BumblebeeMum
Hokkaido in December by public transport
Hokkaido in December by public transport

Hi,
My family will be going to Hokkaido in coming Dec. Upon reaching CTS airport, we will take public coach to head towards Niseko
Day1-Day5 ==> Niseko/Hirafu skiing
Day6-Day8 ==>Hakodate (Train from Kutchan to Osahmambe to Hakodate)
Day9 ==> Sapporo (Train from Hakodate to Sapporo)
Day10 ==> Asahikawa Zoo (Train from Sapporo to Asahikawa back to Sapporo)
Day 11 ==> Otaru (Train from Sapporo to Otaru back to Sapporo)
Day 12 ==> Sapporo
Day 13 ==> CTS (Train from Sapporo to CTS airport)

Quiries
1) Is it worthwhile to buy 4 days flexible JR pass or single tickets for each train?
2) Can we buy the single trip tickets in Singapore? As well as reserve a seat for Asahikawa Zoo Train? How can I secure all the train tickets before reaching Japan?
3) I can only either take 19Dec or 20Dec for Asahikawa Zoo visit (only these 2 days have Zoo train service), it coincides with Japan winter school holidays start from 19Dec. Will the train/bus/zoo super pack that could dampen the visit?
4) From Kutchan ==> Osahmambe==>Hakodate, Once in Osahmambe, how and what is the direction to get to the Hakodate train platform? Wonder if there is escalator or lift since we have luggages.
5) I have 2 days in Hakodate, what would be the recommended places of visit and food? Which stall in Asaichi market is recommended to try grill and soup crab/squid and famous donbori? And what is good to buy in the market?
6) I am staying at Cross hotel in Sapporo, could you advise how can I get to the hotel without having to drag the luggages in the snow? If there is an underground path will be idea
7) Pls advise how to make my way from Cross hotel to Sapporo factory and Nijo market? Can I use Sapporo JR underground route and how to move about? Likewise can I also use the Sapporo underground route to Odori park / Parco / Mandarake?

Thanks in advance.

By ENS on November 18, 2015

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60 Comments

  • XSL says:

    Hi bumblebeemum,

    Ur posts are indeed details and helpful!

    Appreciate if u can advice on my coming trip to Hokkaido in this early December. We planned to stay in Hokkaido for 7 nights from 5/12 to 12/12 with a group of 4 adults n 5 kids (2 of them below 5yrs old). Initially we wanted to self drive, but after reading ur posts we changed our mind coz we have no snow driving experience.

    Do u happens to have any itenery which can be accessible by public transport? We planned to visit the zoo (famous with penguin walking) and maybe some good Onsen. We also hope to visit a ski resort to let the kids ski.

    Thanks in advance.

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Hi,

      Firstly, the penguin walk would not have started yet in early December. It only starts in late December (actual date varies year by year as it is weather dependent). If you want to see penguin parade in early December, you can do so at Noboribetsu Marine Park NIXE. It is easily accessible by train (Noboribetsu station).

      For skiing, you can visit Niseko. Hilton Niseko should still be quite cheap for your dates (their prices sky-rocket after mid-Dec). They have good English-speaking instructors and child-caring services within the resort, ultra-convenient. And the best part is that they have this travellator thingy to bring the kids up the slope for them to ski down again. Hilton has an onsen, though I don’t find it good.

      For onsen, I recommend Lake Toya. I love the view there. For travel with kids, you can try Toya Sunpalace. They have a huge swimming cum onsen complex. They offer free shuttle services from Sapporo for guests, which you would need to pre-arrange with them if you do not wish to drive.

      • XSL says:

        Hi bumberbeemum,

        Really thanks for ur advice above. I noted that the penguin walk will only started in mid/end December, we though it would be a great experience to visit a zoo in a snowing environment.We have done some checks on the Hilton Niseko, the price is ard 3++ per nite. Is it norm? if we bund in 2 adult n 2 kids in a room, do we need to book a room that can fit in 4? Or can we simply choose a room with 2 single bed (as stated in website to fit 2A1C)?

        Thanks again.

        • bumblebeemum says:

          Asahiyama zoo is a really nice zoo and there will be loads of snow there. If you don’t mind missing the penguin parade, go ahead with it.

          Hmm… I only paid $100+ for Hilton Niseko when I went there in early December. I booked a twin room and my 2 & 4 year old kids bunked in for free.

