Northern Hokkaido Trip from 3 Jun to 10 Jun 2017

3 weeks just passed with a blink of an eye. Before I knew it, I am already packing my stuff and getting ready to go to the airport for my flight to Sapporo, Hokkaido.

I can either choose to fly to Japan via Narita International Airport or Haneda International Airport and catch a domestic flight to New Chitose Airport.

After weighing through the various considerations (costs, time and convenience), I decided on travelling via Scoot Airline, a budget airline operated by Singapore Airline this time round. The flight path and travelling distance just suits well. I will be transiting via Taipei at Taoyuan International Airport which is approximately about 4.5 hours flight journey and thereafter, another 4 hours flight journey from Taipei to New Chitose Airport with a layover for about an hour in Taipei.

Since it is towards end of Spring Season in Hokkaido, I decided to do a road trip. This will be my maiden road trip in Japan. You bet, I am really excited and looking forward to it. As I only have 7 nights in Hokkaido, I will plan on covering the Northern part of Hakkaido. 

My itinerary will be starting from Otaru to Wakkanai followed by Asahikawa then swinging by Furano before ending at Sapporo. Upon arrival at New Chitose Airport, I will catch a train from Sapporo to Otaru. Spent a night in Otaru before collecting my rental car from Toyota-Rent-A-Car at JR Otaru Station. From there, I will drive up to Wakkanai which will take about 5 hours. 

Will spend 2 nights in Wakkanai before heading down to Asahikawa. Spent a night there before heading down to Furano for sightseeing before ending up in Sapporo to return the rental car. Thereafter, will spend the next 3 days in Sapporo city.

To do a self-drive in Japan, it is critical to have your International Driving Permit, driving licence and your passport upon car collection. At the same time, do remember to book for your car way in advance and to request for the English GPS navigator together with the ETC card as it will simplify matters when approaching at the toll gantry. 

You may apply for your International Driving Permit at AA Office at a cost of $20.

Arrived finally to New Chitose Airport at 17:15 hrs after a long day which started since 06:15 hrs. Immediately upon arrival to New Chitose Airport, I took a JR Rapid Train bound for Otaru. The train ride took another 75 mins. 

In Otaru, I stayed at the Smile Hotel which is near to JR Otaru Station. I had an overnight stay to recharge myself before picking up my car the next day at the Toyota-Rent-A-Car at the Otaru Square.

Upon checking in, I went over to my favourite sushi joint, Sushi Zanmai along Otaru Canal for my dinner fix.

Oishi! What a heavenly meal to end a long day of travel before retiring for the night.

That marks the end of Day 1. Oyasumi nasai. 

Started Day 2 early in search of good breakfast. Their sunrise is at 03:57 hrs today. 

Chanced upon their local fish market (三角市场) near Otaru Square and I simply lose my grip just by looking at the food freshness. It is definitely a no-brainer on where to go for breakfast.

I just make a dash to one of the many stalls inside the market to start my day. 😋

Squid appetizer

Lightly salted salmon

Assorted 6 kinds of sashimi

Last but not least, the star of the meal……

3 toppings rice bowl with Raw Sea Urchin, Crab & Scallop.

What more can I say other than Kore Wa Oshiidesu……

After breakfast, took a stroll along Otaru Canal and enjoy a quiet morning moment in Otaru. The scenes are so different in Spring compared to last November when I was here during Winter. Had a great time walking down the memory lane.

Managed to have a go at the champion chicken karaage again at the JR Otaru Station this morning as it was sold out last night when I arrived late into Otaru. It really brightens up my day and felt happy about it. This is one of those better fried chicken that I have had. In fact, this is one of the key reason why I chose to stay a night in Otaru instead of Sapporo.

After which, I went over to the Toyota-Rent-A-Car to pick up my car. Check, check, check and I am all ready to go.

I had a Toyota Corolla Fielder for this trip. Car was mid-sized yet spacious.

It was a long drive from Otaru to Wakkanai. The journey took about 5.5 hrs covering a distance of 363km. 

Did a pit stop for lunch at Teshio Town along Route 232 before continuing the rest of the journey.

Miso Ramen

Tonkatsu Curry

Simple and delicious. 😋😋😋

Finally, I am here at Wakkanai. What’s so great about it? 

Wakkanai is a city located in Soya, Hokkaido, Japan. It is the capital of Soya and the northernmost city in Japan. It contains Japan’s northernmost point, Cape Soya, from which the Russian island of Sakhalin can be seen on a clear day. 

