BumblebeeMum
Hokkaido with Kids (December 2014) Part 3: Kushiro, Obihiro, Tomamu

We arrived in Kushiro in the evening.  After checking in to our hotel, we went to Fisherman’s Wharf MOO for dinner.  There was a food court on the second floor where we could order from the various stalls and dine at the common tables in the middle.

Zangi (fried chicken) was a popular snack in Kushiro, so we ordered a Zangi don (fried chicken rice bowl).  The zangi don was soooo good!! The chicken chunks were huge and juicy – the kids couldn’t stop eating them!

Another highly recommended dish that you should try when in Kushiro was Sanmanma.  It was a bit like a sushi roll, except the grilled fish was on the outside and the rice was inside – very special!

Day 7: Kushiro – Tsurui – Obihiro

The next morning, we woke up bright and early and drove out to a robata (charcoal grill) restaurant near the port called Shakebanya for breakfast.

How Shakebanya works is, you hop into the store, grab a metal tray and put what you want to eat into the tray.  Then you go to the cashier to pay for it.  They will then bring your tray of food over to the dining area and set up the open grill and place the food your ordered to cook on the open grill in front of you.

After breakfast, we drove to the Kushiro Marsh Observatory.  We did not pay to enter the observatory, instead we went for the free boardwalk outside the observatory.

The marshland observatory circular trail (also called Hokuto Observatory Park) is a 2.5km wheelchair-accessible (hence stroller accessible) circular trail.   Let’s start with some warm-up exercise!

The walk started well, with the kids being rather enthusiastic.

It was frankly not very interesting, and I was quite happy when we reached the observation deck.

We took a mandatory celebratory shot with the sign at the observation deck to prove that we’ve been-here-done-that.

And this is the marshland view that we trekked all the way to see.  Not too sure I could appreciate this.

If you are planning to bring the kids on the boardwalk, you may want to bring a stroller in case the kid doesn’t want to walk back.  MF refused to walk back and kept asking me to carry him and he was freaking heavy with all the winter clothing! Totally regretted not bringing the stroller.

If you do not wish to walk, there is actually a parking lot along route 53 immediately after Kushiro Marsh Observatory where you could observe the marshland from.  So… I wouldn’t recommend doing the walk with kids unless you really wish to exercise.

After we finally made it back to the car, we drove further up route 53 to Tsurui Ito Tancho Sanctuary where cranes gathered to feed during winter.  The kids were both concussed from the long walk and fast asleep in the car, so hubby and I just parked along the road and jumped off to take a quick look.

After this, we drove to Tsurumidai, another winter feeding ground for cranes.  The kids woke up and got to see the cranes.  For a moment I thought they were going to sleep through the whole ride and miss the cranes, good thing they didn’t!  The kids enjoyed the crane-watching.

The drive along route 53 was very interesting because along the way, we could see cranes flying in the sky.

There was even a ‘watch out for crane’ road sign!

We drove back to Kushiro for lunch at Kushiro Washo Market. The market is most famous for its katte don (勝手丼) where you pick your own ingredients from the many stalls in the market to make your own chirashi don.

Also Read: Hokkaido’s Best Food (by region)

What you do when you arrive at Washo Market is to first head for a stall that sells rice to buy a bowl of rice.  They usually have different sizes for you to choose from.

With your bowl of rice, you then head to any ‘勝手丼’ stall and pick the ingredients to make your own chirashi don.  The choices are endless!

Below are some of our katte don from Washo Market.

Read More: Our visit to Kushiro in June 2016

The stall owners don’t usually arrange the ingredients nicely and they’ll just dump them in as you order them.  If want to take nice photos like us, you can ask for the ingredients to be served separately, then you can arrange them yourselves to take a nice photo.  Lol…

If there are people in your group who do not eat raw food, no worries.  There were stalls in Washo market selling cooked food too.

After our very sumptuous lunch, we left Kushiro and drove to Obihiro.  We checked in to our hotel, Richmond Hotel Obihiro, a hotel right next to JR Obihiro station that we always stay in by default when we’re in Obihiro, and rested until it was time for dinner.

