This Hokkaido DIY vacation still feels as if it’s my first visit to the beautiful island as my previous three trips here were sponsored with all arrangements planned by the Hokkaido Tourism Board (HTB). On
, I visited Sapporo and its surrounding areas only briefly as the those trips focused mostly on the eastern region of the beautiful island. For this vacation, I planned all the itineraries personally using only Google Maps and a couple of Hokkaido-oriented Youtube channels with some input from HTB. FAM trips
The objectives of this holiday were to experience the cities of Sapporo and Otaru, catch the sight of geysers and soak in hot springs at Noboribetsu, lake sceneries at Lake Toya, and skiing at Niseko. Certainly, a lot to squeeze in over a 9-day period. The trip sequence was Sapporo, Noboribetsu, Lake Toya, Niseko, and the final stop at Otaru. I would have preferred to rent a car to self-drive, but as the winter road conditions can be tricky and potentially dangerous, I decided on the safer options of using bus, train, and taxi. Thank you for coming along to my travelogue and I hope you will find my Hokkaido DIY vacation details useful.
A brief insight into Sapporo, Noboribetsu, Lake Toya, Niseko, and Otaru Sapporo is Hokkaido’s capital city with the 5th largest population in Japan. It is also one of few metropolises in the world with heavy snowfall (about 480cm in 2022), enabling it to hold events and festivals with snow statues. Noboribetsu ( about a 2-hour drive from Sapporo), is Hokkaido’s most famous hot spring resort town. A large amount and variety of hot springs center around the spectacular Jigokudani (or “Hell Valley”) just above the resort town, which is part of Shikotsu-Toya National Park. Lake Toya (or Toyako, about a 1-hour drive from Noboribetsu) is also part of the Shikotsu-Toya National Park. Other than the lake itself, this region features hot springs and an active volcano, Mount Usu, which last erupted in the year 2000. The area also offers many fishing, hiking, and camping opportunities. The picturesque lake was chosen as the location of the which Japan hosted in July 2008. G8 summit Niseko (about a 45min drive from Lake Toya) is the No.1 ski resort in Japan and is famed for having the highest snowfall in the world (about 50ft). In addition to kilometers of ski trails, many of Niseko’s resorts offer winter adventure seekers the option to explore off-trail skiing, a relatively uncommon attraction at most other ski resorts in Japan. Otaru (about a 1.15-hour drive from Niseko) is a small harbour city and is renowned for its beautifully preserved canal area and interesting herring mansions. Many old warehouses and former office buildings by shipping and trade companies give Otaru’s city center a unique character reminiscent of past decades. Our Hokkaido DIY Trip Route and Travel Tips
Our 9-day trip flow was catching a Scoot Airlines flight from Changi Airport to New Chitose Airport (CTS) where we headed straight to Sapporo upon arrival and stayed two nights before commencing on the trip with Otaru as the final stop of the trip. Do note that sunset time in winter is about 4 pm, so you have shorter daylight hours to visit attractions. A slightly longer trip of about 12 days would be ideal to cover more ground at a relaxed pace.
