BumblebeeMum
Hokkaido Self-Drive Trip (June 2016) Part 4: Asahikawa – Sounkyo – Shiretoko

Our Hokkaido Self-Drive Trip in June 2016 (Part 4) - Abashiri, Sounkyo, Abashiri, Shiretoko National Park - Bumble Bee Mum

Continued from: Hokkaido Self-Drive Trip (June 2016) Part 3: Sapporo, Otaru

After breakfast at Otaru, we drove to Asahikawa and arrived in time for lunch.  I had made a reservation for the group for lunch at Tenkin Honten (天金本店), a popular restaurant in Asahikawa with more than 70 years of history.

Hokkaido Self Drive Trip Part 4 (05) - Asahikawa Tenkin Honten

Luckily we made a reservation because the restaurant was pretty packed even on the weekday afternoon we were there.

Hokkaido Self Drive Trip Part 4 (06) - Asahikawa Tenkin Honten

We came here for their uni (sea urchin) shabu, but they had quite an extensive menu on top of that.  I enjoyed the lunch and service at Tenkin, despite the staff’s lack of ability to speak English.

After lunch, we drove on towards Sounkyo Onsen, spotting a Hokkaido fox along the way! I have a pretty good track record for spotting foxes on my Hokkaido self-drives.

Hokkaido Self Drive Trip Part 4 (07) - Hokkaido Fox

Before reaching Sounkyo, we first made a stop at Daisetsu Asahigaoka a.k.a. Taisetsu Forest Garden (大雪高原旭ヶ丘).

Hokkaido Self Drive Trip Part 4 (08) - Daisetsu Asahigaoka

It was raining pretty heavily, and we were pleasantly surprised to find umbrellas provided at the carpark.  We grabbed a bunch of umbrellas and headed into the garden.

I drove to Daisetsu Mori no Garden not too sure what to expect. After all, mid June is not the best time to be visiting anything flower-related in Hokkaido. It's too late for Spring blooms and too early for Summer blooms. To my surprise, I found a whole garden full of tulips! I was so happy that I forked out the 800yen admission, despite the crappy rainy weather, to walk around the little garden. Everyone else just camped at the warm cafe and gazed through the glass window. #bumblebeemumtravels #bumblebeemuminjapan #daisetsuzan #daisetsuzannationalpark #kamikawa #sounkyo #tulip #japantrip #japantravel #hokkaido #hokkaidotrip #hokkaidotravel #sonya6000 #sonyimages #sonyalpha #sonyalphasclub #changirecommends #changiwifi #travelblog #travelblogger #iamtb #mondayescapes #traveltuesday #wednesdaywanderlust #travelthursday #citytripping #myfavouritetrip #familytravelhq #wanderlust #instatravel

A post shared by Bumble Bee Mum (@bumble_bee_mum) on

 

When the weather is good, you can see the Daisetsuzan mountain range from the garden.  But oh well, the weather was crap when we were there.

Hokkaido Self Drive Trip Part 4 (13) - Daisetsu Asahigaoka

The flowers at Taisetsu Forest Garden are seasonal, so if you are here at a different time of the year, your view of the garden would probably be quite different from mine.  You can find out what’s blooming from their facebook page or flower calendar.

Hokkaido Self Drive Trip Part 4 (09) - Daisetsu Asahigaoka

There were tulips all over the garden when we were there, lucky!

After exploring the garden, we drove on through Sounkyo Onsen area, stopping first to take photos at Waterfall of Ginga and Waterfall of Meteor.

Hokkaido Self Drive Trip Part 4 (10) - Sounkyo Onsen Waterfalls

The waterfalls are located RIGHT NEXT to the carpark – which made it an easy photo stop even on a super rainy day.

Hokkaido Self Drive Trip Part 4 (11) - Sounkyo Onsen Waterfalls

A short drive further down route 39 brought us to O-Bako.