  • Sam lee says:

    Hi Humble Bee Mum,

    Like. the rest, I stumble upon your blog while searching for snow in Hokkaido. I will be traveling there on the 10th of December and will stay for a week. We are going free and easy and my children is hoping to see snow. I’ve found out there will be no snow early December. We will not be driving and was wondering whether you can recommend any places for me. There’s 6 of us. 2 adults and 4 children, 11 and above. Thank you in advance

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Why wouldn’t there be snow in early December? Maybe in Sapporo there will not be thick snow yet (it really depends… When we were there, there was no snow on the floor yet on 2-6 Dec while we were in Sapporo, but right after we left Sapporo and drove to Eastern Hokkaido, my friend posted a photo of herself in Sapporo covered in THICK THICK snow! Because super heavy snow came right after we left and within 3 days, the whole Sapporo was covered with enough snow for my friend to build a snow man. So there’s a bit of luck involved.

      So for a guaranteed snow experience, you need to head to the snow resorts. Niseko and Tomamu will be full of snow by December. Asahikawa Zoo should also have a lot of snow then.

  • Serene says:

    Hi BumbleBee Mum,

    wow… Great blog and generous and very useful info. πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

    My family (2 adults, 2 teens and a 5 yo) has probably only 6 days 5 nights in Hokkaido. We will be going there from Tokyo (9 Dec) and back to Tokyo (14 Dec). Very short, I know! πŸ™

    After reading all the comments, probably would prefer the Eastern Hokkaido.

    Interest in : Tomamu ( to experience snow play), onsen, Fisherman’s wharf, lake,
    chocolate factory, any other suggestion.

    May you pls help to suggest a itinerary? Most probably by public transport as we have not
    driven on winter roads before and we do not speak Japanese.

    Thanks a lot!!

    • bumblebeemum says:

      It is very hard to get around Eastern Hokkaido by public transport solely. If you don’t drive, you will be missing out on the cranes and the beautiful scenery around Akan National Park, which I personally think is a highlight of Eastern Hokkaido in early December.

      If you really don’t want to drive, I suggest you not go all the way to Kushiro. Just stay around Tomamu and Sapporo which has good public transport. Anyway you don’t have much time. So here are two possible itineraries for a short trip:

      9 Dec: CTS – Tomamu
      10 Dec: Tomamu
      11 Dec: Tomamu – Sapporo
      12 Dec: Sapporo
      13 Dec: Sapporo (Day trip to Otaru)
      14 Dec: Sapporo – CTS

      Alternatively if you think you are willing to try driving, you can do the following:

      9 Dec: CTS – Tomamu
      10 Dec: Tomamu
      11 Dec: Tomamu – Kushiro
      12 Dec (rent car): Kushiro – Tsurui (crane area) – Lake Akan
      13 Dec: Drive around Akan National Park – return car to Kushiro.
      14 Dec: Kushiro – CTS (depending on your flight timing – if your flight is early, you may have to return to CTS on 13 Dec and stay at Air Terminal Hotel for your final night.)

  • Jesslyn Lim says:

    Hi there!

    Both my husband and I plan to visit Hokkaido free and easy with our 14 year old son in early December this year for a 8 days trip. As I read that driving in winter is tough, we will be taking the public transportation.

    Planning to Sapporo, Otaru, Niseko, Lake Toya & Noboribetsu in 8 days. Is that too rush? And is the route well connected with transportation? I read that Grand Hirafu is more happening than Niseko. Would like to do snowmobile but is the activity available in early December and available in Grand Hirafu? I am not sure if I should give Lake Toya a miss since fireworks is not available in December.

    Appreciate if you can help us with an 8 day itinerary?

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Hi, Lake Toya and Noboribetsu are not so well connected by public transport. Noboribetsu can be done as a side trip from Sapporo via direct bus and the onsen town is compact enough to get around by foot. But for Lake Toya, I generally recommend a rental car. If you are not driving, it is unlike you can complete all these places in 8 days, especially if you intend to ski.

      Grand Hirafu is a part of Niseko. Unless you are asking me Grand Hirafu VS Niseko VILLAGE? Then yes, in a way Grand Hirafu is more happening than Niseko Village in terms of dining options and pubs.

      Early December is too early for snow mobile. In early Dec, it is mostly just skiing and snowboarding. The only place I know with the snow park (ice slide and tubing) up by early Dec is Tomamu.

      Considering you are using public transport, yes, I would recommend you give Lake Toya a miss.