Sign up with Tip #01 – to enjoy the best exchange rate, security, and convenient payment mode. But do keep cash and coins ready for daily expenses. YouTrip – Download the Google Translate app on your smartphone, if you do not speak the Japanese language. It’s indispensable, especially when reading menu or voice translation. There are many useful apps for trains schedule or even restaurants recommendation but personally, Google Maps is the most useful and easiest to use. Train, food, car parks, etc, are all you need in one platform. Tip #02 – If self-drive is still the preferred travel mode, an Tip #03 international driving license can be applied online with AA Singapore. But your local driving license will still be needed for verification by the rental car company. Do retain the final fuel pump receipt as the staff will ask for it when you return the car. Driving during heavy snowfall season in Japan is generally not advisable, especially for 1st-timer as the road condition can be tricky and challenging. – A Tip #04 which you can buy from Changi Recommends is absolutely important for traveling on the Japanese transportation network like trains and buses. The card comes with a 10-year validity. Suica Card – Gear up adequately to handle the Hokkaido winter which frequently goes below 0°C. Snow boots, socks with Merino wool, heat-tech innerwear, ear mittens, leather hand gloves, etc, will ensure a comfortable winter vacation. Don’t forget your lip balm and skin moisturiser too. Tip #05 – Complete the Tip #06 for entry to Japan. While this is online registration not mandatory, it certainly helps to go through the entry procedures in Japan faster and reduces the hurdles of tedious formalities after a long flight. Day #1 – Journey to Sapporo My airport pre-departure “photo ritual” in which I captured my daughters on the luggage trolley being pushed by my wife. I have been doing this for the last decade and lining up the pictures, you can really see your children growing up. I always love the cabin hues of the Boeing Dreamliner, which change according to the phases of the flight. Upon arrival at New Chitose Airport (CTS), we proceed to the to Sapporo, a quick and easy ride to the town center. The fare is ¥1100/pax for the 1.20hr mins ride. I would recommend this bus ride over the train as you can stow your luggage in the bus storage compartment and rest. With the train, you have to hold your luggage throughout the journey. limousine airport bus station The airport bus terminal station is just a stone’s throw from Sapporo Park Hotel, our 1st hotel of the trip. The hotel also has a JR station right at its perimeter entrance. Other than its excellent rating, the hotel’s convenient transportation access is the key consideration in my trip planning. Just about a 6min walk from our hotel entrance brought us to Susukino, the largest entertainment district north of Japan. Home to a plethora of bars, clubs, karaoke boxes, and entertainment, locals and tourists alike flock here for a night on the town. At one of the town’s busy traffic junctions, we chanced upon the Kiwami Ramen, where we managed to secure a table after a 30min wait for our 1st meal of the trip. My Pork Miso Ramen was a heavenly meal, especially after a walk in the freezing weather. The ramen texture was spot-on, the broth was just nice and not salty with the right accompaniments. My wife and daughters navigating the wintry snow-clad street. Very quickly, we need to train our minds to manage the unfamiliar road surface. Do check out this on mastering Hokkaido’s icy road. safety walking tips Grit bins that contain bags and plastic bottles filled with anti-slip sand are placed near intersections and are available for use at all times. As anyone is free to scatter this sand, Sapporo locals often take the initiative for the benefit of those who walk after them and spread it in a zig-zag pattern over roads they feel are too slippery. The grit bins are equipped with a storage space where emptied bags and plastic bottles can be returned. This is not a trash bin, so take care not to leave garbage in the grit bins. I thought it might be a beauty parlour but these are legalised red-light establishments. I refrained from going to the front lobby to shoot as there are men inside viewing the “menu” of entertainment. Lawson convenience shops are always our fave go-to place