June 24, 2015

Hokkaido (South and Central Hokkaido Package Tour)

Hokkaido(北海道)located at the north is the second largest out of the 4 main islands of Japan. My first visit to the prefecture was in October 2011, via package tour, before my 2+ years stay in Kobe.

During the trip, we first covered the Noboribetsu(登別)area. Noboribetsu Onsen(登別温泉)is the most famous hot spring resort in Hokkaido. Went to Shiraoi Ainu Museum (Porotokotan) near Noboribetsu to understand more about Ainu tribe, the indigenous people of northern Japan.

Next, we went to young volcano Showa Shinzan(昭和新山)at Lake Toya(洞爺湖). Visited a bear ranch in the vicinity and it was interesting how the huge bears would stand and wave/beg at us to throw down some apples! Also went to Iwakura Kajuen(岩倉果樹園)nearby for apples picking.

Following that, we went to Jigokudani(地獄谷)where there is some volcanic activity. The stay that night at Hotel Yumoto Noboribetsu was pleasant. Enjoyed rotenburo(露天風呂)in cool weather!

The next day, we headed a little northwards to Otaru(小樽)near Sapporo(札幌). This small town has a pleasant relaxed country vibe (the kind that you can walk around listening to Lisa Ono's Bossanova tunes :P) like Yufuin in Kyushu, Kyu Karuizawa in Nagano, Kurokabe Square in Shiga's Nagahama and Kurashiki in Okayama, which I'm a huge fan of!

Enjoyed strolling down Sakaimachi street(境町通り)where there are music box museums, boutiques and cafes. As Otaru is a small harbour city, there are also shops selling fresh seafood such as grilled oysters.

After that, we moved on to the Asahikawa/Daisetsuzan(大雪山)area. Daisetsuzan is Hokkaido's largest national park. We first went to Otokoyama Sake Brewery & Museum. Otokoyama(男山)is Asahikawa's most famous sake brand. Enjoyed sake tasting of course!

Stayed at Sounkyo Onsen's(層雲峡温泉)Hotel Taisetsu(ホテル大雪)in the north of Daisetsuzan. Buffet dinner with raw shrimp and ikura-don was sumptuous. There were also a few onsen to soak in.

The next day, we rode the Kurodake Ropeway to Kurodake Gogoume(黒岳五合目)to get closer to the mountains. Didn't have enough time to take the chair lift to even higher grounds.

Also saw Ginga no Taki(銀河の滝)and Ryusei no Taki(流星の滝). The autumn colors there were beautiful!

Next up was Furano. Lots of sunflowers were in full bloom at Shikisai no Oka(四季彩の丘)~ (refer to 1st photo) Love the abundance of nature there!

Stayed at Alpha Resort Tomamu Tower for the night. It is currently part of the Hoshino chain and has been renamed Hoshino Resorts Tomamu The Tower. The premise is huge and the buildings are tall, right in the middle of rural plains. There is a need to take shuttle bus from the rooms to the restaurant in the forest and deer can be spotted on the way! Buffet dinner was very good~ Though I didn't get to visit the Terrace Sea of Clouds...

The next day, we headed back to Sapporo for the factory of Shiroi Koibito(白い恋人), probably the most famous Hokkaido souvenir. Not a fan of it though, much prefer Rokkatei's Butter Sandwich and Royce's Nama Chocolate.

Lunch was at Ganso Ramen Yokocho(元祖ラーメン横丁). For Sapporo, it's Miso Ramen of course!

Finally got to do some shopping thereafter, at Tanukikoji(狸小路)Shopping Arcade. Dinner was at Nihonryori Miyabi(日本料理みやび)near Odori Park(大通公園), love the unlimited crabs and alcohol!

Visited Hokkaido Government Building the next day, followed by more shopping at Daimaru in Sapporo station and Chitose Outlet Mall Rera.

In this trip, only covered Noboribetsu, Sapporo and Asahikawa areas. Look forward to covering the eastern, northern and southern parts of Hokkaido in future!

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