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Thursday, June 09, 2016

Hokkaido 8 days 7 nights Winter Itinerary

I travelled to Hokkaido, Japan in early January this year. The trip was planned rather at the last minute and this time instead of travelling as a couple, we travelled with his mom and my brother. A bigger group and more detailed planning was crucial as it was winter, which was harder to walk on street or backpack as we liked.

I am not posting about a budget trip to Hokkaido or a blog post that can cater for less than RM 2000 per pax. In this post, I will tell you all the places that I have visited in Hokkaido, what is worth and what is not worth the visit. I managed to cover quite a lot of places in Hokkaido, basically all the major/famous tourist spots including my skiing experience as well. Yes, you heard me! My budget included skiing as well. How much did I spent in total, check out at the end of this post. 

We travelled with AirAsia from KLIA2 to Shin-Chitose Airport, Hokkaido. This is the only direct flight from Kuala Lumpur to Hokkaido and it is limited to a certain date and time.

During our trip in Hokkaido, we travelled with rental car as we were travelling to 4 different cities, and taking the train was far more expensive than driving in Hokkaido after my calculation. Check out more from my previous post here on car rental in Hokkaido. 

You can also check out on the accommodation that I picked in this trip here.

8 days 7 nights Hokkaido Winter Itinerary:

Day 1-3: Hakodate
Day 3-4: Otaru
Day 4-5: Furano
Day 5-7: Sapporo
Day 8: Morning flight off to KUL


Accomodation: Hotel New Ohte
Hakodate guide map that I used to plan my trip in Hokodate.

Day 1: Rera Chitose Outlet mall- Lake Toyako -Mt Hakodate
Brunch: Food Forest, Rera Chitose Outlet mall
Dinner: Hakodate Dining GAYA

Kinotoya Bake
I found this shop in Shin-Chitose Airport once I arrived, it is located at the domestic departure area. Kinotoya is famous for it baked cheese tart. You just can't skip without trying out these tarts. Each tart is selling at 183 yen and 1080 yen for 6 pieces (1 box). I love these cheese tart, creamy soft cheese that you can't find any where in Malaysia.

Rera Chitose Outlet Mall
We visited the Rera Chitose Outlet Mall that is less than 5km from the airport. We went to have an early lunch before we start our long journey to Hakodate. Rera Chitose Outlet Mall is Hokkaido's largest outlet mall with 140 shops. 
If you are driving in Hokkaido, please ensure that you have the location's mapcode or phone numbers. All cars comes with GPS, however you are unable to type in English for road or place names, you will need to use the mapcode or phone number. For this case, we used the phone number to search the place. 

Rera Chitose Outlet Mall,  tel. no: 0123-42-3000

We visited the Food Forest (a.k.a food court). We found that the Udon shop was the only shop operating before 11am at that time, we have no choice but to have a bowl of udon as we are rushing to start our journey. The udon was delicious and it cost only 560 yen.

The journey from airport to Hokadate is around 3 and half hours, however as it was winter time, it took us around 4 and half hours as the road was slippery, you can hardly speed on the road. It is a bit tiring but I felt it is worth it once you see the place. 

Lake Toya
On the way, we stopped by Lake Toya for some photos. Lake Toya is an ice-free lake even when temperature dropped drastically during the winter, it never freezes. It is really cold that day, around -2 degree celcius, but we can still see white smoke coming out from the active volcano. It is indeed a must visit place if you are travelling down to Hakodate.

Lake Toya mapcode: 321 519 466*44
Lake Toya (Toyako)
Hakodate Dining Gaya
During winter, sunset is around 4-5pm. Around 6pm, the sky is as dark as 9 pm. A lot of the restaurant closes around 9pm. It is recommended to have your dinner early before they close. After a long day driving, we decided to simply dine in at a restaurant that is near to our hotel. This restaurant is just 1 min walking distance from our Hotel and around 5 mins walk from the train station. They do not have English menu but do come with a Chinese menu. The food was not bad but do not expect too much on it. The best I think is their teppayaki chicken set.

Mt. Hakodate
Next stop, we visited the Mt. Hakodate. A must visit place for an amazing view of Hakodate city. It was around 7.30pm, the weather was super cold around -7 degree Celsius. But the cold can't stop us from going up the mountain. Parking is free at the ropeway station, however you will need to walk around 5 mins to the ropeway station.

For the photographers alike, its highly recommended you bring your tripod here otherwise you'll regret it. My husband brought his all the way from home and it seemed ridiculous at first, but look at the picture below and thus we felt in the end it was well worth the hassle. Oh, and don't forget to use the widest lens you can find. You'll wish you could capture the whole scene in one picture!