      A possible itinerary would be as follows:

      Day 1: CTS – Sapporo
      Day 2: Sapporo (Day trip to Otaru)
      Day 3: Sapporo – Noboribetsu
      Day 4: Noboribetsu – Sapporo
      Day 5: Sapporo
      Day 6: Sapporo -Niseko
      Day 7: Niseko
      Day 8: Niseko – CTS

      For Noboribetsu, you can check if the accommodation you are staying in has free shuttle service to and fro Sapporo and use that if available. You can leave your big luggage in the Sapporo hotel and just pack a small bag for the 1 night side trip.

  • ENS says:

    Hi,
    My family will be going to Hokkaido in coming Dec. Upon reaching CTS airport, we will take public coach to head towards Niseko
    Day1-Day5 ==> Niseko/Hirafu skiing
    Day6-Day8 ==>Hakodate (Train from Kutchan to Osahmambe to Hakodate)
    Day9 ==> Sapporo (Train from Hakodate to Sapporo)
    Day10 ==> Asahikawa Zoo (Train from Sapporo to Asahikawa back to Sapporo)
    Day 11 ==> Otaru (Train from Sapporo to Otaru back to Sapporo)
    Day 12 ==> Sapporo
    Day 13 ==> CTS (Train from Sapporo to CTS airport)

    Quiries
    1) Is it worthwhile to buy 4 days flexible JR pass or single tickets for each train?
    2) Can we buy the single trip tickets in Singapore? As well as reserve a seat for Asahikawa Zoo Train? How can I secure all the train tickets before reaching Japan?
    3) I can only either take 19Dec or 20Dec for Asahikawa Zoo visit (only these 2 days have Zoo train service), it coincides with Japan winter school holidays start from 19Dec. Will the train/bus/zoo super pack that could dampen the visit?
    4) From Kutchan ==> Osahmambe==>Hakodate, Once in Osahmambe, how and what is the direction to get to the Hakodate train platform? Wonder if there is escalator or lift since we have luggages.
    5) I have 2 days in Hakodate, what would be the recommended places of visit and food? Which stall in Asaichi market is recommended to try grill and soup crab/squid and famous donbori? And what is good to buy in the market?
    6) I am staying at Cross hotel in Sapporo, could you advise how can I get to the hotel without having to drag the luggages in the snow? If there is an underground path will be idea
    7) Pls advise how to make my way from Cross hotel to Sapporo factory and Nijo market? Can I use Sapporo JR underground route and how to move about? Likewise can I also use the Sapporo underground route to Odori park / Parco / Mandarake?

    Thanks in advance.

    • bumblebeemum says:

      1) I did a quick check on hyperdia for the train fares for your routes:
      Kutchan – Hakodate = 5790 Yen
      Hakodate – Sapporo = 8630 Yen
      Sapporo – Asahikawa = 4610 Yen
      Asahikawa – Sapporo = 4610 Yen
      Sapporo – Otaru = 640 Yen
      Otaru – Sappor = 640 Yen

      Add them up and see if it’s more or less than the Hokkaido pass. πŸ˜‰

      2) If you are using the rail pass, you can only reserve your seats after you reach Japan.

      3) Umm.. The Asahiyama Zoo Train operates only when there is demand, so it is not a coincidence you can only ride it during their school holidays weekend. So yes, you can expect it to be crowded. But since seats on the Asahiyama Zoo train are strictly by reservation, it won’t be overcrowded since people can’t just board the train and stand around without a reserved seat. If you are using the JR Pass, you can reserve your seat once you have activated your pass. So you can make the reservation at Kutchan station (basically you can reserve seats for any JR train from any JR station).

      4) Never taken the train there before since I always self-drive, so not sure about the platforms. Train stations in Japan are pretty well-signed, I woudn’t worry too much about directions. Though you may not always have escalators or elevators.

      5) You can read about our Hakodate visit on this post. I recommend the stall we ate crabs at (it faces the train station, I have a photo of the store in the post) and the small stall we ate Uni at. Squid fishing in ubiquitous in the market. And you should buy those Hori corn chocolate at the shop inside Hakodate Morning Market Square (also mentioned in the post).

      Beside the market, do visit Lucky Pierrot. It’s a fast food chain only found in Hakodate and extremely popular. I’m not a big fan of their chicken burger (which I think is their best seller) and prefer their Hotate burger.

      6) Cross Hotel doesn’t look like it’s connected to the station. If you want to minimise the walk in the open, I think you will need to make your way to Exit 1 of the Underground shopping arcade, or Exit 22 of Toho Subway Line. You can refer to the map on the Japanese page:
      http://www.crosshotel.com/sapporo/access.html
      Click on the A B C to see the various routes from Sapporo station.