Since I have been to the southern Hokkaido, Hakodate, so this time thought it will be a good idea to explore the northern Hokkaido, Wakkanai. Well, I may consider to do the eastern Hokkaido, Shiretoko next Jun 2018. 

I stayed at the Wakkanai Grand Hotel. As usual, upon checking in, I went to recce the surrounding area. Maybe it is a Sunday, the entire town is extremely quiet and still with most shops closed.

There is a sizable Daiso store which I am able to shop and spend some time instead of roaming around the streets aimlessly. 

Saw this western restaurant, Victoria along the streets and before I knew it, I was already in the restaurant. The steak looks so tenderly good that I cannot find any good reason to resist.

What say you?

Thick and juicy steak staring “real hard” at you.

The spaghetti with bacon and oyster mushroom cooked in Japanese style is pretty champion too though looks are deceiving.

The fried chicken deserves a thumbs up as well. 

Same goes for the baked sausages with extremely sweet cabbage and onions condiments.

Overall, another great meal to end a tiring day. 

Woke up to a great and sunny Day 3 morning. Took a slow drive to Wakkanai Port Market.

Had my morning refuel at Sukiya before heading to Cape Soya (the northernmost point of the island of Hokkaido, Japan).

Gyudon Set

Beef Low-Carb Noodle Bowl

Rice and Pork Curry

Chicken Karaage

Soft-Boiled Egg

After a hearty breakfast, time to set off to Cape Soya.

While enroute to Cape Soya via Route 238, saw a fishing port along the way and stop over to kill the curiosity.

Fishermen at work packaging clams, scallops and other shellfish.

Other interesting sculptures along Route 238.

Arrived Cape Soya after about 45 mins drive. Spend some time exploring the scenic sights of Cape Soya and time for history flashback.

Hope you enjoy the brief history lessons so far. 

More scenic views from Cape Soya.

Had an early yummy scallops brunch in this restaurant at Cape Soya.

Scallop Ramen

Baked Scallop

Scallop & Sea Urchin Sashimi

After a good meal, departed for Cape Nosappu.

Beautiful view from Soya Hill. So calming and herds of cows are seen grazing freely on the fields.

Arrived Cape Nosappu after an hour drive.

Not too bad an attraction to visit though the scenery is not as great as Cape Soya. Overall, still worth the time spent as there is more than sufficient time to cover all the attraction grounds if you cater a full day in Wakkanai.

Next attraction coming up will be the Wakkanai Port Northern Breakwater Dome (designated as a Hokkaido Heritage in 2001).

This unusual dome-shaped breakwater which overlooks the Soya Gulf is a symbol of the northen wharf. It not only prevents high waves and strong wind from penetrating, but it is also the most interesting half-dome in the world.  

The final attraction will be the Wakkanai Park. 

More views from Wakkanai Park.

Wish you were here type of feelings. 😉

Bought a specially made Wakkanai vanilla flavoured ice cream as I was told that it is a must try when in Wakkanai. Indeed, there is a special type of milky taste in the ice cream. Damn power👍👍👍 

While on my way back to the hotel, I thought my eyes were playing tricks on me. Guess what? I saw the all famous Otaru fried chicken outlet in Wakkanai! 

MTL, I charged in and get my cravings fixed without much hesitation.

Half-portion fried chicken

Chicken Gyoza

My lucky day. 👏👏👏 Felt really blessed to be able to lay my hands on it for the 2nd time in this trip. Woohoo…….

Tonight’s dinner, I decided to try out Russian cuisine. Googled up and was directed to this cozy Russian restaurant, Pechka. It was a short drive from the hotel which is near to Wakkanai Port Market.

Shashlik (Shish Kebab) 

Beef Stroganoff

Interesting meal overall. With that, it marks the end of Day 3. Looking forward to head down to Asahikawa (2nd largest city in Hokkaido after Sapporo) tomorrow.

Day 4 – As I had to set off early for Asahikawa, there is no other options for breakfast other than going back to Sukiya which is open 24 hours.

Rice and Pork Curry with Soft-Boiled Egg

Salmon Bowl Set

Ginger Pork Bowl Set with Chicken Karaage

Well, I am now fully charged up and ready to set off for the upcoming 272km drive downwards which will probably take about 4.5 hours.

Reached Biei after a long drive. Went to visit the Aoiike Blue Pond first thing while enroute to Asahikawa.

Love the magnificent view of the Blue Pond.

Moving on to the next attraction, Shirahige Waterfall which is another 2.6km drive upwards from the Blue Pond.

This is so beautiful. Wonderful works of the nature. Simply breathtaking.

