niseko. But it’s also not that easy to get there from Tokyo. You need to:

      1) Take shinkanse from Tokyo to Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto (270min)
      2) Take a limited express train from Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto to Oshamambe (72min)
      3) Take the JR Hakodate line from Oshamambe to Kutchan (97 min)
      4) Take a shuttle bus from Kutchan station to Niseko

      In other words, it’s not advisable to do a 2D 1N trip from Tokyo to Hokkaido to play with snow. You can read more about the Hokkaido shinkasen in this post:

      It only takes you as far as Hakodate, but there is no snow play near Hakodate that early in December.

  • Jobina Ng says:

    Hi BumbleBeeMum,
    We will be taking a overnight train Sunrise-Seto from Hakata to Tokyo on 30th Dec as we intend to get the JR pass. Would it be difficult to reserve seats on our arrival at Narita on the 18th Dec?
    From Tokyo to Sapporo, taking a train via Hakodate will take about 8 hours. Is it worthwhile to train or should we fly instead?

    If we do not intend to stay in Tomamu Resort but in Pensione Ing Instead, how do we get to Unkai Terrace in the early morning?


    • bumblebeemum says:

      I don’t think it will be difficult to get reserved seats after your arrive at Narita.

      I think it is more worthwhile to fly from Tokyo to Sapporo. If you are staying at Pension ING and you don’t have your own rental car, check with the owners of Pension ING if they can drive you up early in the morning before you book with them. If they cannot drive you up, then it’s better to stay at Hoshino Resort Tomamu.

      • Jobina ng says:

        Thanks , bumblebeemum.
        Decided ro fly from tokyo to Sapporo instead as advised.
        As for tomamu, will do a day trip from Sapporo.
        Thanks again

  • Annie Ng says:

    Hi BumbleBeeMum,

    My family of 4 (all adults) will be visiting Japan from 13th to 31th Mar-17. We are planning to go Hokkaido, Osaka and Tokyo.

    Planning to go Hokkaido first to see the ice village, then to Osaka either by train from Hakodate or by air from Sapporo and finally to Tokyo.

    Thinking of spending 10 days in Hokkaido, 5 days in Osaka and 3 days in Tokyo.

    Do you think it is feasible?

  • sharon goh says:

    I love reading your travel blogs! I m planning a trip with 4 other friends to hokkaido from mid dec to end dec.my question is..is it dif to drive around southern hokkaido during winter? Plan to start journey from chitose – noboribetsu – toya- hakodate – niseko- sapporo. I m from malaysia.

    • bumblebeemum says:

      There are definitely challenges to driving in winter, especially for those of us from countries where it never snows. But if you have sufficient time to drive slowly, it can be done and driving is still the most convenient way to get around places like Lake Toya and Noboribetsu. Hope the tips I have written in the post will help prepare you for the drive. Just remember: Drive slow. If you need to rush, then use the train. Train is faster in winter compared to driving.

  • Carrie says:

    Hi Bumblebeemum,

    Thanks for your write up on this. Its very informative. Need to get some advice and recommendation from you on my trip.
    I’m visiting Hokkaido 7 days 6 nights, just me and my partner. Don’t want to travel too long/far away from the central part. Will be there end of Dec – early Jan. Wanted to try some ice activities and leisure ski and not forgetting the hot spring. Do you have any recommendations on which area shall I look for? Not something too pricey =P

    • bumblebeemum says:

      End Dec to early Jan is peak period in Japan so it may get quite pricey. For ice activities and leisure ski, you can try Tomamu. It is an easy train ride from Sapporo. For hot spring, you can try Noboribetsu. Some resorts like Hotel Mahoroba have free shuttle to and fro Sapporo. And then you can plan a day trip from Sapporo to Asahiyama Zoo for the penguin parade. 🙂

  • Kay says:

    I’m going to hokkaido on 8 Dec this year. Main purpose is to see snow. Does it snow at Sapporo in Dec? Do I need to travel elsewhere to see it?

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Yes, it snows in Sapporo in Dec. But how much snow really depends on the weather. When we arrived at Sapporo at the start of the trip, there was still no snow on the pavements, though from time to time there was light snow falling from the sky. Then we drove around other parts of Hokkaido and when we came back to Sapporo at the end of the trip, the whole city was covered with snow. Coz in between, it started snowing very heavily in Sapporo. If you want guarantee of snow, head to the ski resorts like Niseko or Tomamu.

  • shavon says:

    Hi Bumblebee!

    we are planning to go for a tokyo-hokkaido during xmas week.

    looking at your previous advice, we might be flying from tokyo to sapporo, and sapporo to the different destinations.

    would like to check from sapporo to e.g. tomamu and the eastern areas, will it be easily accessible through public transport as we will not be driving.


    • bumblebeemum says:

      Tomamu is accessible by train, but the nature spots in Eastern Hokkaido are not easy to access by public transport. You will need a car to explore Akan National Park.

  • Janice says:

    Dear Pretty,

    I am planning to go Hokkaido with a family of 4 persons (2 adults & 2 teenagers) on the 5th week of Nov to 10 December. I have also booked our hotel for Tomamu from 4/12 to 7/12 so in between Nov and after 7/12 I am stuck as not sure which route should I head to.

    Places that we want to visit
    Kitami – black bear
    Obihiro – but not sure what to see

    Please guide me as I am not sure which airport should I land , Hakodate airport ? or New Chitose Airport

    Looking forward to hearing from you

    • bumblebeemum says:

      You can land Hakodate and move up via the route:
      Hakodate – Lake Toya – Otaru – Sapporo – Tomamu

      I suggest doing Asahikawa as a day trip from Sapporo by train.

      If you want to head east (Obihiro / Kushiro / Kitami), you may want to do it after Tomamu. But you probably won’t have time for everything.

      • Jan says:

        Hi Dear,

        I have planned based on your suggestion but need to ask your advice whether should I rent a car or take train to Hakodate

        Will arrive at Chitose Airport straight to Hakodate for 3 days then to Lake Toya then back to Sapporo.

        I cant decide whether should I rent a car from airport to Hakodate then Lake Toya and return the car in Sapporo. As I am not sure the time schedule for train to Hakodate as I will only arrived at Chitose airport at 1pm.

        Hope to hear from you soon.

        Best Regards
        Janice Lee

        • bumblebeemum says:

          I would take the train. The drive from CTS to Hakodate is pretty long and if you are going in winter, train would be much faster and safer. You can check the train schedule on hyperdia:

          • Jan says:

            Thank you dear.
            But I will be going to Lake Toya ( stay a night) from Hakodate – is train advisable too?

            • bumblebeemum says:

              You can use the train up to Toya station and from there, take a cab or local bus (not very frequent) to Lake Toya. Alternatively, you can also rent a car just for a day to move around Lake Toya if you want to visit Usuzan ropeway, Lake Hill Farm, Silo observatory etc. But if you just want to go to your hotel and explore the onsen town on foot, you can just cab / bus in and out.

  • Natalie Ng says:

    Hi BumbleBee Mum,

    My family of 4 (2 adults, 2 daughters 6yrs old and 3yrs old) will be visiting Japan from 23rd Feb – 8th March. We are planning to go Eastern Hokkaido, my target places as follow,

    From Sapporo (Chitose) Airport 8am take train to tomamu ice village resort – 2 nights

    -> From TOmamu to Noboribetsu – Bear Park – 2 nights

    -> From Noboribetsu to Sapporo, Hokkaido – 1 night

    -> From Sapporo to Rusutsu Ski Resort – 2 nights

    -> From Rusutsu to Otaru – Otaru Canal – 1 night

    -> From Otaru to Asahiyama – Asahiyama Zoo Penguin Parade – 2 nights

    -> From Asahiyama to Sapporo – 1 night

    -> From Sapporo to Chitose Airport

    I have read your above comments, eastern hokkaido is not easy to access by public transport, so meaning that we must drive in Hokkaido right? My hubby used to drive in US.. we have plenty of time can drive slow. And If we rent a car from Chitose airport, is it cheap?

    Looking forward to hear from you 🙂

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Renting a car in CTS is usually not too expensive as there are many companies there. If you don’t have that much luggage and can fit into a 5-seater sedan, I would say about 7000yen per day is a reasonable price?

      If you are driving, from Noboribetsu you can go to Rusutsu without going back to Sapporo. Enroute you can stop at Lake Toya for a quick sightseeing. Lake Toya is very scenic. i.e I would go in this order:

      CTS – Tomamu – Noboribetsu – Lake Toya (sightseeing stop) – Rusutsu – Otaru – Asahikawa – Sapporo – CTS

      • Natalie Ng says:

        Hi BumbleBeeMum, 8 days car rental fees is about 120,459.799yen Dec to Feb is peak season so price raise 🙁 .. we have only 1 super BIG luggage wonder can it fit into a sedan car?

        Is it possible to change my plan by taking train from CTS – Tomamu – Noboribetsu – Lake Toya (sightseeing stop) – Rusutsu – Otaru – Asahikawa – Sapporo – CTS or we must drive in Sapporo? Thanks.

        from Sapporo by train

        • bumblebeemum says:

          Sedan cars’ boot size really varies. Not sure how big your luggage is. What we do is to split our luggage into one luggage case that we are fairly confident can fit into most sedan’s car boot and a backpack. The backpack can be slot in between the two kids if necessary. A sedan car is usually much cheaper than a 7-seater. 120500 yen sounds terribly expensive for 8 days car rental if you are talking about a 5 seater sedan.

          The problem with the Noboribetsu – Lake Toya – Rusutsu – Otaru route is that it is very easy to go using a car but terribly difficult with public transport. In Hokkaido, most public transport brings you between Sapporo and other towns. So for e.g. Lake Toya and Rusutsu are so near each other on the map, but public transport between the two places can be a pain. If you want to use public transport, you will have to cut down on the places to visit. E.g. between Tomamu and Rusutsu, I would only choose one and between Lake Toya and Noboribetsu, I will only choose one.

          So if I am using public transport, this is what I would do with 8 days:

          Day 1: CTS – Tomamu (train or bus)
          Day 2: Tomamu
          Day 3: Tomamu – Sapporo (train or bus)
          Day 4: Sapporo (day trip to Asahikawa by train)
          Day 5: Sapporo – Lake Toya (direct bus)
          Day 6: Lake Toya – Sapporo (direct bus)
          Day 7: Sapporo (day trip to Otaru by train)
          Day 8: Sapporo

          Anyway I thought you had more than 8 days? The route I suggested, even with a car, would require more than 8 days.

