Day 4: Asahikawa – Lake Shikotsu – Lake Toya – Niseko
On Day 4 of our trip, we had to pick up a friend who would be joining us for the rest of the trip from CTS. So we headed South from Asahikawa. detouring to CTS before heading to our first destination, Lake Shikotsu.
It was raining quite heavily that day and I was STILL sick (bah). So I just bummed in the shop selling my favourite cheese imo mochi while the rest of the group ventured out to the lakeside.
We drove on to Lake Toya for lunch at Sendoan.
Unlike the past 2 visits where I had superb clear views of Lake Toya, it was a bit cloudy around the little island in the middle of Lake Toya that day. But I guess there was a certain beauty to it?
Yeah, I was trying to stay positive. It was a bit hard to stay positive when I was sick and the weather was crappy. We had planned to ride the Usuzan Ropeway, but because it was super foggy, we reckoned it would just be a waste of money and we wouldn’t be able to see anything from the top of the mountain. I’m gonna insert a photo from a previous visit to Usuzan Ropeway here just to make myself feel better. And just so that people skimming through my blog post without reading my long grandmother’s story will think I had an AWESOME trip. *hiak hiak hiak*
Instead of going to the ropeway, we went for our usual run in the park along the shores of Lake Toya just beside Sendoan.
After which we drove to a vantage point which was free of charge (so no loss even if we didn’t get a good view there) – Silo Observatory. When we were there, it was cloudy but we could still see Lake Toya vaguely.
And I guess we were considered lucky to even have a view because 5 minutes later, the whole observatory was consumed by fog!
Can you imagine if we had paid for the ropeway and be greeted with a view like this at the top? That would have been quite depressing. #CouldHaveBeenWorse
It was NOT a good day. And there was only one thing that could perk me up on a bad day. FOOD. So we drove to my favourite cafe in Niseko, Cafe IF, which thank goodness was open!
Somehow with my groggy panadol-infused mind, I ordered the wrong cheesecake. I wanted to have this whipped cheesecake which we had the last time we were here:
But instead we got this more normal-looking cheesecake. Which was super yummy nevertheless!
The hot chocolate was heavenly, at least according to everyone who drank it. I passed because I was coughing my lungs out. I just satisfied myself with the more-than-satisfying cheesecake.
We checked in to our hotel, Niseko Northern Resort Annupuri. After the guys went to rejuvenate themselves in the onsen, we drove out to Kutchan for dinner at Torimatsu.
Oh! Talking about this gets me excited… For this trip to Niseko, I had planned to do an ‘Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations’ in Niseko food tour!
Okay, we can’t watch the video in Singapore. Crap. But anyway in the episode, Anthony Bourdain visited Torimatsu, a yakitori restaurant at Kutchan, and Rakuichi Soba, a soba restaurant near where we were staying. From what I gathered on the internet, it is impossible to get a spot at Rakuichi Soba for dinner without reservation a year in advance?? So my Hokkaido friend recommended that we try our luck for lunch. Hence I planned Torimatsu for dinner and Rakuichi Soba for lunch the next day.
Initially I was a bit worried that with our large group, we wouldn’t be able to get a table at Torimatsu without reservation. But we managed to get one alright. Torimatsu had staff who could speak English and they had English menu.
Torimatsu totally deserved a post of its own – which I promise I will get to one day. But for now, to keep it short, I totally recommend it. Skip the chicken, go for the pork.
And you must order the Hakkaku.
This was the happiest dinner I have had since arriving in Hokkaido! Thank you Anthony Bourdain!
Day 5: Niseko – Sapporo
In the morning, we had breakfast at the hotel which was provided with our stay. After which we drove along Route 66 to check out Shinsennuma.
Route 66 was a curvy mountainous route which started out fine for us. But as we got to higher elevation, it started to get very foggy till we had near zero visibility – not exaggerating.
It was horrible!! The GPS said that we had arrived at our destination and I couldn’t even see ANYTHING. I couldn’t find the carpark which was right beside us! Till my more observant husband said, “Look! I think I see a tour bus on the right!” And I squinted through the clouds and vaguely made out the tour bus and reckoned we were at the correct place. So I just whacked it and turned right and thank goodness we didn’t drop into some drain by the road and managed to find our way into the carpark.
I am not kidding when I say the visibility was poor. We had NO idea where we were going and just walked down the first path we saw.