for snacks and I believe many visitors to Japan feel the same way. It’s like a “comfort zone” to us, together with Family Mart, SeicoMart, and 7-11. Day #2 – Sapporo We woke up to a beautiful sight from our hotel room, with a view of Mt.Moiwa in the distance. The Kajima Garden (in the foreground) is lovely too. But everywhere is really like a winter wonderland. Our hotel stay offered the option of either Japanese or Western Breakfast. Choosing the Japanese breakfast was superb as the dining venue was , located on the hotel’s highest floor with a gorgeous unblocked view of Mt. Moiwa. Sapporo Nadaman Restaurant I am not a fish person but I can’t resist the beautifully prepared Japanese breakfast. It was oishi indeed. Before setting off for our day’s activities, we had some fun at the snow-covered hotel garden, almost 3ft deep from the previous night’s snowfall. The sight of snow-covered cars at the hotel car park reinforced my decision not to self-drive. Other than tricky road conditions, upkeep of the vehicle can be a hassle too. Central Wholesale Market As our taxi driver advised that Nijo Market is really small, we proceeded to the From our hotel, the estimated taxi fare to Sapporo Central Wholesale Market. is about ¥500, while the fare to the Central Wholesale Market is about ¥1000, based on the taxi meter reading. Nijo Market It was good that we took the taxi uncle’s advice, as the Central Wholesale Market was more vibrant and had plenty to see and do. The picture shows a friendly shop staff checking out the price of what we felt like buying. We did not order eventually as we were still full from our breakfast. Plenty of seasonal live seafood from the Otaru port waiting for restaurant owners as well as tourist consumers like us. Wide range of freshly harvested premium local fruits for the taking. The price of fruits will damage our wallets more than seafood. We bought 3 slices of the amazing sweet honeydew at ¥800, just enough for a few mouthfuls between me and my family. The average price for one honeydew is about ¥158,000 (S$158). Some of the seafood shops use the fun concept to attract business. It certainly worked well. A shop staff canvassing for business. I noticed most shop staff generally don’t solicit tourists due to communication issues. But this friendly guy got our business as we bought several packs of their quality Kombu (edible kelp) to bring home. The snow started falling as the morning progresses, blanketing the area with thick pristine snow. Shiroi Kobita Park From the Central Wholesale Market, we hailed a taxi (about ¥1300) to the renowned . A chocolate entertainment park operated by a Japanese confectionery manufacturer which produces the Shiroi Koibito (literally White Lovers in English), one of the most famous biscuits in Japan. Shiroi Kobito Park The production ground looks surgical-room clean and the staff moves with clock-work efficiency.
VIDEO Freshly baked White Lovers Chocolate Biscuits streaming along the conveyor belt. The factory also produces renowned . The picture shows a staff laying out the freshly baked Baum Cakes for cooling down before packing for delivery to retail shops islandwide. Baum Cakes A picture with one of the world’s most iconic biscuits is a must. We got our turn after queuing for 10min. The park is a gorgeous world where British and Hokkaido cultures merge. Founder Isao Ishimizu was fascinated by the beauty of England and wanted to convey its beauty to the locals. He asked a British architect to build a Tudor House. The park consists of a free area with a shop, cafe, and restaurant while indoor facilities (where large windows through which visitors can observe the cookie production process in the factory) are a paid area (¥600/pax). How about taking a rest and enjoy the soft serve ice cream, which is the ultimate combination of Hokkaido milk and the different flavors of chocolate used to make Shiroi Koibito? A London double-decker bus houses a rest stop for us to enjoy our coffee or ice cream in the snowscape. Sapporo Beer Museum From Shiroi Kobito Park, we taxied to another iconic venue, the . This is Japan’s only museum dedicated to beer, which explores the long history of Sapporo Beer, passed down from the days of the 1876 Kaitakushi business. Sapporo Beer Museum The history of the Sapporo Beer Museum dates back to the Meiji period, when William Smith