Hokkaido Journals

Hokkaido, the JR Express Experience

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A November 2004 trip to Hokkaido by Composthp

Nibushi-no-sato Photo, Hokkaido, Japan More Photos
Quote: With no drivers license and limited time, we explored Hokkaido via the JR train. We took a domestic flight from Tokyo to Sapporo and travelled by train to Obhiro, Kushiro, Kawayu Onsen, and Kamikawa. From there we headed back to Sapporo, Otaru, and Hakodate, where we flew back to Tokyo.

Hokkaido, the JR Express Experience

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Overview

Crab caviar Photo, Hokkaido, Japan
Quote:
This trip turned out to be a mini Amazing Race, of sorts, given how ambitious we were, to see as much Hokkaido as we could in just 10 days. We seemed to be always running to catch either the train or bus. At each destination, it became a race against time to catch all the sights before the sun set at 4pm. Touring Hokkaido during the low tourist season has many advantages. We enjoyed winter discounts from all the places we had stayed in, and in some places, we were the only foreign guests. This worked to our advantage when it came to soaking in the onsens, since we are shy and prefer privacy while bathing. The rudest shock we had was how early the sun sets each day. Our bodies were abl...Read More
Ekimae Hotel Adachi Photo, Hokkaido, Japan
Quote:
This hotel is a typical dingy business hotel with clean, cramped rooms and tiny, pre-fabricated bathrooms that only toddlers can fit in comfortably. However, this hotel does have some redeeming qualities and was the site of an unforgettable experience. The most redeeming quality of this hotel was the price. With room rates going for as little as 3,000 yen (US$30) per night for a double-bedded room, this hotel was the cheapest place we stayed during our trip. The proximity is another plus point. Located less than a 5-minute walk from JR Kushiro train station and the Akan bus interchange, and 10 minutes from shops and restaurants, one cannot quibble too much. It is also quiet, as it is...Read More

Member Rating 2 out of 5 on January 1, 2005

Ekimae Hotel Adachi
12-2 Suehiro-Cho, Kushiro-Shi
Hokkaido, Japan
(54) 223-111

Hotel Northern Lodge

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Hotel

Hotel Northern Lodge Photo, Hokkaido, Japan
Quote:
Hotel Northern Lodge is a petite hotel located at the foot of Mount Kurodake. With the ropeway and bus station just a mere 5-minute walk away, it is an ideal base to explore the Daisetsu range and Sounkyo region. The Western-style rooms are large and beautifully furnished, with subtle product endorsements of their souvenirs scattered around the room for guests to try. These products can be purchased at their souvenir store on the ground floor. Our room had a view of the snow-covered main street and the Ishikawa river. We paid 10,500 yen (US$102) per person. The room rate included a full-course Japanese Kaiseke set dinner an...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on January 1, 2005

Hotel Northern Lodge
Sounkyo koen Machi, Kamikawa cho,
Hokkaido, Japan
6585-3231

Toyoko Inn Hakodate Daimon

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Hotel

Toyoko Inn Hakodate Daimon Photo, Hokkaido, Japan
Quote:
Of all the places we stayed in Japan, this hotel offers the most value-added services. This hotel is centrally located to the tram, JR train, and bus stations, as well as shops and restaurants. It is a convenient base to explore Hakodate.For the price of 5040 yen (US$50) per person (twin-sharing), guests enjoy free breakfast consisting of unlimited servings of assorted flavoured onigiri (rice balls), tea/coffee, miso soup, and pickles, free corn soup in the afternoon, and free Japanese curry rice (said to be some of the best in town) for dinner. In addition, guests can check their emails (wireless LAN) or surf the net in the lobby without extra charge (you ha...Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on January 1, 2005

Toyoko Inn Hakodate Daimon
5-1 Matsukaze-cho
Hokkaido, Japan
0138-24-1045

Nibushi-no-sato

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Hotel

Nibushi-no-sato Photo, Hokkaido, Japan
Quote:
In the native Ainu language, Ni means wood and Bushi denotes the sound of woods being torn apart when the temperatures drop as low as -30°F. This is a cozy family-run minshuku, boasting a natural hot spring bath with a view of Lake Kussharo. Situated by the lake and surrounded by woodland in the Akan National Park, this is an ideal place to rest and relax. The minshuku has a total of 23 Japanese-styled tatami rooms for up to 60 guests. For the price of ¥7,500 (US$73) per person, we had a room with a beautiful view of the lake, delicious Japanese set dinners and breakfasts (the menu is simply too long to include here), an...Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on January 1, 2005

Nibushi-no-sato
Kawayu Nibushi Onsen, Teshikaga-cho
Hokkaido, Japan
(54) 832-206

Ramen City

Restaurant | "Ramen City, Sapporo"