Enjoy the “live” feeling as though you were here. 

After that, I swing over to Shikisai no Oka, another attraction in Biei. This is a flower garden where you can leap into the grand nature of Hokkaido throughout the year. The name Shikisai no Oka is created by combining Shikisai (colour) and Shiki (four seasons). 

You can enjoy the colours and fragrance of several dozens of different flowers such as tulip, lupine, lavender, salvia, sunflower, dahlia and Japanese anemone according to the season. 

Recommended spot for flowers lover. Time for lunch after an entire late morning of sight seeing.

I drove over to Asahikawa Ramen Village for my late lunch. 

Asahikawa is famous for its ramen and is known for its shoyu (soya sauce) based broths. 

Asahikawa Ramen Village comprises of 8 famous ramen restaurants in Asahikawa opened next to one another.

Which restaurant of the 8 should you go to? If you were to ask me, any restaurant you go to, it would be a good choice. 😃

For me, I had it at Saijo. Reason being, it has all the items that I wanted.

Scallop, Squid, Prawn & Cha-Siew Ramen

Soya Sauce Flavored Ramen

Mini Fried Rice

Fried Gyoza

Happened to see a huge Uni Qlo just across Asahikawa Ramen Village. Couldn’t resist but went to check it out.

Thereafter, I proceeded to head to the hotel for check in.

I stayed at the Asahikawa Grand Hotel. The hotel is within walking distance to JR Asahikawa Station.

After check in, did my routine ritual, went over to the JR Asahikawa Station for shopping and have dinner.

Had a crabby meal for dinner at one of the restaurant located on Level 4 of Aeon Mall.

Saw a next door restaurant, Lavi, selling soup curry. I stepped in for 2nd round.

Ordered a Lavi’s Special with pork, chicken and assortment of vegetables. 

Today has been a tiring and funfilled day. Nothing beats a satisfying and fulfilling meal and it was a sure great way to end the day.

Day 5 – Started my day early to travel down to Sapporo city. Will enroute via Furano and more sight seeing along the journey.

1st stop over at Hokusei no Oka Observatory Park, a uniquely shaped triangular building at the top of the small hill in the town of Biei for some picturesque.

Coincidentally, there was a newspaper article a couple of days ago which featured this attraction too.

The only regret is that I am not here at the right season to see the beautiful flowers bloom as per the picture featured.

Nevermind, guess there is always a next time for it. 😜

Had a quick snack bite at the nearby eatery store.

The potato croquette is really fresh and mashy.

Same goes for the corn. Naturally sweet and delicious. 

2nd stop over at Tomita Melon House. This place is full of melon related products.

Red Melon Bun

Super juicy melon

Interestingly, saw a pizza outlet in Melon House. Thought I was in luck to try out melon pizza. 😋

Well, they do not serve this option. 

End up having their Furano Pizza (tomato, oregano, cheese, asparagus and Furano bacon) instead. Pretty unique and taste awesome too. 

Immediately after a great time snacking, I moved on to the 3rd stop over, Farm Tomita which is just beside Tomita Melon House.

Enjoying the beautiful lavender and flowers.

The Lavender ice cream and Calpis Lavender Jelly is really special and unique which is not readily available. Taste superbly good.

Time for lunch. Since I am in Furano, I was highly recommended to try out the champion Furano Omelette Curry in Yuiga Doxon Curry Restaurant (唯我独尊).

Word of caution, it may be hard to find this restaurant when you are near there. Seek help from a local for direction if need be. 

Omelette and Homemade Sauage Curry

Chicken Curry

Trust me, it is really worth the search. The omelette curry is super power! 

After a satisfying meal, proceeded to the 4th stop over, Furano Marche which is a short drive (less than 3 mins) away.

Basically this place comprises of a cluster of shops and is a ultimate food paradise for foreigners as well as their locals.
It has 4 main areas namely; Argent, Furadish, Hogar and Sabor. In Argent, lavender related items from Farm Tomita, cheeses and cheesecakes from Furano cheese factory are sold. Furadish is the food court area that sells finger food and delicious ice cream. Hogar is where the farmers’ market section is housed, fresh food and vegetables along with other produce are sold. The last section, Sabor houses a cafe and patisserie. It is the ideal place for relaxation over a cup of coffee.

Just across the street, there is an outlet selling Baumkuchen. Baumkuchen is a German variety of split cake. It is a traditional pastry of many European countries and also a popular snack and dessert in Japan. It is definitely much cheaper here than in Singapore.

Coming up will be the 5th stop over, Campana Rokkatei (六花亭). This place sells their in-house confectioneries like biscuits, cakes, chocolates and many more.

There is also a grape vineyard beside it.

Had a snack break at the Campana Rakkatei cafe before departing for the next stop.

Grape ice cream

Pan-fried Mochi

The 6th stop over is at the Furano Jam Studio. 

Great time with jam tasting. 

Anpanman is the 7th stop over which happens to be right next to the Furano Jam Studio. Anpanman kids lover will bound to love this place.

The final stop over will be at the Furano Cheese Factory. 

Cheese tasting time…….the squid ink cheese tastes surprisingly good.

Unfortunately, there is no free pizza tasting. So, end up buying a quarter slice of onion and mushroom pizza for tasting. The cheese is so fresh and cheesy. 

Following up will be the ice cream factory. There are various flavoured options for consideration. As I have had enough of ice cream, thought giving it a miss was a wise decision. After that, I had to drive back to Sapporo to return the rental car.

While on the way, I swing by to Premier Hotel Tsubaki to drop off my luggage and check in to the hotel.

After check in, I drove the car to Sapporo Station East for the return. It has been a good 4 days of car rental and the road trip covered slightly more than 1,000km in total.

After return, headed off to JR Sapporo Station to get my long awaited fix.

Croque Monsieur

German Hot Dog

Coffee Latte

At the same time, took a baked cheese tart and apple pie from Kinotoya Bake to satisfy my cravings.

The apple pie was so damn good with generous chunks of apple slices in it. 

Must try if you have a chance to do so. Heavenly feeling!

Dinner was at the Sapporo Ramen Republic on the 10th Floor of ESTA. It offers a selection of top Hokkaido ramen restaurants under one roof. Similar concept as Asahikawa Ramen Village. In essence, you can find the best of the best ramens at one consolidated location.

#1 – Flame Grilled Rib Charsiew Miso Ramen

Salt Ramen 

Charsiew Rice Bowl

After a great meal, headed back to the hotel to retire for the night. It was certainly an exciting and eventful Day 5 spent.

Day 6 – Start off with an extremely wet morning. It was raining heavily in Sapporo city this morning. However, that did not dampen my spirit. Decided to spend the day at the Rera Outlet Mall in Minami-Chitose for my retail therapy.

In Japan, interestingly all their bridges and rivers are named and there are countless of them and can be seen almost everywhere.

This Toyohira River and Bridge is near to the Premier Hotel Tsubaki where I had to walk past to the nearby subway station.

Ham and Egg Salad

Tuna with Cheddar Cheese

Calzone Bacon and Cheese

Without fail, had my breakfast at my all time favourite Doutor Cafe near Odori Subway Station.

After a satisfying morning refuel, took a train ride to JR Minami-Chitose Station.

Arrived Rera Chitose Outlet Mall after 35 mins. 

Had my lunch at the Food Forest in the outlet mall.

Yakisoba

Chicken Tempura Udon

Roast Beef Bowl Rice

The Roast Beef was so tenderly delicious. Super Oishi! 👍👍👍 This is really beyond description. You need to experience it for yourself when you are here. Have to mark it down in one of your “To Do” 📝 list.

Tea break was at this Recettes de 930 Cafe. The cheesecake and butter cookie are really power. Leaving you simply speechless.

After helping to generate the Japan’s economy 💸💸💸, time to return back to Sapporo.

Had my dinner at one of the Yakitori restaurant at a small alley on the B1 Floor of the Susukino Subway Station Exit 3 before calling it a day.

Day 7 was bright and cheery. It was a clear and sunny morning. Great weather for sight seeing in Sapporo city.

There is no prize in guessing where to go for my breakfast. 

Yes, the same Doutor Cafe near Odori Subway Station for my daily fix.

Croque Monsieur

Beef Pastrami and Cheddar Cheese

German Hot Dog

Iced Coffee Latte

After charging, went over to the nearby Odori Park for some picturesque.

Beautiful scenery compared to last November when I was here during winter. The entire Odori Park was covered with snow then.

Sapporo TV Tower

After having a great time reminiscing, I took a train from Odori to Miyanosawa to visit Ishiya Chocolate Factory (白色恋人).

The train ride to Miyanosawa took approximately 20 mins. The Ishiya Chocolate Factory is about 7 mins walk from the station.

There is an admission fee of 600 yen for adult and 200 yen for child for the tour of the chocolate factory.

In exchange, you will be given a passport for entry and a packet of the 白色恋人 cookie.

There are plenty of interesting things to see, including the production line of the well-known Shiroi Koibito cookie confection (白色恋人), exhibits outlining the history of chocolates and works of art.

Touring of the production line for the making of 白色恋人 cookie. 

After touring the production line, proceeded to the Cookiecraft Studio for the hands-on experience of making the 白色恋人 cookie. The workshop charges 972 yen for the hands-on experience and you get to keep your own design of the 白色恋人 cookie thereafter.

Step 1 : Designing of the cookie followed by baking.

Step 2 : Packing of the baked cookie.

Step 3 : Sealing of the packaging.

Step 4 : Placed the sealed packaged cookie into box.

Step 5 : Boxing up of the cookie.

It is a fun experience and you can do it together as part of family bonding activity.

Relaxing at the Chocolate Lounge and enjoying the beautiful view of the Shiroi Koibito Park Courtyard overlooking the Sapporo Mechanical Clock.

Shiroi Koibito Parfait

The Chocolate Carnival, which begins at the top of every hour, is a parade of jolly singing and dancing mechanical dolls.

More views from the Shiroi Koibito Park Courtyard.

Had a quick munch at the Entrepot Cafe.

Uncured Ham and Cheese

Chicken Cheese Curry

After visiting Shiroi Kobito Park, proceeded to FireBurg, opposite the Chocolate Factory, for lunch.

Deep Fried Chicken with Fries

Kakugiri Steak and Hamburg Set

In the evening, took a leisure stroll to explore the Tanukikoji Shopping Arcade in Susukino area before having dinner at Sushi Zanmai.

Continued with the rest of the night enjoying the city.

Had a last supper at the Mexican Restaurant, Viva La Vida

Salsa Chips

Chimichanga

Enchiladas

Not too bad a taste though it is of different style that I had in US and in Singapore. To let out a small secret, I used to work in a Mexican Restaurant for about 3 years in the earlier part of my career days.

With that, it concludes an exciting Day 7.

As this is my last night, there will be clothings that needs to be washed, cleaned and dried. This is the time when some of us will be stressed out with tons and tons of dirty laundry to manage when back home. 

Fret not, in Japan, there are coin launderette operating 24 hours to take care of this aspect. The clothes will be washed, cleaned and dried.

Day 8 – Time to check out of the hotel, as my flight is at 8pm, I had half a day to do some last minute shopping and sight seeing in the city before bidding farewell to Sapporo.

Spent some time snacking on supermarket foods. 

Cold Plain Udon with Soya Sauce

Lunch was at Meat Gang. They provide complimentary salad bar for every mains ordered.

Gang of Roast Beef Bowl

Beef Cut Steak

The beef is so good. Tender and delicious. Onions are naturally sweet. 😋😋😋

Next, visited the Sapporo Clock Tower. It is a wooden structure and well-known local tourist attraction, located at the largest city on the island of Hokkaido, northern Japan. 

The building is of American design and is one of the few surviving Western-style buildings in Sapporo, a city developed in the 1870s with assistance from the American government. It is known by many as the symbol of the city and is a main feature of almost all domestic and international tours of Sapporo. The clock after which it is named continues to run and keep time, and the chimes can be heard every hour.

I was pretty lucky to be able to catch sight of the Matsuri in Odori Park before heading back.

Matsuri are local festivals in Japan and almost every shrine celebrates one of its own. Most festivals are held annually and celebrate the shrine’s deity or a seasonal or historic event. Some festivals are held over several days.

An important element of Japanese festivals are processions, in which local shrine’s kami (Shinto deity) is carried through the town in mikoshi (palanquins). It is the only time of the year when the kami leaves the shrine to be carried around town.

Many festivals also feature decorated floats (dashi), which are pulled through the town, accompanied by drum and flute music by the people sitting on the floats. Similar to our version of Ching Gay. Every festival has its own characteristics. While some festivals are calm and meditative, many are energetic and noisy.

Time flies when you are having fun and enjoyment, it is time now to bid farewell to Sapporo and head to the airport for my flight home. All good things will have to come to an end.

I took an Airport Bus, right opposite to the Premier Hotel Tsubaki to the New Chitose Airport. It was a relaxing ride of about 70 mins to enjoy the rest of the city’s view.

One for the road meal at the airport food court.

Miso Ramen

Prawn Tempura Soba

Takoyaki

It was a fun 8 days 7 nights maiden road trip and I will certainly leave this place with a heavy heart.

Well, all I can do now is to await my next trip to Japan during the upcoming Chinese New Year on Feb 2018. Till then, see you soon Japan!

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