      Just to clarify.. Are you Sapporo Factory or Sapporo Beer Museum? They are different places. Sapporo Beer museum requires a bus ride (Loop 88 Factory Line). Sapporo Factory can be accessed by subway (Bus Centre Mae station).

      Nijo Market – I would just walk there. Get into the underground shopping arcade and head South until you see the exit for Tanukikoji. If you are walking Southward, you should take the exit for Tanukikoji on your LEFT. Then continue walking along Tanukikoji (a sheltered shopping arcade) all the way till the end and when the shelter ends, you will see Nijo Market right in front of you. Here is route on Google Map via underground shopping arcade + Tanukikoji:
      https://goo.gl/maps/ouitFUYHNu92

      7) Odori Park and Parco are linked to the underground shopping arcade. Not so sure about Mandarake though. For Mandarake, you can again exit the underground shopping arcade at Tanukikoji exit, but this time use the exit on the RIGHT (different direction as Nijo Market). Then at the first traffic junction you hit along Tanukikoji, turn left and walk a bit in the open and you should see Mandarake already.
      > See Google Map

  • Dwie says:

    Hi,

    I will like to plan a winter trip to Hokkaido with my family next year.

    Will like to seek your advise how many days is sufficient for Hokkaido.

    Some places on mind, arashiyama zoo, hoshino resort tomanu, otaru, shiroi kiobito park. Any other places suitable for kids ? As I will be taking trains will like to go to places which is easy access for train rides. Thanks. πŸ™‚

    • bumblebeemum says:

      For the places you listed, a week should be sufficient. For places that are accessible by train, you can consider visiting Hakodate. You can also consider visiting Noboribetsu Marine Life Park NIXE which is near Noboribetsu station and Onuma Koen near Hakodate.

  • Maureen says:

    Hi Bumblebeemum, I am planning a trip to hokkaido from 26nov16 to 3dec16 with my family of 4 comprising 2 boys (11 yrs old and 9 yrs old) and my husband. Initially I am thinking of driving but think may not be a good idea given the winter conditions. Would you be able to recommend an itinerary for us using public transport? Thank you v much! MuffinOtto.

    • bumblebeemum says:

      If you do not wish to drive, stick to the major cities like Sapporo, Otaru and Hakodate. If you would like to visit Niseko, use the direct bus between Sapporo and Niseko. You can also visit Tomamu which is accessible by train.

  • Yong says:

    2 adults and 2 children ( 10 and 6 years old ) – public transportation

    I plan to spend 12 days in Hokkaido early December. I want to explore southern part first (Sapporo, Otaru, Lake Toya, Nobo, Hakdoate, Niseko, Kiroro) , but 12 days seem to be too much. I have extra 3 days 2 nights ..hope you can give me some advise ?

    1 – Skiing Resort ? how do you feel about Niseko, Rusutu and Kiroro ? or Tomamu ? any advise ?

    2 – If I travel up to Asahiyama Zoo, any more places to recommend nearby area ? worth the trips ? (northern and eastern trip I hope to cover my next trip)

    3 – any southern region that I miss up ? can suggest any places ?

    Regards

    • bumblebeemum says:

      1. I have written about the various ski resorts (pros and cons of each) in this post:
      http://bumblebeemum.net/2015/08/29/free-easy-hokkaido-winter-trip-essential-travel-tips/
      I won’t go Kiroro in early December.

      2. Asahikawa is just the zoo. And ramen village – which is not so easy to get to by public transport I think.

      12 days doesn’t seem too much to me, especially if you are travelling in winter and via public transport. It looks just nice for the places you want to go.

      Day 1: Sapporo
      Day 2: Sapporo
      Day 3: Otaru day trip from Sapporo
      Day 4: Sapporo – Niseko
      Day 5: Niseko
      Day 6: Niseko
      Day 7: Niseko – Lake Toya
      Day 8: Lake Toya – Hakodate
      Day 9: Hakodate
      Day 10: Hakodate – Noboribetsu
      Day 12: Noboribetsu – CTS

      • Yong says:

        i made some changes after reading your blog.

