Hi Bumble Bee Mum,
Hello! Thank you for your detailing your journeys. I write my title with as much detail as possible to make it easy for others in similar situations to search and get the answers, too. My only way of paying it forward, for now.
We are going to Hokkaido from mid of December until the end, approx 17 days. We have never been to Japan, and the kids have never been to Winter. We have been to places colder than Singapore: Western Europe in Autumn, and North & South NZ in Summer (still colder than Singapore). We are used to somewhat slow travel, because of the children. Happy to exchange tips if you need some about Western Europe and NZ.
We are going with my parents, so it is a party of 4 adults and 3 young children, and I’m the one organising everything. So you see, we are somewhat ok with travelling with children, but this time around, because of the number of pax, and the weather, I am lost. I know, I literally asked for it, and now I really need help, please be kind!
Our places of interests are, not in order:
- 3 days in Sapporo walking around, seeing light festivals, going to museum, bit of shopping etc
- 2 days in Otaru
- 2 days in a ski place
- 2 days at Tomamu
- 2 days at Asahikawa and Asahiyama Zoo
- 1 day at Lake Toya areas
- 1 day at Noboribetsu
- 1 day at Obihiru
- 1 day at Lake Akan areas
- 2 days at Eastern Hokkaido: Shiretoko, Biei
Now for the explanation. This is not in order because I’m still trying to guage if I should drive or take public transport all the way, or if there’s a combo in between. This decision will affect whether we attempt to even go to Eastern Hokkaido.
1. Should I drive?
I don’t have a car in SG, but drive all the time in country sides other than cities: Western Europe, Melbourne, North and South NZ. In storms, sleet (once), and up and down single lane mountains, dirt tracks, loose gravel. Love it… BUT I have never driven in Winter.
If travelling through public transport, that makes the trip more rigid, and less comfortable for all of us, since everyone (except me) cannot rest as comfortably during travel. Plus we have to carry essential stuff like diapers etc for the little ones. Have you travelled exclusively on public transport in winter with your family?
What are your thoughts on driving out to Asahiyama Zoom and Eastern Areas during winter times, where the sun sets extremely early, and since the speed of driving is slow, it takes up a significant portion of daylight?
2. We would like to have you thoughts on the wisdom of our reasoning:
Sapporo: 3 days includes the arrival and departure days, so this isn’t a lot. Plus we might need to do shopping for other winter stuff.
Otaru is another must go place as you mentioned, we just put it as 2 days now.
We have never tried skiiing, sledding, sliding, tubing or any other winter activites. So we thought that 2 days each at a ski place and at Tomamu would be good.
Apart from the Zoo at Asahiyama, we have read that Asahikawa has ramen towns, not sure if this deserves an extra day on its own, seeing that 1 day will be at the zoo already. Plus, because of slow travel, we are thinking we might go to the zoo twice.
Lake Toya and Lake Akan areas look good from your blog, so 1 day each.
Noboribetsu for the onsen, I can’t remember what Obihiru was for, have to check it up later again. I’m not sold on the Onsen experience, because if we leave the children with my parents, then effectively my wife and I are going to the Onsen alone, because of the gender spaces. If our parents go with us, then it’s just me and my Dad. Seriously, it could be awkard. And we’re not even sure if the littlest one at 2 can go to an Onsen.
Different blogs have suggested that Biei is worth/not worth going to in Winter, when the blue water is frozen. Some have also suggested to skip Eastern Hokkaido as the distance and logistics for it during Winter more than the payoff enjoyment. I’m ok with skipping it if we are not going to be renting a car, and I’m also ok with skipping it even if we rent a car, due to the distance and logistics.
3. You might have covered it in question 2, but… are there any areas that we should go in Winter, or avoid going to in Winter?
4. Winter protection esp for the young ones:
Did your boys wear hard shell waterproof gloves?
Did they wear soft shell ski pants, or normal bottoms like jeans?
Did they wear hard shell ski pants?
Did they wear polarised sunglasses?
Did they wear ski goggles & helmets?
Did they wear snow boots or rain boots?
Did they wear balaclavas, neck warmers, or scarves?
5. Did you buy any of these, and where? Or did you rent them?
If you met me, you would never imagine how naggy I can be. I’m easy on myself, but I’m very concerned about them. Please excuse the questions! Thank you for your time helping a (somewhat) seasoned traveller out.