Clark, who visited Hokkaido as an O-yatoi gaikokujin (foreign employee), started beer production, and the Hokkaido Kaitaku-shi, the former government of Hokkaido, established a number of breweries in Sapporo. The Sapporo Beer Museum was opened in 1987 in a former brewery from the Meiji Period. The museum introduces the history of beer in Japan and the process of beer making. Queuing time of 30mins to 1 hour is average to access the Star Hall, where the beer is being served. You can enjoy freshly-brewed beer shipped direct from the Sapporo Hokkaido Brewery and Sapporo Kaitakushi Brewery. Try various brews like the Hokkaido exclusive Sapporo Classic, the Sapporo Draft Kuro Label, which has been beloved for 40 years, and the Kaitakushi Beer, which continues to be produced by the Kaitakushi Brewery in Sapporo in the same place it was originally founded. Felt so nice to see your beer being dispensed by the Sapporo Beer crew, staffed by an all-ladies team. Sapporo Draft Beer Black (Kuro) Label: ¥300. Sapporo Classic: ¥300, Kaitakushi Beer: ¥350, non-alcoholic beer: ¥200. Soft drinks: ¥100. Our 3-version combi tasting set was priced reasonably at ¥800 (S$8). This Star Hall is the Paid Tasting Corner. We queued for about 45 min. The usage time of Star Hall is limited to 30 minutes per group/guest and the legal age for beer consumption at the hall is 20 years old. I requested a group picture with the beer lady and she looked surprised and was really happy. I think most visitors don’t take pictures with the beer ladies. Yakiniku @ Susukino Street For the day’s dinner, we settled on yakiniku in Susukino, after a short rest from the Sapporo Beer Museum visit. We refrained from referring to online reviews as we hunted for an eatery. Genghis Khan (Mongolian BBQ) should not be confused with Yakiniku. The former is a Hokkaido local dish that consists of grilling mutton and vegetables on a special grill that has a raised mound in the center (sort of like Thai Mookata). Some very nicely seasoned pork belly to accompany our order of wagyu beef. Our wagyu beef was served quickly by the diner’s efficient service staff. A steak tartare as requested by my elder daughter, who loved the dish from previous trips to Japan. Day #3 – Journey to Noboribetsu We opted for the western breakfast to enjoy the view of Nakajima Garden on the 1st floor of the hotel. Unlike the Japanese breakfast which came in a set, the western breakfast was served buffet style. Our bus ride to Noboribetsu took about 1.5 hours from Sapporo. We did not reserve advance booking and had to settle for the 1.20 pm bus although we reached the bus terminal at Sapporo Station by 10.30 am. But there are plenty of recreation facilities to occupy us at the bustling Sapporo Station. At Noboribetsu, you will see plenty of owls’ carvings. An intrinsic part of the Ainu tribes, owls are called “Shimabukuro”, as they watch over the village with their large eyes to prevent any misfortune from befalling it. You will see many owls carving and also fridge magnets for sale. We did plenty of “window shopping”. We eventually entered a shop and bought several souvenirs and snacks. Do remember to bring along your passports for duty-free purchases. Noboribetsu Dai-ichi Takimotokan – Best Onsen Hotel in Hokkaido This hotel is worth a special mention as it is one of the best onsen hotels we have stayed at on a Japan trip. According to our Sapporo Park Hotel concierge, this is the no.1 hotel in the district. The room is a traditional tatami-mat room. By 545pm, the housekeeping will turn down the room by pulling aside the table and laying futons on the mat. It was really comfy and great for winter nights. The water-sealed toilet was squeaky clean and had great functional ergonomics. After returning from a stroll in the small town, we changed into our yukata and proceed to the amazing hotel . 