Mt. Hakodate ropeway mapcode: 860 410 05
Operating hours: 10am-9pm
Admission fee: Round trip-1280 yen (adult)

View of Hakodate city

Day 2: Hakodate Asaichi Morning Market- Goryokaku Park and Goryokaku Tower
Kanemori Red Brick Warehouse- Old Public Hall of Hakodate Ward- Daimon Yokocho
Breakfast: Stall at Hakodate Asaichi Morning Market
Lunch: Lucky Pierrot Burger

Hokodate Asaichi Morning Market
It is just opposite our Hotel. As early as 5am, we can hear sounds of the pushing trolley from our window. In this market, it is famous for its seafood, you can also pick the seafood you like and pack it back to Malaysia as long as it is wrap nicely with the tax free sign. You can also find fresh sashimi or seafood for breakfast here.

Hakodate Asaichi Morning Market mapcode: 860 410 63

The most famous seafood you need to try when you are in Hokkaido is the King Crab! You just must try it out once in your life time. King crab certainly isn't cheap but it is worth a try. You can either have the fresh one or the frozen one. Frozen King crab is much, much more cheaper than the fresh King Crab.
This King Crab cost us around RM 700++ but it is definitely worth it. And we got 4 scallops for free.

This is the shop that we had our most expensive breakfast in our lives. Traditional shop with friendly owner, but you will need to speak Japanese with them, although they do speak some basic English.

Goryokaku Tower
Goryokaku is a massive star shaped, western style citadel that was built in the end of Edo Period to defend Hakodate against the imperialist threat posed by the Western power. From the Goryokaku tower, you can view the whole Goryokaku park and the city.

Goryokaku Tower map code: 861 650 27
Operating hour: 9am- 6pm
Admission fee: 840 yen

Tip for photographers: Definitely a wide or super wide lens is needed to capture the citadel in whole. Otherwise you'd have to stitch a panorama.

Kanemori Red Brick Warehouse 
This is where the first Japanese ports opened to international trade is located. It is a beautiful place for photo shooting. The only problem we had was that it was too cold! And a light blizzard (and by that I mean some rather heavy snow) came and we just couldn't stay outside for too long.

Kanemori Warehouse mapcode: 860 416 13

Lucky Pierrot Burger
At Kanemori, you can also find the famous Lucky Pierrot Burger which is just opposite the bay. There are a few branches around Hakodate. It is famous for its Chinese Chicken Burger but I found it to be overrated. The burger is quite small compared to a normal McD burger. The price ranges from 350 yen to 800 yen and the taste is not as delicious as it is reviewed, I still prefer Western burger.
Lucky Pierrot Burger

Old Public Hall of Hakodate Ward
Western looking wooden structure of the Old Public Hall, completed in 1910. When we arrived there, the place was closed as the business hours have ended. We didn't manage to get inside but we did take a nice photo of it.

Old Public Hall of Hakodate Ward mapcode: 860 404 65
Operating hour: 9am-5pm
Admission fee: 300 yen
Old Public Hall of Hakodate Ward

Daimon Yokocho
Daimon Yokocho is a collection of 26 small retro style restaurants and bars. You can find different kinds of Japanese cuisines from ramen to sushi, tempura and grilled chicken. Each restaurant is very small, if you have a big group you might need to visit different restaurants separately.

Daimon Yokocho Tel.:  0138-24-0033

Next morning after breakfast in Hakodate, we drove all the way to Otaru which took us about 5 hours. We stopped at the rest area for lunch before we proceeded to Otaru. Most of the rest areas in Hokkaido come with small eateries area, so you can always fill your stomach before you continue your journey again. Orders are made at the vending machine, we were so excited with the vending machine that we kept playing around with it like kids.


Accommodation: Smile Hotel Otaru
I used this guide map to plan my trip in Otaru. You can refer to it.

Day 3: Sakaimachi Street- Music Box Museum- Kitachi Glass- Otaru Canal & Canal Building

Music Box Museum
The largest music box museum shop, basically it is a big building selling all kinds of music boxes. It however wasn't like a music box display museum as I imagined. The museum is a  beautiful century-old building, designated as one of historic landmarks of Otaru City. It is definitely a place worth to visit.
Music Box Museum mapcode: 493 661 492
Operating hour: 9am-6pm
Admission fee: Free

If you are driving, you will need to park your car at the private parking spaces around the Sakaimachi street. You can't just dump your car at the roadside, it is illegal. Parking fee in town is more costly, about 200-400 yen per hour. In Otaru, basically, you just need to park your car at one place around Sakaimachi street and walk around. It is just a small town and all the famous shops and cafes are just a few steps away from each other.