          • Natalie Ng says:

            My trip is 14 days minus 1.5 days for 2 way flights, 12.5 days left. Forget about Rusutsu and Noboribetsu,

            Day 1: CTS – Tomamu (train or bus) *NINI Restaurant*
            Day 2: Tomamu Ice Village
            Day 3: Tomamu – Sapporo ( By train or bus)
            Day 4: Sapporo – Asahikawa ( By train) – Asahikawa Winter Festival ( End Jan, try my luck, winter festival normally start after 6th Feb )
            Day 5 : Asahikawa Penguin Zoo ( Spend full day there )
            Day 6 : Asahikawa (Tokiwa Park & Asahiyama Yuki no Mura )
            Day 7 : Asahikawa – Sapporo ( By Train )
            Day 8: Sapporo – Lake Toya (direct bus)
            Day 9: Lake Toya – Sapporo (direct bus)
            Day 10: Sapporo – Otaru by train ( Sankaku Market & Otaru Canal )
            Day 11: Otaru
            Day 12: Otaru – Sapporo ( By Train ) – Chitose Airport

            BumbleBeeMum, thank you so much for your help. Thanks from heart 🙂

            • bumblebeemum says:

              Hmmm… You’re visiting in end Jan? Asahikawa festival starts on 6 Feb every year. If you want to try your luck at the Asahikawa Winter Festival, you should try to go as late as possible. The snow and ice sculptures don’t come up overnight. The closer to the festival opening you go, the more likely you would be able to see some ice and snow sculptures near completion and watch the people work on them. But I’m really not sure whether the festival grounds will be open to public before the festival begins.

              In Sapporo, by end Jan, you can spend some time walking around Odori Park and the giant snow sculptures should be near completion too.

  • See Peng says:

    Hi Bumblebeemum,

    we have booked our Hokaido trip from 13-20.12.2016 and also booked Tomamu resort for 2 night from 15-17 Dec..our flight will reach CTC at 5pm so u think possible to take train to Asahikawa first then next day(14/12) to Zoo before we headed to Tomamu on 15th Dec?
    Any hotel to recommend in Asahikawa?

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Yes, it is possible to catch a train from CTS to Asahikawa when you arrive. The train ride requires a transit at Sapporo. You can use hyperdia to check the train schedule and fare:

      I don’t have specific favourite hotel to recommend in Asahikawa as I usually book whatever is cheapest. But if I were you, I would pick somewhere close to Asahikawa station since you will be arriving by train late at night. Last thing you want to do is to drag your luggage around in snow looking for your hotel after a long flight + train ride. So I suggest you go with JR Inn Asahikawa which is directly connected to Asahikawa station:

  • Tan says:

    Hi, I am travelling to Hokkaido in mid Dec for abt 10 days and plan to self drive. Pls advise which place should I visit. Thanks

    • bumblebeemum says:

      I suggest visiting Eastern Hokkaido for self-drive. You can visit Akan National Park for the cranes and lakes. Then spend a few days at Tomamu resort if you are into skiing and a few days in Sapporo with a side trip to Otaru.

  • Gail says:

    Hi! I’m traveling with two female friends, my husband and 2 year old daughter to Sapporo on February 2017. We arrive at the Sapporo Chitose airport at 3pm on Feb 9, then depart from the same airport on Feb 18 at 8pm. That gives u 8 full days. Can you suggest an itinerary for us that’s kid friendly, including public transportation that we can take. We’d like to visit a ski resort, watch the penguin parade, attend the snow festival, etc.

    Many thanks!

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Looking at your dates, you should start in Sapporo to catch the Sapporo snow festival which ends on 11 Feb. Make a day trip to Asahikawa from there to visit the zoo (penguin parade) in the morning and Asahikawa winter festival (also ends on 11 Feb) in the evening. After that, move to a ski resort for a few days and then go to CTS from the ski resort for flight back.

      For example:

      9 Feb: Sapporo (Sapporo snow festival)
      10 Feb: Sapporo (Sapporo snow festival)
      11 Feb: Sapporo (day trip to Asahikawa)
      12 Feb: Sapporo (day trip to Otaru – stay till evening for Otaru snow light path)
      13 Feb: Sapporo
      14 Feb: Sapporo
      15 Feb: Sapporo – Ski Resort
      16 Feb: Ski Resort
      17 Feb: Ski Resort
      18 Feb: Ski Resort – CTS

      For Ski resort, you can choose between Niseko, Rusutsu or Tomamu. They are all pretty kids friendly.

  • Derrick says:

    I am planning a Winter Holiday to Hokkaido and whether possible to slot Tokyo in as well for Me, My Wife, My Son(4 Years Old), My Wife’s Uncle, My Wife’s Aunt, My Wife’s Cousin(19 Years Old) for 10 Days 8 Nights in late January 2017.
    We wish to go to areas like Hakodate, Lake Toya, Noboribetsu, Niseko, Otaru, Sapporo and Abashiri Icebreaker Cruise.
    I am thinking how to cover them in 6 Nights so I can leave 2 Nights in Tokyo to go to DisneySea and some recommended places.
    Should I fly to Hakodate Airport to carry out our holiday in Hokkaido then end up in Memanbetsu Airport to fly to Tokyo Haneda Airport then from there back to Singapore?
    Can advise what we must do in each area and the correct Itinerary?
    I am sorry to trouble you as your Blog is very detailed.
    Hope to hear from you soon.
    Thanks & Regards,

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Hokkaido is pretty big and it seems a bit tough to cover all the places you listed in 7 days (6 nights). What you can do is, like you said, fly into one city and out of another to save time. For Niseko, I am not sure how much you all want to ski. If you want to, say, spend 2 days skiing, you will be hard-pressed for time for other stuff.

      For e.g. if you spend 2 full days at Niseko, your itinerary would probably be something like this:

      Day 1: Fly into Hakodate
      Day 2: Hakodate – Lake Toya
      Day 3: Lake Toya – Niseko
      Day 4: Niseko
      Day 5: Niseko
      Day 6: Niseko – Sapporo
      Day 7: Sapporo – CTS

      If you are not that keen to ski, you can skip Niseko entirely and your itinerary may look something like this:

      Day 1: Fly into Hakodate
      Day 2: Hakodate – Lake Toya / Noboribetsu
      Day 3: Lake Toya / Noboribetsu – Sapporo
      Day 4: Sapporo
      Day 5: Sapporo (day trip to Otaru)
      Day 6: Sapporo (day trip to Abashiri Icebreaker cruise)
      Day 7: Sapporo – CTS

  • Yee says:

    Hi Bumblebeemum,

    I have booked air tickets for two for period from 16 Jan 2017 to 26 Jan 2017 to Hokkaido.

    I have a rough plan for this trip. Seeking your opinion and some advice on better and smother journey. This is our first time in Hokkaido and we prefer to use public transport than driving in the snow.

    Would it be worthy if we include ice creamer cruise in our trip? If yes, where and when would you suggest ya?

    Day 1 (16/1)
    KL – CTS airport (Arrival before 9am) – Noboribetsu

    Day 2 (17/1)
    Noboribetsu – Tomamu

    Day 3 (18/1)
    Tomamu – Kushiro

    Day 4 (19/1)
    Kushiro – Lake Akan

    Day 5 (20/1)
    Lake Akan – Asahikawa

    Day 6 (21/1)
    Asahikawa – Sapporo

    Day 7 (22/1)
    Sapporo – Otaru

    Day 8 (23/1)
    Otaru – Niseko

    Day 9 (24/1)
    Niseko – CTS Airport

    Day 10 (25/1)
    Ice creamer cruise

    Day 11 (26/1)
    CTS Airport – KL

    Thank you very much.

    Wish hearing from you soon =)

    • bumblebeemum says:

      The ice breaker cruise is at Abashiri or Monbetsu. If you want to catch the ice-breaker cruise, you should go to Abashiri from Lake Akan. By public transport, there is a bus from Lake Akan to Kitami and from Kitami, catch a train to Abashiri.

      The one night in Niseko seems pretty rushed. If you are already going to Tomamu, you can skip Niseko imo.

      This is what I suggest from Day 5 onwards:

      Day 5 (20/1)
      Lake Akan – Abashiri

      Day 6 (21/1)
      Abashiri (ice-breaker cruise) – Asahikawa

      Day 7 (22/1)
      Abashiri – Asahikawa

      Day 8 (23/1)
      Asahikawa – Sapporo

      Day 9 (24/1)
      Sapporo (day trip to Otaru)

      Day 10 (25/1)

      Day 11 (26/1)
      Sapporo – CTS

  • Gaynee says:

    Hi BumbleBeeMum,
    I’m planning to go Hokkaido with my family (2 adults & 1 kid – 8 yrs old) from 26 Jan to 1 Feb 2017. Places that we wish to visit are Sapporo, Otaru, Tomamu, Asahikawa Penguin Zoo and may be Noboribetsu. As we only have 5 nights in Hokkaido and don’t want to ski, hope you could advise and guide me where should we visit? Looking forward to hear from you.Thank you.

  • skyblue says:

    Hi Bubblebeemum, we are planning to go Hokkaido in mid-Nov 2016 with 5 of family members (2 adults and 3 children 10yo, 5yo and 3yo). we are planning to rent a car to sightseeing not keen in skiing, thinking to spend 6 nights at Hokkaido. Which are places we can plan to? May I have your advise please?

  • supermum says:


    we plan to visit Hokkaido next March and like to seek your advice on how best to arrange the sequence of these places. we are looking at 6-7 nights

    sapporo (2 days)
    tomamu (2-3 days)
    lake mashu and lake akan (1 night at lake akan) and lake kusshuro

    how best to travel to these lakes during winter via public transport ? are the buses available daily or only at fixed period of the month ?

    thanks in advance 🙂

  • CHR says:

    Hi Bumblebee mum,

    Plan to visit Hokkaido from 13-Dec 2016 till 20-Dec 2016 x 7 nights.

    We approached a local tour company who estimated the cost of S$26,000 for 4 adults (73, 69, 38, 38) + 3 kids (10, 7, 5).

    Tentative plan:

    Day 1: CTS –> Noboribetsu (private tour)
    Day 2: –> Hakodate (private tour)
    Day 3: (private tour) –> transfer to Rusutsu resort
    Day 4: Rusutsu resort
    Day 5: Rusutsu resort
    Day 6: –> Sapporo with transfer, then free & easy
    Day 7: Sapporo, free & easy, maybe to Otaru day trip
    Day 8: CTS –> Singapore

    As you can see a big family comes with huge cost. Do you find the itinerary sound and how would you advise we cut cost? Go free and easy with this plan? Is it easy to move around with some transport for initial 3 days? Thanks!

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Hmmmm… Do you have anyone in the group who is game to drive in winter? If you rent an 8 seater and drive yourselves and book all the hotels yourselves, you can probably do the trip at half price. $26K for a 7 days trip is totally OMG to me. I just came back from Hokkaido for 16days with my in laws (4 adults + 2 kids) and our total expenses was about $14k inclusive of food. We drove one car and stayed in budget accommodation but we ate good food almost every meal. So I estimate even if you stay in ryokan and resorts for 7 nights, it should still be max max $15k?