Hokkaido Self Drive Trip Part 4 (12) - Sounkyo Onsen Obako

And from there, we drove on to our hotel at Kitami – Super Hotel Kitami.

Day 10: Kitami – Abashiri – Shiretoko

We spent 3 nights at Super Hotel Kitami and had 2 full days to explore the region.  I planned to visit Shiretoko National Park on one day and Akan National Park on the other day.  We checked the weather forecast and it said the first day was sunny but the second day was rainy.  So we decided to go to Shiretoko on the first day since Shiretoko National Park required more walking compared to Akan National Park.

Hokkaido Self Drive Trip Part 4 (14)

Before going to Shiretoko, we made a slight detour to check out Lake Abashiri.

If I had more time, I would have driven to Lake Notoro and Cape Notoro too, but we wanted to spend more time at Shiretoko so we skipped those and continued East in the direction of Shiretoko.

We checked out Abashiri Seafood Market – which was more of a souvenir shop than a market.  There was a restaurant there overlooking the Okhotsk Sea which gets drift ice in winter.  But the restaurant only opened at 10.30am.

Hokkaido Self Drive Trip Part 4 (18) - Abashiri Seafood Market

So we decided not to wait for the restaurant to open and drove on towards Shiretoko.

Hokkaido Self Drive Trip Part 4 (15)

The weather was so crazy awesome that we kept stopping to take photos any time there was anything remotely interesting along the way.

Hokkaido Self Drive Trip Part 4 (16)

To a point where I felt like I was doing a car commercial.

Hokkaido Self Drive Trip Part 4 (16) - Driving to Shiretoko National Park

But hmmm… Isn’t that the whole point of self-drive trips? To be able to stop as and when you like to take photos?

Hokkaido Self Drive Trip Part 4 (17) - Driving to Shiretoko National Park

Our first more-than-just-hopping-off-the-car-to-snap-a-photo stop was Koshimizu Natural Flower Garden (小清水原生花園).

Hokkaido Self Drive Trip Part 4 (19) - Koshimizu Natural Flower Garden

Apparently the flower garden would be covered with lilies in the right season.    According to the poster we saw.

Hokkaido Self Drive Trip Part 4 (20) - Koshimizu Natural Flower Garden

But we were there in the wrong season.

Hokkaido Self Drive Trip Part 4 (23) - Koshimizu Natural Flower Garden

On the bright side, I did spot like… 5 lilies?

Hokkaido-Self-Drive-Trip-Part-4-(21)---Koshimizu-Natural-Flower-Garden

And the tower binoculars here were free! Woohoo!

Hokkaido Self Drive Trip Part 4 (24) - Koshimizu Natural Flower Garden

The kid hogged the tower binoculars, so I just made do with my camera zoom lens.

Hokkaido Self Drive Trip Part 4 (22) - Koshimizu Natural Flower Garden

Moving on… We continued our drive along Route 244 and came to a clearing.  I just had to pull over to snap some photos.

Hokkaido Self Drive Trip Part 4 (25) - Koshimizu Natural Flower Garden

And we spotted some horses in the distance!

Hokkaido Self Drive Trip Part 4 (26) - Koshimizu Natural Flower Garden

We also passed by a roadside station (michi no eki) and again, I pulled over because the signs said there was an observation deck.

Hokkaido Self Drive Trip Part 4 (27) - Koshimizu Roadside Station Michi-No-Eki

We found the observation deck, but the view was pretty crappy.  It was obstructed by antennas!

Hokkaido Self Drive Trip Part 4 (28) - Koshimizu Roadside Station Michi-No-Eki

We continued our drive through Shari Town and onto Route 334, finally reaching Oshin Koshin Waterfall – which indicated that we had arrived at Shiretoko National Park!

We had planed to visit Furepe waterfall next.  But unlike Oshin Koshin waterfall which was a stone’s throw from the parking lot, Furepe waterfall required about 20 minutes walk per way from the carpark.  And that’s without kids.