        Day 01 – Chitose Airport – Tomamu – by bus or train
        Day 02 – Tomamu
        Day 03 – Tomamu – Sapporo – maybe direct bus
        Day 04 – Sapporo – Noboribetsu – direct bus -500yen each only
        Day 05 – Noboribetsu –
        Day 06 – Lake Toya – Hakodate
        Day 07 – Hakodate
        Day 08 – Hakodate – Niseko
        Day 09 – Niseko
        Day 10 – Niseko – Kiroro (Sheraton) –
        Day 11 – Kiroro – Otaru
        Day 12 – Otaru – Sapporo
        Day 13 – Sapporo

        hope you can give me some advise. I am worried about transportation.
        1 – I choose to return from Tamamu to sapporo because they got direct bus to reach hotel in Noboribetsu and i can leave some baggages at the hotel, but travel time would be longer ard 1hr. what do you think ? else i need to carry a lot of luggages with me

        2 – which hotel do you recommend in Noboribetsu and Lake Toya ? any free shuttle bus provided at the nearest station ?

        3 – Mercure Hotel near susukino station. how do you find susukino station vs sapporo station ? any hotels near sapporo station got airport limo stop by ?

        • bumblebeemum says:

          1. Yes, bus is slower but more convenient. I would opt for the direct bus.

          2. The hotel shuttle services are usually between Sapporo and the hotel. If you want to get to the nearest train station, you probably need to catch the local bus. Hotel Mahoroba at Noboribetsu provides free shuttle for guests between Sapporo and the hotel.

          3. If you are using public transport, a hotel near Sapporo station would probably suit you better. I always self-drive so I like to stay Susukino area because it is more happening at night, since we usually only return to the hotel at night. If you stay near Sapporo station, you can use the train to return to the airport instead of bus.

  • Dave says:

    Hihi…you must be “bore” that some one is again asking you on advice to HokkaidoπŸ˜‚…

    I plan the following but no driving
    ..
    17th Dec Sapporo
    Odori park
    18th Dec Sapporo
    Kita No Gourmet (wholesale market)
    Shiroi park
    Sapporo factory
    Dino
    19th Dec Asahikawa
    Zoo
    20th Kushiro
    21&22 Rusutsu
    23 Hakodate & lake Toya
    24th otaru
    25th Sapporo

    So need your expertise whether should I cut down on the places and which is cheaper: to travel around in train vs booking private transportation (daily 70kyen😭😭😭)

    Thanks

    Regards Dave

    • bumblebeemum says:

      I am curious how you inserted emoticons into the comments. Never knew my own blog could do that. Hah.

      20th: Are you planning to visit Kushiro as a day trip? I don’t think it’s feasible. Kushiro is quite far from Sapporo.

      23rd: It is not possible to do Lake Toya and Hakodate in a day

      Most of the places you mentioned are quite easy to access by train or bus, except Lake Toya. You probably won’t have time for Kushiro.

      What I would suggest is this:

      17th Dec Sapporo
      18th Dec Sapporo
      19th Dec Sapporo (Day trip to Asahiyama Zoo by train + bus)
      20th Dec Sapporo – Rusutsu (use the resort shuttle bus)
      21st Dec Rusutsu
      22nd Dec Rusutsu – Sapporo (resort shuttle bus)
      23rd Dec Sapporo (day trip to Otary by train)
      24th Dec Sapporo – Hakodate (train)
      25th Dec Hakodate – CTS (train)

      I am not sure if the Hokkaido Rail Pass (flexi 4-day pass) will be cheaper than buying individual train tickets if you use it for 19th, 23rd, 24th and 25th. You can use hyperdia to check the train ticket price, add it up and compare to the price of the Hokkaido Rail Pass.

      • Dave says:

        Thanks! Think I shall plan as per your suggestion.πŸ˜‰ Really appreciate ur help..this cut down all my headache!πŸ˜‡

        And you can include 😎 if u use an android phone to input

  • Jess Ho says:

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

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

    • bumblebeemum says:

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

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

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

      • Jess Ho says:

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

        • bumblebeemum says:

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

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

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

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

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

          • Jess Ho says:

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

            • bumblebeemum says:

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

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

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

              • Jess Ho says:

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

                • bumblebeemum says:

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

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

                  • Jess Ho says:

                    Hi,

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

                    • bumblebeemum says:

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

                    • Jess Ho says:

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

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

  • Charlene says:

    Hi Bumblemum,

    Chanced upon your blog while i was planning for our family’s december hokkaido trip..thank you for all the info and recommendations, really helpful for a first timer like us..