Kitachi Glass Sangokan
Kitaichi Glass Sangokan is a historical stone on wood frame building dating back to 1891, originally constructed as a fishery warehouse. In 1983, they converted the building to contain a Kitaichi Glass sales outlet and café. If you are a glass lover like me, you can find a wide range of fine glass products here.

Kitachi Glass mapcode: 493 661 669
Operating hour: 9am-6pm
Admission fee: Free

Otaru 7 Layered Ice-cream
Beside the Kitachi Glass, there is a cafe selling the famous 7 layered ice-cream. You just have to try out the tall and 7 different flavours ice cream in a cone during the winter. It is freezing cold outside and people are queuing for ice- cream. It is crazy!

The one that I ordered came with 8 layers, it cost around 580 yen. It wasn't cheap but definitely worth trying out.

Another sweet dessert that you should try it out is the LeTao Fromage Double cheese cake. It is also located around the Sakaimachi Street. There is a LeTao cafe where you can try out their cheese cakes and coffee, but we are late that day and it was closed by the time we arrived. So, we grabbed the cheese cake before we leave. 

LeTao Fromage Double give us the exact experience as they stated below:
Just one bite and you will experience the taste in your mouth that melts like snow, the rich milky taste that brings instant joy, and the aesthetically modest sweetness. The upper layer is creamy smooth no-bake cheesecake, and the lower layer is rich, tasty baked cheesecake. 

Kurage (海月)
We had our dinner in this authentic traditional Japanese restaurant that we found on the way. All the food were very delicious especially the sushi. There isn't any English menu but the owner was very friendly and patiently tried to explain every single dish on the menu to us in Japanese. Anyway, all their staffs can only speak in Japanese, so it will be hard if you can't communicate with them in Japanese. Nevertheless, I would encourage you to pop into one of these old looking Japanese restaurants, to experience how is it like to dine like the locals. 
Total spent: 7462 yen

Otaru Canal & Canal Building
I would recommend to come over here during night time. The place is decorated with lights all around the canal. During the day, it was packed with busses and tourists that we can hardly walk around.
Otaru Canal mapcode: 493 690 796


Our destination the next day was Furano, roughly 2 and half hours drive from Otaru. Be warned that if you drive there in winter, you'll pass a mountain route which is very slippery and lots of blind turns. Take your time and drive very carefully at this mountain pass, and you will be rewarded with a spectacular view all the way. Halfway in the pass we came across Lake Katsurazawa, you will see some signs and suddenly there will be a turning in on the highway. The snow was alarmingly thick here, but you can park in the car park and walk down towards the frozen lake.

There, if you're lucky and the weather is clear, the view is truly breathtaking and is a definite hidden gem here in Hokkaido. You can watch the locals doing some winter lake fishing here, while enjoying the view.

Day 4:  New Furano Prince Hotel (Skiing)-Ningle Terrance and Furano Kan Kan Mura
Accomodation: Log Yukari
Lunch: Curry Shop Furanoya
Dinner: Torisei

Curry Shop Furanoya
One of the many delicacies that you must try out in Furano is the Curry rice. I searched from foursquare and found this place. It is a cafe concept that operated by young people. Furanoya specializes in their soup curry, very different from those normal Japanese curry rice with a bit of Indian curry taste. Very unique and delicious! Furanoya allows customer to choose the level of spiciness of their curry from number 1-10. You can also choose the portion of rice you would like to have. However, this shop do not have English menu, luckily there are photos on the menu which allows us to pick from it. A must try out place for curry. Total Spent: 4760yen

New Prince Hotel Ski Resort
There are two skiing area in Furano, one is at the Prince Hotel and New Prince Hotel. You can check out the map here. We went to the New Prince Hotel Ski Resort which is directly the place of Kan Kan Mura. The ski area is located at first floor of the resort. If you are beginner, I would recommend you to get a basic lesson from the Skiing School before you start on your own. It would be best that you allocate one full day just for skiing, you will enjoy the whole process. We didn't manage to join the group lesson as we arrived Furano around noon time. However, his brother and friends were there for the past week, so we just joined them and got some lessons from them.

New Prince Hotel Tel. No.: 0334-40-1111

To be able to ski, you need to have full ski equipment. Ski equipment fee is charge per day and you will also need lift/ropeway ticket to use the gondola. It will cost you a bit more if you plan to include skiing in your itinerary. It is very exhausting, and we fell many many times. But it is definitely a worthy experience. Do however be careful when skiing and try not to go too fast as accidents can happen. We learned to just fall on our side when we couldn't handle the speed, luckily the snow here is very soft and powdery which made it much less painful than we thought.