Also Read: Our visit to Obihiro in June 2016

When in Obihiro, there is only one thing on the menu: BUTA DON (pork rice bowl).  We wanted to go to my favourite buta don shop, Panchou, which was located right next to Richmond hotel – but they were closed by the time we got our lazy bums out of the hotel!

Read More: Our Top 10 Favourite Restaurants in Hokkaido (2016 Picks)

So we settled for another buta don shop, Butahage at Obihiro station.  The buta don here was also fantastic!

Also Read: Butahage opens in Singapore’s Liang Court!

We were also pretty impressed with the service.  The staff actually helped us cut up a portion of the meat into small pieces when he noticed we had kids with us!

Day 8: Obihiro – Tomamu

The next day, after checking out of our hotel, we drove to a popular bakery cafe in Obihiro: Mugioto (one of the shops under the bakery chain Masuya Pan).

Mugioto was a great place to have breakfast with the kids.  They actually had a playroom for kids inside the bakery!

With the kids well occupied in the playroom, we could take our time choosing from the wide selection of bread and pastries they had.

Since it was winter, we sat at the indoor seating area.  There was a toaster in the cafe area where we could heat up our bread – piping hot bread guaranteed!

In Summer, you could sit outdoors in the lawn and the kids could go run around and play on the tractor while you enjoy your meal.

After we had our breakfast, we left Obihiro and drove to Tomamu.  If you are in Obihiro for the first time, I recommed visiting Rokkatei‘s main store.  Rokkatei is a big name in Hokkaido for their famous confectionery.  I was not a fan of Rokkatei and wanted to spend more time in Tomamu so we skipped it.

As we left Obihiro, we were greeted by beautiful snowy mountains and MF got super excited and kept asking, “Are we reaching? Are we reaching?”

We were quite lucky to have good weather and hence a nice winter scenery to admire during our drive from Obihiro to Tomamu.

Pretty sure if we had done this drive on a snowy day, I would have a very different story to tell.  As I learned from our drive to Niseko later in the trip.

Due to the peachy weather, we arrived at Tomamu way ahead of time at 11am.  Our room was not ready for check-in yet since check-in time was at 3pm.   While bumming around the lobby, We saw a reindeer roaming outside the lobby and went to check it out.

We wanted to go reindeer sledding but they said they were fully booked for the day.  So we went for the photoshoot instead.  We changed into the Santa Claus clothes provided for the photoshoot.

The photoshoot was SUPER value-for-money! For only 500 yen, the photographer took around 30 photos with our own camera (mixture of family shots and individual shots).  There was no pressurizing to purchase large print-outs at exorbitant prices, it was all soft copies in our own camera. We super enjoyed the photoshoot.

After the photoshoot, we just hung around to play with snow aimlessly.  Because we are Singaporeans and that’s what we do when we are surrounded by snow.

After we got too cold, we decided to go for lunch at one of the restaurants within the resort.

After lunch, the kids went to play at the kids play area in the lobby.

There was a nursing room just next to the play area – with FREE diapers of various sizes!

When the kids got bored of the play area, we went to borrow a snow sled (free of charge) from the reception and went to play in the snow.

And after doing all that, our room was finally ready and we went back to the room to rest.  We were psyched to be given a FREE upgrade to a quad room (from twin room) with 4 beds and 2 toilets!  We were also given a room on a pretty high floor and had a great view of the surrounding mountains.

Hubby and I took turns to go to the onsen.  Since we went right after check-in, the resort was still pretty quiet (all the other guests were either still skiing or haven’t checked in yet I guess) and I had the whole onsen to myself.  The onsen here was infinity pool style, looking out to a blanket of pure white snow.  It was soooo shiok!! And I even got to witness diamond dust (a phenomenon that happens when the hot steam from the onsen meets the super-cold clear sky) – it was a surreal experience.

In the evening, we went to the Ice Village.  In early December, most of the village was still under construction which was a tad disappointing.

Thankfully the giant ice slide was ready and MF went on the slide over and over and over.

We also rented a snow tube and went snow tubing.

When the Ice Village is fully operational (usually from end December), you would find an ice-skating rink and numerous ice igloos housing facilities like an ice bar.