    Our plan so far is:
    Day 1: Sapporo
    Day 2: Sapporo (Teine)
    Day 3: Sapporo > Obihiro > Kushiro
    Day 4: Kushiro
    Day 5: Kushiro > Tomamu
    Day 6: Tomamu
    Day 7: Tomamu > Sapporo
    Day 8: Sapporo (Otaru)
    Day 9: Sapporo (Asahikawa)
    Day10: Sapporo
    Day 11: home

    Thinking of using JR pass, except for self-driving within Kushiro.

    Do you think 3d2n at Kushiro is too much? Is self driving in Kushiro easy? We dont have experience driving in snow, but we drive in sgp everyday and have driven in australia before..

    Thank you for your advice!

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Neh, 3D2N in Kushiro is not too much, especially if you are planning to drive to Akan National Park. Which you should, if you have already gone all the way to Kushiro. It doesn’t make sense to me to go to Kushiro and not go to Akan National Park.

      If you plan to go to Akan National Park, I would advise you to spend the night of Day 4 at Lake Akan. Because doing a return trip to Akan National Park from Kushiro within a day in winter is too rushed.

      How easy the drive is going to be really depends on how heavy the snow is. You can read more on winter driving on this post:
      http://bumblebeemum.net/2015/08/29/free-easy-hokkaido-winter-trip-essential-travel-tips/

  • Mummyof2 says:

    Hi Bumblebeemum,

    Thank you for sharing the information for Japan trip. I’m planning to go hokkaido in dec with my son who is 8 year-old by then. My tentative itinerary as follow:
    Day 1 – Singapore to CTS (reach CTS in the morning ard 8am)
    Day 2 – CTS- sapporo
    Day 3 – Sapporo
    Day 4 – Sapporo
    Day 5 – Sapporo – Otaru (stay Otaru)
    Day 6 – Day trip to kirroro ski area (Stay Otaru)
    Day 7 – Otaru to Niseko
    Day 8 – Niseko
    Day 9 – Niseko to Toya
    Day 10 – Toya to tomamu
    Day 11 – Tamamu to ariport hotel
    Day 12 – Back to sg (morning flight)

    Could you please advice if this is workable with public transport?
    When booking the room, should i book 1 room with 2 pax or 3 pax will be better?

    Thanks

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Your visit to Tomamu is extremely rushed. If you just want to go to Tomamu for a day, you can do it as a day trip from Sapporo.

      Day 1 – Singapore to CTS (reach CTS in the morning ard 8am)
      Day 2 – CTS- sapporo
      Day 3 – Sapporo
      Day 4 – Sapporo (day trip to Tomamu)
      Day 5 – Sapporo
      Day 6 – Sapporo – Otaru (stay Otaru)
      Day 7 – Day trip to kirroro ski area (Stay Otaru)
      Day 8 – Otaru to Niseko
      Day 9 – Niseko
      Day 10 – Niseko to Toya
      Day 11 – Toya to airport hotel
      Day 12 – Back to sg (morning flight)

      Regarding transport, I think you need to take a taxi to Kiroro from Otaru. The rest of the destinations should be reachable with a combination of train and bus.

      • Mummyof2 says:

        Hi Mummy,

        I have changed my plan for my hokkaido trip. It will be driving trip for the early few days and train when we are in sapporo.
        Day 1 – Singapore to CTS (reach CTS in the morning ard 8am)
        Day 2 – CTS – Toya (rent car from airport)
        Day 3 – Toya
        Day 4 – Toya – Rusutsu – Niseko
        Day 5 – Niseko
        Day 6 – Niseko to sapporo (Return car at Sapporo)
        Day 7 – Sapporo
        Day 8 – Sapporo – Otaru
        Day 9 – Sapporo – Asahiyama zoo
        Day 10 – Sapporo – Tomamu
        Day 11 – Sapporo – Takino Suzuran park
        Day 12 – Back to sg (morning flight)

        Could you please advice if this plan is workable? Do you have any car rental to advice? We are travelling with my son who is 8 years old. Which car type is suitable for us?

        Tried to search rakuten, its about 33000 yen

        Do you think it’s worth to buy hokkaido pass?

        • bumblebeemum says:

          For 2 adults and 1 child, a normal 5-seater sedan should suffice. 33000yen for 5 days rental sounds reasonable for a 5-seater.

          The plans looks workable. But I’m not sure what’s there to do at Takino Suzuran in December. Furthermore it is quite a hassle to visit without a car. I would skip Takino Suzuran Hillside Park.