Apparently the path lead to some observation deck and not Shinsennuma. What good was an observation deck in this weather?
Looking on the bright side, MY found a patch of yellow flowers in the midst of the fog which brightened us our spirits. Somewhat. #StayingPostive
We went back to the carpark and found a rest house. (Yes, we didn’t even see the big rest house at first. We had to find it. The visibility was THAT bad.) I asked the staff at the rest house where Shinsennuma was and he said it was across the road. Oh! No wonder we couldn’t find it – we couldn’t even see the freaking road!
So we crossed the road and realised we had to walk more than 1km to reach Shinsennuma. Half the group decided it was not going to be worth walking so far and probably see nothing in this weather. The other half of us decided to go ahead since we were here already. It was frankly very gloomy, but I tried to keep spirits high by looking for little beauties of nature. #StayingPositive
The 1km felt like forever because we couldn’t see where we were going. We just kept to the boardwalk and walked and walked.
And the best part – when we reached Shinsennuma, we didn’t even know we had reached!! I didn’t know to laugh or to cry. Okay, I am laughing over it as I am writing this because it’s so funny on hindsight. But when I was there, it was miserable.
So we were happily following the boardwalk and signs until a point where there was no more sign. And I was like, “Huh… Where are we supposed to go now? How come no more sign?” Then someone said, “Hey, I think because we reached! See? That sign says Shinsennuma right?” And I was like, “Oh.. We reached! No wonder there was no more direction sign!”
So yes indeed, we have arrived at Shinsennuma!! OMG… We really couldn’t see the marsh at all!
And we walked the whole 1+km back to the rest house and drove back down the mountain in near zero visibility. I was SO happy when we made it back to Rakuichi Soba.
UNTIL we realised Rakuichi Soba was CLOSED that day!! @#$^%@#$
How does your day get any worse?? Okay, let me tell you what would have been worse. What would have been worse would be if Rakuichi Soba was actually open, we queued to get a seat and realised they DO NOT ALLOW CHILDREN!!!
So remember: Rakuichi Soba does not allow children under 12 years old – according to the sign at the entrance. Thank goodness it was closed and we didn’t waste time queuing! #StayingPositive
So we went to a place which was guaranteed kids-friendly – Prativo.
I always have a dilemma when I visit Prativo. Prativo offers semi-buffet lunch – which included one *small* main course plus a buffet of salad and desserts. But at the same time, I want to eat the desserts from Milk Kobo too! How do you eat desserts immediately after a buffet??
Oh. Desserts go in a separate stomach. So yeah, I went to Milk Kobo after lunch at Prativo to grab some yummy cream puff and cheese tarts although I just had a buffet. I mean, how do you resist this??
You jolly well save some stomach space for it if you had flown all the way to Hokkaido. I call this living life with no regrets. Or eat while travelling with no regrets.
Despite the crappy weather up on the mountain at Shinsennuma, the weather was rather peachy down at Milk Kobo. There was even an art interest group gathering on the lawn.
And gosh, these folks could paint!
From Milk Kobo, we drove to Sapporo. But not before making a quick detour to Kutchan to see if there was any shibazakura.
Well, nope. Not really. It was sad.
Okay, maybe not so sad if I zoom in a bit. #StayingPositive
From here, we drove to our next destination Sapporo.
Quick note on driving from Niseko to Sapporo: The GPS recommended route was for us to drive North to Otaru and take the tollway from there to Sapporo. You can also choose to use this toll-free route. Distance wise, the two routes are about the same. Of course using the tollway would be faster but if you have the time to spare, the toll-free route can save you toll fees in exchange for like 30 minutes more on the road. (See > this post < on how to set your GPS to avoid tollways.)
Not sure what are map codes? > Click here! <
- Lake Shikotsu (Map Code: 867 063 416)
- Sendoan @ Lake Toya (Map Code: 321 518 438)
- Usuzan Ropeway (Map Code: 321 433 350)
- Silo Observatory (Map Code: 321 726 760)
- Cafe IF (Map Code: 398 385 633)
- Torimatsu (Map Code: 385 840 166)
- Shinsen-Numa (Map Code: 398 581 079)
- Rakuichi Soba (Map Code: 398 347 189)
- Prativo & Niseko Milk Kobo (Map Code: 398 321 134)