We started the morning at Hakodate, visiting Hakodate Morning Market and Motomachi before hitting the road ahead. You can read more about our morning in Hakodate on this post:
From Hakodate, we drove to Onuma Koen. We dropped by the visitor centre to pick up an area map and MF occupied himself with free colouring activity while we took a toilet break.
From the visitor centre, we walked over to Numa no Ya (沼の家), a small souvenir shop selling a popular dango. I love the dango here, especially the sesame flavoured ones.
We then drove over to the car park nearer to the scenic walkway. It was raining pretty heavily and we didn’t want to take the kids out for a walk in the rain. I asked the rest if they wanted to walk while I stayed in the car with the kids, but only hubby was interested. He felt paiseh to let everyone wait for him so we decided to skip it and drive on.
Our next destination was Niseko which was 2 hours away. Since we skipped the walk at Onuma Koen, it was too early for lunch but it will be too late for lunch by the time we reach Niseko. So we drove to PA Yakumo again to have our lunch there. It was much less cloudy compared to the day before and we could see the surrounding park this time round. However it was still raining, so we couldn’t go out to play.
There was a restaurant called Harvester Yakumo which was a short walk away from the parking area.
Since it was raining, and bringing the kids walking around in the rain was such a hassle, we left the kids at the indoor playground with hubby while the rest of us went to check out the restaurant.
It was a western style restaurant selling fried chicken, fries, pies, gratin etc. I packed two pieces of chicken (one fried and one roasted) back for hubby. My friend and his mum dined there and said the herb roasted chicken was pretty good.
Back at PA Yakumo, there was a small cafe (also ran by Harvester Yakumo) beside the play area selling simple udon and don. Hubby and I ate there for convenience. Nothing makes me happier than having a place where the kids could play while I ate. I actually think the yakitori don from the cafe was nicer than the chicken I bought back from the main restaurant.
After lunch, we drove on to Niseko. Our first stop was Niseko Milk Kobo.
Not much of a scenery to enjoy on this cloudy day. Milk Kobo comprises of three buildings: One is a restaurant Prativo which offers salad and dessert buffet during lunch time. The dessert is produced by milk kobo itself. However, we were too late for lunch. So we headed for the building which sells baumkuchen (but they call it milkkuchen here).
They had soft and hard versions of the baumkuchen. Being fickle-minded about food as I always am, I ordered their their tea set which included a bit of each dessert and a drink. None of the dessert really impressed me.. Snaffles cheesecake is definitely better than theirs, even the Uchi cafe roll cake from Lawson convenience store is better than the roll cake here imo. This felt like a jack of all trades, master of none.
The star turned out to be the drink: hot cocoa which was slurped up by MY. He was crying (can’t remember why), and immediately cheered up after we let him have some of the hot cocoa. Hah!
As it was raining, we sent our friend over to the next building to buy ice-cream and chou cream back. I was very specific in asking him to buy the soft serve, not gelato. The tea set came with a scoop of gelato which was pretty so-so. The soft serve, on the other hand, was superb. If thick creamy milky ice-cream is your kind of thing that is.
The chou cream was also fantastic! It joins the rank of my favourite chou cream in Hokkaido together with Kitakaro‘s.. I can’t decide which is better, they are both pretty darn good. The rich creamy filling… Mmmmm..
Our next destination was Mishima san’s Shibazakura garden. We were too late for shibazakura season at Takinoue and Higashimokoto, so we visited this baby version at Niseko.
I got a feeling that Mishima san loved dogs.
It was past its peak when we were there, but still beautiful nevertheless. For us who have never seen shibazakura at least.
Sadly, we couldn’t get a view of Mount Yotei with the carpet of shibazakura below it because it was totally covered by clouds.
Next, we went to Fukidashi Park to fetch some spring water from Mount Yotei.
Getting to the spot for collecting spring water required a longer-than-expected walk from the parking area. But we managed to find it by following the signs.
The spring water found here is said to be one of Japan’s 100 best spring water.
Don’t forget to bring your own empty bottles! Plastic bottles are fine as the spring water was cold, not hot.
Our last stop was for dinner. We went to the restaurant at Hotel Daiichi Kaikan for udon that is made of potato, a specialty of the Kutchan region.