5000m 2 onsen, the best and biggest in Hokkaido Ensuring no naked guests are walking around, the changing room is the limit I can shoot pictures at . The pools inside are simply stunning, with at least 8 types of individual hot spring water for targeted remedy, like “atopic skin issue”, Salt Spring, or Ferrous Sulphate pool. The Grand Bath looks out to the gorgeous Hell’s Valley. the onsen After the onsen session, we strolled by the hotel’s calm and stately lobby, en route to the dining hall. On the way to the “Grand Bath”, guests can buy local products at the hotel’s gift shop. The escalator goes to the gaming arcade, laundrette, and other hotel amenities on the lower floor. The buffet dinner was simply exciting and had a wide range of delicious dishes. I say “exciting” because for once, we got really happy and excited as we feast on hotel food. The friendly staff at the buffet line no.1 most popular item – King Crab claws. Many guests make a beeline for this dish. The room looked a tad cramped, but it’s really comfortable with a functional layout. The onsen hotel’s “special Takimotokan pillow” illustration for better sleep is available for sale too. Day #4 – Noboribetsu to Lake Toya A morning picture with the hotel in the background as we were unable to shoot during arrival the day before. The great morning lighting sets the tone for a smooth day ahead. Right in front of the hotel is . This is a geyser that erupts vigorously with a powerful sound about every three hourly. Sometimes the steam rises to a height of about 8m. Monuments of demons are set up in the park, and they are said to bring good health and financial luck. Sengen Park Our highlight of Noboribetsu Jigokudani (The Hell’s Valley). Just a 7min walk from our hotel. Entry is free! A picture with my family. I was too lazy to lug the tripod that I packed in my luggage as my camera bag and its content are already 9kg. The winter foliage at Hell’s Valley, while all bare, still complements the snowscape beautifully. Offering our prayers at the Yakushi Nyorai-do, a small Buddhist altar along the trail. According to legend, those who suffer from eye ailments will be cured if they wash their eyes with water from the hot spring that flows from the altar. We were far away from the geysers and fissures, so we are unable to hear the hissing sound. But the signature sulfur smell in the air reminds you of the geothermal activity raging underground. The Tessen Pond, located in the center of Jigokudani and the boardwalk passes near the pond so you can get an up-close view of both the pond and the geyser. Tessen Pond’s temperature is nearly 80°C. On the way out of the trail, much less cold now with the sun warming us. Bit of family bonding here as mom and daughters joined hands in making a little snowman. Prior to departure for Lake Toya, we checked out this seafood eatery near our hotel. Little did we know, that this eatery would be the cheapest (but still excellent) seafood lunch here on our entire Hokkaido trip. Have you tried Ikura Pasta (Salmon roes pasta)? An interesting dish you should try. Freshly shucked oysters (sorry for the misfocused shot). Just one picture as I didn’t want to delay my girl’s pleasure in tucking in. The journey from Noboribetsu to Lake Toya On the way to Lake Toya by taxi. I thought I had done the best planning but overlooked that there was no scheduled bus to Lake Toya that day. The taxi ride was about 1 hr and cost ¥1200 (about S$120).
VIDEO Noon taxi ride from Noboribetsu to Lake Toya, we encountered what’s likely the whitest snowscape for our entire trip. The freshly fallen overnight snow is just pristine, truly an epic sight. Our hotel for the stay at Lake Toya was the . I chose this hotel for its famed onsen with an outdoor onsen that overlooked Lake Toya and its location proximity just steps from the lake. Toya Manseikaku An interesting hotel room keys management system that has the keys in individual slots on a revolving tray. I asked for permission to shoot and the staff gamely obliged. The hotel gift shop, all you ever need is here. With various souvenirs and snacks around the region too. On way to our room, we saw a section of the laidback peaceful Toyako town with Mt.Usu in the distance. Fifty-eight sculptures by fifty-six sculptors from Japan and abroad have been installed along the 43 km-long shores of Lake Toya. The works vary in style from figurative to abstract, but all of them express the strong individuality of the artists. This sculpture titled Dosho by Keiko Amemiya is in front of our hotel – Toyako Manseikaku Hotel Lakeside Terrace. A row of Nanakamado trees at the hotel lakeside perimeter. It is a shrub that is renowned for its fire-retardant properties. It is said that one could throw it into a furnace seven (nana in Japanese) times and it would still not catch fire. A group of waterfowl floating at this section beside