After visiting the Ice Village, we went for dinner at one of the restaurants in the resort before calling it a day.  For the record, the ikura don I had was their KIDS MEAL.  So you know, kids in Hokkaido have ikura rather than nuggets and fries. lol…

The next morning, we had buffet breakfast that was included in our hotel stay. I loved the buffet breakfast at Tomamu resort!  I probably went overboard with the shrimp and squid sashimi but it was a buffet!

After breakfast, we went for the reindeer sledding.  It cost 2000 yen for an adult and the kids below 4 could ride for free!

However, there was a maximum weight limit so the sled couldn’t take all four of us.  So we paid 2000 yen and I rode with the kids while poor hubby followed us on foot to take photos. Heh heh… Poor hubby.

After sledding, we checked out and began our long drive to the next snow resort at Niseko.

I totally enjoyed our stay at Tomamu.  It was the second time we stayed here in the year (read about our Summer stay here) and both stays were extremely enjoyable.

I found Tomamu to be an extremely value-for-money snow resort in comparison to Niseko and Rusutsu.  It was a ski-in ski-out resort, but the ski lifts outside the Tower were not operating in early December (according to their website they only open in late December).  The kids ski area and snow activity park were also not open yet.  If you want to visit during the December holidays, try to plan the trip as late as possible and hopefully the kids ski and play areas would be ready then.

Posts from the same trip:

Itinerary for 17-day Hokkaido trip with kids in December
Part 1: Sapporo
Part 2: Asahikawa, Akan National Park
Part 3: Kushiro, Obihiro, Tomamu (You’re on this post now)
Part 4: Niseko, Noboribetsu, Lake Toya, Rusutsu
Part 5: Otaru, New Chitose Airport

Posts from our other Hokkaido Trips:

Hokkaido in Autumn (October 2013):

Part 1: Flight, Hotel Mercure Sapporo, Toyota Rent-A-Car Sapporo
Part 2: Itinerary (with telephone numbers and GPS Map Codes)

Hokkaido in Summer (June 2014):

Part 1: New Chitose Airport, Lake Shikotsu, Lake Toya, Hakodate
Part 2: Onuma Koen, Niseko, Shakotan
Part 3: Otaru
Part 4: Sapporo
Part 5: Furano, Biei, Tomamu, Obihiro, New Chitose Airport

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50 Comments

  • Ling Tan says:

    Hi there Bumblebee Mum! I bummed into you while in Niseko last year – I was the one who said hi to you while you were enjoying your breakfast at (I think) The Niseko Supplies company. 🙂 Great post, and lovely photos, as usual, you have here on your winter drive through Hokkaid.

    I was wondering – could I entice you to share a summary of sort for your journey over at http://kidsonboard.net/share-photo-essay. Drop me a mail with any thoughts at all – I’d love to work with you!

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Hihi, so it was you!! Thanks for coming back to my blog to say Hi!! Let me pop over to Kidsonboard to take a look. 🙂

      • Ling Tan says:

        Hello yes that was me! 🙂 I was a little shy at first to say hi, because I felt like a stalker, but hey – I thought in the end, it’s meant to be that i bummed into you 🙂 I loved your blog – have been telling friends about it even before I started kidsonboard.net cos you are so detailed and it really is helpful.

        Thanks for submitting that form! Photo essays allows you to post more photos, Travel moment gives only three photos; Photo essays have a word-count limit, while Travel moment allows writer to write as much as they want!

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Okay, I just submitted a photo essay. I was wondering.. What’s the difference between ‘Photo Essay’ and ‘Travel Moment’? And ‘Join as a member’ vs ‘Post as a Reader’?

  • vauxie says:

    Dear bumblebeemum, your blog is awesome and so informative. Thank you for your precious time taken to share your knowledge of travelling in Japan. I’m trying to find out if Singaporean needs to apply for international driving permit to drive in Japan… Thank you in advance.

  • Eunice says:

    Hi there , we are thinking to visit Hokkaido in January with my 18 months and 4 year old kids rom Melbourne. We are aware that there will be very very cold 😐😐. Is it ideal to go? So worry about the snow rain and we are not thinking to rent a car. Stroller would be difficult to push around too.

    Thank you for sharing and your boys seem coping the cold weather very well.