          You need to use hyperdia to add up your total train fares for Day 8 to 10 to see if it is worth getting the 3-days Hokkaido Rail pass.
          http://www.hyperdia.com/en/

          • Mummyof2 says:

            Hi BBM,

            Thank you for your reply.
            I notice that they always use the term of compact for car rental. Is compact good to drive in winter? the car is in 660cc i think.

            for my itinerary, it seems that only CTS to Toya that required tollway? Toya to Niseko and Niseko to sapporo no highway? Do I need to rent ETC for my case?

            I saw a blog saying that Takino Suzuran has many activities in snow like sled and tube slide which is free. But last year they open in 23rd Dec, so I will need to check their website before i went there.

            Thanks alot for the many advice and information πŸ™‚

  • Chris says:

    Dear Bumblebee Mum
    Thank you for your wonderful informative posts. I would like to seek your suggested itinerary for my upcoming visit to Hokkiado in Early – Mid December.

    Total 2 adults with 4 children aged between 4 – 15. We don’t intend to drive as I think it’s not easy to drive during winter and it will be our first trip to Japan/Hokkaido.

    We are planning a 8-10 day trip. Can you suggested a route that would cover some snow fun for the kids such as the ice village and foodies? Also keen to stay a night at the onsen and visit a sake brewery or whisky brewery.

    • bumblebeemum says:

      In Early – Mid December, I suggest you go to Tomamu where the ice village would be up. The snow parks with activities for kids at other resorts are usually only up end Dec. There is onsen at Tomamu.

      For food recommendations in Hokkaido, you can refer to our Hokkaido food guide:
      http://bumblebeemum.net/2015/03/30/hokkaido-best-food/

      The most famous whisky brewery in Hokkaido is the Nikka Whisky distillery at Yoichi:
      http://www.nikka.com/distilleries/yoichi/index.html

      It’s pretty good, I recommend you go there. We visited it here:
      http://bumblebeemum.net/2016/07/19/hokkaido-self-drive-trip-sapporo-otaru/

      • Chris says:

        Hi bumblebee mum
        Thank you for your suggestions. Will you be able to provide me with a rough itinerary like which town to go and how long to stay in each place? Of course Tomamu has to be in the itinerary πŸ™‚
        Also is it hard to self drive during this time of the year? Is train convenient? Which will you recommend? Train or self drive?
        Looking forward to your reply. Thank you.

        • bumblebeemum says:

          If you are just visiting Sapporo, Otaru, Asahikawa and Tomamu, the train should suffice. You can do something like this:

          Day 1: CTS – Sapporo
          Day 2: Sapporo
          Day 3: Sapporo – Noboribetsu / Lake Toya (choose a ryokan with free shuttle service to and fro Sapporo)
          Day 4: Noboribetsu / Lake Toya – Sapporo
          Day 5: Sapporo (day trip to Otaru by train)
          Day 6: Sapporo (day trip to Asahikawa by train)
          Day 7: Sapporo – Tomamu (by train)
          Day 8: Tomamu
          Day 9: Tomamu – CTS (direct bus)

          • Chris says:

            Thank you sooooo much! Really appreciate your suggestions. Would like to ask you where will you recommend to stay in Sapporo? Thanks again.

            • bumblebeemum says:

              If you are going to be using public transport, particularly the JR train to get to Asahikawa / Otaru / Tomamu, I suggest you find a hotel near JR Sapporo station. I have never stayed in that area before because I personally prefer to stay in Susukino area and my default choice of hotel is Mercure. But I always drive, so there’s a difference. If I ever decide to use the rail, especially in winter, something like JR Inn Sapporo looks good in terms of location.

              • Chris says:

                Hi Dear BBM
                I was having a hard time looking for accomodation in Tomamu and other parts of Hokkaido due to the peak period in December. So we have decided to go to Tokyo instead. I have read through your blogs and got too many ideas πŸ™‚
                Hubby and I have 4 kids with us age 4,10, 13 & 15. Is Asakusa a nice place to stay? I have read that Shinjuku or Ginza area is extremely crowded and not easy to move around with children. We haven’t book our flight yet but looking at going around Dec 11 for 7 days. Can you suggest a itinerary with Disneyland included? Is staying 1 night in Disney hotel enough or should I stay longer? SHould I do disneyland last and go to the airport from the disney hotel?

                • bumblebeemum says:

                  Asakusa is a good place to stay because the accommodation there is slightly cheaper. But it does not have direct train connection to the airports. Most of Tokyo is very crowded and overwhelming. For your first visit, I suggest you find somewhere with direct connection to the airport so that you can drop off your luggage with minimal transfers once you arrive.