the pontoon. I believe the pontoon shields them from the blistering freezing cold wind, that’s why they stationed themselves here. Flapping to dislodge insects within its feather? That’s what birds are known to do. A local taking their canines for a walk by the lake. Really envious of the idyllic lifestyle. Lake Toya was chosen as the venue of the G8 summit which Japan hosted in July 2008. The leaders of the world’s eight major industrialized democracies met at the Windsor Hotel Toya Resort & Spa. The scenic nature of the lake can be viewed from this sightseeing boat, Espoir, which resembles a floating castle and departs every hourly. We didn’t take this cruise as we prefer to take it easy and explore on foot. Dusk came and formed the perfect backdrop for the Nanakamado Tree with its gorgeous red berries. While my wife and daughters were enjoying their onsen session, I set up my tripod to capture the calming mood of our room with the receding dusk. View from our hotel room. The bright area is the hotel’s cafe and library area. The town has a light-up event called Illumination Tunnel. Just a minute’s walk from our hotel entrance. This event is held from early November to early March. Every November, a 70-meter-long tunnel of lights is also constructed at the center of the hot spring town. Visitors warm from the hot spring baths should take the chance to stroll along this magical tunnel of light. We hunt around the quiet town and chanced upon the nondescript Horaiken eatery managed by a senior couple. The reserved owner politely requested that I do not take picture of him cooking. My super spicy miso ramen, my 1st spicy dish for the trip. Sort of mala-type tongue-numbing spiciness. Their homemade gyozas were pretty nice too but they don’t serve pickled ginger with it. Day #4 – Lake Toya to Niseko A most soothing sight to wake up to on day 4 of our Hokkaido DIY vacation. I wish time could slow down. This is the footpath onsen. But it’s closed to guests as there is a danger of frozen footpath. The infinity pool has several guests already in the pool, so I did not shoot any pic. From the onsen pool, guests can view nightly fireworks across the lake. But it’s not available in winter. For 2023, their firework schedule is 28 Apr – 31 Oct. You might like to check out their webpage here . The hotel onsen changing room. This is 1 of the key reasons I booked this lakeside hotel. Check out their Youtube video . here Photography is not allowed in the spa for obvious reasons, as stark naked men will be walking around. So I used my handphone hidden in my yukata pocket to quickly grab some shots. The display of amazing Japanese artisanal carpentry can be seen here. The spa has 2 massage loungers, with compliments (yes, free of charge). I selected a 15min session with my “eTherapist”. (My wife said the massages were too hard and strong, but I think she is not aware that the pressure intensity can be adjusted). Our breakfast at the hotel came with a lovely view of Lake Toya and the mountains. Guess the hotel price reflected such a lovely setting. My 2nd round of breakfast. I don’t usually take many desserts but I can’t resist their nicely made sweets. Mommy and daughter strolling at the lake. For once, I don’t see my girl looking at her handphone. I got my girls to pose a little at the drinks dispensing machine by the lake. Always find Japanese vending machines so interesting. Korean ajumma (aunties) doing a wefie on the lake. They were from a busload of Korean tourists. Suddenly I felt like eating kimchi. After breakfast, we packed, left our luggage at the hotel front office, and checked out before proceeding for the stroll along Lake Toya. Other than the lake itself, the Toyako region features hot springs and an active volcano, Mount Usu, which last erupted in the year 2000. The area also offers many fishing, hiking, and camping opportunities. What? Pokemon was here? Guess it was everywhere. That’s a huge ¥100 stamp indeed. This cafe and souvenir shop, Wakasaimo, is a popular confectionery with a long history. Nice place for a cuppa, with a lovely view of Lake Toya. The shop takes its name from the Wakasaimo confection that looks like a potato. The shop was established in 1930 and is a well-loved confectionery representative of Hokkaido. An interesting fact is that the confectioneries are not made with imo (potatoes) even though the name of the shop literally means Wakasa Potato. The journey from Lake Toya to Niseko