Ningle Terrace and Kan Kan Mura
After the ski, we visited the Ningle Terrace and Kan Kan Mura which is just located beside the hotel entrance. Ningle Terrace is a 15 log cabins which display different crafts connected by boardwalks in the forest, there is everything from wooden toys to glass-blowing to candles to paper products. Kan Kan Mura is located at the end of Ningle Terrace, however it was too dark for us to walk on the snow path so we decided to skip it. It is best to visit around 4-5pm when the sky is just going dark. 

Tips for photographers: Here is a great place for photography! Do take lots of pictures here!

The signboard of a big chicken attracted us to dine in. It is a restaurant that specializes in yakitori and BBQ chicken. Yakitori is always best to go with a glass of beer. It  felt so nice especially after a long day of skiing in the snow. The place is quite small and full of smoke as they bbq the yakitori inside the restaurant. Try it out if you are a person who like yakitori. Total Spent: 10950yen

Torisei Tel. No.: 0167-23-1189

Day 5: Furano Cheese Factory-Farm Tomita

Furano Cheese Factory
During winter, the main activity is skiing in Furano therefore only a few places are open. The best time to visit Furano is during Summer time where all the lavender fields will be in bloom. We visited the cheese factory where it opened all year round. In the cheese factory, you get to see the production process of the local cheese behind the window. Besides that, there is also an ice cream factory and pizza factory as well as hands on workshop for making butter, ice-cream, bread and cheese.

Furano Cheese Factory mapcode: 550 840 177
Operating hour: 9am-5pm (Apr-Oct); 9am-4pm (Nov- Mar)
Admission fee: Free

Furano fresh milk is a must have. We were so crazy over it that we bought so many bottles to store in order to have it everyday during our stay in Hokkaido. So far, we only can find this milk in Furano. You hardly can find in other cities or any convenient stores. These fresh milk is definitely the best milk we had in our lives.

Farm Tomita
We decided to have a try even though we know that during winter the whole lavender and flower field will be covered with snow. Fortunately, they are open during the winter. You can still view the lavender flowers from the small and warm green house. Nothing much else to do here so don't expect too much from here during the winter.

Farm Tomita Tel no.: 0167-23-1156
Operating hour: 9.30an-4.30pm (Dec-Mar)
Admission fee: Free


We spent our last 3 nights in Sapporo with more rest and relaxed travelling. We actually returned the 4WD car and rented a smaller car to travel in the city. It is cheaper and easier for parking.

Day 5: Sapporo Beer Garden and Museum
Dinner: Hakataumakamom Buaiso

Sapporo Beer Garden and Museum
Sapporo Beer brewed in Sapporo since 1877 and it is one of the oldest beer brands in Japan. The museum introduces the history of the beer and the process of beer making but mostly in Japanese. After the exhibition, there is a hall where you can sit down for beer tasting. We tried out 3 types beers - Black Label, Classic and Kaitakushi Beer for 500 yen. Or, you can still choose either one of it for 200 yen. You will need to get a ticket from the ticket machine to get your beer. Just don't skip the beer tasting, worth to try out the experience. Cheers!

Sapporo Beer Garden and Museum tel. no.: 1117-48-1876
Operating Hour: 10.30am-6.30pm
Admission fee: Free

Hakataumakamom Buaiso
It was really cold that day, so we decided to have dinner nearby our Hotel. We wanted some hot pot so I found this place through foursquare. It is a famous place for the local working adults. We reached around 7pm and the place was packed and noisy. Most of the food come with beef, however we specially requested them to change all the meat to pork as some of us can't take beef. Luckily the staff we friendly and they happily did so, and the menu only came in Japanese, so it was hard to make orders when they don't speak English at all.

Nevertheless, their hotpot is really nice. One hotpot is able to cater for two persons, however they require a minimum order of two hotpots. So it is best to come in a group as you need to order at least two hotpots to dine in. I wasn't sure whether this was a special rule and I've not seen it written anywhere, better double check if you decide to visit here. Total Spent: 6670 yen 

Day 6: Nijo Fish Market- Shiroi Koibito Park- Mount Moiwa
Tea Time: Plantation cafe
Dinner: Yoshiyamashouten

Nijo Fish Market
Popular market in Sapporo that you can find fresh seafood like crabs, salmon egg, sea urchin and dried seafood. All morning markets in Hokaido are around the same. You may skip this if you are lacking of time.

