To-dos in Abashiri

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About an hour drive from the town of Abashiri lies a park covered by pink moss. A long name – Higashimokoto Shibazakura Park.

Good for photos + a few snack shops. Prices of snacks are quite consistent across the country. Oh, this park comes with a go-kart circuit – meh, cause the cars are speed limited and the track is boring.

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Want something slightly closer? Visit the Shiretoko-goto lakes. Nice place for photos and to just admire the landscape. This place reminded me of New Zealand – tranquil area + mountains as far as the eyes can see.

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Here’s a picture. I think I can nua here the whole day.

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Finally, if you are going on a self-drive holiday, check out the Road to Heaven.

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Click here for the Itinerary in Summary; details in the following articles:

Protip #1: Taking the wheel in Hokkaido
Protip #2: Enjoying some rest in the restroom
Protip #3: Avoiding bill shock at restaurants
Protip #4: Chilling and dropping off at convenience stores
Protip #5: Taking the Dreamliner Boeing 787

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To-dos in Shimukappu (Tomamu Resort)

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The Tomamu resort is a fine place. Plenty of places to explore within the compound. The first to-do is to snuggle in bed with your pillows and bolsters as company. At such low temperatures, why not?

If not, check out the Mina-mina man-made beach. A free shuttle service will get you there. Not far away.

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It feels just like the real thing, just without sand and sea breeze. The air’s toasty and the water’s cool. It becomes a wave pool every 30 minutes. Come in your beach wear. More adventurous, go butt naked and enjoy the warm still water at the onsen in the same building.

Another highlight of Tomamu resort is the Unkai Terrace aka Sea of Clouds. High up in the mountains, you can literally see waves of clouds rolling by the observation deck. Beautiful stuff. But, you gotta be up very, very early. Opening hours: 5am to 7am.

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A gondola ride will get you up there. Bring your winter wear. It will be cold up there.

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Photo | BIG_MOUSE | Leaving the resort behind us

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Photo | BIG_MOUSE | Broke through the gloomy clouds’ few minutes away from the peak

But like all of nature, its occurrence is not a given. Strong winds will render the gondola system unusable; too rainy and the rolling clouds won’t appear. Always check the TVs for its status before leaving the room. The hotel has a TV channel just for this use.

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Click here for the Itinerary in Summary; details in the following articles:

Protip #1: Taking the wheel in Hokkaido
Protip #2: Enjoying some rest in the restroom
Protip #3: Avoiding bill shock at restaurants
Protip #4: Chilling and dropping off at convenience stores
Protip #5: Taking the Dreamliner Boeing 787

To-dos in Toyako

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The Shikotsu-Toya National Park will likely be your first stop, as the hotels are all around the area. Apart from catching the fireworks display at night, daytime activities are aplenty.

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At the back of your hotel, you will be able to do your lakeside runs, get yourself on a paddle boat or go for a quick spin around the lake on a motorised craft. Or just have a seat and take in the views.

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A fan of sculptures? Many, many peppered around the lake. It’s like an outdoor art museum.

Venturing further out by car, you will be able to visit another kind of museum. One that preserves exhibits from past volcanic activities in this area.

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It was an eye-opening experience, seeing for the first time the power of eruptions and the destruction they can cause.

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The museum extends outside the visitor centre. A short trek away are buildings kept as they are after the last eruption in 2000.

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An hour drive away from Lake Toya lies Noboribetsu Onsen.

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Note: The area carries a strong sulphur odour. Very strong. But the view’s fantastic here. Living, breathing mountain.

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Click here for the Itinerary in Summary; details in the following articles:

Protip #1: Taking the wheel in Hokkaido
Protip #2: Enjoying some rest in the restroom
Protip #3: Avoiding bill shock at restaurants
Protip #4: Chilling and dropping off at convenience stores
Protip #5: Taking the Dreamliner Boeing 787

Accommodation in Sapporo, Hokkaido (Hotel Mystays Premier Sapporo Park)

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Photo | BIG_MOUSE | Mesmerising view from the room

Name: Hotel Mystays Premier Sapporo Park (ホテルマイステイズプレミア札幌パーク)

Address: 〒064-0809 Hokkaido Prefecture, Sapporo, Chuo Ward, Minami 9 Jonishi, 2 Chome−2−10(Note: there are two Mystays hotel in this area. Premier and non-premier)

Map code: 9 463 578*03

Approx room rate per pax: 24,000 Yen (the most expensive hotel for this trip)

Parking rate: 1,000 Yen per night for the vehicles <1.55 metre high; 1,200 Yen for vehicles >1.55 metre. Valet parking is compulsory.