VIDEO Our taxi ride from Lake Toya to Niseko. While the snow was not as gorgeously pristine as the ride from Noboribetsu to Lake Toya, is still amazingly beautiful. Niseko is the location with the highest recorded snowfall in the world, about 50ft worth of snow! The ski slopes at Annupuri are certainly very vibrant and exciting. Our hotel, the is connected directly to the ski compound. Niseko Northern Resort Annupuri Sleeping a bit on the snow “mattress”. It’s an amazing experience. Recreational skiers from the surrounding area, gather at the ski school. Waiting for their coaches. Some of the skiing and snowboarding gear for our adventure ahead. Arranging the ski gear to be placed in the lockers for the next day’s ski lesson, bright and early at 8.30 am. Day #5 and #6 – Niseko Day 6 – woke up to a beautiful morning at Niseko. Pristine snow from the night before. But this was soon to end as the clouds from the Mt.Konbu area moved to Niseko, obscuring the gorgeous lighting. From the hotel restaurant, the view of the ski courses bathed in beautiful lighting by the morning sun. Picture of Mt.Konbu (1045m) in the distance from the resort front area. Really wished the weather would continue like this, but it was not to be. All the basic steps first, how to stand up, control of board and gears fitting. Long day ahead. Standing up straight is a good start already. I see many can’t control themselves and start sliding away. The young and not-so-young on a training course. Age is not a divider here. Gorgeous lenticular cloud just above the ski hill. This is a lens-shaped cloud that normally develops on the downwind side of a mountain or mountain range. It occurs when stable, moist air flows over a mountain, creating a series of oscillating waves. Lenticular clouds are a visible sign of mountain waves in the air. The Japanese Self-Defence Force land soldiers were also at the ski range to practice. An important skill that may be called upon when the need arises. These guys are really professional and ski really well. The Japanese soldiers are easily distinguished from the civilian skiers with their camouflaged outfits. You can tell by the skiing posture, whether they are experienced or novice. Mommy is on the ground, feeling the coolness of ice. Suddenly, two experienced snowboarders zoomed in, lucky I was ready with my camera. A pretty little girl I spotted, probably from the International School. They basically pay to ski at the range, but their seniors from school do the coaching. Lovely view of one of the ski slopes at the Niseko ski ranges. The Japanese soldiers practicing at the top of the hill. The eateries at the ski ground – New Sanko and Niseko Rest House, serve mostly quick convenient food, like bowls of ramen, pork bun, fried chicken wings, etc, as simple snack options. The dining hall at New Sanko’s huge spacious hall. Meals there are priced reasonably at ¥1100 per bowl of ramen, considering they are monopolists here. The view from the cafe is pretty nice, as is the food sold here. On the gondola up the hill – ¥500 per pax per ride, or you can buy ¥2000 for a whole day ride. Day #7 – Arrival at Otaru
VIDEO The coastal scene as our bus reaches the fringe of Otaru, after a 1.40min ride from Niseko. A sight only tourists like us from the tropics will love. But for the locals, not so much. I empathised with the locals braving this condition for the whole winter season. It can get quite a drag, especially for the aged and movement disabled. Heavy blizzard at Otaru. Basically, we have already acclimatised to the Hokkaido cold. But the challenge now is navigating the roads and pavements covered with thick snow slush. Quite an experience indeed. After checking in at our hotel, we proceed to check out the “deserted” town, seems everyone is indoors. Sakaimachi Dōri We started our trek at Sakaimachi Street, which is an attractive, well-preserved merchant street in central Otaru, a short walk from the city’s canal area. During the development of Hokkaido in the late 1800s and early 1900s, Otaru thrived as a port city, and many trading and shipping companies constructed impressive Western-style buildings in the city center to house their offices and shops. Only tourists will do this – walking around like it’s the perfect weather.