  • Doreen mummy says:

    Hi, I am planning a trip in Dec (probably from 15-22Dec) with my family (2 adult & 2 school going teenagers) to Hokkaido. This is our first visit to Hokkaido, hope you can advise on the itinerary below:
    Day 1 CTS-Sapporo (via airport bus)- most likely stay in Mecure hotel as
    suggested by you
    Day 2 Day trip to Otaru
    Day 3 Day trip to Asahikawa (not sure if able to see penguin parade) in mid
    Dec, else no point go there
    Day 4 Sapporo-Tomamu or Rusutsu (what is your recommendation?)
    Stay 1 or 2 nite in Ski resort
    Day 5 Tomamu (if stay 2 nite) or Tomamu-Sapporo (if only 1 nite)
    Day 6 Sapporo
    Day 7 Sapporo-CTS (via airport bus)

    For penguin parade, you recommend Asahiyama zoo over Noboribetsu Marine Park nixe, but I am afraid there is no penguin parade in mid Dec. Do you have any advice for me?
    For Tomamu ski resort, I was thinking of doing ski, reindeer sledding, other snow play, ice village, Olsen, unkai terrace (if possible).
    We don’t intend to self drive, are the above itinerary easily accessible via Hokkaido JR as I intend to get 4 day flexi pass or 3 days pass if there is free shuttle bus provided by ski resort.
    I may have get the name wrong or ask silly question as I am totally aliens to Hokkaido, only gets better after reading your very informative post, so please pardon me 🙂
    Thanks in advance.

    • Doreen mummy says:

      Sorry, is me again, Doreen mummy.
      Just wandering if is workable if we do ski resort as a day trip for 2 days? In this way, we don’t have to carry our heavy luggage around.
      Can JR pass be used for trip from CTS airport to Sapporo JR station? Thinking if I should buy 5 days pass instead…..
      Sorry to bother you again.
      Thanks in advance.

      • bumblebeemum says:

        If you have a rail pass, yup it is possible to visit Tomamu as a day trip and save the trouble of dragging luggage around through the snow. Especially since I heard Tomamu station doesn’t have escalators or lifts.

        Yes, the JR Pass can be used for the train ride from CTS to Sapporo. You need to use hyperdia to add up the cost of the train tickets and compare it to the price of the rail pass to see which rail pass is more worth it.

    • bumblebeemum says:

      For the penguin parade, I suggest you play by ear. If it has started by Day 3, then go on Day 3. If not, wait until Day 6 to see if it has started. If by Day 6 it has still not started, then go to Noboribetsu NIXE instead.

      There is no unkai terrace at Tomamu in winter. Tomamu is easily accessible by JR whereas Rusutsu is not. Rusutsu has free shuttle service to and fro Sapporo in Summer, but I am not sure about winter.

      • Doreen mummy says:

        Hi, firstly, I would like to thank you for your advice.
        I have re-plan the itinerary as below as i have the intention of extending one more day hoping to have at least 1 nite stay in Onsen hotel. Would be very much appreciated if you can spare some time to take a look & give your comment. All comment are welcome, be it +ve or -ve 🙂
        Day 1 CTS-Otaru (arrive at 12.45pm)
        (Plan to stay 1 nite in Onsen hotel-vibrant hotel is fully booked, any recommendation?)
        Day 2 Otaru-Sapporo
        Day 3 Sapporo-Tomamu (stay 1 nite in Tomamu-The Tower?)
        (Do you think is good idea?)
        Day 4 Tomamu-Sapporo
        Day 5 Sapporo-Asahikawa or Noboribetsu (Day trip)-penguin parade & ramen village in Asahikawa, for Noboribetsu, I am not sure where else to visit. Or do you think lake toya is better? Is it easily accessible via JR?
        Day 6 Sapporo
        Day 7 Sapporo
        Day 8 Sapporo-CTS (2.05pm flight)

        Based on the above itinerary, I may not need to purchase Hokkaido JR pass. But how do I purchase the train ticket & is it a must to reserve seat, if so, how do I do it?
        I am quite confused with the transportation, as I try to check via hyperdia to check the price & Travelling time, I get the below message at the TOP of the page:
        “The search results below may contain some routes not suitable for Japan Rail Pass. Please make inquiries to railroad companies or travel agencies regarding actual fares, actual seat-fees and whether you are able to use Japan Rail Pass or not”.

        Just wandering if is more convenient to get Hokkaido JR pass or it not difficult to get individual ticket as & when I travel.

        As for Sapporo hotel, Mecure hotel is fully booked during my Travelling period, so I am now looking at Gracery hotel or Richmond hotel, but both hotel cost around $170+/-
        Any idea if the airport limousine stop near Richmond hotel? As I think can take JR to Gracery hotel as it is very near Sapporo JR.

        Oh ya, i also intend to go to Jyogai Ichiba & Shiroi Koibito Park (Ishiya chocolate factory), can I take the shuttle bus provided by Kita No Gourmet & after visiting the wholesale market, take subway to Miyanosawa station? Is curb market same as Jyogai Ichiba?

        Once again, thank you very much for your great help.

  • cymphere says:

    Hello, Bumblebeemum
    Great impressed of your holiday write up.
    My family of 5 with 3 teenage(22,17,15) planning to visit Hokkaido around end of Dec (must be during school holiday), firstly is the airfares is extremely high, before I consult you the whole trip but I need to know how to book a budget airfares, as per your previous written it is better around S$600+, could you advise how to monitor the cheap airfare from Singapore to CTS, (my budget for the whole trip is S$8K)

  • Alvin Lim says:

    Hi Bumble bee mum,

    I and my Wife is going to Hokkaido this 30th dec to 14th Jan. Though this is our second time going there. We were hoping to go eastern part of Hokkaido. We would like to try ski. And I’m a big fan of ramen. If you could help us with some itinerary. For this 2 weeks. Appreciated thanks

  • Natalie Ng says:

    Hi BumbleBee Mum, i would like to check with you again, is my following plan more easier to travel around with public transportation by train/bus, with my 2 childrens, 3 years old and 6 years old, thanks.

    Day 1 23Jan: CTS – Sapporo
    Day 2 24Jan: Sapporo
    Day 3 25Jan: Sapporo-Lake Toya
    Day 4 26Jan: Lake Toya-Otaru
    Day 5 27Jan: Otaru
    Day 6 28Jan: Otaru-Asashikawa
    Day 7 29Jan: Asashikawa
    Day 8 30Jan: Asashikawa-Tomamu
    Day 9 31Jan: Tomamu
    Day10 01Feb: Tomamu
    Day11 02Feb: Totamu
    Day 12 3rd Feb : Tomamu-CTS Hotel
    Day 13 4th Feb : CTS Airport – Malaysia

    • bumblebeemum says:

      I would use the public transport. If using public transport, I would probably go back to Sapporo after Lake Toya if the resort provides free return shuttle between Sapporo and Lake Toya. Some resorts in Lake Toya do that. Then from Sapporo, train to Otaru.

  • Pauline Chong says:

    If I intend to travel during end Nov, what can I do?

  • Tammy says:

    HI bumblebee mum, i have always enjoyed reading your travel blogs, I usually try to search your travel blog for tips when I plan to visit new places. This round we will be visiting Hokkaido in December (12th to 28th) with my 3 teenager kids and this will be our 2nd visit after 6 years. I am inspired by your blog and plan to travel east for the first half of the holiday before moving west to Niseko for a few days of skiiing. I read in other travel blogs and it seems dangerous to drive to the east during winter, I am not sure what I should do as I really like to see east Hokkaido but is also conscious of travel cost. This is my current travel plan and I would greatly appreciate if you can give some advice, our fight tickets are locked. Thank you

    12th Dec – reach chitose airport late morning, pick up car and spend the night in Sapporo
    13th Dec – Drive to Kushiro and spend the night
    14th Dec – Drive to Lake akan and spend the night
    16th Dec – KUSHIRO -> Tomamu
    17th Dec – Tomamu ->Noboribetsu (return car)
    18th Dec – Noboribetsu ->Niseko

    • bumblebeemum says:

      If you want to keep driving to a minimum, you can use the train till Kushiro then rent a car from there. However, with the number of people you have, it is probably more cost effective to drive all the way. Drive slow and in bright daylight and don’t rush your itinerary, that’s the best way to stay safe driving in winter.

      That being said, the drive to Kushiro is very long, so on 12th Dec, I wouldn’t recommend going to Sapporo. I suggest you start heading East once you arrive – giving yourself 2 days to do the drive to Kushiro. You can use Obihiro or Tokachigawa Onsen to break up the drive.

      • Tammy says:

        Thank you bumblebeemum, I will take your advice and drive straight to obihiro. Can you please advise the approximate driving time during winter? Also do you have any comments on the rest of the proposed itinerary?

        • bumblebeemum says:

          The drive from New Chitose Airport to Obihiro would take 3 to 4 hours, depending on weather condition. Closer to 4 if there is heavy snow, 3 if you can good weather and no snow on the road. The rest of your itinerary looks okay, not too rushed. 🙂

  • Melissa Chew says:

    Thank you so much bumblebeemum, this is the best write up for a first timer who is planning a winter trip to Hokkaido 🙂
    I truly appreciate your time and efforts on this blog.

  • Lim Tiong Wah says:

    Hello Bumblebeemum

    My family of five (my wife and girls – 14, 16 and 18) will be in Hokkaido on 29/11 – 13/12. Please comment on the itinerary below. Truly Appreciate.

    Day 1 (29/11): Arrive CTS 1230h / Pick up Mazda Premacy / Noboribetsu (Bear Park / Onsen)
    Day 2 (30/11): Noboribetsu to Lake Toya
    Day 3 (1/12): Lake Toya to Hakodate (Mt Hakodate / Hakodate Factory)
    Day 4 (2/12): Hakodate (Morning Market Asaichi / Fort Goryokaku Park)
    Day 5 (3/12): Hakodate to Niseko (Snow Activities)
    Day 6 (4/12): Niseko to Otaru (Canal / Sakaimachi / Asharigawa Onsen / Lake Otarunai / Asari Dam)
    Day 7 (5/12): Otaru to Sapporo (Mt Moiwa / Moerenuma Park etc)
    Day 8 (6/12): Sapporo (Hitsujigaoka Observation Hill / Jogai Ichiba / Kitahiroshima Mitsui Outlet Park / Susukino / Tanukikoji Shopping Street etc)
    Day 9 (7/12): Sapporo to Asahikawa (Zoo) then Biei (passing by), then Furano (passing by for food), then Tomamu (Ice Village and winter Activities)
    Day 10 (8/12): Tomamu (Ski and alike in the morning) / leave for Obihiro (passing by for food) then Kushiru (Market and Cranes)
    Day 11 (9/12): Kushiru to Akan National Park (Lakes Akan, Kussharo, Mashu)
    Day 12 (10/12): Akan National Park to Abashiri (Ryuhyo / Ice-breaking Cruise / Prison Museum etc)
    Day 13 (11/12): Abashiri to Ashoro (passing by for food), then to Kokusetsu Shimukappu Central Ski Area (or head straight to Chitose)
    Day 14 (12/12): Kokusetsu to Chitose (Outlet Mall / Royce Chocolate World / Kirin Beer etc)
    Day 15 (13/12): Chitose to Singapore

    Also, please advise:

    1. Whether I should book all the Ryokan (Inn) ahead or for the sake of flexibility book only the first two nights? That was what we did in US and Australia.
    2. Are there many Ryokans along the popular traveling routes? What are the typical rates for a budget and comfortable stay?
    3. Is Mazda Premacy good for such long winter drive? Need to have the international driving license?
    Once again, many thanks for your time and good heart.