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Yes, it will be very very cold in January. My boys did catch a cold when we visited in winter – which is expected since they are so used to the warm climate in Singapore. Got to bring along medication for them. And it can be quite expensive to get your hands on proper winter wear (which they will probably only wear once? Coz they will outgrow it so fast), unless there is someone you can borrow from.

      If you can, visiting in February during the Sapporo snow festival & Asahikawa winter festival would be more exciting. I mean.. If you were to bear the cold, might as well make it worthwhile by going for the festivals.

  • Aveena says:

    Dear Bumblebee mum, I chanced upon your website and find it so informative. I am trying to plan out the itinerary for Jan trip and I am kind of stucked to where to go and whether to drive or take train.
    I will be reaching Sapporo CTS on 12th Jan and will fly in to Hakodate on the same day and slowly work my way up.
    Flying out from Sapporo CTS on 26th Jan.

    So far this is what I have planned
    12th – 15th Hakodate
    15th – Noboribetsu (1 night onsen stay)
    :
    25th – Airport Terminal hotel
    26th – Morning flight back to SG

    We thought of exploring Lake Toya, Rusutsu, Otaru, Sapporo, Tomamu, Eastern part of Hokkaido to see cranes. Not quite sure how should we plan our route from noboribetsu onward. And should we rent the car on last day of Hokodate and drive throughout the trip or do a mix of drive and train.
    Plus is our first winter trip, so we try plan a more relax itinerary.

    Really appreciate your suggestions. Thank you in advance! 🙂

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Timing is a bit tight if you want to go all the way from Hakodate to see the cranes at Kushiro. You won’t be able to cover all the places you listed. This is what I would suggest:

      12th – 15th Hakodate
      15th – Hakodate – Noboribetsu (train)
      16th – Noboribetsu – Tomamu (train)
      17th – Tomamu
      18th – Tomamu – Kushiro (train)
      19th – Rent a car from Kushiro. Drive to Tsurui (for cranes) then to Lake Akan
      20th – Lake Akan (drive around Akan National Park)
      21st – Return car to Kushiro. Train from Kushiro to Obihiro.
      22nd – Train from Obihiro to Sapporo
      23nd – Sapporo
      24rd – Sapporo (day trip to Otaru)
      25th – Sapporo – CTS

      Note that for Noboribetsu, the onsen town is not near the train station. So you would still need to take a taxi from Noboribetsu station to the onsen town.

  • Jess Ho says:

    *…….uncontrollable factors……

  • Mavis says:

    Dear Bumblebee mum,

    We are planning to fly into Hokkaido after our visit to Tokyo before flying back to Singapore.

    18 Dec Tokyo – Chitose – Tomamu
    19 Dec Tomamu
    20 Dec Tomamu
    21 Dec Tomamu – Chitose – Singapore

    We have booked airbnb accomodation in alpha village for our stay. What are the food options we have in tomamu other than the restaurants ? Will it be very expensive ? Is there a convenience store to pick up some food ?

    We also realized that there is only limited train service going to tomamu, and we may have to consider driving. Will the route from New Chitose Airport to Tomamu be difficult to drive ? Feeling unsure as we have no experience driving in snow.

    Also should I change the night of 21 Dec to stay in Chitose instead of Tomamu. Wanting to make sure we are have enough time to make it to Chitose for our flight.

    Really appreciate your advice.

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Ummm.. In Tomamu, you are pretty much restricted to the restaurants in Tomamu resort. It is not convenient to pick up food once you are at Tomamu. I suggest you stock up at New Chitose Airport which has everything. The restaurants are okay, typical restaurant prices? I didn’t think they were overly exorbitant. But definitely not your 300-yen gyu don kind of food. Maybe about 2000yen per pax per meal? If you buy some bread from CTS for breakfast, you can save on breakfast.

      I would opt for either the train or the bus. None of these timings work for you?
      http://www.snowtomamu.jp/bus/index_en.html
      http://www.snowtomamu.jp/blog/web/6021

      What time is your flight out of CTS on 21 Dec? If it’s early, then yes I would recommend you spend the last night at Air Terminal Hotel.

      • Mavis says:

        Really appreciate your advice.

        I am also considering spending the 3 days in Sapporo instead of going to Tomamu. Are there recommended skiing and snow activity areas that will be fun for my teenage kids.

