It was quite a huge spread and I am starting to enjoy eating breakfast like the way Japanese do – rice and miso.
This first meal marks the start of my 6 day adventure in Hokkaido. It was a long-awaited family trip as my brother wanted to visit Japan so badly and here we are, on a package tour to Hokkaido. I don’t recommend following a tour because the best trips are the ones you conquer a foreign land by yourselves. But my parents were worried the language barrier problem so my mum bought a tour package from Asia Global, a subsidiary of Chan Brothers. We weren’t very satisfied with their services prior to the trip but at least during this trip, no major flops happened. It was suppose to be a 8-days tour but we only spend 6 days in Hokkaido. The travelling time was long for sure. We had to transit at Tokyo’s Haneda International Airport. 7 hours to Tokyo and another hour and a half to Hakodate Airport.
After spending the whole evening travelling onboard, we headed off for lunch. From that meal onwards, everything we tasted were super delicious. The Japanese served everything in small portions and food in limited portions are more satisfying than food that comes in unlimited portions.
We travelled with four other families with children and elderly. But it was a small group of 22.
The ground was already covered with a thick layer of snow when we reached there. Thankfully, it didn’t get too cold while we were there.
Look at that! Even the surface of lake is frozen!
Because it was too chilly outside, so we seek shelter in somewhere there’s heater. It is always nice to stay indoors when it gets too cold outside. Our first melon ice cream! There’s alot of Melon food products in Hokkaido and they are super sweet and delicious. A typical soft serve ice cream costs between S$2.50 to S$5.50.
Next up, we head over to Akarenga Red Brick where there’s 7 red brick warehouse selling mainly souvenirs, local fresh produce and food. You will take hours just to over this ground because it is quite a massive shopping ground. Our tour guide recommended us this cheesecake shop that sells really delicious and soft cheesecake that melts right on your tongue but the cake needs to be kept chilled all the time and it might be difficult to bring it back to Singapore.
This place has a pretty backdrop for photos too.
Before the sky goes dark at around 4pm, we rushed over to the foot of Mount Hakodate where we took a ropeway (or cable car) up to the peak where we can get a bird’s eye view of the city. Standing at the top of the mountain feels good, doesn’t it? Every city has this standpoint where you can view the whole city from the top.
There were a whole lot of tour buses there loaded with tourists while we are there. That’s how many visitors there are in Hokkaido!
Remember to gear up and dress warm when you are heading up there. The winds send piercing chills down your spine. By the way, there’s a cafe and a restaurant up there at the peak. It would be nice to dine there but I guess it is going to be very expensive.
We were told that we were going to stay in hotels with onsen for the next three nights and that’s a yay for me! Onsen is the next best thing to do when you are in Japan where you can just soak in the hot spring and feeling more energized once you step out of the onsen. It is great that there will usually be bath amenities and accessories available for used there. It is like going for a spa treatment!
All the hotels we’ve stayed so far were all pretty awesome. Good food and good service! Here’s the address of our hotel just in case you might want to refer to.
Hakodate Yunokawa Onsen Hotel BANSO
Breakfast at the hotel!
We set off early to visit the morning market called Goryokaku that sells mainly fresh seafood produce. They even serve seafood cooked right on the spot and served up right under your nose. It’s not going to be cheap but you get the freshest seafood here in the market.
Squid ink ice cream! You could get an ice cream almost everywhere here in Hokkaido. And they do come in quirky flavours! But this ice cream tasted more like vanilla ice cream to me. Thankfully, it doesn’t have a salty fishy taste.
My dad wanted to try the fresh scallops so badly so we ordered one where they barbecued the live scallops and we had it fresh on the scallop shell. It was so delicious!
The meat is so soft and sweet. Japanese were really good in cooking their seafood.
Onuma Quasi National Park
Next, we headed off to Onuma Quasi National Park to take some photos with the snow scattered all over the place. The snow may looked really beautiful and fun to play with but it is very slippery to step on so becareful when you are walking on snow!
We spent about 45 mins to an hour at each attraction so we didn’t have much time but there wasn’t much to do in the park anyway. The next stop is the Showa Shinzan Bear Ranch. I had some qualms about this bear ranch as the bears are kept in cages and enclosures which aren’t sufficiently big for them to roam about. Also, visitors could purchase bear biscuits for them to feed the bears. And the bears seemed hungry while we are there because they would do a bunch of actions like waving, just to get the biscuits from those excited tourists. Are we suppose to treat the bears like that?