    Dr Lim

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Day 9 is WAY too rushed. Sapporo to Asahikawa (zoo) is probably all you can do. Don’t forget it’s winter, you need to drive slow and the sun sets at 4+pm.

      Day 10 is also way too rushed. If you ski in the morning, by the time you reach Obihiro, it should be dark already.

      For Day 12, I don’t think the ice breaker cruise has started yet for your date.
      I suggest that you omit the entire region around Abashiri and Ashoro from your itinerary and spread out Days 9 to 11 over the next 5 days.

      Day 9: Sapporo – Asahikawa
      Day 10: Asahikawa – Biei – Furano – Tomamu
      Day 11: Tomamu
      Day 12: Tomamu – Obihiro – Kushiro
      Day 13: Kushiro – Lake Akan
      Day 14: Lake Akan – CTS
      Day 15: Flight back

      1. You can book those with free cancellation ahead.

      2. You will be able to find ryokans at Noboribetsu, Lake Toya and Lake Akan. There is a pretty wide range, from less than 10,000yen per pax to like 20000yen per pax ryokans for a night’s stay with half-board. Really depends on your budget and how you definite comfortable. If you have the budget, ryokans like Nonokaze at Lake Toya and Tsuruga at Lake Akan should be very comfortable. :p

      3. Is Mazda Premacy an 8-seater? An 8-seater should be pretty comfortable for a family of 5. And yes, you need to apply for International driving licence to drive in Japan.

  • Celest says:

    I was told by the tour operator that the resorts/ accom in Niseko will only cater to min 5 nights. you mentioned you don’t really ski, did you have to spend 5 nights in niseko?

  • Eunice says:

    Hello there! We are planning to go to Hakkaido for winter break this December. Will take trains to different destinations. However, does train go to Lake Toya and Lake Akan? Thank you.

  • Lynne Ho says:

    Dear Bumblebee-Mum,
    First of all, thank you very much for sharing your winter tips in your Hokkaido blog. It provides valuable information to help travelers in planning for a free and easy trip. My family will be going to Hokkaido from 8 to 17 Dec this year. We would like to include Tomamu Ski Resort as one of the destinations. Please advise:
    1) I read in your blog that Ice Village in Tomamu was opened on 1 Dec 2015. What are the activities were available in the village then? Were the ice slides, ice bar, skating ring already opened in early Dec? We are yet to plan the itinerary, most likely will push the Tomamu Ski resort towards the end of our trip.
    2) Will the slopes for beginners/intermediate skiers open around 13-16 Dec? Besides skiing, what other snow activities, for instance snow mobile, banana boat, sledding etc would be available by then? I am thinking if these activities are not opened yet, i probably make a day trip to Furano for such activities. Do you have any idea any snow activities company in Furano provides shuttle service to pick us from Tomamu?

    Truly appreciate your kind attention ad advice.


    • bumblebeemum says:

      1) There were ice slides and snow tubing when we were there in early Dec. The ice skating rink and ice bar were not opened yet though. So yeah, you should go Tomamu as late as possible.

      2) Yup, they should have courses for different ski competence levels.

      Most of the snow activities only start in late Dec, so your dates may be too early. Does Furano have snow activities that early in Dec? My impression is that most resorts only go into full swing starting from Christmas week. I don’t think the companies in Furano will pick you up from Tomamu.

  • Liz says:

    Hi Bumblebeemum,

    We (2 adults & 2 kids – 6yrs old & 10 yrs old) are going to Hokkaido this December. Hope you can help to comment out itinerary below:

    Day 1 (5/12) – Reach Sapporo in the afternoon. Stay at Sapporo.
    Day 2 (6/12) – Visit around Sapporo.
    Day 3 (7/12) – One day trip to Otaru.
    Day 4 (8/12) – One day trip to Asahiyama Zoo.
    Day 5 (9/12) – Day trip to Skiing place.
    Day 6 (10/12) – Rent a car drive to Lake Toya. Stay at Lake Toya.
    Day 7 (11/12) – Drive to Hakodate.
    Day 8 (12/12) – Visit around Hakodate.
    Day 9 (13/12) – Drive back to New Chitose & stay at Air Terminal Hotel.
    Day 10 (14/12) – Early flight back to KL.

    Can recommend any skiiing place around Sapporo?

    Thank you very much!

  • Lionel says:

    Hi Bumblebeemum,

    Thanks to your blog on Hokkaido which is so informative and detailed.
    I am planning to visit Hokkaido for my first time next year Feb and would like to get your advise which route below is better, we won’t be driving but taking bus or trains.

    1) CTS airport – Hakodate – Niseko – Sapporo – CTS airport
    2) CTS airport – Niseko – Hakodate – Sapporo – CTS airport

    Thanks again for your advise.


  • citra says:

    Dear Bumblebeemum,
    I plan to go to Hokkaido from Osaka on 11 Jan 2017 & back to Tokyo on 15 Jan 2017.
    After i read your writing, i found out that it would be a very short time to spend in there 🙂
    I’m very naive then since this is my first time to go to Hokkaido. & fyi, i come from a tropical country.
    I & my cousin’s fam (4 adults & 5 children 3-9 yrs old) wish to experience otaru canal, onsen, snow monkey (is it only in hakodate?), skiing for newbie & ice skating. And after i read your writing, i thought it would be very interseting to see tomamu ice village & penguin parade as well.
    What ittinerary would you suggest best for our limited time with lots of wishes like that.. I really can’t decide now. Please help..

    Thanks in advance for whatever advice you have. 🙂


    • bumblebeemum says:

      Hmm.. You effectively only have 3 full days in Hokkaido and daylight hours are very short, so you really won’t be able to do much. I suggest you base yourself in Sapporo if you are flying to and fro New Chitose Airport. On 11th and 15th, just explore Sapporo city with whatever time you have upon arrive and before departure. Then for the 3 full days, you can do day trips to Otaru, Asahikawa (for penguin parade) and Tomamu (for ski and ice village). That’s about it.

      • Citra says:

        Dear B,
        I would like to ask for any ittinerary idea & transportation recommendation based on your advice above, please.. Shall we stay overnight at asahikawa area, and 1 night at tomamu?
        Thank you in advance..

      • Citra says:

        Dear B,
        Thank you for your advice..

        Which one is better?
        D2: Sapporo – Otaru – Sapporo
        D3: Sapporo – Asahiyama Zoo – Sapporo
        D4: Sapporo – Tomamu Ice Vilage – Sapporo


        D2: Sapporo – Otaru – Sapporo
        D3: Sapporo – Asahiyama Zoo – Stay overnight in this area
        D4: Asahiyama area – Tomamu Ice Vilage – Sapporo

        Or do you have any better sugestions?

        Thank you in advance

        • bumblebeemum says:

          I would go with A. Moving around in winter is a pain. Furthermore there is no direct train from Asahikawa to Tomamu. To go from Asahikawa to Tomamu, you will need to transfer at Sapporo. So might as well just stay at Sapporo all the way.

          • Citra says:

            Thank you for the advice,
            What is the best public transportation for 15 people (8 adults & 7 children) from Sapporo?
            a. to and fro Otaru
            b. to and fro Asahiyama zoo
            c. to and fro Tomamu

            And do you have any recommendation for hotel with onsen those are with reasonable price..?

            Thanks again dear B 🙂

            • bumblebeemum says:

              For a group your size, I would probably split into two 8-seaters for transportation. Or use the train.

              If you just want a budget hotel with a small onsen bath, Super Hotel has a small onsen in most of their hotels. But if you are looking at a onsen ryokan, you can compare prices using OTA websites like booking.com / Agoda etc. The older ryokans are much cheaper than the newer ones, so for e.g. at Lake Toya, Toya Sunpalace would be cheaper than say Lake View Nonokaze. And an Noboribetsu, you can try Hotel Mahoroba.

  • Amy Cheah says:

    Dear BumbleBeeMum,

    Thank you for this informative blog and sharing your winter experiences.

    We are planning to go to Sapporo in Jan 2017 during the winter season with our kids. Our plan is to stay in a Sapporo and then just make day trips to different sites. We would like to get your opinion if the below itinerary is feasible. Our main intention is for kids to experience snow play.

    -how should we plan this trip as this is our 1st time in Sapporo and we don’t have any plans yet
    -as we’re travelling with two young boys, we’re not too keen on rushing around
    -is the below itinerary smooth – we’re trying to avoid going back and forth from places
    -what are the rail passes we would require (if any)? [we will be in Tokyo for 5 days before arriving in Sapporo]

    Day 1: Arrive CTS by noon > free and easy in Sapporo
    Day 2: Day trip to Tomamu > Ice Village – snow park, ice slider, snow activities for kids’ fun
    Day 3: Day trip to Asahikawa > Dog Sledding > Asahiyama Zoo
    Day 4: Day trip to Otaru
    Day 5: Can we do day trip to either Obihiro (Tokachigawa Onsen) or Furano (Ningle Terrace)? Or any other better suggestions?
    Day 6: After check-out, free and easy in Sapporo till 3.00pm before heading to CTS

    Your advice and feedback are greatly appreciated.
    Thank you

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Obihiro and Furano are a bit too far for day trips in winter. You can just stay around Sapporo on Day 5, it should be covered with snow by the time you are there! For more snow fun near Sapporo, you can check out this article:

      • Amy Cheah says:


        Thank you for the article on ski resorts.

        Need to check with you if onsens in Obihiro are child friendly? We might change our itinerary on Day 4 & 5 to fit in a night stay at Obihiro (Tokachigawa Onsen).

        How else can we fit in Otaru?

        • bumblebeemum says:

          I have never stayed at Tokachigawa onsen before so not sure which ones there are particularly child friendly. I don’t think you have time to squeeze in Otaru if you stay at Tokachigawa on Day 4. Daylight hours are extremely short and you can’t move around as quickly in winter. Try not to make your itinerary too packed.

          • Amy Cheah says:

            Hi BUMBLEBEEMUM,

            I’ve read through your blog and made some minor change to my itinerary.

            Is this feasible?
            What are the rail passes we would require (if any)? [we will be in Tokyo for 5 days before arriving in Sapporo]

            Day 1: Arrive CTS by noon > free and easy in Sapporo
            Day 2: Day trip to Tomamu > Ice Village
            Day 3: Day trip to Asahikawa > Dog Sledding > Asahiyama Zoo
            Day 4: Day trip to Otaru > Asharigawa Onsen and Canal walk
            Day 5: Sapporo > shopping, cafe hopping > Mount Moiwa to watch sunset and night scenery
            Day 6: After check-out, free and easy in Sapporo till 3.00pm before heading to CTS

            Thank you!

            • bumblebeemum says:

              Day 3: Where is the dog sledding that you are planning to do? Usually Asahiyama Zoo alone would take up a whole day.