Hokkaido Self Drive Trip Part 4 (02) - Shiretoko National Park - Furepe Waterfall

The good thing about the walk to Furepe waterfall was that you could see plenty of deers along the way, or even bears if you’re lucky (or unlucky – whichever way you see it), with the beautiful mountain range as the backdrop.

Hokkaido Self Drive Trip Part 4 (01) - Shiretoko National Park - Furepe Waterfall

Okay.  We never did the walk on this particular trip because we were kind of behind schedule with our too-many-to-count stops during the drive here.  So the above photos were taken during a earlier winter trip – which explains all the snow and frozen waterfall.  Gotcha!!

Speaking of winter, most of Shiretoko National Park is inaccessible in winter.  Which is why Shiretoko National Park is best visited during summer or autumn.  In winter, it is frankly quite a depressing place to visit imo.  They try to attract tourists with ‘Aurora Fantasia’, which is a laser show simulating aurora, but even that didn’t warrant the looooong drive to Shiretoko in the cold bitter winter I felt.

Hokkaido Self Drive Trip Part 4 (03) - Shiretoko National Park - Aurora Fantasia

But to be fair, I probably found Shiretoko National Park depressing in winter because there was no drift ice when I was there.   If there had been drift ice and we actually got to do our swimming in drift ice activity, it may have been a whole different story.

Read more:  Planning a Hokkaido Winter Trip – Essential Travel Tips

 Image Source: Veltra.com

Okay, back to the trip! So we skipped the walk to Furepe waterfall this time round and ended up at Shiretoko Saihate Ichiba for lunch.

Hokkaido Self Drive Trip Part 4 (29) - Shiretoko Saihate Ichiba

No prizes for guessing what I had for lunch.

Hokkaido Self Drive Trip Part 4 (31) - Shiretoko Saihate Ichiba

They also served cooked food here for those who did not eat raw food.

Hokkaido Self Drive Trip Part 4 (30) - Shiretoko Saihate Ichiba

And like any other ichiba, you can shop for local produce here.

Hokkaido Self Drive Trip Part 4 (32) - Shiretoko Saihate Ichiba

After lunch, we drove on the Shiretoko Five Lakes, which has like the most scenic carpark in the whole of Shiretoko National Park I think.  Cost 500yen per vehicle to park there though.

Hokkaido Self Drive Trip Part 4 (33) - Shiretoko Five Lakes Goko

Since we were visiting in ‘Bear Aware Season’, which required us to join a guided tour (which cost 5000 yen per pax) if we wanted to use the ground walkway to visit all five lakes, we decided to go for the free elevated board walk that only brought us to Lake 1.

Hokkaido Self Drive Trip Part 4 (34) - Shiretoko Five Lakes Goko

MY was still not feeling very well, so it was a good thing that the board walk was stroller-friendly! He just sat in the stroller and enjoyed the view along the way.

Hokkaido Self Drive Trip Part 4 (35) - Shiretoko Five Lakes Goko

And at the end of the board walk, we were rewarded with a view of Lake 1 with the mountain range as the backdrop.

When I visited Shiretoko many years back on a gloomy winter day, it was frankly pretty depressing. Back then, I told myself that the loooong drive to Shiretoko, on the Northeastern tip of Hokkaido, was an absolute waste of time. Today, I checked the weather forecast beforehand and it promised good weather. So off to Shiretoko we went, and WOAH! What a difference it was from my last visit! This was definitely worth the 2.5 hours drive there (plus another 2.5 hours back). Shiretoko is now one of my favourite places in Hokkaido! At least in Summer. I still think it's a depressing place in winter where much of the scenic areas become inaccessible. #bumblebeemumtravels #bumblebeemuminjapan #shiretoko #知床五湖 #知床 #unesco #japantrip #japantravel #hokkaido #hokkaidotrip #hokkaidotravel #sonya6000 #sonyimages #sonyalpha #sonyalphasclub #changirecommends #changiwifi #travelblog #travelblogger #iamtb #mondayescapes #traveltuesday #wednesdaywanderlust #travelthursday #citytripping #myfavouritetrip #familytravelhq #wanderlust #instatravel #instapassport

A post shared by Bumble Bee Mum (@bumble_bee_mum) on

 

After we completed the elevated board walk, we drove on the Shiretoko Pass – a mountainous road that cuts across the peninsular.