Ramen City Photo, Hokkaido, Japan
Quote:
Sapporo prides itself on its ramen: yellow egg noodles cooked al dente, served in a wide-brimmed Chinese porcelain bowl with slices of char siew (broiled/BBQ pork), assorted vegetables (usually bean sprouts), or assorted seafood (including Hokkaido crabmeat). Customers have a choice of soup: shoyu (soy sauce) is a lighter, clearer soup base, or miso base, which is thicker and richer in taste. Both are served piping hot, with toppings of choice and a thick layer of oil. Although ramen can be found almost anywhere in Sapporo, the majority of the ramen shops are clustered around and at Susukino, 5 minutes' walk from Susukino subway station. Head for Yokocho lane for some of the best ramen in town. ...Read More

Member Rating 3 out of 5 on January 14, 2005

Ramen City
Susukino Subway Station
Hokkaido, Japan

Kushiro Shitsugen National Park

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Attraction

Kushiro Shitsugen National Park Photo, Hokkaido, Japan
Quote:
The Kushiro Shitsugen National Park is the largest marshland in Japan and home to the protected graceful Japanese red cranes. The best way to see the marshlands is by the JR Senmo train that cuts across it. With less than 5 hours of daylight left, we were hard-pressed for time to see the marshlands and the cranes at the Tsurumidai feeding ground. Fortunately, we met a quick-thinking guide at the tourist information booth who mapped up our itinerary for the day, right down to the train/bus departure times. We hopped onto the local JR Senmo train and headed for the marshlands. At JR Kushiro Shitsugen station (a cute little wooden cabin), we alighted on a wooden platform and made our wa...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on January 2, 2005

Kushiro Shitsugen National Park
Kushiro
Hokkaido, Japan

Sounkyo Gorge

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Attraction

Sounkyo Gorge Photo, Hokkaido, Japan
Quote:
Sounkyo is an onsen tourist town famed for its waterfalls: the Ryusei-no-taki (Shooting Stars Falls) and Ginga-no-taki (Milky Way Falls). It is also the gateway to the Mount Daisetsuzan and Kurodake, popular among hikers in any season. Lesser-known sights are Obako (Big Box), Kobako (Little Box), Lake Taisetsu, and the Taisetsu Dam. Of course, a visit to Sounkyo would not be complete without a soak in one of the many spas available in town. For the none-too-adventurous, visitors can take the ropeway (1650 yen/US$16) to the mid-point of Mt. Daisetsuzan. Unfortunately, visitors are not allowed onto the chairlift to Kurodake Peak unless they intend to ski (*sigh*). Nevertheless, the views during as...Read More

Member Rating 3 out of 5 on January 3, 2005

Sounkyo Gorge
Sounkyo
Hokkaido, Japan

Studio Ghibli Museum

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Attraction | "In search of Totoro: Ghibli Museum"

Studio Ghibli Museum Photo, Tokyo, Japan
Quote:
To an anime fan, especially fans of Hayao Miyazaki, visiting the Ghibli Museum ranks as top priority. This museum has one theme: "Let's lose our way together." Truly, this unique building seemed to be almost lost amidst the towering oak and cedar trees. Visitors are greeted by enthusiastic staff members who direct you to the main gate-keeper, a life-size Totoro. Alas, Totoro is well-protected from the fans' eager hands (*sob*). Allow 2 hours to explore the museum. This includes a one-time entry to a...Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on January 3, 2005

Studio Ghibli Museum
1-1-83, Shimo-renjaku, Mitaka City
Tokyo, Japan

Edo-Tokyo Open Air Architectural Museum

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Attraction | "Spirited Away: Edo-Tokyo Architectural Museum"

Edo-Tokyo Open Air Architectural Museum Photo, Tokyo, Japan
Quote:
This museum may seemed a mouthful, but for fans of Hayao Miyazaki's animated movie, Spirited Away, this museum is another must-see. From the bathhouse to the tram, fans will be able to identify many of the buildings here, for this was where the master drew his inspiration from. This is an open-air museum set up by the Tokyo Metropolitan government with the sole purpose of preserving designated buildings of historical value from the Edo period for future generations. It spans 7 hectares. We spent a delightful afternoon reliving the movie, taking in the sights, and clowning around with the exhibits. Ask for an English brochure that prov...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on January 4, 2005