VIDEO Umbrella is a must. For me, I had to keep my camera in the bag, wrapped it with a rain cover, and use my handphone for the most part of the walk here. At the 10s point of the video, you can see an oncoming male tourist slightly losing his balance, like many, including us. The aroma of the deep-fried chicken from this outlet will whet your appetite, but we were still rather full from our late lunch just about 1.5 hours ago. Yes, the skies get dark early, and it felt like 9 pm although it’s just shortly after 7 pm. My wife asked me to shoot with “feeling” for the slushy snowed street photo. I accepted her challenge. The fabulous snack shop is called Rokkatei. They have 2 other shops at Obihiro and Chuo-ku. Their first best-selling product was the “Hitotsu-nabe” (“Shared Pot”), which came out in 1952. https://www.rokkatei.co.jp/en/ Cuttlefish lovers will go wild here at the . Individually roasted and pulled apart by machine and packed immediately, “Ikataro” dried squid strips hold a special place in the hearts of Otaru locals and tourists as well. Fragrant and delicately soft, the amazing flavor is hard to resist. Ika Taro Hompo Day #8 – Final day at Otaru Day 8, our 2nd last day in Hokkaido. We woke up n early and proceed to the iconic Otaru canal, just 5min walk from our hotel. We were there about 815 am before the arrival of busloads of group tourists. By 9 am, you can kiss a peaceful picture session goodbye at this iconic photo spot at The Otaru Canal. Actually, there are many other nice pic spots along the canal. No need to stress on that main picture spot, this is just about a 2-3min walk away along the canal. The Otaru Denuki Koji – around 20 small shops are housed in this historical building. Walk into the narrow path and find interesting eats at shops with friendly staff. Do climb up the tower for a splendid view of Otaru Canal and the ocean. Great view atop the Otaru Denuki Koji. But it was really freezing when the coastal wind blows in. We made a pit stop at the . This facility is built into a historical storehouse, constructed in 1893. There’s an international information center, a café space, and a souvenir corner. It’s like a “live” info center, especially helpful if you are on a Hokkaido DIY vacation. Canal Plaza Tourist information center Very nice sweets and quality coffee at the information center indeed. We then proceed to Sankaku, a highlight in Otaru. The huge mounds of snow were also an attraction too. Sankaku We reached the Otaru JR Station where Sankaku is located just beside it. The market is easily accessed via two entrances and/or exit points, one on the left of the station after a short flight of stairs while another faces the main road.
VIDEO The origin of Sankaku is that the land and the roof are in the form of a triangle. The beginning is 7-8 stores in Otaru Station in 1948. Then, the store has been increased. From neighboring Ishikari local and Shiribeshi local to distant Kamikawa local and Hidaka region, showed immense popularity. It then developed as a morning market. In May 1957, the market established a voluntary partnership with about 30 stores and commenced the construction of the current market. Then, founded the small and medium-sized companies jointly set the request of July 1962 union members. Look at the sea of items available. Overwhelmed yet? The cramped and crowded environment of Sankaku can be overwhelming. But relax, just go to one shop that you like, read the instruction, order what you like and let the staff direct you to a table. Don’t just look for an unoccupied table, sit down and expect to be served. It does not work that way at Sankaku. Our 2.8kg King Crab came up to ¥28,000 ($280)., not cheap but not as expensive as in Singapore. The seafood shop cash register kept ringing and the weighing scale was overworked. The friendly aunty of the shop. No need to compare prices as the rates are competitive. There is a renowned shop named Kita no Donburiya Takinami Shokudo further down that everyone seems to patronize, but the staff were too busy to entertain anyone. Our crab took about 30min of simple steaming to retain its natural sweetness of the crab. The seafood kaisendon – the signature dish of Sankaku.What is a kaisendon? It’s is a traditional Japanese dish consisting of a bowl of rice (“donburi”) topped with a variety of raw, fresh seafood (“kaisen”). It’s a delight to the eyes and tastebuds, along with its assortment of flavours. Fresh Ika (squid), understand from my kids that it’s so fresh and sweet. But I am not into raw seafood. Another crowd favourite – the Ikura and Salmon sashimi. Anime shopping @ Animate in Sapporo After the brunch, we took a 45min JR train back to Sapporo as our daughters wanted to buy some anime items available only at the . This place is certainly crowded with anime fans and the queue to pay can be like 30min-1hr. Kureijī desu! Animate Sapporo Observing street life in Sapporo city. Pulling all in before we depart for home sweet home the next day. Anime is not my thing, so I stayed on the street and do some Kei-Car panning in front of the building. I never get tired of observing the cute little cars plying the roads. Conclusion I like to think of this Hokkaido DIY vacation as the most fitting celebration after more than two years of the pandemic international borders closure. Although it’s my 4th visit to Hokkaido, it still felt like my 1st as one can never get enough of the beautiful island. Abundant nature, good clean air, excellent food, and relatively low human density at most of the attractions. Certainly an ideal destination for anyone thinking of resuming travel again after CV19. Do plan a visit to Hokkaido soon. Ikimaso!
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