        Thanks again !

        • bumblebeemum says:

          Skiing and snow activities are pretty limited around Sapporo in December. I think heading to ski resorts in Tomamu / Rusutsu / Niseko would be better for snow activities.

  • Timjaymum says:

    Hi bumblebeemum,
    First of all, I want to thank you for sharing your experiences in Hokkaido. We’re going there late January – early February. Your blogs have saved me from a lot of headaches!
    Just want to ask you about Tomamu.. I can’t get any room around there (sob!) so would you recommend a day trip there? Also Ice Village is to be visited at night.
    We will be driving from Furano.
    Tim

  • Juliana says:

    Hi, I would like to ask when will the room reservation at Tomamu be opened for the winter season this year? Planning to stay in December 2017. In addition, can you advise on where I can make the room reservation at Tomamu Ski Resort?

    Many thanks

  • Joanne says:

    Thank you Bumblebee mom. I went to Lake Masshu and Obihiro because of your blog. Its a great help for planning

  • Vica says:

    Hi Bumblebee Mum, your blog is really interesting and and informative. I’m going to Hokkaido 2 to 12 Dec. My preliminary itinerary as below, please share your thought?

    Collect car from new chitose airport,am arriving at 8am
    2Dec Noboribetsu
    3-4Dec Hakodate
    5Dec Lake Toya
    6-7Dec Niseko
    8 Dec Otaru/Sapporo (return car at Sapporo)
    9-10Dec Sapporo

    Are above itinerary feasible and do you think HEP is required?

    I’m in dilemma should I go Tomamu or Niseko for beginner ski lesson.. but seems Tomamu English adult ski lesson are not available in early Dec 😕

    Thank you!

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Your itinerary looks feasible. For 7 days car rental with return drive to Hakodate, I think you should get the HEP.

      Niseko is pretty good for beginners. My elder boys attended the lesson at Niseko Village and they had the magic carpet that brings you up to the top of the beginner’s slope. Loved that. And you definitely will not have language barrier in Niseko.

      • Vica says:

        Thanks for your reply.

        I have another question, is it possible to stay at obihiro then visit kushiro(cranes) or lake Akan as day trip?

        If yes, am thinking as below

        Day 1 & 2 – stay obihiro day trip to Kushiro
        Day 3 – noboribetsu
        Day 4 & 5 – Hakodate
        Day 6 & 7 – niseko
        Day 8 & 9 – Sapporo

        Pls advise. Many thanks

        • bumblebeemum says:

          Hmm.. I think it is possible to do day trip to Kushiro OR Lake Akan from Obihiro, but not both in the same day.

          • Vica says:

            Hi BBM, thank you so much for your reply. I

            Is there any special thing to do at Lake Toya and it’s worth while to stay for 1 night? As during winter there’s no fire work as well..Thanks

            • bumblebeemum says:

              Usually I stay for the dinner and onsen.. Haha.. Soaking in onsen during winter is the best! At onsen towns, there is usually nothing to do after dark, unlike the cities where you can still continue to go shopping and some night sightseeing after dark. But just having dinner and soaking in an onsen in a ryokan is an experience I enjoy. But you can get the same at Noboribetsu. And looking at your itinerary, if you are looking at a place to break up the drive from Obihiro to Hakodate, Noboribetsu is better than Lake Toya – it’s closer to the mid-point. I love Hotel Mahoroba‘s dinner and onsen!

              • Vica says:

                Hi BBM, thank you so much for your advise.

                So can I say below itinerary is feasible and not too rush in winter for self drive?

                Day 1 & 2 – stay Obihiro day trip to Kushiro OR Lake Akan
                Day 3 – Noboribetsu
                Day 4 & 5 – Hakodate
                Day 6 & 7 – Niseko
                Day 8 & 9 – Sapporo

                one more question, from isit possible to drive from Otaru to Sapporo at night?

                Many thanks & really appreciate it.

                • Queen Bee says:

                  Yup, it looks feasible.

                  I wouldn’t drive anywhere at night in winter. You can consider returning the car when you reach Sapporo. Then use the train to go to Otaru from Sapporo – then you can stay till night time. 🙂

  • KY says:

    I’m planning a road trip in Hokkaido and would like to visit both Lake Shikabetsu and the ice village in Tomamu. May I know if Lake Shikabetsu or the ice village in Tomamu is closer to Sapporo, pls?

