Hokkaido Winter Self-drive with Kids Itinerary (2 to 18 December 2014)

Day 1: Singapore -> Bangkok -> Sapporo

Overnight flight to Chitose on Thai Airways

Day 2: Sapporo

Shopping and dining around Susukino area.

Stay: Mercure Hotel Sapporo

Day 3: Sapporo

Dino’s Entertainment Complex

Sapporo White Illumination

Sapporo German Christmas Market

Stay: Mercure Hotel Sapporo


Day 4: Sapporo

Jyogai Ichiba (Sapporo Central Wholesale Market)

Mitsui Outlet Park Kitahiroshima

Stay: Mercure Hotel Sapporo


Day 5: Sapporo -> Asahikawa

Asahiyama Zoo

Stay: Loisir Hotel Asahikawa


Day 6: Asahikawa -> Lake Akan

Lake Akan & Ainu Kotan

Stay: Forest of Akan Tsuruga Resort Hanayuuka


Day 7: Lake Akan -> Lake Mashu -> Iozan -> Lake Kussharo -> Kushiro

Lake Mashu

Cream Douwa


Lake Kussharo

Fisherman’s Wharf MOO

Stay: Toyoko Inn Kushiro Jujigai


Day 8: Kushiro -> Obihiro


Kushiro City Marsh Observatory

Tsurui Ito Tancho Sanctuary


Washo Market

Obihiro Station

Stay: Richmond Hotel Obihiro


Day 9: Obihiro -> Tomamu

Mugioto by Masuya Pan

Hoshino Resort Tomamu

Tomamu Ice Village

Stay: Hoshino Resort Tomamu


Day 10: Tomamu -> Niseko

Hoshino Resort Tomamu

Chitose Rera Outlet

Lake Shikotsu

Niseko Village

Stay: Hilton Niseko Village


Day 11: Niseko

Grand Hirafu Base

Skiing at Hilton Niseko

Prativo by Milk Kobo

Steak Rosso Rosso

Cafe IF

Stay: Hilton Niseko Village


Day 12: Niseko -> Noboribetsu

Niseko Village

Hilton Niseko Village

Lake Toya

Orofure Pass


Stay: Hotel Mahoroba


Day 13: Noboribetsu -> Lake Toya

Noboribetsu Marine Park NIXE

Lake Toya

Stay: Toya Kohantei


Day 14: Lake Toya -> Rusutsu -> Sapporo

Lake Toya

Silo Observatory


Kinoko Ou Koku

Stay: ANA Holiday Inn Susukino


Day 15: Sapporo -> Otaru -> Sapporo


Otaru Canal

Sapporo Underground Shopping Arcade

Stay: ANA Holiday Inn Susukino


Day 16: New Chitose Airport

Doraemon Waku Waku Skypark

Airport Kids Athletic

Stay: Air Terminal Hotel


Day 17: Sapporo -> Bangkok -> Singapore

Home Sweet Home! πŸ™‚


Read more from the trip!

Below are our detailed travel journals from this trip, broken into 5 parts:

Part 1: Sapporo
Part 2: Asahikawa, Akan National Park
Part 3: Kushiro, Obihiro, Tomamu
Part 4: Niseko, Noboribetsu, Lake Toya, Rusutsu
Part 5: Otaru, New Chitose Airport

More Itineraries from Hokkaido:

Eastern Hokkaido self-drive in Winter (Feb – March 2010)
Hokkaido self-drive with kids in Autumn (October 2013)
Hokkaido self-drive with kids in Summer (June 2014)

Visit our Japan Travel Page!

Find more tips and itineraries for Japan travel on our Japan travel page!



  • Cecilia says:


    Just wondering if you travel alot to Japan because you understand Japanese? Are there alot of places on your itinerary we can’t travel to without self-drive?

    • bumblebeemum says:

      It was the opposite actually. I have been travelling to Japan before I started learning Japanese. It was because I enjoyed going to Japan so much that I went to take up a basic Japanese course.

      For Hokkaido, yes, there are some places that are difficult to reach without self-drive. But it depends on what you want to do. If you just want to go and ski, then ski resorts usually have buses to shuttle you there from Sapporo. But for the nature sights, I recommend either self-driving or following a package tour if you are worried about driving. Hokkaido’s public transport is pretty sparse and infrequent.

  • bumblebeemum says:

    Thank you for sharing! I have never used jalan.net before, but I think I should give it a try next time! πŸ™‚

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Tocoo charges 324yen per day? Wow.. I haven’t rented from Tocoo for quite some time already. Not since the implemented their compulsory roadside support or insurance or something like that. They used to be my default go-to for car rentals but they are going to start losing their competitiveness at this rate.

      • Grace Ng says:

        Dear BB Mum,

        I am planning a trip to Hokkaido ard mid May this year, staying abt 12/13 days.

        We wish to go Furano/Biei, Lake Toya, Noribetsu, Hakkodate, and Otaru.

        We will be staying at Sapporo for about 4 days while waiting for my husband to join us.

        Do you recommend that we drive to Furano/Beiei, stay there 1 night and then drive to Lake Toya or drive to Furano and drive back to stay in Sapporo ? Any advice on how to plan the itinerary?


  • Anonymous says:

    Hi Bumblebeemum, would like to thank you again for the advice u have provided earlier on. We had an enjoyable trip πŸ™‚
    There was a road closure on our day back, thank god we didnt miss our flight :p


  • Grace says:

    I chanced upon your blog while researching for my upcoming trip to Hokkaido this Dec 10-26. Very informative and so so helpful! We’re bringing our 10yo boy and 6 yo girl along for the ride. Reading your blog again and again… Feeling less blur already. Haha!

  • bumblebeemum says:


    You should reserve your car online beforehand. Try about 3 months in advance – sometimes there are early bird deals. But not too early because some companies don’t open up for booking until like 2 or 3 months before.

    In December, the cars should come with snow tyres. If there is an option to click to include it during booking, you should include it just in case.

    • BC says:

      My TimesCar Mazda 2 rental came with snow tires in Nov, without charge.
      The condition of the tires were like new.

    • Cheaj says:


      Thanks for sharing your trips. It really a great help for we are planning a family from Nov28-Dec8’16. My children are 14-25. We just wonder if we were to get a car, do we need that with snow tyres in early dec. we probably limit ourselves around Sapporo, Lake Toya, Otaru, and perhaps Lake akan, Kushiro. Would snow has come in at this early Dec. I prefer not to drive in the snowing time. But that seem to be more economical than taking a train.

      • bumblebeemum says:

        Yes you would need snow tyres. By default, rental cars in Hokkaido should come with snow tyres in winter. But if there’s an option for you to tick for snow tyres during booking, just tick it.

        There is definitely a chance of snow in early December. Though the regions you mentioned are the ones where the snow fall is much more manageable. When we were there in December, it was snowing in Sapporo and Otaru, but not yet in Lake Toya, Lake Akan and Kushiro. But when it comes to weather, nobody can say for sure and Hokkaido’s weather is mad erratic. You should be prepared to drive in the snow. You can read more about winter driving on this post:

        Many of our readers have gone, drove and came back to say it wasn’t that bad. Just drive slow and make sure you allow yourself ample driving time to reach your accommodation by 4pm so that you don’t drive in the dark.

  • CG says:

    Thank you for the reply. In the end, we may not choose to drive as my friend is not comfortable with the idea of driving in winter. Do you come to know of any chartered mini bus company for hire? I cannot imagine pushing 3 luggage with 2 elderly, 1 young kid and 1 infant πŸ™

    By the way, is it that bad to drive during December? I read your blog on winter driving and I assume that if we drive below 50 km/hr, we should be safe.

    Thank you πŸ™‚

    • bumblebeemum says:

      The pushing luggage with elderly and kids part is exactly why I always end up self-driving. There are private vans for hire in Hokkaido though I have never used them. Just google for ‘Hokkaido Private Driver’ or something like that and ask for quotes. I would expect them to be extremely expensive though.

      Well, I have had many readers gone for winter drives and came back safe and sound. But it really requires a bit of guts and a lot of patience.

  • Dorothy Cheong says:

    Hi CG, I am one of the many readers of BBM and who took the courage to drive with caution during my last winter trip to Hokkaido in mid-December. It’s easy-peasy.

    • CG says:

      Hi Dorothy,

      Thank you for the reassurance. May I know which rental company did you go to?

      • Dorothy Cheong says:

        I have been to Japan 5 times. Like BBM, once you go, you just miss Japan. I will be going again to Hokkaido in end-Oct for 13 days. I always use timescarrental in all my trips. Learnt from BBM to go to their Japan website and enjoy discounted rate.

        • BC Woo says:

          Look into Jalan.net & Rakuten JP, these are the travel aggregators. Enrol as member. Search for car rentals using these sites. They always have discount coupons for cars & hotels.
          From the search results, you can choose to rent from any of the car rental companies such as Toyota, Times Car (Mazda), Honda etc
          30-40km inside city. Expressways are cleared of snow, so 50-70km is manageable. Be more careful inside city, many traffic light & start/stops.
          Dealing with windscreen that constantly fog up was more of an issue for me.

        • CG says:

          Thank you for the tip πŸ™‚

  • June Oh says:

    Hi Bumblebeemum,
    Great blog! I’d booked my flight to Hakkaido after reading your blog. This will be my first time to Hakkaido during winter for snow and ski.
    My gal friend and I will be there from 2/12 to 10/12 (8 full days)

    We don’t want to travel too many places so could you advise me if my initial itinerary works please? Thanks in advance!

    Day 1 – Chitose Airport to Niseko (airport bus departing at 1050am)

    Hotel: Hilton Niseko or Niseko Northern Resort AnNupuri

    * first timer so ski to door hotel preferred. Which hotel should I stay?

    Day 2 – Niseko

    Day 3 – Asarigawa Hot Spring – Onsen

    Day 4 – Sapporo

    Day 5- Sapporo

    Day 6 -Hoshino Resort Tomanu – The Tower
    Ice Village

    Day 7 – Kitahiroshima???
    outlet mall

    Day 8 – Stay near Chitose Airport
    * morning flight @ 1030 next morning

    Your feedback and suggestion will be greatly appreciated.
    We are okay to skip Hikahiroshima if it is not worth it or you might have somewhere better to recommend.


    • bumblebeemum says:

      I think Hilton Niseko is better for first timers.

      Day 6 – Is this a day trip?

      Your itinerary looks okay, not too rushed. You can probably fit in a day trip to Otaru from Sapporo.

      I am not big on shopping, but my friend who does likes the outlet mall. If you like shopping, you can visit. But if you prefer sightseeing, then just stay in town to do sightseeing.

  • Cerlyn Loke says:

    Hi Bumblebeemum!

    I’ve been reading your blogs about your winter trip in Hokkaido for a couple of weeks, getting inspired by your posts. It’s been really helpful!

    I’ll be visiting Hokkaido, with my partner, in February for a total of 11-12 days, during the snow festivals period. We have a rough itinerary planned out, but we are still trying to decide if we should rent a car, or just get the JR pass and use public transport.

    Here’s our itinerary:

    Day 1: Arrive Sapporo in the evening
    Day 2: Sapporo – Otaru – Sapporo
    Day 3: Sapporo
    Day 4: Asahikawa
    Day 5: Asahikawa – Biei – Asahikawa
    Day 6: Noboribetsu
    Day 7: Lake Toya
    Day 8: Niseko
    Day 9: Niseko
    Day 10: ??
    Day 11: Sapporo (not definite)
    Day 12: Sapporo (CTS) – Singapore (7:30pm flight)

    As you can see, we still have about a day more to plan. I’m very keen to admire the cranes at Kushiro. But will that fit into our itinerary? Otherwise, we were thinking about spending a day in Hakodate. However, it seems pretty out of the way. Which will you recommend?

    Also, do you recommend us to drive to these locations? Or is public transport more advisable?

    Thank you so much!

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Going to see the cranes in Kushiro is going to increase your travelling time quite a bit because it’s pretty far East. Hakodate can be fit into the last few days. I don’t think Hakodate should be a day trip – you should at least spend 1 night there. You can go to Hakodate from Niseko, and then from Hakodate go straight back to CTS without going back to Sapporo again.

      • Cerlyn says:

        Is there a way we can accommodate time into our itinerary for Kushiro? Probably heading down to Lake Akan and Kushiro after Asahikawa?

        Which means:
        Day 6: Asahikawa – Lake Akan
        Day 7: Lake Akan – Kushiro
        Day 8: Kushiro – Tomamu
        Day 9: Tomamu – Noboribetsu
        Day 10: Noboribetsu – Niseko
        Day 11: Niseko
        Day 12: Niseko – Sapporo

        Is this doable? Self driving from day 6 to day 9?

        • bumblebeemum says:

          With this itinerary, you will be spending A LOT of time on the road. If you encounter heavy snow along the way, you will find yourself spending most of your daylight on the road.

          If you want to head East for the cranes, I will suggest you skip Noboribetsu / Lake Toya / Niseko completely. Instead, visit Sounkyo onsen in place of Noboribetsu, Lake Akan in place of Lake Toya, Tomamu in place of Niseko. It will be pretty much similar experiences but with much much lesser travelling time. Do not underestimate the driving time required in winter and the super short daylight hours.

          In fact, because you are travelling in Feb, there are winter festivals going on in Sounkyo, Lake Akan, Tokachigawa and Tomamu. You can read more on this post:

          This is what I would recommend:

          Day 1: Arrive Sapporo in the evening
          Day 2: Sapporo – Otaru – Sapporo
          Day 3: Sapporo
          Day 4: Sapporo – Asahikawa (Asahikawa Winter Festival)
          Day 5: Asahikawa (Asahiyama Zoo)
          Day 6: Asahikawa – Sounkyo (Sounkyo Ice Fall Festival)
          Day 7: Sounkyo – Lake Akan (Lake Akan Ice Festival)
          Day 8: Lake Akan – Kushiro
          Day 9: Kushiro – Tokachigawa onsen (Sairinka Festival)
          Day 10: Tokachigawa onsen – Tomamu (Tomamu Ice Village)
          Day 11: Tommau
          Day 12: Tomamu – CTS

          Btw, I’m not sure what your exact dates are, but I hope the first few days coincide with Sapporo snow festival, Otaru Snow Light path and Asahikawa Winter Festival.

          • Cerlyn Loke says:

            Hmm how is Tomamu as compared to Niseko? From what I know, Niseko is a better ski resort, but Tomamu will definitely be less crowded. Which is better for beginners, and just to play around in the snow?

            I guess it’s better if we decide which place is a must-go for us, either Kushiro or Niseko. Our main objectives for this trip is to check out one or two main winter festivals (yes! we are going to Sapporo’s snow fest!), check out the penguin parade at Asahikawa Zoo and try out an open air onsen. We will spend rest of the time sight-seeing while having an adventure driving through winter.

            Thank you so much for your help!

            • bumblebeemum says:

              Actually Niseko Hilton where we stayed was great for beginners. Because they had this travellator thing to bring you up the slope, so you only need to focus on skiing down. But if your aim is not to ski but just touch the snow and try some winter activities, then Tomamu is much more along the way if you are headed East.

              • Cerlyn says:

                We have decided to give Niseko a miss, instead of missing the cranes at Kushiro.

                Will there be plenty of car rental options to choose from if we were to pick up our car from Asahikawa?
                From your blog, I read that driving to Tomamu wouldn’t be advisable? If so, we will probably return the car at Tokachigawa? Or when do you suggest a car rental would come in handy?

                We are looking forward to have a couple of drive days, so we can enjoy the scenic routes in between each stop overs too.

                Day 1: Arrive Sapporo in the evening
                Day 2: Sapporo – Otaru – Sapporo
                Day 3: Sapporo
                Day 4: Sapporo – Asahikawa
                Day 5: Asahikawa
                Day 6: Asahikawa – Sounkyo (drive)
                Day 7: Sounkyo – Lake Akan (drive)
                Day 8: Lake Akan – Kushiro (drive)
                Day 9: Kushiro – Tokachigawa (drive)
                Day 10: Tokachigawa – Tomamu (train..?)
                Day 11: Tommau
                Day 12: Tomamu – CTS (7.30pm flight)

                Just to check, there should be affordable accommodation options around Lake Akan – Tokachigawa right? We haven’t started looking for accommodations yet.

                • BC Woo says:

                  hi Cerlyn

                  From Asahikawa, may I suggest a visit to Mt Asahidake. I find this to be more impressive than Mt Kurodake at Sounkyo.

                  At Lake Akan, can try New Akan Hotel. It has a new & modern rooftop outdoor communal hotspring pool which is a unique experience at night when snowing ! (just be careful, it’s very slippery). The buffet breakfast & dinner is popular. We spent 3hrs at Breakfast in front of the amazing view. Downside is this hotel caters to group tours & can get crowded. weekday stay better.

                  At Tokachigawa, a nice onsen resort is Kangetsuen. small & boutique like. More budget friendly, consider staying in Obihiro, plenty of hotel chains here (eg APA Obihiro, good value & location).

                  Sounkyo to Akan – looks like a long drive in winter .. which route u taking ? let me know how it goes ?

                  • Cerlyn says:

                    Oh that will be nice! Is Mt Asahidake just a short drive away from Asahikawa? Thanks for the tips!

                    Sounkyo to Akan – I haven’t started planning any of the drive routes actually. We don’t mind giving Sounkyo a miss, but it seems like its a good day to stop and rest for the night?

                    How would you suggest to break up the drive? We are totally flexible with the dates. We have only booked accomodations for Sapporo and Asahikawa as of now.

                    Day 1: Arrive Sapporo in the evening
                    Day 2: Sapporo – Otaru – Sapporo
                    Day 3: Sapporo
                    Day 4: Sapporo – Asahikawa
                    Day 5: Asahikawa
                    Day 6: Asahikawa – Sounkyo (drive)
                    Day 7: Sounkyo – Lake Akan (drive)
                    Day 8: Lake Akan – Kushiro (drive)
                    Day 9: Kushiro – Tokachigawa (drive)
                    Day 10: Tokachigawa – Tomamu (train..?)
                    Day 11: Tommau
                    Day 12: Tomamu – CTS (7.30pm flight)

                    • BC Woo says:

                      hi Cerlyn
                      Asahikawa to Asahidake is about 1 hour’s drive (longer if snowing), 50km. Check the weather and if ropeway is opened. Best to go in morning, spend 1hr or so at top of ropeway, then make your way back. but if snowing, visibility may not be good. Can try on Day 5.

                      Day6, leave Asahikawa early if u want to go up to Kurodake at Sounkyo. The ropeway closes at around 430 or 5pm. Check that both the Kurodake ropeway AND the chairlifts are operational. The chairlift gets u much higher & is an interesting ride. If good weather, make the trip.

                      At Sounkyo, I have stayed at Choyo Resort Hotel. Choose the newly refurbished mix Jap/Western room, even smoking rooms are ok, just open the windows. These rooms are nicest.

                      I also stopped at Sounkyo enroute to Abashiri but have not taken Road #39 east from Sounkyo b4. Not sure of road conditions, especially in Feb & part of it in mountains. Guess the logical route is still #39 east, then #240 south to Akan. There r 2 michinoeki along the way. Driven #240 before, its flat & generally good.

                      Also, think car rentals are located in Obihiro, not Tokachigawa onsen areas, which is 30-45mins drive away. Kangetsuen provides free public bus tickets to Obihiro but frequency is limited. If staying at onsen areas, just take note of travelling time, agreed time to return car & location. It’s quite a challenge moving luggage across snow covered pavement, so we asked for more time to drop off luggages at JR before returning the car. Obihiro was very cold even in Nov.

                    • bumblebeemum says:

                      I’m for spending a night at Sounkyo. Then cover Sounkyo to Lake Akan in a day. But you should leave Sounkyo after breakfast coz it’s a long drive. In between, you can take a break at Kitami.

                  • bumblebeemum says:

                    Yeah, staying in Obihiro would be much cheaper than staying in Tokachigawa. But it’s a different experience I guess? I kind of love the moor onsen at Tokachigawa. Supposed to make my skin smoother. Wahaha….

                • bumblebeemum says:

                  If you rent a car from Asahikawa and drop it off at Obihiro (near Tokachigawa), you car rental options will be limited to the bigger companies that will have rental outlets in both locations. Companies like Toyota, Nissan and Nippon would have outlets at both Asahikawa and Obihiro.

                  Your itinerary looks about right. You have pretty much identified the area where you would need a car. From Tokachigawa, you can return the car to Obihiro and continue by train to Tomamu.

                  Hmmmm… affordable is subjective. Lake Akan and Tokachigawa are onsen towns, so accommodation in these areas would be more expensive than in the cities like Sapporo, Asahikawa and Obihiro. But in each onsen town, there will usually be a range of higher-end to lower-end ryokan. I usually stay at the lower-end ones which I find rather affordable. Just that they may not offer Kaiseki meals and modern rooms like the higer-end ryokans do.

  • Phoebequah says:

    wow….get a lot of information through ur blogs…thanks for sharing. My family with young chilldren10&13, 3 elderly 60,68& 70(stil energetic), my sister and her husband(total 7 adults 2 chidren), going to winter hokkaido self drive trip on 7/12-13/12.We will be renting 2 cars. Staying in an apartment at Sapporo.
    My questions:
    I found that Kokusai ski is cheaper than Niseko and Rusutsu. Can you help me to decide? We plan for just spend 3-4 hours fun ski. While the elderly can do hot spring bath there. After ski, drive to Lake Toya for overnight. What time should i reach Lake Toya is better? And which way to use from ski resort to Lake Toya? . Many thanks.

    • bumblebeemum says:

      I have never been to Kokusai ski resort, so not sure how well catered they are for non-Japanese speaking visitors. It looks more like the kind of ski resort for locals who just want to find a slope near town to ski. Do they have a hot spring there? It doesn’t look like Kokusai ski resort has onsen there, unless you are referring to Jozankei onsen which is 20km away. Since I have never been to Kokusai ski resort, I really cannot comment on whether it is suitable for foreigners. Niseko and Rusutsu, while expensive, will definitely have English ski classes. But if you already know how to ski and just need to rent ski and buy lift tickets, then yeah, you can just go whichever resort that’s cheaper.

      If I want to ensure I get to Lake Toya before it gets dark, I would leave Kokusai ski resort by 1pm. Which doesn’t give you a lot of time there. This is the route to take:

      I suggest you spend the night at Jozankei instead of Lake Toya if you are going to Kokusai ski resort. If you want to stay at Lake Toya, I suggest you go to Rusutsu instead. It is easier to manage your time because Rusutsu is much nearer to Lake Toya.
      If you go to Rusutsu, you can stay there till about 2.30pm and still make it to Lake Toya before dark.

  • Cheaj says:

    Hi, it has been very helpful and informative to read the blog. My family of 5 (3 children aged 14,22,24) planning to visit Hokkaido this year. This is our itinerary
    Nov 28 (8am) Arrive at CTS Air port
    Nov 28-30 Teshikaga ( Stay 2 nights) –plan to visit the 3 lakes
    ( Akan, Mashu & Kussharo)
    Nov 30-Dec 1 Obihiro (Stay 1 night) via Kushiro from Teshikaga.
    Plan to visit Tomamu along the way back to Chitose.
    Dec 1-2 Chitose (Stay 1 night)
    Dec 2-4 Otaru (Stay 2 nights).
    Plan to visit Rusutsu & Niseko Skiing resorts on the
    way to Lake Toya.
    Dec 4-5 Lake Toya (Stay 1 night)
    Dec 5-6 Hakodate (Stay 1 night)
    Dec 6-7 Lake Toya (Stay 1 night)
    Dec 7-8 Chitose (Stay 1 night)
    Dec 8 (9:20am) Depart from CTS Airport.

    We plan to self drive the whole trip with 2 possible drivers (my son and I). None of us have experience driving in winter or snowing conditions. To keep cost low, we plan as much as possible to avoid tolls. We would like to hear your inputs and advice on the itinerary & suggestion of places to visit around each destination. Your prompt response is much appreciated. Thanks in advance.

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Your itinerary looks pretty rushed and some of the drives look too long to be done in a day for winter. The drive towards Lake Akan particularly should be broken up into two days. This is what I would suggest, without omitting the places you want to visit:

      Nov 28 (arrive 8am): CTS – Tomamu
      Nov 29: Tomamu – Tsurui – Lake Akan
      Nov 30: Lake Akan (explore Akan National Park) – Obihiro
      1 Dec: Obihiro – Sapporo
      2 Dec: Sapporo (Day trip to Otaru)
      3 Dec: Sapporo – Niseko
      4 Dec: Niseko – Rusutsu
      5 Dec: Rusutsu – Lake Toya
      6 Dec: Lake Toya – Hakodate
      7 Dec: Hakodate – CTS
      8 Dec: morning flight back

      If you want a more relaxing trip, I suggest you skip Hakodate and just choose one between Niseko and Rusutsu.

      • Anonymous says:

        Thanks a lot for the advise. We did consider stopping at Tomamu, however there is no place to stay there on the date. Hence, we try to speed off to Lake Akan soonest possible. Thru high way, it will take 3 h 30min, would you think this is possible? We would consider cutting Hakodate as well. And perhaps cutting one of these, Niseko/Rutsutsu. For sight seeing , which would be better to visit?

        • BC Woo says:

          hi Cheaj, if I may add …

          3.5hrs from CTS to Akan is probably when road conditions r good. In late Nov, there’s probably snow & it will be slower.

          For reference, it took us 2hrs 15min to drive from Lake Akan to Obihiro in snow in late Nov. About 120km.

          if u do try, make sure to use the Doto Expressway toll road especially in winter.
          We took the non-toll road #241 & it was a pain due to slow traffic / non overtaking lanes.
          The last 50km to Akan is on Road #241, little traffic. closer to Akan, may see more snow covering as it is on lower ground.

          If u r going further to Teshikaga, do note that the part of road #241 after Lake Akan (east boound) is steep & winding. Can be tricky in snow. It took us 1.5hrs on a non-snowing day from Akan to Teshikaga. The view at 双岳台 is awesome in the morning light on Mt Oakan (but not in the afternoon).

          Lastly, on arrival day, tiredness can hit you fast. I was the only driver & my other pax all knocked out after 2hrs on the road.

        • bumblebeemum says:

          Hmmm.. No, I will not try to speed off to Lake Akan from CTS. Especially not in winter. If you encounter heavy snow, you need to double that timing – which puts you on the road the entire day and chances are that you will arrive after sunset. I really think you need to slot in a stop in between CTS and Lake Akan. If Tomamu is fully booked, try Tokachigawa onsen?

  • Wendy Choong says:

    Dear Bumbklebee mum,
    Need your advice :
    Traveling with my family (2 adults and 4 kids :aged 15,12,9, and 5) to Furano and Sapporo in Dec. Can you suggest a rough itinerary for me? Would want to include skiing for the kids and if possible and cost allow, dog sledging as well in furano.

    Dates at Furano – 15-18 Dec 2016
    Dates at Saporro – 18-22 Dec 2016 (intending to do a day trip to Otaru. Possible to make a day trip to Nesiko as well ?)

    Thank you very much!


    • bumblebeemum says:

      Is there dog sledding in Furano? Usually I think of Rusutsu for dog sledding, also partly because Rusutsu is nearer to Sapporo and Rusutsu resort has direct shuttle service between the resort and Sapporo.

      I wouldn’t recommend a day trip to Niseko from Sapporo due to short daylight hours.

      A possible itinerary would be as follows:

      15 Dec: CTS – Sapporo
      16 Dec: Sapporo (day trip to Otaru)
      17 Dec: Sapporo – Rusutsu
      18 Dec: Rusutsu
      19 Dec: Rusutsu
      20 Dec: Rusutsu – Sapporo
      21 Dec: Sapporo (day trip to Asahiyama zoo if penguin parade has begun)
      22 Dec: Sapporo – CTS

  • Yip says:

    Hi Bumblebeemee,

    Great blog. Have been reading your blog ever since we decided to do Hokkaido this December with our boys age 12 and 8. We plan to self-drive, hence will need a few tips from you.

    1. We plan to rent a car from Toyota. It is necessary to get a 4WD for winter driving?
    2. I read somewhere that some indoor carparks can pose problems for bigger cars. Is that true?
    3. For SIM cards, better to get from Singapore or when I reach Hokkaido? I saw this at Changi Recommends, https://www.changirecommends.com/deal.aspx?id=1819. Is this good value?

    One of main concern is of course to avoid driving after sunset as much as possible. And my wife and I have taken this into consideration when we plan out the following itinerary.

    6 Dec: CTS – Sapporo (Arriving at 15:55pm. Intend to take a bus into Susukino. Any other recommendation besides Mercure?)
    7 Dec: Sapporo – Otaru – Sapporo (Pickup car in Susukino and drive to Otaru and back to Sapporo)
    8 Dec: Sapporo – Asahikawa (Intend to start drive before 12pm. Enough time?)
    9 Dec: Visit Asahikawa Zoo and other attractions
    10 Dec: Asahikawa – Furano: (Intend to to start drive before 12pm. Enough time?)
    11 Dec: Enjoy Furano resort and doing skiiing
    12 Dec: Furano – Hoshino (To visit the Ice Village. Where will be a good place to stay in Hoshino apart from Tomamu Hotel? We have not found a good place yet.)
    13 Dec: Hoshino – CTS (Start drive before 12pm. Return car and catch flight at 17.25pm)

    Is the above workable?

    • bumblebeemum says:

      1. I’ve never rented a 4WD in Japan before. Their roads are very well paved. Snow tyres should suffice.

      2. Umm, yes. Some indoor carparks have height limits and 7/8 seaters would not be able to fit in. You will just have to find an open air carpark nearby when that happens. There are plenty of open air carparks around though, so not to worry.

      3. Getting from Changi Recommends saves you time going around the airport upon arrival to find a SIM card and grappling with language barrier. Personally I would go with Changi Recommends for convenience even if it is slightly more expensive.

      6 Dec: I have tried some other hotels in Susukino before but I still prefer Mercure. If you are using the airport limousine bus, you can also try Toyoko Inn Susukino Kosaten (don’t go to the wrong Toyoko Inn, there are a few in Sapporo) which is where the airport limousine from the airport stops. Super convenient.

      7 Dec: Actually you don’t need a car for Otaru. You can just use the train? That way you don’t need to feel rushed to get back before it gets dark.

      8 Dec: We took more than 4 hours to do the drive from Sapporo to Asahikawa in heavy snow, so leaving at 12noon is cutting it a bit close. Try to leave by 11am.

      10 Dec: Depends on whether you plan to stop anywhere in between Asahikawa and Furano? I would probably stop by Biei and Tomita Farm (there’s a greenhouse there) as rest points for the drive. But if I do that, leaving at 12noon would be too late.

      12 Dec: At Tomamu, if you don’t want to stay at the resort, you can try the AirBnb. It usually works out cheaper for families:

      In general, in winter, always plan to leave as early as you can. Because the sun rises early and sets early. Don’t wait till 12 noon to start your day. By 2pm, you will already feel the sun is starting to do down. I would just wake up earlier everyday, reach my accommodation by 4pm and sleep early.

      • Yip says:

        Thanks for invaluable advice, Bumblebeemum. We are still undecided if we want to visit the Ice Village at Tomamu as there is a risk that 12 Dec might be too early for the right weather conditions though the website says it starts on 10 Dec. Are the dates on the website usually accurate?

        In case it doesn’t happen, then it will be time wasted for us. What would be a good alternative in your opinion if we were to skip Tomamu?

        • bumblebeemum says:

          The dates are not always accurate because it is all weather-dependent. If it doesn’t snow enough on a particular year, all the snow activities will be delayed.

          If there is no Ice Village, I guess you can either go back to CTS a bit earlier to do more shopping and eating there, or spend 1 more night at Furano.

    • BC says:

      hi Yip

      another option is to rent a wifi router

      u can look for dimitri_can here to rent one at very reasonable prices :


      I rented from him before.

  • Prakash says:

    Hi bumblebeemum!

    Loved your posts. They are all so helpful. Hope you can help me a little. I am going to hokkaido from the 8th to the 15th. I was thinking of concentrating on western hokkaido only and leaving out hakodate. Objective of trip is to have a good mix of shopping, food and scenary and play abit of fun snow activities. We dont ski! πŸ˜€ Definitely thinking of otaru, lake toya, niseko/tomamu and noboribetsu. Your expert opinion is needed πŸ˜€

  • KA TAN says:

    Hi there, thanks for the sharing. We are in a group of 6 adults going to Hokkaido in December for 9 days 8 nights. Our plan is
    Plan A
    10/12 New Chitose airport to Noboritbesu
    11/12 Niseko
    12/12 Niseko
    13/12 Sapporo
    14/12 Sapporo
    15/12 Sapporo to Otaru city tour
    16/12 Furano
    17/12 New Chitose

    At first, we plan for plan A to drive for the whole trip however we don’t have any winter driving experience and I find out that most snow fun park open after mid December so I try to adjust to plan b

    10/12 New Chitose airport to Sapporo (public transport)
    11/12 Sapporo city tour(public transport)
    12/12 Sapporo to Otaru day tour(public transport)
    13/12 Niseko(public transport)
    14/12 Noboribetsu (driving)
    15/12 Furano(driving)
    16/12 Furano(driving)
    17/12 New Chitose(driving)

    Do you think I have to drive for plan b or I can take public transport for the whole trip?

    Thanks for the advise.

    • bumblebeemum says:

      I’m not too sure about going to Niseko for a day by public transport. I would usually recommend spending at least a night there. As for Furano, what do you plan to do that? Furano is not one of my favourite winter spots – I usually recommend it for summer trips. It is extremely hard to drive around Furano region in winter.

      • TAN KAI AI says:

        Hi Bumblebeemum,
        Thanks for your reply. We would like to take those winter picture in Furano. And this is our reason to go Furano and Biei.
        I would like to know how hard to drive there? Is it because of mountain road?

        • bumblebeemum says:

          Yeah.. The roads around Furano and Biei are pretty curvy with very sharp turns and the region is kind of hilly with heavy snowfall. Just to illustrate some examples on Google maps, let’s say I’m driving between Farm Restaurant Chiyoda and Shikisai no Oka in Biei, this is the route on Google Map:

          Notice how curvy it is? And these are rural roads with very little traffic (in winter, you want traffic in front of you so that you have tyre markings to follow) and heavy snowfall. And it is not level ground. Biei is known for its rolling hills (which is what makes it scenic, but you can’t see it and it’s no fun to drive through when there is a blizzard – which is pretty common in Furano / Biei).

          Okay, I found a video on YouTube that pretty much illustrates what it’s like driving to shirogane onsen (where blue pond is) in winter:

          Don’t want to scare you off totally, coz for all you know, you may encounter good weather and nice clear skies and beautiful scenery like what you see in travel guides on the day you’re there. But I think you should be prepared. The truth is, blizzards like in the Youtube video above are super common in Furano and Biei region.

  • Gracie says:

    Hi bumblebeemum!
    My family and I would be heading to Hokkaido from 21 to 26 Dec (relying solely on public transport). Gotta couple of questions hope you don’t mind!
    1. My whole family is into scenic/ nature spots. Any places that you would recommend in particular for the places in our itinerary? This is our itinerary
    21st: Sapporo
    22nd: day trip to otaru
    23rd: Sapporo
    24th: day trip to Tomamu
    25th: head to noboribetsu
    26th: noboribetsu-CTS

    2. For noboribetsu we are staying in hotel Mahoroba since my parents are old and the direct shuttle bus from Sapporo seems very convenient. However we will be reaching the hotel at 3pm. Is there enough time to do the hell valley/ is it advisable to head to hell valley after nightfall? Understand that nightfall is early in winter and we will catch the 11am bus to the airport the next day so am worried that there isn’t enough time.

    3. For day trips to Tomamu/ Otaru is it possible to buy tickets on the day itself? am thinking that not buying beforehand gives us greater flexibility in case the weather on particular days aren’t too favourable. And if I can buy them on the spot, may I know which part of Sapporo station sells the ticket/ can I just buy the off the ticketing machines?

    Thanks very much!

    • crazymom says:

      for 2. i advise to just check in hotel mahoroba and then enjoy the onset and go for your buffett dinner. beware the other tourists… just very crowded..

      the next morning you can wake up super early to eat breakfast (end before 830am) and head to hell’s valley which is less than 10 min drive away (1-2hours for to visit).

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Hi, SO sorry for the late reply! Hope you’re having fun in Hokkaido now. πŸ˜€

      2. If you reach Noboribetsu at 3pm, there should still be enough time for you to check out hell valley before it gets totally dark. If you are delayed, you can always wake up earlier the next morning to check it out?

      3. Okay, I’m too late to answer your question but for the benefit of others who are reading, you can buy tickets on the spot for trains in Hokkaido. It is seldom a problem unless you are travelling super peak period (like Golden Week / Christmas – New Year week).

  • Anonymous says:

    hi bumblebee mum,
    was researching and asking for help about Hokkaido and someone recommended your blog.
    am information overload now. haha.
    anyway have just firm up my air ticker by thai airway.
    will reach ctc on the 29th dec 0820am and depart on the 10th jan 1000am.
    we are travelling with my 3 young children aged 6, 5 and 3yo.
    will like to experience playing skiing just for the experience for the children. can you recommend a resort for us? I read from the past few itinery and tomamu seems to suit our need.

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Hihi, SO sorry for the late reply as I have been overseas. I guess you have gotten all your resorts sorted out by now? But yeah, I personally like Tomamu. Just that they are probably quite expensive for your dates.

  • del says:

    hi bumblebee mum.
    I was researching on my upcoming trip to Hokkaido and someone recommend your blog to me. now I am information overload.
    my family of 5 with 3 young children aged 6, 5 and 3 yo will reach cts on the 29th dec 0820am and depart on the 10th jan 1000am.
    our trip will mostly be able to experience snow, foodie trip and enjoy the scenic Hokkaido can offer.
    can you advice if my itinerary is good for my family?
    we are open to self drive as well.
    will you recommend going to tomamu directly when we touch down or visit Sapporo first? am thinking of either Sapporo first then last tomamu or vice versa.

    29 Dec 0820am – Arrive at New Chitose Airport, travel to Sapporo
    30 Dec – Sapporo
    31 Dec – Sapporo
    1 Jan – Sapporo
    2 Jan – Rent a car and travel to Lake Toya
    3 Jan – Lake Toya – Hakodate
    4 Jan – Drive to Hakodate
    5 Jan – Hakodate
    6 Jan – Hakodate to Noboribetsu
    7 Jan – Noboribetsu
    8 Jan – Noboribetsu to Tomamu
    9 Jan – Tomamu
    10 Jan 1000am – check out and drive straight away to airport for flight at 1000am

    as we are travelling with 3 young children, is the above itinerary feasible for us? will it be too rush? is the number of days at the location too little or too much?
    hope you are able to advice.

    • crazymom says:

      I just went 3 kids 6,4,1 , 21 days.

      Looking at your time i suggest, cut sapporo to two days max. Spend 3 days at Tomamu (book ski lessons at Gao in Tomamu during weekday in advance, weekend lessons prices like double??), and try to visit Asahikawa zoo instead of Noboribetsu (unless you really dig onsens and there are other places to do onsen e.g. Lake Toya and like even within Hoshino Tomamu). You can also skip Hakodate and go to Nanae instead if you reckon there’s enough time.

      Drive safe, and do obhiro Pancho if you can – easiest time feeding my kiddos.

    • crazymom says:

      Del, I would do this:

      Chitose > Toya Sun Palace
      Toya Sun Palace > Obhiro (very long drive so maybe try to find accommodation in Obihiro, and find lunch break in between the journey. You can do some shopping in Obhiro too if you are looking for that in Sapporo.
      Obhiro > Tomamu (3 nights would be nice. min 2 nights)
      Tomamu > Asahikawa
      Asahikawa > Chitose

      • del says:

        hi Crazymon,
        thanks for the reply.
        we have actually changed our itinerary to
        3 nights in saporro,
        the will travel to asahiyama for 2 nights.
        then to furano for 4 nights and then maybe self drive will start from here to bring us to 1 night in obihiro, 1 night in lake akan then 1 night in tomamu then last night will stay in airport hotel to catch the early flight the next day.
        is it feasible?
        anything must visit or must eat for the various places?
        please kikndly advice.

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Is there a typo around 3-4 Jan? Coz it says Lake Toya – Hakodate on 3 Jan but drive to Hakodate on 4 Jan? So I’m a bit confused.

      Your itinerary looks pretty relaxing actually except for the last day. If you flight is at 10am, I suggest you drive back the day before and spend the last night at Air Terminal Hotel. 10am flight means you need to reach airport at 8am. I don’t think that’s feasible if you drive from Tomamu.

  • crazymom says:

    and you don’t have to bring stroller if you are skipping Sapporo underground. If you do Sapporo underground, bring, and bring your stroller rain cover coz it will block the wind and snow.

    Bring baby carrier, and book a bigger car so you can have a comfortable ride. read about driving in snow and getting the car unfogged. someone suggested to me we should have gotten snow chains. drive safe.

    since you are driving, for pitstops you can go to convenience stores for deli chicken for snacks. very yummy they are like popcorn chicken and easy to feed the kids.

  • BusyMum says:

    Hi, I will be travelling to Hokkaido during early Dec this year with 2 kids (6 & 10yrs). This is our 1st time to Hokkaido. Any recommended itinerary for 14 days? Planning to self drive, but we do not have any prior experience driving in snow. Will prefer a slow paced holiday. Thanks!

    • bumblebeemum says:

      You can start from this post:

      Let me know what interests you first and which regions you are hoping to visit.

      • BusyMum says:

        I saw from your blog that you recommend visiting Eastern Hokkaido as the road is easier to drive.

        For Eastern Hokkaido, the key places I like to visit will be:

        1) Tomamu for skiing and snow activities
        2) Akan National Park for sight seeing
        3) Asahikawa for zoo and penguin parade
        4) Sapporo (with day trip to Otaru from here)

        • bumblebeemum says:

          I would push Asahikawa to the end of the trip for your dates to increase the chances of seeing the penguin parade. This is what you can do:

          What time will you be arriving on 13/12? If you arrive in the morning, this is what you can do:

          13/12: CTS – Tomamu (train / bus)
          14/12: Tomamu
          15/12: Tomamu
          16/12: Tomamu – Kushiro (train)
          17/12 (pick up rental car from Kushiro): Kushiro – Tsurui – Lake Akan
          18/12: Drive around Akan National Park
          19/12: Lake Akan – Kushiro (return car). Train to Obihiro
          20/12: Obihiro – Sapporo (train)
          21/12: Sapporo
          22/12: Sapporo
          23/12: Sapporo (day trip to Otaru)
          24/12: Sapporo (day trip to Asahiyama Zoo)
          25/12: Sapporo – CTS
          26/12: Flight back

          If your flight arrives late on 13/12, then spend your first night at CTS and start the above itinerary on 14/12 instead, and reduce one day in Sapporo or Tomamu.

          • BusyMum says:

            1) Will the snow activities at Tomamu be ready during mid Dec?

            2) I notice you only recommend driving around Akan National Park and Kushiro area. The rest of the places are by train. Do you think it is feasible if we do self driving for the whole journery? It can be quite tedious to take train with all the luggages and 2 children.

            3) Instead of just making a day trip to Ashahikawa, do you think it is worth staying there overnight? Planning to visit the zoo and the ramen village

            • bumblebeemum says:

              1) Hard to say.. But there will be some activities ready by then, if not the full range. When we were there in early December, the ice slide and tubing at the Ice Village was ready. And we did reindeer sleighing and sledding. But stuff like snow mobile, snow rafting etc were not ready yet.

              2) Depends on how comfortable you are with driving long distances in winter. Most people are not comfortable driving long distances in winter – because it’s much slower than taking trains, short daylight hours and increased risk of driving in the snow. For e.g. from Obihiro to Sapporo, by train it’s a 3-hour ride. But by car, depending on how heavy the snow is, it may take you 5 hours? That’s pretty much the whole day spent on the road considering the sun sets at 4+pm. But yes, driving is more convenient when you have kids and luggages. So if you don’t mind spending more time on the roads, you can consider driving all the way.

              3) I recommend a day trip because changing hotels in winter is a pain. But a day trip to Asahikawa is only possible if you use the train – which is faster than driving. If you want to drive all the way, then you do need to spend the night at Asahikawa.

              If you want to drive all the way, I suggest you change your itinerary this way to fit in more stops to break up the long drives:

              13/12: CTS – Tomamu
              14/12: Tomamu
              15/12: Tomamu
              16/12: Tomamu – Obihiro
              17/12: Obihiro – Kushiro
              18/12: Kushiro – Tsurui – Lake Akan
              19/12: Drive around Akan National Park
              20/12: Lake Akan – Sounkyo Onsen
              21/12: Sounkyo Onsen – Asahikawa (visit zoo and stay at Asahikawa)
              22/12: Asahikawa – Sapporo
              23/12: Sapporo
              24/12: Sapporo (day trip to Otaru)
              25/12: Sapporo – CTS
              26/12: Flight back

      • BusyMum says:

        sorry, forgot to add that we will be changing the travel date to 13th till 26th.

  • Annie says:

    Hi Bumblebee Mum, we will be going to eastern Hokkaido in March.

    Day 1: Tomamu – Kushiro (lunch at Washo market) – see crane at Tsurumidai and Tsurui Ito Tancho Crane Sanctuary – Stay Kushiro
    Day 2: Kushiro – Lake Mashu – lozan – Lake kussharo – Lake Akan
    Day 3: Lake Akan – Kushiro – Sapporo

    If we arrive in Kushiro at 11:00 hrs, do you think there will be sufficient time for us to go see crane on Day 1 and drive back to Kushiro again?


    • bumblebeemum says:

      I would suggest you go and see the cranes before going to Washo Market. This is to avoid driving after dark, as the sun sets pretty early. Eat a more filling breakfast at Tomamu. If you’re staying at Hoshino Resort, the buffet breakfast should fill you up long enough to see the cranes first then head to Washo Market after that.

  • Jean says:

    Hi Bumblebee Mum,

    I was looking at Thai Airway promo to Sapporo and saw your blog as you were taking Thai Airway from Singapore too. May I know how long you transit in Bangkok for your Sapporo – Bkk -Sin flight? As the promo need to transit 19 hours in Bangkok, any idea whether I can get out of Bangkok airport during transit? Thank you.

    • bumblebeemum says:

      19 hours?! I have no idea if you can get out of Bangkok airport for transit. The SIN – BKK – CTS flights I have been booking only has 1 – 2 hours transit time both ways.

  • BusyMum says:


    I will be travelling with my children (6yrs and 10yrs) to Hokkaido from 14th – 27th Dec. Will reach Chitose airport around 8am on 14th Dec. Pls find below a rough itinerary which I have planned. Do share with me if you have other suggestion and other other places you think is worth visiting.

    14th Dec – CTS to Lake Toya (collect car from airport)
    15th Dec – Lake Toya to Sapporo (return car at Sapporo)
    16th Dec – Sapporo (Day trip to Otaru)
    17th Dec – Sapporo
    18th Dec – Sapporo
    19th Dec – Sapporo (Day trip Asahikawa)
    20th Dec – Sapporo
    21th Dec – Sapporo to Hokodate
    22nd Dec – Hokodate
    23rd Dec – Hokodate to Niseko
    24th Dec – Niseko
    25th Dec – Niseko
    26th Dec – Niseko to CTS
    27th Dec – CTS

    • bumblebeemum says:

      You itinerary looks alright. I would also recommend doing a day trip to Tomamu by train to visit the Ice Village on 20 Dec. You can get the flexi 4-days Hokkaido rail pass to cover:
      1) Day trip to Asahikawa
      2) Day trip to Tomamu
      3) Sapporo to Hakodate
      4) Hakodate to Kutchan (Niseko)

      • BusyMum says:

        Thanks for your advise. For Niseko, do you advise us to stay in Hilton Niseko or Hirafu Village? Which place is more suitable for children?

      • BusyMum says:

        Sorry, we have decided to drive instead. What will be the suggested iternary if I wish to cover the above locations?

        • bumblebeemum says:

          For Asahikawa and Tomamu, I would still recommend you use the train rather than drive. You can try the following:

          14 Dec: CTS – Sapporo
          15 Dec: Sapporo
          16 Dec: Sapporo (day trip to Otaru by train)
          17 Dec: Sapporo (day trip to Asahikawa by train)
          18 Dec: Sapporo (day trip to Tomamu by train)
          19 Dec: Sapporo
          20 Dec (start car rental): Sapporo – Lake Toya
          21 Dec: Lake Toya to Hakodate
          22 Dec: Hakodate
          23 Dec: Hakodate – Niseko
          24 Dec: Niseko
          25 Dec: Niseko
          26 Dec: Niseko – CTS
          27 Dec: Flight back

  • Jane says:

    Hi Bumblebeemum,

    My husband and I are planning to travel to Hokkaido this Sept with 3 old folks (67yrs – 74yrs) + 2 kids (5yrs & 17th mth old). As we have yet to book our flight tickets, thus we are still considering if we should travel during the period above.
    With such age group like us & as a 1st timer visiting Hokkaido, would you recommend us to travel during Autumn or Summer season? As much as we would like to see the Autumn foliage during this trip, we would love to visit Tomita Farm & Tomita Melon House too. Do you think we will still get a chance to have a glimpse of the lavender farm and visit the melon house in end Sept or early Oct?
    For Zoo wise, would you recommend Asahiyama Zoo or Maruyama Zoo for kids?
    Also, would you recommend the family group like us to stay in Air BnB accommodation or Hotel? I have read about a few TripAdvisor comments about Air BnB in Tokyo before, it seems that they have more negative feedback and strongly discourage to consider that as an option but not sure if Hokkaido’s Air BnB is as bad.
    Lastly, I just want to thank you for your VERY interesting and informative blog. It helps me a lot in my trip planning to Hokkaido. But I still have a lot to more to read for the planning.
    Thank you for your time and I look forward to hear from you soon!

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Tomita melon house is open till end of Sept according to their website:

      Lavender will be gone by Sept. But there will still be autumn blooms so Tomita Farm is still worth a visit in Sept.

      For zoo, I would go for Asahiyama Zoo.

      As with all Airbnb and apartment rentals, regardless of the country or city, the experience will differ from host to host. So do read reviews of individual apartment and their host carefully before deciding whether to stay. For big groups, Airbnb can save you quite a bit of money compared to booking multiple hotel rooms.

  • Jane says:

    hi bumblebeemum,
    I really enjoyed reading your post on Hokkaido and it made me wanting to go with my family.

    I saw in your photos, you, MF and MY were wearing very cute boots. May I know are they waterproof and will it get slippery when walking on icy road?

    Where do you get them from and price range?
    Thank you very much!

    Do keep up your good work in posting!

  • Jennifer says:

    Hello there! Chanced upon your blog and your information is really detailed! Anyway, do you think there might be a possibility of snowing around the mid (9 – 18th) at Hokkaido?

  • deric says:

    bumblebee mum,
    i m planning my trip to hokkaido on 27 nov to 5 dec, i m travelling with my wife and 5 yrs daughter. we r intend to visit sapporo, otaru, niseko, and would like to visit the NIXE marine park and lake toya. would like your experts advise on my itinerary planning.
    thank you

    • Queen Bee says:

      Hmmm… You can try something like this:

      27 Nov: CTS – Sapporo
      28 Nov: Sapporo
      29 Nov: Sapporo (day trip to Otaru by train)
      30 Nov: Sapporo (day trip to Asahiyama Zoo by train)
      1 Dec: Sapporo – Niseko
      2 Dec: Niseko
      3 Dec: Niseko – Lake Toya
      4 Dec: Lake Toya – Noboribetsu
      5 Dec: Noboribetsu – CTS

  • HY says:

    Oops, I meant Asahiyama Zoo, not Arashiyama! I was there last Dec, this the confusion!

  • Karen says:

    Hi Bumblebeemum,

    Thanks for the informative write-up.

    I wiill be travelling together with my husband and 3 kids (6yrs , 5yrs, 3yrs) to Hokkaido from 16th – 22th Dec. My itinerary as follow,

    16 Dec: CTS – Sapporo
    17 Dec: Sapporo
    18 Dec: Sapporo
    19 Dec: Sapporo (day trip to Otaru by train)
    20 Dec: Sapporo (day trip to Asahiyama Zoo by train)
    21 Dec: Ski Resort
    22 Dec: Ski Resort – CTS

    It is our first time visiting Hokkaido during winter. I’m planning to visit a ski resort so that the kids can enjoy snow activities. Which resort would you recommend for my age group, Rusutsu or Kiroro?


  • DC says:

    Hi BBM,

    After reading and researching for quite a while now, I am still confused and unsure. I am trying to go Hokkaido this December (2017). I want to let my 8yo and 5yo have their first snow experience. From skiing ans doing all those skii lifts, reindeer sledding, tubing or even ATV to the Sapporo Illumination, onsens and sight seeing those snow covered mountains. And visiting markets to learn the Japanese culture. I am not sure how to start my itinerary. Ideally I would like to spend 7-10 days there. Can you please help me?

  • Sops says:

    Hi, great blog you have there. May I check with you if you have any itinerary if I would like to travel with my 1yo baby? We will be travelling to Japan in the first 2weeks of Dec. Flying in from SG to Tokyo and out from Sapporo to SG. Thank you!

  • Andrew Lee says:

    Hi BBM

    I was really looking forward to drive from Sapporo to Asahikawa, Biei & Furano. But I’m getting worried about your posts about blizzards and bad driving conditions. Still thinking hard about it … any more advice? Coz if I take trains, it’ll be hard to get to places such as christmas tree, shiragane falls, Tokachidake onsen etc. Appreciate yr views

  • fiz says:

    hi bumblebeemum

    we r planning a trip to tokyo/osaka 16 days & hoping to catch winter & snow. still looking for 1 more city/town to visit. do u have recommendations?

  • Jennifer says:

    Hi Bumblebeemum,
    I am planning for a short trip to Sapporo for the snow festival btw 5 feb to 11 feb. Mb just a week there and not going to drive. Besides the snow festival, what else should not be missed when we are there? This is the 1st visit for us to go there, so not sure how long should I book for the air tix ? Thx for advice:)

    • Queen Bee says:

      If you are going during snow festival season, do take a day trip to Otaru to catch the Otaru Snow Light Path and also to Asahikawa to visit Asahiyama Zoo + Asahikawa winter festival. Otaru and Asahikawa can be easily reached from Sapporo by train. If you don’t mind driving, you can also drive to Lake Shikotsu for the Chitose and Lake Shikotsu Ice Festival.

  • CASN says:

    Hi Queen Bee

    Have been reading your travel blog to Japan these few weeks as we are planning for a 8D7N this early December. But we are quite concerned about driving around in snow.
    Would you be able to roughly guide us? Is my below plan workable?

    My initial plan:
    3 Dec – New Chitose and taking limousine bus to Mercure (your favourite hotel in Sapporo)
    4 Dec – Tour around Sapporo City
    5 Dec – Tour around Sapporo City
    6 Dec – Otaru (Drive)
    7 Dec – Niseko or Lake Toya (Drive)
    8 Dec – Noboribetsu (Drive)
    9 Dec – Airport Terminal Hotel
    10 Dec – Noon Flight

  • Claire says:

    HI Queen Bee,

    Thanks for all the invaluable tips on Hokkaido. Will be traveling to that region in Jan/ Feb 2018 using only public transport (JR/ bus/ etc). Wondering the below itinerary works? Appreciate some guidance.

    Day 1 (27 Jan 2018) – Early flight arrival at New Chitose Airport/ Onuma Koen (Ice Fishing)/ Hakodate
    Day 2 – Hakodate
    Day 3 – Hakodate/ Lake Toya?
    Day 4 – Hakodate or Lake Toya/ Noboribetsu
    Day 5 – Noboribetsu/ Tomamu
    Day 6 – Tomamu
    Day 7 – Tomamu
    Day 8 – Tomamu/ Asahikawa
    Day 9 (4 Feb 2017) – Asahikawa/ Kamikawa (Sounkyo Ice Festival)
    Day 10 (5 Feb 2017) – Kamikawa/ Sapporo (Sapporo Snow Festival)
    Day 11 – Sapporo
    Day 12 – Sapporo
    Day 13 – Sapporo
    Day 14 (9 Feb 2017) – Sapporo/ Otaru/ Sapporo
    Day 15 – Sapporo/ Chitose
    Day 16 – Early flight back

    I do feel there is an extra 1 day in Tomamu but don’t know where i could go. Any suggestion?

  • Ying says:

    Hi bumblebee mum
    I love to read your blog. I plan to Hokkaidō this year 12 dec- 20 dec 2018 with my husband and 2 kids

    I going to new Chitose Airport on 13Dec 7:30 am.

    13Dec : resort bus to kiroro for 2 night.

    15 Dec : resort bus to Otaru one day trip and train to Sapporo. May night sight seeing on white Sapporo illumination and Odori.
    * Transfer all luggage’s to next hotel in Sapporo ( not decide hotel)

    16 Dec: hesitate to rental car or train to asahiyama zoo.train one day trip or rent car and 1 night around there

    In case, drive to zoo when I back can stop by Biei or Furano – sapporo

    17 dec : travel around hot spot of Sapporo and then drive to Noboribetsu Onsen hotel.

    18 Dec: to lake toya / Mitsui Outlet Park/ etc. and then return car near airport.

    19 Dec : doremon Skypark / Royce chocolate.

    Actually, after asahiyama zoo I am not sure to go anywhere.

    Do you have any advices? Please recommend me.

    Thank you in advance.

    Ying ( Thailand)

  • Simei says:

    Hi Bumblebee Mum!

    Great blog!
    Would like to ask:

    1. If your trip is 17days and the max HEP pass is 14days, did you use HEP for all 17days? And just took the price of 14days + 3days?
    I am renting from world rent a car and that is what they gave.

    2. We will be at CTS area for 1.5 days, 1 night, flight is next day at 1pm.
    What would you advise us to if
    a. No HEP, but got car
    b. no HEP and no car?
    c. do you know if it is possible to drive from CTS to Sapporo and back using non toll road?

    3. Any good shopping around CTS

    4. MOST Important!! Have you tried shipping crab from CTS to SG?

    Thank you!!

    • BC says:

      hi Simei
      Pls allow me to share:
      – in Hokkaido, u may not need HEP, bcos there r many non-toll roads & FOC expressway that r just as good (there r not that many toll roads, unlike in Honshu), Whether HEP is worth your while would depend when u r going, how many of u, & your itin etc. Last Sep, we covered 1800km in 14days, paid just JPY 1000 in tolls.
      – it is easy to get from Sap to CTS using non-toll roads. even at night, the roads r lit
      – CTS is a shopping paradise. You need to walk 10mins to the connected domestic terminal. There you can find popular snacks & chocolates Kitakaro, Shiroi, LeTao, Rokkatei, Royce, & souvenirs. A lot of eating options as well. You can easily spend 3-4hrs eating & shopping
      – there is one seafood shop at CTS that will help you pack frozen crabs for export. However, I would suggest eating live crabs in Hokkaido bcos those frozen kind tend to be too salty. But yes, you can buy crabs at CTS to be flown back. I have bought fresh ikura back (from Curb Market) & the packaging is very good.
      – here’s a link to one of my trips on HWZ

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