We spent the night at Powder Tracks at Grand Hirafu. Niseko, being a ski resort, was a dead town in summer and I think we were the only guests in the whole building. There was free laundry at the basement, and it was pretty freaky going down to do laundry at night.
The next morning, we went for a walk around the village but there was nothing but construction going on.. lots and lots of construction. Many of the shops close throughout summer and the only place open for breakfast was the Seico convenience store. We grabbed some bread from Seico mart and continued our drive to Shakotan.
I think most people wouldn’t think of visiting Niseko in summer. We visited because we needed a place to stopover for our long Hakodate – Shakotan drive and Niseko was conveniently located in between Hakodate and Shakotan. I found Niseko to be a pretty scenic town in summer. It was predominantly an agricultural area and the plantations we saw as we drove around reminded me of the more famous Biei. The houses in Niseko were more westernised and cute little cottages dotted the landscape, which made it different from other Japanese towns. I would love to visit Niseko again when the weather is better and I can see Mount Yotei!
From Niseko, we drove on to Cape Kamui at Shakotan Peninsular, which was about 2 hours away. The drive was kind of boring initially, but when we reached the coast of Shakotan Peninsular, everyone perked up to take a look at the scenery outside.
When we finally reached Cape Kamui, the kids were thrilled to get off the car and run around.
As we began our hike from the carpark, we were oblivious to how far a hike we had ahead of us. So the kids were happily running up the hill, feeling totally energetic.
When we reached the top of the hill, we saw a gate that said that women were forbidden! Not that it still applied today, as I happily walked through the gate.
After passing through the gate, we had an O-M-G moment when we realised how far the hike to the end of the cape was. We were going to hike all the way to the very end. AND BACK.
There were many yellow flowers that look like lilies growing around the Cape.
For once, the foggy weather was in our favour, as it was nice and cooling and the scenery looked quite nice with the fog. Thank goodness it didn’t rain halfway through our hike.
MY bailed our halfway through and hubby had to carry him the rest of the way. But MF managed to hike all the way to the end on his own!
And yup. Evidence that we reached the end.
Then there was the walk all the way back. The sky was seriously getting quite gloomy by then. So we half walked half ran all the way back because getting stuck in the rain along the cape would be a sure-fire way to ruin the outing.
After all that hiking, it was time for lunch! We went to a popular restaurant, Shokudou Misaki, which was located along the main road from Shakotan to Otaru.
The local specialty was uni (sea urchin). The sea urchin caught from the Northern coast of Hokkaido is said to be the best in Japan due to the cold sea waters and the konbu (seaweed) they feed on there. It is only available in the summer months from June to August.
We ordered the uni set that came with uni rice bowl and two live uni. One of the uni in the set was the more common black uni while the other was the rarer red uni. The spines of the uni were still moving when they were served!
When opened, they actually look quite gross inside with all the innards still intact.
A special spatula was provided to dig out the flesh. It was not an easy task getting the flesh out.. No wonder uni is so expensive. Each uni only contained so little flesh and it was so difficult to extract the flesh.
We also ordered a red uni rice bowl to compare the difference between normal uni and red uni. The colours of the two bowls were so different! Red uni’s flesh is orange while black uni’s flesh is yellow. Next time you buy uni from the market, you know the orange ones are the more expensive ones.
The taste of red uni is stronger and sweeter. Hubby felt the taste was too strong for him and he preferred the normal uni. I preferred the red uni though because it was much sweeter.
After the sumptious meal, we drove on to Cape Shakotan. There was a flight of stairs to go down to the beach below, but it was drizzling so we just took a quick photo and dashed back into the car.
We continued the drive to Otaru, passing by Yoichi, which is home to Nikka Whisky and Yamamoto Sightseeing Orchard which were destinations we KIVed in case we needed a break during the drive from Shakotan to Otaru. In the end, we just drove all the way since it was raining and nobody wanted to get off the car.
Summary: Itinerary Outline for Hokkaido Self-Drive with Kids (June 2014)
Part 1: New Chitose Airport, Lake Shikotsu, Lake Toya, Hakodate
Part 2: Onuma Koen, Niseko, Shakotan (You’re here now)
Part 3: Otaru
Part 4: Sapporo
Part 5: Furano, Biei, Tomamu, Obihiro, New Chitose Airport