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Tomamu is closer to Sapporo than Lake Shikaribetsu.

      • Lynne says:

        Hi just want to bring to your attention that the Tomamu resort has been sold to ClubMed and the latter will start operating end of this year. So it may be a good idea to check if the Ice Village will still be operating this winter and whether non-clubMed guests are able to visit the place.

        • bumblebeemum says:

          They sold it to Club Med?? I heard that Club Med was opening a new resort at Tomamu, but I tot they were opening an additional resort there (which would put an end to the monopoly that Hoshino is currently having there and I was actually quite happy about that). I went to take a look at Hoshino Resort’s website and they are still taking booking for the upcoming ski season. Club Med is also taking reservations – and the pictures on Club Med website don’t really look like the existing Hoshino Resort. Let me see if I can get in touch with Hoshino or Club Med to clarify whether they are two different resorts or Club Med is taking over from Hoshino. Thank you for alerting us to this nevertheless, appreciate it!

        • bumblebeemum says:

          Hey, Hoshino replied my email inquiry and this was their response:

          “Hoshino Resorts will resume operating Hoshino Resorts Tomamu. We will be in charge for resort facilities as well as our hotel properties of RISONARE TOMAMU and THE TOWER.

          Club Med will be renewing one of the property within resort area and is scheduled for the opening soon. All resort properties are planned to be shared. So in another word, Club Med will be the third option for accommodation and not new facility nor is re-branding of existing hotel.

          The cause of rumor may be triggered by having same “property owner”. Of course that would not be the main interest for visitors. (Which also does not mean Club Med bought Hoshino Resorts)”

          So from what I understand, there are a couple of lodging around Tomamu Ski Resort. Hoshino Resort runs The Tower (which is where we always stay) and Risonare (slight more upmarket). But these aren’t the only buildings at Tomamu, there were some buildings that looked vacant when we last visited. So I think Club Med is taking over one of those buildings, refurbishing it and opening their new club there. But the ski area and facilities will be shared by all guests – whether you are staying with Hoshino, Club Med, or the Airbnb there, or you could just be coming in for a day trip to ski. It’s probably like Niseko Village, where there’s Hilton and Green Leaf but they share the village and ski facilities.

  • Jas says:

    I’m re-visiting Hokkaido for two wks this yr end during xmas period. The price at Hoshino was rocket high during the festive period. So for my family of 4 (including 2 teens), I booked airbnb alpha village which is within Hoshino Tomamu. I’m staying 2 nights on 26 Dec and paid around $550. A great bargain! This price is not enough for one night stay at the hotel. Hope this helps for those planning to stay at Hoshino Tomamu.

    • bumblebeemum says:

      The airbnb at Tomamu is a life-saver especially for families! Thank you for sharing and have a great trip!

    • Lynne says:

      We stayed at the Airbnb Alpha Village end of January this year. And we loved the spacious apartment and the snowy view of the pine trees outside. I’m sure you will enjoy yr stay. Don’t forget to check out the buffet breakfast and dinner. Good value for money. Totally worth it esp for hungry teenagers!

      • Jas says:

        Great thanks, Lynn! 🙂
        Certainly looking forward to the trip! We stayed at Niseko for our previous trip and thought we change to Tomamu this round. Love the lovely photos that Bumblebeemum had shared. Can u roughly rmb how much is it per pax for breakfast and dinner? Is the voucher given by airbnb 20% off for all restaurants?

        • Lynne says:

          I’m sorry I can’t remember how much exactly the buffets cost. My expense record showed our bill for 3 breakfast and 1 dinner buffets for us 2 adults and 2 children cost us close to ¥27,000. This is with the discount voucher. However I don’t think the voucher applies to other restaurants, but I could be wrong.

      • Queen Bee says:

        Thank you for sharing! I’m sure when my boys are teenagers, I will love buffets just as much. Even at 4 and 6 now, they are getting quite expensive to feed when we travel! :p

  • Can I check when is the reindeer sled available? Is it safe to drive in Hokkaido? We are going from 9 to 15 Dec. Thks

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