Edo-Tokyo Open Air Architectural Museum
Koganei Park
Tokyo, Japan

Snow Brand Milk Products Historical Museum

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Attraction

Snow Brand Milk Products Historical Museum Photo, Hokkaido, Japan
Quote:
This was one of the first places we visited upon reaching Sapporo. The Snow Brand Milk Products Historical Museum was built in 1975 on the company’s 50th anniversary in commemoration of the company's history. The Sapporo plant dates as far back as 1926; it now produces milk products and yogurt for Megmilk. The adjacent Lotte Snow Sapporo plant churns out 16,000 liters of ice cream per day. Upon registering, visitors are led into the main exhibit hall by a guide. The 20-minute tour includes a brief history of the company, the production process, and finally, a free sampling of the products; the latter was definitely the highlight of the tour for us. ...Read More

Member Rating 3 out of 5 on January 6, 2005

Snow Brand Milk Products Historical Museum
6-1-1, Naebo-cho, Higashi-ku
Hokkaido, Japan

Asa-Ichi: Hakodate Morning Market Photo, Hokkaido, Japan
Quote:
The Asa-ichi is a bustling morning market that opens daily from 5am to noon, although most of the action will be over by 8am. Tourists stream in by the busloads thereafter (we stopped counting after 20 coaches). The sun finally broke through the clouds on this day (it was three days of rain and dreary weather prior), lifting everyone's spirits and appetites. It was our last chance to see and taste the famed Hokkaido crabs, although ika (squid) seemed to be their main produce. Stall after stall, the vendors call out to tourists, handing out samples of piping hot crabmeat to lure them in. Competition seemed stiff, as vendors laid out their seafood in attractive displays. The streets smelled of sw...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on January 8, 2005

Asa-Ichi: Hakodate Morning Market
Three minute walk from the JR Hakodate station
Hokkaido, Japan

Christmas fantasy in Hokkaido

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Attraction

Christmas fantasy in Hokkaido Photo, Hokkaido, Japan
Quote:
Even though the majority of the Japanese population are Buddhists, Christmas is celebrated more as a season of commercial exploitation than of religious significance. Every Christmas, the Odori Koen in Sapporo and the waterfront warehouses and Motomachi district are illuminated with thousands of lights and twinkles. Odori Koen, Sapporo The Odori Koen is a 1.5km promenade and is 10 to 15 minutes’ walk from the Sapporo station. The main landmark is the TV tower, where visitors pay 700 yen for a panoramic view of Sapporo city. This is also the venue for its famed annual Sapporo Snow festival. Since we were too early for the...Read More

Member Rating 3 out of 5 on January 13, 2005

Christmas fantasy in Hokkaido
Odori Koen and Kanemori Waterfront warehouses
Hokkaido, Japan

Hakodate City Museum of Northern Peoples Photo, Hokkaido, Japan
Quote:
This museum is a short walk from the Suehiro-cho tram station. Housed in one of the oldest buildings in Hakodate are artifacts from the indigenous peoples (the Ainu), tracing their history, culture, and beliefs. Displays are on the first and second stories (the third level was closed to the public at the time of our visit). The first level reconstructed a typical day in the life of the Ainu, through clothing, jewelry, crockery, etc. On the second level are displays tracing their religious beliefs and history. There is also a little activity area for children (and adults) where visitors are taught to create Ainu patterns using pape...Read More

Member Rating 3 out of 5 on January 15, 2005

Hakodate City Museum of Northern Peoples
21-7, Suehiro-cho
Hokkaido, Japan

The Poetry of Gods: Akan National Park

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Story/Tip

Hissing vents of Mt Io Photo, Hokkaido, Japan
Quote:
The Akan National Park is situated in Eastern Hokkaido. It spans 905 square kilometers and has many natural attractions, like volcanic peaks, large caldera lakes, and ancient forests. In winter, the most popular activities seemed to be sightseeing and soaking in the numerous natural hot springs. Hiking, camping, canoeing, cycling, and other more physical activities are popular during other seasons. Kussharo-ko/Lake Kussharo This lake is the largest inland lake in Hokkaido and the world's second largest crater lake. It is also home to hundreds of swans that migrated here from Russia. Also spotted were flocks of Mandarin ducks and seagulls vying for food handed out by vi...Read More

Otaru: Of glass, music boxes, and canals

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Story/Tip

Otaru Music Box Museum Main building Photo, Hokkaido, Japan
Quote:
Otaru, once a herring town/major commercial city in the early 1900s, is steeped in history and historical buildings. Its proximity to Sapporo makes this a popular destination for day-trippers. The compact town can be easily explored on foot or by the trolley bus. There are three main attractions in Otaru that are approximately a 8- to 10-minute walk from the JR Otaru station. They are situated along the Ironai Street, formerly known as the "Wall street of Hokkaido." The Otaru Canal (Otaru Unga) is a must-see for all visitors. It is best viewed at dusk, when the canal is lighted by gas lamps lining one side and the historic brick warehouses are reflected in the waters. We were, ...Read More