We stopped at the viewpoint at the centre of Shiretoko Pass – which divides Shari Town from Rausu Town.   I was super amused by the road sign which said ‘Shari Town’ on one side and ‘Rausu Town’ on the other!

Hokkaido Self Drive Trip Part 4 (37) - Shiretoko Pass Hokkaido Self Drive Trip Part 4 (38) - Shiretoko Pass

Driving along, we next arrived at Rausu Visitor Centre.  Check out the cool skeleton of a killer whale (I think) hanging in the middle of the visitor centre!

The visitor centre was pretty kids friendly, with a little kids play corner.

Hokkaido Self Drive Trip Part 4 (39) - Rausu Visitor Centre

And a short walk from the visitor centre, there was a geyser which spouts approximately every hour in summer (less frequently in winter).

You can find out from the visitor centre exactly what time the geyser is expected to spout.  So no, we didn’t camp there for an hour waiting for the geyser to spout to take the video above.  We just went over about 10 minutes before the expected spouting time and stationed there with our cameras to catch the action.  I must say the prediction was pretty accurate!

Hokkaido Self Drive Trip Part 4 (46) - Rausu Visitor Centre

As we drove on to Rausu town, our good luck with the weather came to an end.  While it was bright and sunny over at Shari, Rausu was totally shrouded by fog!

Hokkaido Self Drive Trip Part 4 (40) - Rausu Kunashiri Observatory Deck

We visited Rausu Kunashiri Observatory Deck (羅臼国後展望塔), and this was what we were hoping to see from the observatory:

Hokkaido Self Drive Trip Part 4 (41) - Rausu Kunashiri Observatory Deck

But this was what we actually saw.  Gua gua gua…

Hokkaido Self Drive Trip Part 4 (42) - Rausu Kunashiri Observatory Deck

We had actually planned to do some sightseeing around Rausu until dinner time, then have dinner at Shiretoko Syokudou Rausu at the roadside station (michi no eki).  However due to the poor weather, we ditched our plans for further sightseeing around Rausu and made the long drive back to our hotel in Kitami.

Hokkaido Self Drive Trip Part 4 (43) - Kitami

When we were back at our hotel, we found some coupons from the lobby for free drinks at a nearby restaurant.  So we decided to go there for dinner.

Hokkaido Self Drive Trip Part 4 (44) - Kitami

Cheers to free drinks!

Hokkaido Self Drive Trip Part 4 (45) - Kitami

 

REFERENCES & MAP CODES

Not sure what are map codes? > Click here! <

 

PIN THIS UP FOR LATER

Our Hokkaido Self-Drive Trip in June 2016 (Part 4) - Abashiri, Sounkyo, Abashiri, Shiretoko National Park - Bumble Bee Mum

 

READ MORE ON JAPAN TRAVEL

Find more guides and itineraries for Japan travel on our Japan Travel Blog!

ENJOYED READING OUR BLOG?
SUBSCRIBE TO US
Get notified via email when we have new posts!







15 Comments

  • Chris Yeo says:

    Hi,

    I am planning a trip to Hokkaido in mid May. For the car rental, which is car rental agency you would recommend? I would need a car like the one you rented Toyota Wish.

  • Chin says:

    Hi Bumblebeemum,

    What is your recommendation for accommodation for family with 2 adults + age 13 + age 10 at Asahikawa?

    Thanks.