The bears lived in dens and some dens had a few bears while a couple of dens had like twenty over bears and it looked quite cram. There are around 100 brown bears bred there and these bears were trained to wave and greet visitors, thinking that if they wave, they will receive a biscuit from the visitors.
Tourists thought that was cute – several bears huddling together but I guess the space is quite small and there’s not enough room for them to really move about with so many other bears around.
According to out tour guide, they said that these bears had no proper habitat to live in the wild so the people housed them in a ranch instead and popularized this place as a tourist attraction. Cute but I felt sad for these animals, what do you think?
While the sky is still brightly-lit, we head over to Shikotsu-Toya National Park to take a photo for about 20 minutes or so.
This is the tour bus we’ve been boarding and alighting from for the past 6 days!
On our second night, we stayed at Yumoto Noboribetsu onsen hotel and they had this fragrant green tea leaves found in the hotel rooms where you can make some fresh tea for yourself.
Hotel Yumoto Noboribetsu
Hokkaido Prefecture 059-0551
We had our dinner at the hotel and the food was equally good. They served crab too!
We were told that the Japanese usually had their sashimi as their appetizer first before moving on to other dishes.
On the fourth day of our trip, we went to Jigokudani or ‘Hell valley’ which has several hot steam vents. It is pretty similar to the hot spring place which I’ve visitied in Kyushu during June this year. It seems that Japan really has quite alot of active volcanos!
This marine park, Noboribetsu Marine Park Nixe, we went features a penguin parade, dolphin show, sea lion show and a Danish castle that features a large exhibit of the marine life. Once again, I really emphatize with these animals which were manipulated by humans. I had no idea how they were being treated but it didn’t felt right to watch animals perform tricks just to entertain humans.
We had an afternoon tea at Ginnokane, a cafe where you can take home the porcelain teacups as a souvenir. We chose the hello kitty tea cups! They served really nice cheesecakes by the way but the coffee and tea we had was average.
After tea, we had some time to explore the place so we walked over to Otaru Music Box Museum. There were many glassware shop in this area too.
Otaru Music Box Museum
We stopped over at a ice cream shop to try this rainbow tower ice cream where they combine all 6 different flavors into one!
We rested at Shika-no-yu hotel for the night and slept on tatami. The mattress pad isn’t as thin as you might think. The mattress pad is actually quite thick and the blankets were very thick too. I felt very warm under the covers.
On our fifth day, we went to Shiroi Koibito Park or 白い恋人 themepark where they sell Hokkaido’s famous chocolate there.
We were treated with this complimentary ice cream too by the tour company we went with. I didn’t know it was free so I bought an extra one! Silly me! I wished they told us that they were purchasing ice cream for everyone.
At the park itself, they have a museum featuring all the various vintage toys.
Then we took a long bus ride to Sapporo where we make a quick tour around Odori Park and Clock tower. We just made a quick stop to take photos and left for Mitsui Outlet Mall.
This postal-lookalike box is actually not a letter box but it is storage of hot sand where the locals and retrieve the bag of sand and scattered it over the snow if the floor gets too slippery.
We went shopping at this huge shopping arcade called Tanuki Koji or 狸小路. This shopping arcade is worth visiting because you can find their local stores like Daiso, 100 yen shop and Donki hote! These are my favourite places to shop in Japan because they sell items which are value for money!
We were taken to Mitsui Outlet Mall which sells mainly branded clothes and bags. It isn’t quite a place for my family as we weren’t really into shopping for branded goods. So we spent some time walking around Hokkaido Local Farm Village and had our dinner at a food court that serves decent food for around SGD10.
We stayed at ANA Hotel Sapporo which is a modern hotel equipped with all the common hotel amenities and it is quite a decent hotel. It was wi-fi available in the rooms.
This is the best place to shop at Sapporo! There are 7 blocks of shop over there!
Be sure to check out this Daiso which has 5 storeys of items selling at 100 yen each!
The next day was free and easy so we spent the whole afternoon walking around the city on foot on our own and we tried this delicious ramen at a authentic ramen stall right at Tanuki Koji.
It was quite an experience eating ramen in Japan because that’s what the Japanese experience is all about!
And having that said, that marks the end of my holidays for 2015! I hope I could travel to the middle east next year. As for now, hope you enjoy watching my Japan vlog found right below!