Hokkaido in mid-Jan with kids (3 & 5)
Hokkaido in mid-Jan with kids (3 & 5)

Hi Bumblebee Mum,

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

By Joey Tee on August 26, 2015

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  • joey Tee says:

    Hi Bumblebee Mum,

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

    • bumblebeemum says:

      You will need to take a bus to Lake Akan from a nearby station. For e.g. Tsuruga group has shuttle buses to Lake Akan from various stations:

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

      • joey Tee says:

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

        • bumblebeemum says:

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

  • Joey Tee says:

    I plan to visit 13-24 Jan.

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

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

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

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

    • bumblebeemum says:

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

  • Joey Tee says:

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

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Train from Asahikawa to Tomamu requires a transfer at Sapporo.

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

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

    • SER says:

      Hi,Bumble Bee mum,

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

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

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

      Day 1 Cts ~Noboribetsu: Bear park

      Day 2 Noboribetsu~Lake Toyo

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

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

      Day 7 & 8 Sapporo ~ bibai~Takikawa~ Ashahikawa

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

      Day 11 Furano~Ashibetsu

      Day 12-14 Sapporo city again

      Please guide….Thanks In advance

      • bumblebeemum says:

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

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

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

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

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

  • Joey Tee says:

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

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

    • bumblebeemum says:

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

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

  • joey Tee says:

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

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

    Which part can I self-drive?

    • bumblebeemum says:

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

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

      So roughly, you can do this:

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

  • Joey tee says:

    Many thanks for your kind advise…

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

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

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

    • bumblebeemum says:

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

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

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

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

      The trip I would recommend in mid-Feb would be pretty similar to this trip:

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

  • Joey tee says:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Again here, really appreciated your important infor….

  • Joey Tee says:

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

  • Joey tee says:

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

    • bumblebeemum says:

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

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

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

    • bumblebeemum says:

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

  • Joey tee says:

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

    • bumblebeemum says:

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

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

  • Joey tee says:

    Hi mummy, I saw yr reply regarding the winter wear, cant find it now. Dont mind can share with me.

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Here you go:

      For winter clothing, stock up on heat-tech inner wear from Uniqlo.

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

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

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

  • Joey Tee says:

    usually where you purchase your winter clothes? specially the water proof shoes.

    • bumblebeemum says:

      My winter boots were bought from Hokkaido. But you can try winter wear shops like Winter Times / Cold Wear etc. or winter gear shops like The North Face, Columbia, Nautica etc.

      • ros says:

        Hi bumblebee mum, May I know roughly how much it’ll cost to get a winter boots in hokkaido? Iszz cheaper than getting in Spore? As both my boots are not waterproof…

        • bumblebeemum says:

          Hi, sorry for the late reply as I have been overseas. If you just want to get a simple (not very fashionable) plastic winter boots, you should be able to get a cheap pair from Tanukikoji. But if you are looking for something more fashionable from the department stores, they are not cheap.

  • Joey tee says:

    Hi mummy, would like to check with u, I travel with my husband and 2 boy ( 3 & 5 years old), for tomamu resort stay, can I choose the standard room with two moving bed? Did u need to paid the breakfast for yr kids? I will travel during feb next year two night, did I need to choose the package come with lift?

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Iirc, Tomamu resort starts charging for kids 4 years and above. So most likely your 3 year old stays for free but you would need to pay for your 4 year old. The price you pay for the kid would include meals that are included in your package.

      I am not sure about the moving beds, because my boys always sleep with us on the existing beds. For my last visit, I booked a twin room, but eventually got upgraded to a quad room. My friend who visited earlier this year was upgraded to a suite! So.. If you don’t mind squeezing in a twin room, just get a twin room and keep your fingers crossed that you will be upgraded. :p

      If you are planning to ski a lot, then you should get the package with lift passes. But with kids so young, I’m not sure if you would really be skiing a lot. You may want to keep your options open and just get a stay + breakfast package and decide whether you want to sign up for classes or get lift passes when you are there.

  • joey Tee says:

    I been email them regarding the bus services from Tomamu staion, but not getting any response from them. Can the staff understand English there? you mentioned it about the free upgrade to the quad room, how did you managed to got the free upgrade? many thanks for your advise.

    • bumblebeemum says:

      I think the free upgrade is just a draw of luck.

      What bus service have you been trying to ask about? They do have staff that understands English there, though not as proficient as the staff at Niseko.

  • joey Tee says:

    would like to check the transportation from Tomamu station to Resort Tomamu. I will travel with my husband and two of my boys (>3years old & 5 years old). Would like to book the room for Hoshino Resort Tomamu, not sure whether or not should I just book 2 adult or 2 adult & 1 baby? If I book only 2 adult, can my 5 years old boy dine in for free?

    • bumblebeemum says:

      You would need to register both of your kids during booking and they will calculate based on the child’s age and charge for your kids were applicable. Iirc, I was there when my boys were 2 and 4 years old and I booked a twin room, and I did enter 2 adults, 1 baby, 1 infant. They charged for my 4 year old (considered baby) but it was free for 2 year (considered infant).

      I’m pretty sure your 5 year old needs to pay for his meals and stay. As for your younger child, I really cannot remember if they start charging from 3 or 4 years old. If they start charging at 3 years old, then you would need to pay for him as well. There’s no way to ‘cheat’ because they will ask for the passports of all guests during check-in (a standard protocol at all hotels in Japan).

  • Joey Tee says:

    Hi Mummy,

    Would like to check whether or not you advise to drive to & from between lake Akan Tsuruga Wing and Abashiri (Aurora Ice breaker cruise) on the same day?

  • 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.

  • Jane says:

    Hello Bumblebeemum! I will be travelling to Hokkaido this coming end of January for 7 days. Could you advise on how our itinerary should be? We are hoping to be able to include skiing in our itinerary.

    Also, I dont think I will be able to drive during winter due to the lack of experience. Do you have any driver to recommend? What are the rates like?

    Thanks inn advance!

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