Nijo Market mapcode: 9 493 642
Operating hour: 7am-6pm

Shiroi Koibito Park
Shiroi Koibito Park is designed as an entertainment zone where visitors can enjoy a variety of  attractions, such as observation of Shiroi Koibito Cookies production line, cookies making at the Cookiecraft Studio and Ishiya's original sweets at cafe. Besides, you can also find the toy exhibition room, choco time tunnel, gramophone gallery and etc. 

Shiroi Koibito Park mapcode: 960 330 0
Operating hour: 9am-6pm
Admission fee: 600yen
Parking: Free

Shiroi Koibito Cookies Production Line

Mount Moiwa
Mount Moiwa is one of the popular sightseeing spots that is located at the southwest of central Sapporo. You will need to take ropeway to a transfer station then take a mini cable car to reach the summit. However due to winter time, the mini cable is not operating. Instead of mini cable car, we were transferred to the summit using their "Morris Go". The view is beautiful especially after sunset, it is recommended to go around sunset time so that you can view both sunset and night time views.

Mount Moiwa mapcode: 9 400 462
Operating Hour: 10.30am-11pm
Admission Fee: 1700 yen (round trip for ropeway and mini cable) 

Mt Moiwa Ropeway
Morris Go
Stunning view from the summit

Plantation Coffee
A cafe famous for its own blends of home-roasted coffee and home-made desserts. Plantation is Morihico's 4th cafe in town. It is situated in a former warehouse where they transformed it into a double-storey cafe. A very unique transformation and decoration in the cafe. The desserts were delicious  too, however the coffee is a bit too rich for us. Total Spent: 4850yen

Plantation Tel. No: 050-5590-0342
Operating hour: Mon-Thurs, Sun - 11am-10pm; Fri & Sat-11am-10.30pm

Yoshiyamashouten (らーめん吉山商店 札幌らーめん共和国店)
This is a ramen shop that we found it inside the BIC Camera building, it is located at the top floor. This shop is under the Sapporo Ramen Republic where you can find all ramen shop inside here. I ordered the spicy ramen and it turned out to be quite spicy. Overall the ramen was not bad but not the best. Total Spent: 4126yen.

Photo credits from chikuwachan website

Day 7- Sapporo TV tower - Tanukikoji Shopping Arcade
On the last day, we basically just walked around the Sapporo city from our hotel to Sapporo TV tower. We spent the whole day shopping in Tanukikoji Shopping Arcade and BIC camera. It was rather a relaxed trip before we depart the next morning.

Sapporo TV Tower
Mapcode: 952 303 6
Operating Hour: 9.30am-9pm
Admission fee: 720yen

If you are looking for Hokkaido's souvenir to buy, you can find it all in Tanukikoji Shoping Arcade .

This is the shop that we bought all the Hokkaido confectionery and snacks. You can request to pack all your goods in boxes and seal it. It is free and the price is slightly cheap as well.

This is the donut shop that is always packed and there are long queues after work. On the last day, we decided to join the queue and try out their donuts. The wide variety of donuts will make you crazy, it took us a while to select our donuts.

Here we are with 6 pieces of Donuts, and most of it are really delicious! Total Spent: 776yen

Day 8 Flying back to KUL
We took the earliest rapid train from Sapporo station to Chitose Airport which took around 1 hour. It cost around 1590 yen per person. Remember to reserve some cash before you depart. You can get the ticket from the ticket machine easily.

Conclusion for this Hokkaido trip is splendid. We managed to overcome the winter cold after the 3rd day in Hokkaido. Driving in winter wasn't that bad, we did encounter snow storms twice during our journey but it was a good experience as long as you drive carefully and slowly. One thing that we regretted is that we should have spent more days in Furano as it was really a beautiful place even though most of the fields is covered with snow. The place gave us a feeling of peace and quiet. Skiing experience is really good, made us fall in love with skiing. We will definitely come back again!

You can view here for all the tourist spot mapcode in Hokkido.

Here are the total expenses I have spent per person (with currency of  1 yen= RM 0.037) :

Flight: RM 1,150(booked two months ahead)
Accommodation: RM 1,323 (Avg RM 189 per night, you can get even lower price if book early)
Food: RM 1,000 (we really eat a lot and buy a lot of snacks)
Rental Car: RM 666
Parking & Petrol: RM 127
Rental Ski Equipment:  RM 300 (Half day)
Admission fee: RM 165
Total: RM 4,731 (excl. souvenir)

As I mentioned in the beginning, this is not a tight budget trip but rather an enjoyable and manageable trip. You can always adjust your plan according to your budget.

I hope my post will be able to help you to plan your trip in Hokkaido. If you any questions, drop me a comment below. :)


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