  • Audrey says:

    Dear bumblebeemum,

    Many thanks for writing the blog! It’s a great source of help for my itinerary planning.
    I’ll be doing a self drive trip to Hokkaido in early Oct this year.

    The itinerary is as follows-
    Day 1
    Fly into Hakodate

    Day 2
    Hakodate — Noboribetsu

    Day 3
    Noboribetsu — Lake Toya — Houheikyo Dam – Jozankei farm- Otaru

    Day 4
    Otaru — Asahikawa

    Day 5
    Asahikawa — Asahidake Ropeway (day trip)

    Day 6
    Asahikawa — Biei — Farm Tomita — Sapporo

    Day 7 and 8
    Sapporo

    1) Do you think Asahikawa is a good base for day 4 and 5? Or will it be better to stay in Asahikawa for 1 night and stay in Furano on day 5?
    2) Is my itinerary too packed?
    3) Should I buy ETC or highway pass?

    Are there any journeys where using tolls will make more sense? (save a lot more time etc)
    How much toll fees do you think I’ll need to pay?

    Thank you!

    • bumblebeemum says:

      1) Asahikawa is a good base for exploring Asahidake, I would stay in Asahidake.

      2) I do find it a bit rushed. I would drop Noboribetsu, shift Sapporo up to after Otaru and head back to CTS from Furano. Something like this:

      DAY 1 Hakodate

      DAY 2 Hakodate – Lake Toya

      DAY 3 Lake Toya — Houheikyo Dam – Jozankei farm – Sapporo

      Day 4 Sapporo (Day trip to Otaru)

      Day 5 Sapporo

      Day 6 Sapporo – Asahikawa

      Day 7 Asahikawa — Asahidake Ropeway (day trip)

      Day 8 Asahikawa — Biei — Farm Tomita — CTS

      I would use the tollway on the following routes:

      Hakodate – Lake Toya
      Sapporo – Otaru – Sapporo
      Sapporo – Asahikawa
      Furano – CTS

      You can refer to the following post for toll fees estimate:
      http://bumblebeemum.net/2016/05/11/hokkaido-expressway-pass-etc-card-toll-fees/

      • Audrey says:

        Thanks for your reply!
        Your itinerary is definitely less packed! However, as my family is keen on staying at this particular onsen at Noboribetsu, it is likely that we’ll keep to Day 2 and 3 of my itinerary.
        I’ve read your other posts and am keen on having lunch at Sendoan at Lake Toya which you’ve recommended. How much time do you think i should allocate to Lake Toya including lunch? Are there other things to do other than walking around the lake area?
        Thanks!

        • bumblebeemum says:

          At Lake Toya there’s also the sightseeing cruise and Usuzan Ropeway, and at nearby Sobetsu there are some fruit farms which should have lots of fruits to be picked in Oct. But these would require more time. But if you’re just dropping by Lake Toya as a rest point between Hakodate and Otaru, you can probably just have lunch (about an hour) then drive to Silo Observatory to snap a few photos and move on.

  • Nigel Choo says:

    Hi BumbleBeeMum,

    My friend and I are looking at an 8D8N road trip travelling from CTS -> Furano/Biei -> Taisetsuzan National Park -> Shiretoko National Park -> Kushiro -> Sapporo -> Otaru -> CTS

    Is that unrealistic? It’s will be touch-and-go at Furano/Biei for us, we want to do more hiking and see natural scenery. Hope you will be able to share with us your thoughts!

    • Queen Bee says:

      When are you visiting?

      If you are more into hiking and natural scenery, then yeah, you can just touch & go at Furano / Biei and spend more time at Daisetsuzan National Park (Asahidake / Sounkyo) and Shiretoko. With 8 days, I would suggest you take Sapporo and Otaru out. Just focus on Eastern Hokkaido.