              Use hyperdia to add up the total cost of your train trips for Days 2, 3 and 4.

              If it’s more than 16500yen, you should get the 3 days Hokkaido Rail Pass. If it’s less, then a rail pass is not necessary.

              • Amy Cheah says:

                Dear BUMBLEBEEMUM,

                Here is our amended itinerary:-
                Day 1: Tokyo Haneda > Sapporo CTS (arrive by 11.05am) > free and easy in Sapporo
                Day 2: Day trip to Tomamu > Ice Village
                Day 3: Day trip to Otaru > Asharigawa Onsen and Canal walk
                Day 4: Asahikawa > Asahiyama Zoo (spend a night)
                Day 5: Asahikawa > Dog Sledding by Moonlight Ladies > travel back to Sapporo > hopefully to watch sunset at Mount Moiwa
                Day 6: After check-out, free and easy in Sapporo till 3.00pm before heading to CTS

                We will be doing dog sledding by Moonlight Ladies.
                Hope this itinerary works better with added day in Asahikawa.

  • Ice says:

    Dear BubblebeeMum,

    I need your help to guide me as I will be travelling with a family of 4 to Hokkaido during winter in late Nov and have booked our tickets and accommodation. I am still very worry as not too sure about the transportation and would appreciate if you could kindly share your experience. Below is my itinerary which I cannot change as accommodations have been paid :-

    28/11 – Arrived in CTS to Hakodate (not too sure how to get there)

    28/11 to 30/11 – check in Hakodate

    30/11 – to Lake Toya (not sure about how to get there)

    30/11 to 01/12 – check Lake Toya

    1/12 – leaving Lake Toya to Sapporo ( not sure about how to get there)

    1/12 to 4/12 – check in Sapporo (Plan one day to Otaru)

    4/12 – leaving Sapporo to Tomamu (not sure about how to get there)

    4/12 to 7/12 – check Tomamu

    7/12 – Leaving Tomamu to Sapporo

    7/12 to 9/12 – check Sapporo

    9/12 – leaving Sapporo to airport

    Looking forward to hearing from you soon.

    Thank you

    Best Regards
    Janice Lee

    • bumblebeemum says:

      28/11: You will have to use the train to get from CTS to Hakodate (with one transfer at Minami-Chitose).
      30/11: I suggest you take the train till Toya station and take a taxi from there to your hotel at Lake Toya.
      1/12: Check with your hotel if they provide shuttle services to Sapporo (some hotels do). If they don’t, ask them to advise you on any direct bus back to Sapporo and what’s the bus timing.
      4/12: You can either take a from Sapporo to Tomamu and hop on the resort shuttle at Tomamu station to Hoshino Resort, or use the bus liner to bus from Sapporo to the resort.

      If you need to check train routes and schedules, just use hyperdia:

  • Chizuru says:

    Hi Bumblemeemum,

    I really enjoyed reading your blog. It’s really informative and helped me a lot in planning my trip to Hokkaido next year.

    My husband and I are travelling to Hokkaido from 25 Jan to 8 Feb 2017 (15 days), and we would like to self drive. Could you help us to take a look at the itinerary below and see whether is it too rushed? Also, should I get the HEP plan for the car rental?

    Day 1 (25 Jan) Arrival to CTS. Explore Sapporo.
    Day 2 (26 Jan) Skiing at Sapporo Teine Ski Resort
    Day 3 (27 Jan) Collect rental car. Sapporo – Lake Shikotsu – Noboribetsu
    Day 4 (28 Jan) Noboribetsu – Tomamu (Ski/Ice Village)
    Day 5 (29 Jan) Tomamu – Lake Shikaribetsu (Kotan) – Tokachigawa Onsen (Sairinka) – Obihiro
    Day 6 (30 Jan) Obihiro – Kushiro
    Day 7 (31 Jan) Kushiro – Tsurumidai – Tsurui Ito Tancho Sanctuary – Lake Akan
    Day 8 (1 Feb) Daytrip to Lake Kussharo – Iozan – Lake Mashu
    Day 9 (2 Feb) Lake Akan – Abashiri (Ice breaking cruise)
    Day 10 (3 Feb) Abashiri – Shiretoko (Drift ice walk/snowshoe trekking) – Abashiri
    Day 11 (4 Feb) Abashiri – Sounkyo Onsen (Icefall festival)
    Day 12 (5 Feb) Sounkyo Onsen – Asahiyama Zoo (Penguin parade) – Sapporo. Return rental car.
    Day 13 (6 Feb) Sapporo Snow Festival
    Day 14 (7 Feb) Daytrip to Otaru. Overnight at hotel near CTS.
    Day 15 (8 Feb) Early morning flight back to KL.

    Your advice is much appreciated. Thanks!

  • sandra says:

    Hi, I booked my flights to New Chitose already from 22nd to 27th November. 3 adults and 1 child. Can you suggest an itinerary? I made hotel booking at Hilton Niseko for this period. I can easily change it based on your suggested itinerary.

    Please advise!!


    • bumblebeemum says:

      If you are planning to visit Niseko and don’t mind driving, you can also visit Noboribetsu and Lake Toya with the time you have. Depending on how many nights you plan to stay in Niseko, if you still have time, you can also visit Otaru and Sapporo.

  • Walter Drake says:

    Greetings from a Thailand family:
    Thank you so very much for this wonderful write-up. It will be the foundation for our upcoming January 2017 trip.
    If there is any time, between Rusutsu and Tomamu, which would feature the most sleigh rides, horse rides, dog sled rides, and snowmobiling (or any combination) for family with young children age 11?
    Loei, Thailand

  • Tamara says:

    HI bumblebeemum…
    I booked my flight to New Chitose at 13 December – 20 December for 5 adults. can u suggest an itinerary for me?
    I’m planning to stay at Chalet ivy Kutchan Niseko as the location is near Hanazono 308..
    which one is more recommended between Hanazono 308 and Tomamu?? cause i just want to do some snow tube and slidding..

    Looking forward to hearing from you soon..:)



    • bumblebeemum says:

      Hanazono’s website says their snow tubing will start from Dec 3, but this is usually just an estimate and subject to weather conditions. During my visit in Dec, the snow parks at Niseko (Hirafu) and Rusutsu did not open on their stipulated opening dates. So if you want to go to Hanazono, I recommend you go right at the end of the trip. But I got to say their snow tubing for 2500yen per pax sounds very expensive. I rmb at Tomamu Ice Village, we just had to rent a snow tube (can’t rmb how much, but think something like 700yen?) and the whole family could share it. Of course Tomamu Ice Village just had a small slide to slide down with the snow tube, not a whole snow tubing park like in Hanazono, but frankly there are pretty much the same to me – you sit in a tube and you slide down. Not something I would pay 2500yen per pax for. I would go for Tomamu.

      How many days do you plan to spend at the ski resort? Ski resorts are usually not great for sightseeing, so I wouldn’t stay near a ski resort except for the days I want to ski. If you are not skiing, I would say spend 2 nights max for the snow activities than the rest of the time you can stay in Sapporo and do side trips to Otaru and Asahiyama Zoo. You can also spend one night at one of the onsen ryokan in Lake Toya / Noboribetsu. So let’s say you do not plan to ski for many days, a possible itinerary would be:

      13 Dec: Sapporo
      14 Dec: Sapporo (day trip to Otaru)
      15 Dec: Sapporo – Noboribetsu
      16 Dec: Noboribetsu – Sapporo
      17 Dec: Sapporo (day trip to Asahiyama Zoo if penguin parade has started)
      18 Dec: Sapporo – Tomamu / Niseko
      19 Dec: Tomamu / Niseko
      20 Dec: Tomamu / Niseko – CTS

      • Tamara says:

        Dear Bumblebeemum,

        May i know the exact time when u visited the snow parks in Niseko??
        I’ve plan to stay at Tomamu, but i see the price was really expensive during visit time.. is it posssible if i have side trips from sapporo to Tomamu? as i read from your blog, the Ice Village start opening in the evening. I’m affraid that i cant find transportation heading back to Sapporo.. xixi

        thanks,.. 🙂

  • Angie says:

    Hi, may I know which part of december you went to Tomamu? My family will be going to Hokkaido from 4 to 12 dec and I thot of slotting in Tomamu but worry that the snow activities won’t be ready. We dun ski.

    • bumblebeemum says:

      I can’t remember the exact date but it was the first half of December.. around 10th Dec? They didn’t have a lot of snow activities at that time, so we only stayed a night mainly for the Ice Village.

  • Pat says:


    I see that you recommend people to Otaru for a day trip quite frequently. May i know what are the attractions? I am planning a 5-day trip to Hokkaido in Dec (probably 17 onwards) and will be 2 adults and 2 girls (10 and 3 years) Would you be able to recommend anything? The older girl has skied in Korea once and just want to feel the powdery snow that people talked about. Other than that, food would be the huge draw and experience japan culture.


    • bumblebeemum says:

      Otaru is mainly just the canal and the street called Sakaimachi. The town has a nice atmosphere and a lot of good food along Sakaimachi. The main attraction is the music box museum at the end of Sakaimachi.

      For 5 days, you probably just want to spend 3 days in Sapporo and 2 days at a ski resort or vice versa.

  • Shirlene says:

    wow! great to find someone that love Japan too!!!

    Visiting my favorite Country again.

  • Ly says:

    Hi! Your blog is really informative! We are a family with 2 kids and are planning a trip to Hokkaido during 11th-19th December.

    Can I please get your opinion regarding my itinerary?
    11 – fly in to New Chitose, transfer to Rusutsu
    12-14th – Rusutsu
    15th – Rusutsu – transfer to Sapporo
    16th – Otaru day trip
    17th – Sapporo or Noboribetsu or Tomamu
    18th – Tomamu
    19th – Tomamu – Sapporo – fly home

    Would actually like to let the kids experience the ice village at Tomamu and some fun snow activities like tubing, sledging, snowmobiling etc.
    Do you think going during Dec 17-19 period, the fun stuff will be available? Is the tubing in a kids park area? I read from their website that some activities like snowshoe walking etc needs booking and only start around Christmas. Does tubing or snow banana rides need booking too?

    Do you think my itinerary, especially the last few days sound ok?

    Also I’m not sure if I read correctly, but the JR trains are disrupted in Hokkaido?? Need to take replacement shuttle bus from Sapporo to Tomamu?? 😱

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Most snow activities only start at the tail end of December. So you may or may not be able to do all the fun stuff when you are there. It really depends on the snow condition.

      But for those that are available when you are there, you can book them after you arrive. E.g. the reindeer sleighing we did at Tomamu – they only opened for booking one day in advance. But I would advise you to enquire upon check-in whether you can make your activity bookings there and then. Because for e.g. at Rusutsu, when I tried to make a booking for dog sledding for that day, their slots were all taken. But they had slots for the next day. So don’t wait until the day you want to do the activity to book.

      Your itinerary is okay if you main purpose is to hit the ski resorts.

      Yeah, the JR trains are disrupted because of a recent typhoon. If the repair is still not done by December, then yes you will have to use the bus.

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Oh yeah, one thing about your itinerary for 19th (last day). You can go straight back to the airport from Tomamu. There is no need to go back to Sapporo.

  • Steph says:

    Hi Bumble bee mum,

    I will be traveling to Jap from 25/12/16-2/1-17. As our flight we land in tokyo, we will spend the first and last two days at tokyo.

    Would like to seek advise from you on the itinerary:

    25/12 – tokyo
    26/12 – tokyo
    27/12 – tokyo – hakodate
    28/12 – hakodate – sapporo
    29/12 – 1 day trip to otaru
    30/12 – sapporo to tokyo

    do you think i will have enough time to cover shiroi kibito park, sappora beer factory museum and mount moiwa just in one day?

    please advise

    • Steph says:

      I have a changed of plan to extend one more stay at sapporo

      25/12 – tokyo
      26/12 – tokyo
      27/12 – tokyo – hakodate
      28/12 – hakodate – sapporo
      29/12 – 1 day trip to otaru
      30/12 – 1 day trip to lake toya
      31/12 – sapporo to tokyo

      please advise

      • bumblebeemum says:

        If you want to go Lake Toya, you should slot it in between Sapporo and Tokyo to save on travelling time.

        27/12 – tokyo – hakodate
        28/12 – hakodate – sapporo
        29/12 – 1 day trip to otaru
        30/12 – sapporo – Lake Toya
        31/12 – lake Toya to tokyo

    • bumblebeemum says:

      It looks way too rushed to me. You will be spending much more time on the trains than doing any sightseeing.

  • Hazel SW says:

    Dear Bumblebeemum,

    I chanced upon your blog while researching for our Hokkaido trip. I was so relieved and finally see light at the end of the tunnel (cry with joy) Thank you for sharing so generously and your comments (244 comments on this thread alone, Impressive!)

    We are a family of 5 (2 adults and 3 children 5,10,13) visiting Hokkaido this coming November 21/11 to 29/11. Objective is sightseeing and play play with snow. All I have bought now is the air tickets. Guess I would be able to finallize soon after your reply. I have a couple of questions;

    1) Noboribetsu or Tomamu? My initial plan was to spend a night at Mahoroba. After reading your post I am inclined to visit Tomamu instead (should be able to squeeze in the last leg of my trip because the reservation is open now) Of these two, which would be a better choice? My husband is a conservative man and the idea of using the onsen naked is horrifying. If he does not use the men onsen, can I bring my son aged 5,10 to onsen? My girl is 13. Spending a couple of hundreds and not using the onsen really make so sense, right? Pity the good food tho, heard Mahoroba food is good.

    2) Tomamu – They would be open by 26/11, since it is still early in winter, what activities can we enjoy there (I heard not all activities will be open by then)?There are onsen there too right?

    3) How about Lake Toya, worth a day trip? Knowing my children, walking and exploring in the cold and just looking at the Lake will not last them very long, is there any other activities? Otherwise I may just drop Lake Toya this time.

    I read here change of season in November is not a good time to visit (cry), well, we will just make the best out of our trip;

    My tentative itinerary;

    21/11- Depart Singapore

    22/11 – Reach Chitose 8.20am; proceed to Sapporo

    23/11 – Sapporo

    24/11 – Otaru (day trip)

    25/11 – Noboribetsu Hell Valley & (Lake Toya?), day trip for these if confirm going to Tomamu

    26/11 – Asahiyama Zoo day trip

    27/11 – Leave Sapporo to Tomamu overnight

    28/11 – Tomamu to Chitose Air terminal hotel

    29/11 – Return to Singapore 10.55am flight

    Is there anything to fine tune? Like stay overnight in another town instead of returning to Sapporo? The luggage will be a headache tho. How feasible is it to send some luggage to terminal hotel by TaQbin first so we have less luggage to bring to Tomamu?

    Please pardon my long post and thank you in advance for your reply! Have a great day!

    • bumblebeemum says:

      1) I don’t think it’s nice to bring your boys into the female onsen – especially your 10 year old. I have seen boys around 4 or 5 years old in the female onsen before, but definitely I don’t think a 10 year old boy should go to the female onsen. If your boys don’t mind running around the onsen naked, then ask your husband to bring them to the male onsen. He can wear his clothes – as long as he’s not getting into the onsen it’s fine. Just stand at the side to watch the boys while they play with the onsen slide.

      2) Yup, there is onsen at Tomamu. There is also the indoor wave pool, so if you bring your swimming costumes, you can play there. Not much snow activities going on in Nov though – unless you take a ski / snowboard lesson. But the resort will be surrounded by snow, so you can just go outside and make snow balls and stuff. You can also ask the reception if you can borrow a sled.

      3) Looking at your itinerary, just choose one between Lake Toya and Noboribetsu. But whether you choose Noboribetsu or Lake Toya, I would recommend staying a night there. If you go to Lake Toya, stay at Toya Sunpalace where there is the big swimming pool where you can go it your swimming costumes.

      And yes, I think it is possible to use luggage forwarding services to send your luggage to Air Terminal Hotel first:

  • Jerlyn says:

    Hello Bumble Bee Mum,

    Your blog is extremely informative and I am currently planning out my itinerary based on yours!

    I am planning to visit Hokkaido from 18 Dec to 26 Dec (9 days), and have planned out my draft itinerary per below.

    Would you please give me some comments, thoughts and advice?

    It’s our first trip to Japan, and we are bringing our 5 year old boy with us.

    Main considerations/objectives as we are not planning to drive;
    – Minimised travel with luggages
    – Minimised hiking/trekking
    – Minimised hotel changing
    – Optimise the public transport
    – Staying near stations, or places of attractions and easy access to everywhere
    – Try out skiing, sledding, dog and reindeer sleds too!
    – Best to have an onsen for children too! (Private will be a plus but understand that it’s extremely expensive)
    – Coin laundry and free wifi!

    17 Dec, Sat: Fly in to Chitose airport

    18 Dec, Sun (Day 1): Transfer to Tomamu (if I managed to book a room). Activities: Ski, dog and reindeer sledding, snow mobile, etc. Ice Village.

    If no rooms at Tomamu, I might just go Furano instead, and get a room from Furano City, which is walkable to the ski resort. Do you know if the Furano snow land is free entry or you need to be a guest of the Furano Prince hotel?

    Alternative: stay at Sapporo and do a day trip to Tomamu/Furano

    19 Dec, Mon (Day 2): Transfer to Sapporo. Probably staying hotels near the station.
    Activity: JR Tower, Stellar Place, Akarenga Terrace, Sapporo beer museum, Pokemon Center Sapporo

    20 Dec, Tues (Day 3): Asahikawa Zoo
    Do you know if it’s walkable to the Ramen village? If it’s too far away, we might just take the train back to Sapporo
    Night time will probably walk around Sapporo station again.

    21 Dec, Wed (Day 4): Day trip to Furano/Tomamu

    22 Dec, Thur (Day 5): Mitsui Outlet Mall -> Sapporo TV tower -> Odori Park (Munich Christmas and White Illumination)

    23 Dec, Fri (Day 6): Otaru
    Activity: Sushi street, Otaru canal

    24 Dec, Sat (Day 7): Lake Toya, onsen (Is this worth going? If not, I might put in another day at Sapporo?)

    25 Dec, Sun (Day 8): Air Terminal Hotel Chitose (hopefully I can get a room there)

    26 Dec, Mon: Fly back to SG

    I am still trying to sort out the accomodation, do you have any alternative accomodation to recommend, in the event that I can’t get any rooms for hotels/resorts in Tomamu, Furano, Lake Toya?

    What kind of transportation pass should I get?

    Looking forward your wonderful inputs!


    • Jerlyn says:


      I realise I shouldn’t give Hakodate a miss too.. I have another alternative draft itinerary to include Hakodate..;

      17 Dec, Sat: Fly in to Chitose airport

      18 Dec, Sun (Day 1): Lake Toya, onsen/ Noboribetsu

      19 Dec, Mon (Day 2): Transfer to Hakodate

      20 Dec, Tues (Day 3): Travel to Sapporo. Probably staying hotels near the station.
      Activity: JR Tower, Stellar Place, Akarenga Terrace, Sapporo beer museum, Pokemon Center

      21 Dec, Wed (Day 4): Asahikawa Zoo
      Do you know if it’s walkable to the Ramen village? If it’s too far away, we might just take the train back to Sapporo
      Night time will probably walk around Sapporo station again.

      22 Dec, Thur (Day 5): Otaru
      Activity: Sushi street, Otaru canal

      23 Dec, Fri (Day 6): Mitsui Outlet Mall -> Sapporo TV tower -> Odori Park (Munich Christmas and White Illumination)

      24 Dec, Sat (Day 7): Transfer to Tomamu (if I managed to book a room). Activities: Ski, dog and reindeer sledding, snow mobile, etc. Ice Village.

      If no rooms at Tomamu, I might just go Furano instead, and get a room from Furano City, which is walkable to the ski resort. Do you know if the Furano snow land is free entry or you need to be a guest of the Furano Prince hotel?

      Alternative: stay at Sapporo and do a day trip to Tomamu/Furano

      25 Dec, Sun (Day 8): Air Terminal Hotel Chitose (hopefully I can get a room there)

      26 Dec, Mon: Fly back to SG

      Do you think this arrangement is better?

      • bumblebeemum says:

        You will probably have difficulty getting a room at a ski resort on 24 Dec. Even if there’s a room, it’s like to be very expensive. But otherwise the rest of your itinerary looks okay.

    • bumblebeemum says:

      18 Dec: I don’t thing Tomamu has dog sledding? If you want to do dog sledding, try Rusutsu instead.

      20 Dec: Nope, the ramen village is not near the zoo.

      21 Dec: Between Furano and Tomamu, I would opt for Tomamu for the Ice Village.

      24 Dec: I do think an onsen is worth visiting in winter. Winter is the best time to enjoy onsen! But for your date, it is probably going to be extremely expensive. You can try checking the prices to see if it’s within your budget. If not then just stay in Sapporo for another day.

      Regarding accommodation, you can refer to this post:

      As for transport pass, if you put your day trips to Asahikawa, Tomamu and Otaru on 3 consecutive days, you can consider getting the 3-days Hokkaido rail pass:

  • by says:

    Hi Bumble Bee Mum,

    I am going to Hokkaido(in&out chitose airport) on 15th-26thDec,is it nice to go Hakodate in December(by JR Train)?travel with 2 primary boys.

  • Salim says:

    Hi, thanks for this wonderful blog of yours. My family of 4 (adults) will be visiting Hokkaido 13-22 Dec. Wd appreciate your comment on our planned itinerary:
    Day 1: Arrive Sapporo evening.
    Day 2: Sapporo. Otaru day trip
    Day 3: Rusutsu
    Day 4: Rusutsu
    Day 5: Tomamu
    Day 6: Tomamu. With Lake Toya day trip.
    Day 7: Noboribetsu
    Day 8: Sapporo. City tour + Mt Moiwa at nite
    Day 9: Sapporo. Asahikawa Zoo day trip.
    Day 10 CTS for flight home.

    Also, shd i give up Noboribetsu for Lake Akan?
    Thank you.

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Your order is a bit queer. Tomamu is complete out of the way from Rusutsu / Lake Toya / Noboribetsu. And it doesn’t look like you will have enough time to reach Lake Akan. This is what I would suggest instead:

      Day 1: Arrive Sapporo evening.
      Day 2: Sapporo (Otaru day trip)
      Day 3: Sapporo (Asahiyama Zoo day trip)
      Day 4: Sapporo (City tour + Mount Moiwa)
      Day 5: Sapporo (day trip to Tomamu)
      Day 6: Sapporo – Rusutsu
      Day 7: Rusutsu
      Day 8: Rusutsu – Lake Toya
      Day 9: Lake Toya – Noboribetsu
      Day 10: Nboribetsu – CTS

  • Salim says:

    Oops. I made a mistake. Lake Toya day trip is from Rusutsu on Day 4. Tks

  • See Peng says:

    Hi bumblebeemum,

    In Sapporo, besides Shiroi Koibito park, wholesales market, clock tower,Odori park, where else worth a visit? 2 days enough to stay there?

  • Melanie says:

    Hello Bumble Bee Mum,
    I love reading your blog as it very informative to me.
    I am planning to visit Hokkaido from 11 Feb to 20 Feb (10 days), and have planned out my draft itinerary per below.
    Appreciate if you could provide some advise.

    Day 1: Depart to Sapporo Chitose Airport at 9am from Tokyo Haneda, Visit Odori Park (Snow Festival)
    Day 2: Visit Otaru (Otaru Snow Light Path) & Train Back to Sapporo
    Day 3: Depart to Asahiyama Zoo & visit Sounkyo Ice Waterfall Festival. Should I stay at Asahiyama or go back to Sapporo?
    Day 4 : Depart to Hakodate & Enjoy the onsen at La Vista Hakodate Bay
    Day 5: Visit Hakodate Morning Market & Dinner at Sapporo Beer Garden (if have time) & Back to Sapporo
    Day 6: Depart to Bier (catch the Blue Pond and waterfall) izzit worth to go during winter?
    Day 7: Visit Rinku Premium Outlets/ Mitsui Premium Outlet
    Day 8 : Depart to Noboribetsu and visit Snow Mobile Park
    Day 9: Visit Chitose and Lake Shikotsu Ice Festival & last min shopping at Aeon Mall ( stay at Airport Hotel)
    Day 10: Back to Kuala Lumpur

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Day 3 is too rushed. If you just want to visit Asahiyama Zoo, you can go there as a day trip from Sapporo via train + bus. But if you want to continue on to Sounkyo for the Ice fall festival, I suggest you spend one night in Asahikawa, then go to Sounkyo the next day and spend the next night a Sounkyo.

      Day 6: I personally don’t think it’s worth to go to Biei in winter specially for the blue pond.

      I think your itinerary needs some rearrangement. You can do the following:

      Day 1: Sapporo (snow festival)
      Day 2: Sapporo (day trip to Otaru)
      Day 3: Sapporo – Asahikawa (visit Asahiyama Zoo)
      Day 4: Asahikawa – Sounkyo
      Day 5: Sounkyo – Sapporo
      Day 6: Sapporo – Hakodate
      Day 7: Hakodate – Noboribetsu
      Day 8: Noboribetsu – Lake Shikostu
      Day 9: Lake Shikotsu – CTS
      Day 10: Flight back

      Alternatively if you skip Sounkyo, it will be a bit less rushed as you can do the following:

      Day 1: Sapporo (snow festival)
      Day 2: Sapporo (day trip to Otaru)
      Day 3: Sapporo (day trip to Asahiyama Zoo)
      Day 4: Sapporo (Mitsui Outlet Park)
      Day 5: Sapporo
      Day 6: Sapporo – Hakodate
      Day 7: Hakodate – Noboribetsu
      Day 8: Noboribetsu – Lake Shikostu
      Day 9: Lake Shikotsu – CTS
      Day 10: Flight back

      • Melanie says:

        Thank you so much for your suggestion and feedback. Lake Shikotsu Ice Festival and Sounkyo Ice Waterfall Festival is about the same right?

      • Melanie says:

        Hi BumbleBeeMUm,
        Is me again. Between Tomamu Ice Village and Lake Shikotsu Ice Festival which is more interesting? For Day 9, any suggestion do you have during Feb winter season?

        I have modify my itinerary again. I’m planning to buy the Hokkaido JR 7day pass.

        Day 1 (Feb11): Haneda Airport – CTS – Sapporo (snow festival)
        Day 2 (Feb12): Sapporo (day trip to Otaru)
        Day 3 (Feb13): Sapporo (day trip to Asahiyama Zoo)
        Day 4 (Feb14): Sapporo – Hakodate (Hotspring hotel)
        Day 5 (Feb15): Hakodate – Noboribetsu- Sapporo
        Day 6 (Feb16): Sapporo (Mitsui Outlet Park)
        Day 7 (Feb17): Sapporo city tour
        Day 8 (Feb18): Sapporo – Lake Shikostu Ice Festival / Tamumu – CTS
        Day 9 (Feb19):
        Day 10 Feb 20: Flight back

        • bumblebeemum says:

          The Hakodate part looks a bit rushed. I would add in one more night at Hakodate. You can drop by Onuma Koen while you are there. I think it’s beautiful when the lakes are all frozen in winter.

  • Choonie says:


    We are going for a winter trip to hokkaido in Dec. What would you recommend for winter layering for kids eg which type of inner wear is better? We are contemplating between uniqlo extra warmth heatech or wool thermal. Not sure whether heat tech is sufficient but we are also concerned about wool thermal causing kids skin to be itchy.

    Thanks a lot!

    • bumblebeemum says:

      I usually use Uniqlo’s heat-tech as the inner layer and continue to layer after that.

      This is how I dress my kids up:

      Head: Wear a beanie that can cover the ears.
      Body: Wear a heat-tech extra warm long sleeve, followed by a layer of wool vest (something to keep the chest warm), followed by a thick sweater (or the heat tech high neck fleece) and finally a waterproof winter jacket meant for sub-zero temperatures (e.g down jackets – but NOT Uniqlo ones. Get the hard core ones from winter wear shops.).
      Bottom: Wear 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.

      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.

  • Arlene Lee says:

    Hi Bumblebeemom,

    My family (4 pax with no kids) will be visiting Sapporo-Shin-Chitose from 26th January 2016 to 31 January 2016. Which hotels do you recommend on a budget which is near to town and transportation?

    On a separate note, we love skating, penguin show. Where do you recommend to go which has free entrance fee like parks etc?

    Really appreciate your time to reply me.

    lynn lynn

  • Pauline says:

    Hi Bumblebeemum,

    We will be going Hokkaido during the snow festival period and travelling around Eastern Hokkaido. I can’t decide between bringing the baby carrier or to bring the stroller for my 3 year old girl. She’s quite a lazy walker.

    What will be your advise? Thank you do much!

    • bumblebeemum says:

      If she’s still willing to get into a carrier, a carrier would be much more convenient for moving around in the snow. But you would have to make some adjustments to the carrier because when you and her and both wearing winter clothing, it would fit quite differently. Also, prepare a thick blanket that you can wrap around the carrier to protect her from the cold.

  • Wayne Low says:

    For someone that has been to Japan twice but first time to Hokkaido (my third Japan trip overall in the past 2 years) + Winter, I wish to express my biggest thanks to you.

    I have to say that your Blog is the best guide out there elaborating everything there is to know about Japan and the specifics of actual travelling in there from A-Z. I love your advices, insights and your realistic experience with expectations that allow us to essentially envision our trip there.

    I hope all is well with your future trips/planning and hope to see more from you. I will also make it a point to recommend my friends to come by your site for reference.

    Best Regards,

  • SL says:

    Hi Bumblebee Mum

    Thank you for posting such wonderful guides and it has helped me 2 years ago. I’m back again and planning for year end holidays in December. Travelling with hubby and 8 year old son. Need your advice if the itinerary is workable and whether do we need to get HEP.
    7 Day 1 Singapore – Chitose – Sapporo
    8 Day 2 Sapporo – Obhiro
    9 Day 3 Obihro – Lake Akan
    10 Day 4 Lake Akan – Sounkyo
    11 Day 5 Sounkyo – Furano
    12 Day 6 Furano – ski
    13 Day 7 Furano
    14 Day 8 Furano – Asahikawa
    15 Day 10 Asahikawa – Sapporo
    16 Day 11 Sapporo – Otaru – Sapporo
    17 Day 12 Sapporo – Otaru – Chitose
    18 Day 13 Chitose – Singapore


    • bumblebeemum says:

      It looks a bit tight at Lake Akan. I suggest spending one more night in Lake Akan for you to visit the crane area as well the rest of Akan National Park. Which means you would need to reduce one night in Furano, or Sapporo, or maybe take out Asahikawa.

      In terms of the order, I would put Asahikawa in between Sounkyo and Furano to reduce driving times. i.e. Sounkyo – Asahikawa – Furano – Sapporo.

  • Alexis says:

    Hello Bumblebee Mum,

    I will be going to Hokkaido in early June and have been doing much of my research based on your posts (: So thank you very much for the very informative posts!

    Day 1: Sapporo
    Day 2: Furano
    Day 3: Furano + Obihiro
    Day 4: Hoshino Resort
    Day 5: Noboribetsu and Lake Toya
    Day 6: Shin Chitose

    I would like to check with you regarding ETC + HEP. I understand that expressway can be avoided – but is it going to be avoided easily if we follow the GPS? Will the non-expressway roads be much longer than the expressways?

  • supermum says:

    hi, may i seek your advice on the JR train tickets? we are thinking to visit Tomamu (from Sapporo) in March. Will it be advisable to a reserved seat from 1) Sapporo to Tomamu and 2) Tomamu to New Chitose Airport ? Are we able to purchase the reserved seat in advance ? And is it easy to identify the reserved seat when on board the JR ?

    • bumblebeemum says:

      It is usually not necessary to reserve tickets for JR trains if you’re not travelling in super peak periods like Golden Week or something. You can just purchase your train tickets at the station. It’s better that way as it allows for last minute changes.

      And if I’m not mistaken, for the train from Tomamu, there is no ticketing booth at Tomamu station. You just hop onto the train and purchase the ticket from the ticket attendant who would come to you.

  • Goldspark says:

    Hi BumblebeeMum,
    After sieving thro’ much sites for info for a 10days Hokkaido holiday 27thNov – 6thDec, I’m so fortunate to bum into yours. It’s amazing you can amass so much info on Hokkaido from just 1 trip and now regarded as an expert for those planning their trips there. Bravo! Thank you for still spending your time and energy for blur bees still unsure of so many things there, esp for 1st timers.
    I’m still in early planning stages, can you pls enlighten? If planning to go Hakodate, when is the best date to be there for the town to be illuminated between (27thNov – 6thDec)?I’m afraid they will just be in setting up stages then.

  • Chew Ann Wee says:

    Hi, thank you for all the valuable information. I’m planning for Hokkaido in mid Dec for 8-9 days with my family (2 teenager and 1 eight year old). I’m like to go to Tomamu ski resort and couple of other places in eastern Hokkaido. Can you recommend some places of interest in the eastern part? Apart from Tomamu, should I just based myself in Sapporo and do days trips to those places or ?? Thanks for your suggestions.

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Neh, you can’t base yourself in Sapporo and do day trips to Eastern Hokkaido. It’s too far.

      Other places of interest in Eastern Hokkaido would be Obihiro, Kushiro and Akan National Park. That’s probably all you can fit in with 8-9 days.

  • Rac says:


    I’m planning to visit Tokyo & Hokkaido from 18 Nov – 1st Dec,18 – 24 in Tokyo and 25-1 Dec in Hokkaido. The trip will be 2 adults and my 6 year old daughter. Most ski resort will only reopen in December. What are the activites that you will recommend for us during our stay in tokyo and hokkaido?

  • Jess Cheng says:

    Hi Super Mum,
    Fantastic write up and information thanks for sharing everything. I’m planning my itinerary to Hokkaido from 30/11/17-8/12/17 self-drive with 2A&2C, places plan to go Sapporo, Kushiro, Nemuro, Shibetsu, Abashiri, Wakkanai, Furano, Tomamu, sapporo, do you have any suggestion for the above places? Thank you.

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Your question is a bit too vague for me to answer. What do you mean by suggestions? Places to visit? To stay? To eat? Or you are having trouble arranging the order for your itinerary?

      • Jess Cheng says:

        Hi,Thank you for your replied. Do you have any recommendation for food and place to visit in Kitami, Shri, Shibeteu Nemuro & Kushiro? Thanks.

  • Lee says:

    Dear Bumblebeemum,

    I am planning to visit Hokkaido with family of 3 persons (2 adults & 1 teenagers) on February 2018 ( winter )
    This is the itinerary I planned. Is it possible to travel like this ? And where should I rent a car to minimise driving.

    Day 1 : Singapore – CTS – Hakodate
    Day 2 : Hakodate
    Day 3 : Hakodate – Hell Valley – Lake Toya
    Day 4 : Lake Toya – Lake Akan
    Day 5 : Lake Akan – Tsurui Ito Tancho Sanctuary – Lake Mashu – Lozan – Lake Kussharo – Lake Akan
    Day 6 : Lake Akan – Abashiri ( Ice breaker cruise )- Asahikawa
    Day 7 : Asahikawa ( Asahiyama zoo )- Sapporo
    Day 8 : Sapporo
    Day 9 : Sapporo – Otaru – Sapporo
    Day 10 : Sapporo – Niseko
    Day 11 : Niseko
    Day 12 : Niseko
    Day 13 : Niseko – CTS – Singapore

    • bumblebeemum says:

      In general, I find your itinerary way too rushed. You should plan Niseko close to Lake Toya since they are quite close to each other. And I don’t think you should go to Hell Valley then to Lake Toya, daylight hours are just too short for that. Just go direct from Hakodate to Lake Toya.

      So for e.g., I would rearrange as follows:

      Day 1: SIN – CTS – Hakodate (use either a domestic flight or train)
      Day 2: Hakodate
      Day 3: Hakodate – Niseko (train to Kutchan, then bus)
      Day 4: Niseko
      Day 5: Niseko – Lake Toya (This is the part where public transport is tricky and I suggest you rent a car from Niseko and drive to Lake Toya.)
      Day 6: Lake Toya – Sapporo (return car at Sapporo)
      Day 7: Sapporo (day trip to Otaru by train)
      Day 8: Sapporo – Kushiro (train)
      Day 9: Rent a car from Kushiro, drive to Tsurui, then to Lake Akan
      Day 10: Drive to Lake Mashu, Iozan, Lake Kussharo, then to Abashiri (return car)
      Day 11: Abashiri (ice-breaker cruise), train to Asahikawa
      Day 12: Asahikawa (zoo), train to CTS
      Day 13: Flight back

      • Cymphere Tan says:

        Hi BumbleBeeMum

        My family of 6 pax will travel to Hokkaido on 6-18 Jan 2018 as per flwg itinerary & pls advise is this OK:

        Day 1 : Singapore – CTS night flight
        Day 2 : CTS – Tomamu (by bus liner)
        Day 3 : Tomamu
        Day 4 : Tomamu
        Day 5 : check out Tomamu – CTS – Noboribetsu onsen
        (by donan bus)
        Day 6 : Noboribetsu to Lake Toka (by donan bus)
        Day 7 : Check up Lake Toya Sun palace to Sapporo
        Day 8 : Sapporo (Otaru)
        Day 9 : Sapporo (Asahikawa zoo)
        Day 10: Sapporo Free & Easy
        Day 11: Sapporo Free & Easy
        Day 12: Check in Air terminal
        Day 13: depart CTS – SIN
        If my family plan to Hakodate is it possible?

        • Queen Bee says:

          On Day 5, you may have to check the bus schedule carefully to make sure the bus from Tomamu gets you to CTS in time for the bus from CTS to Noboribetsu. Otherwise your itinerary looks fine. 🙂

          It is possible to go to Hakodate but you’ll have a lot less free & easy time in Sapporo. If you want to go to Hakodate, you can try to slot it in between Noboribetsu and Lake Toya. From Noboribetsu onsen, you catch a local bus or taxi to Noboribetsu station and train to Hakodate. Then later on from Hakodate, you train back to Toya station and catch a local bus or taxi to the onsen town.

  • Sai Ling says:

    Hi BumbleBeeMum,

    We are going for a winter trip to Hokkaido in February 2018 (2 adults and 1 kid), below is my itinerary and please advise is this workable?
    23 Feb: Tomamu
    24 Feb: Sapporo
    25 Feb: Sapporo (day trip to Asahiyama Zoo)
    26 Feb: Sapporo (day trip to Otaru)
    27 Feb: Lake Toya
    28 Feb: CTS
    01 Mar: Home


  • Wei says:

    Hi Bumblebeemum!

    First, i would like to thank you for the advice and recommendations for the hokkaido trip last nov.

    Now we are planning to go again around 19 Feb to 6 Mar 2018 (15 nights). So i would like to seek your advice again.

    Heres my itinerary (not in sequence), again we will be going by public transport.

    Asahikawa (2 nights)
    – one day for Zoo
    – one day trip to biei

    Sapporo (3/4 nights)
    – one day trip to Otaru
    – the rest will be sightseeing around sapporo for food and gifts.

    Niseko (3 nights)
    – will be trying out skiing
    – as well as trying all the foods ard the surrounding towns.
    (Last nov we went, the ski is not ready and shuttle services not operating yet)

    Tomamu (3 nights)
    – skiing, ice village

    We still have around 3/4 nights available. Thought of going Hakodate + Lake Toya again, but decided to give it a miss as we visited most of the POIs already.

    Thinking of going eastern hokkaido like Obihiro (Buta Don), Kushiro (Supakatsu), Abashiri or Shiretoko for more food and sightseeing.

    Do you have any recommendation?

    Thank you so much!


    • Rachel says:

      Hi BBM.

      I’ve planned to visit Hokkaido 27Nov. I planned to travel in this sequence. Hakodate -> Noboribetsu -> Lake Toya -> Sapporo -> Otaru -> Asahiyama. I have a few quesntions. Is this sequnce ok? how many days do u recommend to travel around in this sequence? Do u recommend to dropby Niseko? Lastly is it still safe to drive in late november? TIA for the advice.

      • Queen Bee says:

        I would swap Lake Toya and Noboribestu. From Hakodate, you would reach Lake Toya before reaching Noboribetsu.

        You may encounter snow in November, especially if you go to Niseko or Asahikawa. Which would make driving dangerous to a certain extent, there’s no denying that. I would suggest you drive from Hakodate to Sapporo. Then from Sapporo us the train for Otaru and Asahikawa.

        November is a bit early to go to Niseko I feel, unless you just want to play with snow?

        • Rachel says:

          Thank you so much for the reply BBM. Will definitely work it out again. This is what I’ve planned.

          24th Hakodate

          25th: Hakodate

          26th November: Lake toya
          27th Nov: Noborobetsu -> Sapporo (return car)

          28th Nov:Sapporo
          – Day trip to Otaru

          29th Nov: Sapporo

          30th Nov: Ki Niseko

          1st Dec – Ki Niseko

          2nd Dec – Air Terminal Chitose

          3rd Dec – Fly back to Singapore

          Does it look fine?
          Will there be toll charges when drive from Hakodate to Sapporo?

          • Queen Bee says:

            Yup, it looks fine.

            Your drive from Hakodate to Sapporo is broken into 3 parts: Hakodate – Lake Toya, Lake Toya – Noboribetsu and Noboribetsu – Sapporo. I estimate the toll fees to be:

            Hakodate to Lake Toya = 3330 yen
            Noboribetsu to Sapporo = 2590 Yen

            From Lake Toya to Noboribetsu, I usually use the Orofure Pass which is toll free. However if the weather is bad (i.e. it is snowing), then I would suggest you use the expressway rather than Orofure Pass for safety. In that case, I think it would be another thousand yen in tolls thereabout.

    • Queen Bee says:

      Winter is a nice time to go to Eastern Hokkaido. That period of time, almost all the onsen towns will be holding some sort of snow festival. You can read more on this trip:

      But you should consider driving if you want to go to Eastern Hokkaido. It’s really quite a hassle to get to the various onsen towns that are holding snow festivals without a car. I enjoyed the snow festivals at Sounkyo, Lake Akan, Tokachigawa Onsen and Lake Shikaribetsu and would recommend visiting them.

      Also, during your dates, you can try your luck at Abashiri to see if there is drift ice and go for the ice-breaker cruise if there is. I wouldn’t recommend going all the way to Shiretoko though, it is a bit too far and the scenic routes are mostly closed during winter. And the aurora show was kind of lame. :p

  • Devid says:

    Hi there. Read quite a few of your posts. They were very informative. Thank you.
    We are travelling to Hokkaido from 26th Dec to 5th January. Could you please help to rearrange the schedule as this is our first time in Hokkaido.

    26th – Arrive New Chitose Airport in the morning – Sapporo (shopping and eating)
    27th – Sapporo – Yuzuran Snow World -Sapporo
    28th – Sapporo – Tomamu Ski Resort
    29th – Sapporo – Tomamu Ski Resort
    30th – Sapporo – Tomamu Ski Resort
    31st – Sapporo – Tomamu Ski Resort
    1st – Tomamu station – Sapporo – Otaru – Sapporo
    2nd – Sapporo – Asahikawa
    3rd – Asahikawa – Lake Akan – Kushiro
    4th – Kushiro – Sapporo – Jozankei Onsen
    5th – Back home

    We will be taking public transport (JR, Buses, etc)
    Thank you.

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