                  If you arrive by Narita, the airport limousine bus is terribly expensive. So I suggest you try Ueno station area as Ueno station is directly connected to Narita airport by the cheaper Keisei Line.

                  If you arrive Haneda, the airport limousine bus is pretty reasonably priced, so you can just pick from the hotels that are served by the airport limousine bus (which is quite a lot to choose from):
                  https://www.limousinebus.co.jp/en/bus_services/haneda/index

                  If you want to explore both Disneyland and Disneysea thoroughly, I suggest you spend 3 days there. If you don’t mind changing hotels, then you can change to a hotel near Maihama and spend 3 nights there. Disneyland Hotel is a bit expensive to spend 3 nights, but you can find cheaper hotels near Maihama station such as MyStays Maihama.

                  For the remaining 4 days, you can do one day Asakusa + Ueno + Akihabara area, one day Odaiba, one day Shinjuku + Shibuya + Harajuku and one last day buffer. You can get more ideas from this post:
                  http://bumblebeemum.net/2015/11/03/tokyo-kids-friendly-attractions-by-region/

  • Jovin says:

    Hi Bumblebee mum
    Is it already snowing in early Nov to Mid Nov? If I take route below, am I able to commute via public transport?

    CTS to Noboribetsu
    Noboribetsu to Lake Toya
    Lake Toya to Hakodate
    Hakodate to Sapporo

    Please advise if the route is okay and if we are able to commute w/o a car. Thank you πŸ™‚

    • bumblebeemum says:

      There may or may not be snow in November in the region you’re visiting.. Depends on your luck.

      Depending on what time you flight arrives at CTS, if you manage to get the direct bus to Noboribetsu then it’ll save you a lot of trouble. If you miss the bus, it’s going to be a bit of a hassle. You probably need to train to Noboribetsu station then cab / bus to the onsen town.

      Both Noboribetsu and Lake Toya onsen towns are not near the train station, but you can just cab / bus between the town and the nearest train station. So you cab / bus to Noboribetsu station, train to Toya then cab /bus to Lake Toya.

      Then Lake Toya to Hakodate, again you need to cab / bus to the station then take the train to Hakodate.

      Hakodate to Sapporo is not a problem, you can just train.

  • iry says:

    Hello Ms.bumblebee mum
    Kudos ! Your blog is a gem amongst first time travelers . I hope you could guide me with this itinerary ( it will be my first time to experience snow )
    Travel time :
    is from Feb. 17-24
    Day 1 (2/17) arrival at 3:30pm – Chitose – Sapporo ( overnight stay ) may go to Odori park & Susukino areas .
    Day 2 ( 2/18) Sapporo – Otaru for the last night of the festival: light path along the canal )
    Day 3 ( 2/19 Mon)
    Sapporo to Hakodate ( overnight stay )
    Day 4 ? ( 2/20 Tue) Noboribetsu – undecided yet on this as I read it’s too touristy ( pls. advise) -? Should I skip this ? or is it worth an overnight stay ?
    Day 5 ( 2/21-Wed)
    Asahikawa – Zoo visit the Catholic Church , food trip ( overnight)
    Day 6 (2/22-Thurs)
    Abashiri – I want to experience the ride on ice breaker Aurora . Overnight stay
    Day 7 (2/23- Fri) Sapporo
    What rail ticket should I avail ?
    Can I go to Jozenkei on day 7 then come back at dusk for a possible Mt. Moiwa ropeway ride?
    Please advise !
    Thank you very much .

  • Lim says:

    Dear BBM,

    I hv a plan for holiday at Hokkaido next winter in early-mid Dec for 7 nights with 2kids age 9&12 with below iterinary.

    Day1 – Sapporo and around, stay Sapporo
    Day2 – Sapporo to Otaru, stay Sapporo
    Day3 – Sapporo to Noboribetsu for marine park/Onsen, stay Sapporo
    Day4 – Sapporo to Asahikawa for zoo, stay Sapporo
    Day5 – Sapporo to Furano for Ningle Terrace stay Furano
    Day6 – Furano to Tomamu for ice village, stay Furano
    Day7 – Furano to cts, stay cts.

    Do you think the above would be very rush? We’re plsnning to take public transport throughout, should I need to get the JR rail pass and for how many days as I know some places would be better off by bus.

    Appreciate any advice or recommendations from you. Thank you.
    Cheers

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