      For example in 8 days, you can do something like this:

      Day 1: CTS – Furano / Biei – Asahikawa
      Day 2: Asahikawa (day trip to Asahidake)
      Day 3: Asahikawa – Sounkyo – Abashiri
      Day 4: Abashiri – Shiretoko
      Day 5: Shiretoko
      Day 6: Shiretoko – Lake Akan – Kushiro
      Day 7: Kushiro – Obihrio
      Day 8: Obihiro – CTS

      It is already rather packed, so I really wouldn’t squeeze Sapporo and Otaru in.

  • Dave says:

    Hi BumbleBeeMum,

    Many thanks for the hardwork in providing the information and great memories.I’ll be based at Asahikawa JR Inn and doing my first self driving oversea in the last week of September (hopefully to see autumn foliage) with the itinery as follows:

    Day 1 Asahikawa Airport, pickup car with World Net Rent, Shop & Eat in Asahikawa
    Day 2 Furano
    Day 3 Furano-Biei
    Day 4 Biei
    Day 5 Sounkyo-Ginsendai-Mikuni Pass
    Day 6 Asahidake
    Day 7 Sapporo
    Day 8 Asahikawa Airport

    (1) Do advise me on the itinery.Should I include other tourist area of interest?
    (2) Any nice place to eat around Asahidake?
    (3) Any toll involve? Do I need ETC or HEP?
    (4) As we are merely shopping & eating in Sapporo/New Chitose Airport and due to expensive carpark is it better if we take the train or bus from our hotel?

    Your reply would be appreciated
    Thank you.

    • Queen Bee says:

      (1) The Sapporo part looks a bit abrupt. If I were based in Asahikawa, I would use the chance to visit Wakkanai. It’s the one part of Hokkaido I haven’t been to because it’s so far North, especially since I always fly via CTS. I would drop Sapporo and head up to Wakkanai – hit the road less travelled! Lol.. But that’s just me.

      (2) I haven’t came across any particularly exciting restaurants around Daisetsuzan National Park.

      (3) If you go to Sapporo, the route between Sapporo and Asahikawa has tolls. Otherwise the region around Asahikawa / Furano / Biei / Daisetsuzan is toll free.

      (4) Ermm, wait, where does CTS come into the picture?

      • Anonymous says:

        Good morning BB mom
        Thank you for the quick reply
        I will try to convince my girlfriend to go to Wakkanai instead of shopping and eating at Sapporo & New Chitose Airport
        You have a great week ahead ya 😊

  • Chloe Tan says:

    Hi BumbleBeeMum,

    Just looking around for recommendation for accommodation…

    Do you have any recommendations for:
    Otaru
    Kitami
    Kushiro
    Obihiro

    This is out itinerary:

    Visit Otaru Canal
    Night in Otaru

    Next day to Mt. Asahidake-Waterfall of Ginga
    Night in Kitami

    Next day to Lake Abashiri-Oshinkoshin Waterfall -Shiretoko Peninsula -Rausu Kunashiri Observatory Deck
    Night in Kitami

    Next day to Lake Mashu-Lake Kussharo-Cafe Kaiyodai
    Night in Kitami

    Next day to Lake Akan-Washo Market
    Night in Kushiro

    Next day to Akkeshi Seafood Market-Ikeda Wine Castle
    Night in Obihiro

  • Shu Teng says:

    hi Bumble bee mum,

    We intend to visit Hokkaido from 19 May till 27 May 2018.
    hope you can help me to route my itinerary. will it be possible to visit Hakotate, Sapporo, Otaru, Asahiyama, Takionue, Kamiyubetsu, Tomamu, Unkai Terrace, Biei /Furano and Chitose Pemium outlet in 8 days 7 nights? How do i plan my itinerary and where can i enjoy the onsen? should i include Lake Toya? Besides, i notice that there is always no rooms available if i declare the children. do i need to declare that i have 2 children (5 and 1 year old) on hotel reservation?

    thanks in advance.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *