Even though Hokkaido is a plane ride away from Narita (where we land), we were still drawn to the ideas of fresh seafood, scenic views, road trips and onsen resorts while planning for the trip. So my friends and I decided to spend 7 days in Hokkaido. Turns out, it was the best decision ever! Hokkaido has got to be one of my favourite places in Japan.
Read on to find out why!
Trip Information Guide to Hokkaido
Destination: Hokkaido (Noboribetsu, Lake Toya, Hakodate, Otaru, Sapporo)
Duration: 7 Days
Date: 7th May 2015 – 13th May 2015
Flight: Vanilla Air (Tokyo Narita – New Chitose)
Amount Spent: Approximately $690.14 (excluding expenditure and international flight)
Domestic Flight: SGD179.08 per pax (Vanilla Air)
Car: SGD180 per pax
Since there were 9 of us, we rented 2 cars from http://www.nrh.co.jp/foreign/ for our Hokkaido Leg of the trip. S$180 pp includes Insurance, ETC Card and Hokkaido Expressway Pass for both cars.
Accommodations: SGD331.06 per pax
Includes the following:
- 1 night in Noboribetsu (Noboribetsu Sekisuitei)
- 1 night in Lake Toya (Toyako Manseikaku Hotel)
- 1 night in Hakodate (Hotel Dormy Inn Express)
- 1 night in Otaru (Grand Park Otaru)
- 2 nights in Sapporo (Next Hotel Sapporo Ekimae)
Grand Total: SGD690.14
Noboribetsu (Hokkaido Day 1)
Noboribetsu Sekisuitei (S$100.25 per pax, 3 to a room)
This accommodation is more on the pricey side as compared to the bulk of our accommodations in Japan. Because of our budget constraint, we can only afford to splurge on a few accommodations. I’m pretty sure many people will agree that when you’re in Hokkaido, especially in winter, you should stay in at least one onsen resort. We chose Noboribetsu Sekisuitei as it is a rather famous onsen resort in Noboribetsu.
Image from http://japantraveleronline.com[/caption%5D
Image from http://en.sekisuitei.com/spa%5B/caption%5D
Like many of the other onsen resorts that we have been to, Noboribetsu Sekisuitei has both indoor and outdoor onsens.
The room rate that we paid is inclusive of both dinner and breakfast buffet. The food available at the buffet is pretty good.
203 Noboribetsuonsencho, Noboribetsu,
Hokkaido Prefecture 059-0551, Japan
Things to do in Noboribetsu
1. Noboribetsu Jigokudani (Hell Valley)
The Jigokudani or “hell valley” is where you can witness sulphuric volcanic activities. This attraction is popular with tourists who visit Noboribetsu. One thing to note though is that some of my friends found the smell of sulphur too strong for their liking. Otherwise, it is a nice place for a leisurely stroll to walk off the sashimis, seafood and ramens that you have consumed during the trip.
Noboribetsu 059-0551, Hokkaido
2. Oyunuma Natural Footbath
There are walking trials from the Jigokudani to the Oyunuma Footbath. You just have to follow the signs along the walking trial. The walk takes about 20-30mins depending on your pace.
The Oyunuma Footbath is a sulphuric pond with a surface temperature of about 50 degree celsius.
What to Eat in Noboribetsu
Sobadokorofukuan (そば処 福庵)
In the town of Noboribetsu, you will be able to find a cosy soba shop that is rather popular with the locals. Sobadokorofukuan serves handmade noodles and made-to-order tempura. Even though I’m not a big fan of soba, I really liked the ones served here.
A meal which consist of tempura and soba noodles cost about ¥880 to ¥1650.
11:30AM – 2:00PM
6:00PM – 10:00PM
Lake Toya (Hokkaido Day 2)
Toyako Manseikaku Hotel (S$90.33 per pax, 3 to a room)
Toyako Manseikaku Hotel has got to be one of my favourite hotels during the trip. Have you seen that view?! Imagine waking up to that and you’ll understand why. BUT, that is not all. Lake Toya is also known for their nightly fireworks display that lasts not 5, not 10 but 20 minutes during the period of late April till late October. The fireworks starts from the left bank and extends all the way to the right bank of the lake.
21 Toyakoonsen, Toyako, Abuta District,
Hokkaido Prefecture 049-5721, Japan
Phone: +81 142-73-3500
Things to do in Lake Toya Guide to Hokkaido
1. Lake Hill Farm
A visit to Lake Hill Farm would be a more viable option for those with a car. Located about 9km away from where most of the hotels and restaurants are, Lake Hill farm is about a 10mins drive away. You can find really good ice cream there! They have a wide variety of flavours which includes interesting ones like Sakura, Mugwort and Pumpkin.
Besides catering to the ice-cream lovers, the animal lovers are in for a treat as well because you can find animals such as goats, rabbits and horses at Lake Hill Farm!
127 Hanawa, Toyako, Abuta District,
Hokkaido Prefecture 049-5724, Japan
October – April: 9:00AM – 5:00PM
April – October: 9:00AM – 7:00PM
2. Lake Toya Boat Cruise (Nakanoshima Cruise)
Photo from Tripadvisor by Andrew K.From the hot spring resorts, you will be able to take a “floating castle” a.k.a Nakanoshima Cruise to a nearby island – Nakajima Island (refer to map above). The following illustration by the cruise company shows various things that you can do on Nakajima Island.
Refer to http://www.toyakokisen.com/price/pdf/map2.pdf for a pdf version of this image.
Alternatively, you can also catch the Fireworks Cruise at night for an even better view of the fireworks display.
Nakanoshima Cruise Pier – Located behind Hotel Grand Toya
Fireworks Cruise Pier – Located between Toyako Manseikaku and Toya Park Hotel Tensho
Operating Hours for Nakanoshima Cruise:
[Late April – End October] 8:00AM to 4:30PM (30mins interval)
[Nov – Early April] 9:00AM – 4:00PM (60mins interval)
Nakanoshima Cruise – Regular Ticket (¥1420) Child Ticket (¥720)
Fireworks Cruise – Regular Ticket (¥1600) Child Ticket (¥800)
Note: Firewords Cruise operates from April 28 – October 31. Departs at approximately 8:30PM.
What to Eat in Lake Toya
So that was the view that greeted us when we were brought to our table. Check out the snow-capped mountain in the background! With a view like this, it is hard to not enjoy your dining experience, isn’t it? It is almost an unspoken rule that you should never leave Hokkaido without eating some fresh seafood. Since Sendoan is pretty famous for their scallop sashimi, two of my friends and I decided to order two portions to share amongst the three of us. After taking a bite of the scallop sashimi, the three of us ordered one more portion each. It is so hard to find sweet and fresh sashimi scallops of this size elsewhere. The best part??? 5 pieces of these scallops only costs ¥280!!! Please eat more of these if you’re planning on visiting.
144 Toyakoonsen, Toyako, Abuta District,
Hokkaido Prefecture 049-5721, Japan
(2F of Wakasaimo)
Hakodate (Hokkaido Day 3)
Hotel Dormy Inn Express Hakodate (S$42.60 per pax, 2 to a room)
After staying in onsen resorts for the first two nights, this hotel wasn’t anything spectacular. It is just a decent hotel with all the basic amenities. However, one plus point for this hotel is that all guests can enjoy free access to the luxurious hot spring baths on the top floor of La Vista Hakodate Bay Hotel. From the hot springs, you will be able to enjoy an unobstructed panoramic view of Hakodate City. Of all the hot springs that I’ve been to for the trip, the one at La Vista Hakodate Bay Hotel was my favourite.
Refer to http://travel.rakuten.co.jp/HOTEL/69295/CUSTOM/GW6929580320164858.html for pictures of the hot springs.
040-0011 Hokkaido, Hakodate,
Hon-cho 29-26, Japan
Things to do in Hakodate
1. Hakodate Morning Market (函館朝市)
The Hakodate Morning Market, a.k.a Hakodate Asaichi, has plenty to offer in terms of fresh seafood and souvenirs. In the market, you can find many stalls selling souvenirs like dried scallops. Due to the intense competition, it is okay to haggle with the stall owner. Samples of the products are also available upon request. The pictures say it all. Seafood in Japanese morning market is so fresh that in many cases, the seafood is still pretty much alive at the point of purchase. One thing that I learnt from visiting morning markets in Japan is that the food that they serve is usually as fresh as it can be.
Of all the activity that is unique to Hakodate Morning Market and considered a “Must Do” for many is the squid fishing activity. Located in the middle of the market, it is an activity that is quite hard to miss. For ¥1000, you will be able to fish for your own squid from the blue tank in the middle. After which, they will prepare squid sashimi from the squid that you caught.
You can watch the preparation process here (Some viewers may find the content of this video disturbing) : https://youtu.be/g892ulo1JUA
9-19 Wakamatsu-cho, Hakodate
[January – April] 6:00AM – 12:00PM (Some stalls may open till 2:00PM)
[May – December] 5:00AM – 12:00PM
2. Kanemori Red Brick Warehouses Guide to Hokkaido
When Hakodate Port opened in 1959, it was one of the first international trading ports of Japan. These brick warehouses were the first commercial warehouse to be built in Hakodate. More than 100 years later, these warehouses have been redeveloped into a shopping, dining and entertainment complex. The things that you can find in these warehouses ranges from cakes to stamps and souvenirs.
14-12 Suehiro-cho, Hakodate
9:30AM – 7:00PM (may vary seasonally)
Motomachi was the first area to prosper from the opening of Hakodate Port in 1959. Due to influence from overseas, the area acquired its western look which remains till this day.
Photo Credit: http://www.hakodate.travel/en/
You may choose to visit the Old British Consulate, Hakodate Public Hall and Russian Orthodox Church while you are in the area. Fees for these attractions range from ¥200 to ¥300.
Hakodate, Hokkaido Prefecture 040-0054
4. Mount Hakodate (函館山)
Mount Hakodate, a.k.a Hakodateyama, is where you can enjoy one of the top 3 night views in Japan. You can choose to reach the view point by ropeway, bus or car. I took the ropeway which departs from the Motomachi district. A round trip ropeway ticket costs ¥1200 for adults. Personally, I wasn’t thrilled by my experience at Mount Hakodate because it was extremely packed on the day that I went. Not only did my friends and I have to squeeze through the crowd to get a proper photo of the night view, we also spent much more time queuing for the ropeway than at the view point.
If you are planning on heading to the view point by car, do note that the road to the summit gets closed to individual car traffic in the evening from 5:00PM to 10:00PM.
Hakodate, Hokkaido Prefecture 040-0000
For more information on how to get there, refer to: http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e5354.html
5. Goryokaku (五稜郭)
Photo Credit: http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e5352.html
The Goryokaku is a star-shaped fort built toward the end of the Edo Period to defend Hakodate against the Western powers. You will be able to get this panoramic view of the Goryokaku from observation platform of the 107-metres Goryokaku Tower. The best time to visit would probably be during spring when about 1,600 cherry trees bloom.
Due to time constraint, my friends and I didn’t manage to visit the Goryokaku. Let me know about your experience if you’ve been there before!
44 Goryokakucho, Hakodate,
Hokkaido Prefecture 040-0001, Japan
Goryokaku Tower Address:
43-9, Goryokaku-cho, Hakodate
Hokkaido Prefecture 040-0001, Japan
Junior & High School Students: ¥630
Elementary School Students: ¥420
Children under 5: Free
[April 21 – October 20] 8:00AM – 5:00PM
[October 21 – April 20] 9:00AM – 6:00PM
What to Eat in Hakodate
Daimon Yokocho (大門横丁) Guide to Hokkaido
If you are a fan of Japanese food, Daimon Yokocho is definitely the place for you! It is where you can find about 26 small traditional shops selling all kinds of Japanese cuisine ranging from sushi to tempura and grilled chicken to ramen. My friends and I went there at about 3.00PM but that was probably a bad time because most of the shops weren’t open then. Shops usually start operating from 5:00PM onwards although you may be able to find some stalls catering to the lunch crowd. Guide to Hokkaido
7 Matsukaze-cho, Hakodate-shi
We did not plan to visit Snaffle’s during our trip because, as you may know, you can find it in Plaza Singapura (Singapore). I tried the ones in Plaza Singapura before and I didn’t find it particularly good. Guide to Hokkaido
Since there is a Snaffle’s outlet located just about 2mins walk away from Daimon Yokocho and my friends and I were craving for some desserts after our meal, we decided to drop by for some cakes. It turns out that for some reason, the catch cakes that you see in the picture above, is way better than the ones that you can find in Singapore. It is especially so for the cheese flavoured one. Don’t take my word for it. Try it yourself! Guide to Hokkaido
18-2 Wakamatsucho, Hakodate,
Hokkaido Prefecture 040-0063, Japan
Lucky Pierrot the name of a wildly popular hamburger chain amongst both locals and tourists that you have to know if you are planning to visit Hakodate. Despite its popularity, you can only find this chain in Hakodate. Since the chain is ranked as the No. 1 local hamburger chain in Japan, it was a must try for me.
One interesting thing about this chain is that they do not conform to the cookie cutter design and layout. In fact, they are more like a themed restaurant with each of their outlets adopting a different theme. You will be able to find themes like Audrey Hepburn, Flower and Santa Claus etc.
My friends and I tried their award winning dishes – Chinese Chicken Hamburger Set [¥650](Ranked No. 1 in terms of popularity) & Pork Cutlet Curry Rice [¥750]. Both dishes were so good that we had to go back to Lucky Pierrot once more the next day before we left Hakodate.
Location: Refer to map above for the general locations of a few of the Lucky Pierrot outlets represented by the burgers.
Good luck in the planning of your Hokkaido trip and may you enjoy Hokkaido as much as I did!
Watch this space for Guide to Hokkaido (北海道) – Pt. 2 for a comprehensive compilation of where to stay, what to do and what to eat in Otaru and Sapporo.