Free Wi-Fi access: Yes. Shared and can be a little slow.

My rating: 3.5/5

Thumbs-up:

  • Off-street parking lots; 30-second walk away from the hotel reception
  • Big bottles of shampoo and body foam
  • Daily housekeeping service
  • Free, unlimited access to onsen and shower facilities.
  • Located in a more secluded part (quieter and all), the main streets are just about a 10-minute walk away.
  • Drinking water available from the tap in the room bathroom.

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Room for improvement:

  • Staff couldn’t quite understand our requests; language barrier
  • No in-hotel washing and drying machines. Thankfully, you will find a couple of purpose-build shops around town – up to 10-min drive away. We tried “Great Coin Laundry by Clean Star” – 1,000 Yen for 60-min wash and dry. Much more ex, but more convenient.

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Some notes:

  • Hotels typically charge for parking. Parking rates may vary according to the size of your car.
  • Space is a premium in Japan, so don’t expect super spacious rooms.
  • All hotels we stayed at provided Febreeze or an equivalent. Thumbs up man. Good for them shoes or the carpet.

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Click here for the Itinerary in Summary; details in the following articles:

Protip #1: Taking the wheel in Hokkaido
Protip #2: Enjoying some rest in the restroom
Protip #3: Avoiding bill shock at restaurants
Protip #4: Chilling and dropping off at convenience stores
Protip #5: Taking the Dreamliner Boeing 787

Accommodation in Abashiri, Hokkaido (Toyoko Inn Abashiri Ekimae)

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Name: Toyoko Inn Abashiri Ekimae

Address: 1 Chome-3-3 Shinmachi, Abashiri-shi, Hokkaidō

Map code:  305 675 176*36

Approx room rate per pax: 8,600 Yen (about a third of the cost of the hotels. thumbs up)

Parking rate: No charge

Free Wi-Fi access: Yes. Unique passcodes in every room.

My rating: 4/5 (Mainly cause the rates are much more affordable.)

Thumbs-up:

  • Off-street parking lots; just behind the hotel
  • Extremely polite service staff
  • Big bottles of shampoo and body foam
  • In-hotel washing and drying machines – two machines each, situated in the laundry room a couple of footsteps from the hotel reception. 100 Yen for 30-min wash and 200 Yen for 30-min drying cycle. No need to bring your own detergent. Heavily used from dinner onwards
  • Right next to the train station
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Photo | BIG_MOUSE | Single bedded room. Super comfy bed.

Room for improvement:

  • Staff couldn’t quite understand our requests; language barrier
  • No housekeeping service. Pay a fee to get them to change the towels.
  • Simple breakfast, but that’s how they keep their costs low.
  • Drinking water not available in the rooms. Gotta use the dispenser in the lobby. Another way to keep costs low.

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Some notes:

  • Hotels typically charge for parking. Parking rates may vary according to the size of your car.
  • Space is a premium in Japan, so don’t expect super spacious rooms.
  • All hotels we stayed at provided Febreeze or an equivalent. Thumbs up man. Good for them shoes or the carpet.

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Click here for the Itinerary in Summary; details in the following articles:

Protip #1: Taking the wheel in Hokkaido
Protip #2: Enjoying some rest in the restroom
Protip #3: Avoiding bill shock at restaurants
Protip #4: Chilling and dropping off at convenience stores
Protip #5: Taking the Dreamliner Boeing 787

Accommodation in Shimukappu, Hokkaido (Hoshino Resorts Tomamu The Tower)

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Photo | BIG_MOUSE | Spot the twin towers from the resort’s cable car system

Name: Hoshino Resorts Tomamu The Tower (星野リゾート トマム ザ・タワー)

Address: Shimukappu-mura, Yūfutsu-gun, Hokkaidō 079-2204

Map code: 608 511 246*30

Approx room rate per pax: 23,000 Yen

Parking rate: No charge

Free Wi-Fi access: Yes

My rating: 5/5 (Perfect score – cool weather, buffet of food options and just so resort-y. My favourite accomm.)

Thumbs-up:

  • Off-street parking lots; 2-minute walk away from the hotel reception
  • Extremely polite service staff
  • Big bottles of shampoo and body foam
  • Daily housekeeping service
  • In-hotel washing and drying machines – plenty of machines, situated in the laundry room mere metres from the hotel reception. 200 Yen for 30-min wash and 200 Yen for 30-min drying cycle. Gotta bring your own detergent.
  • Buffet of food choices for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Self-contained resort.
  • Beautiful mountain view
  • Even more awesome above-the-clouds view – take a cable car up to the summit to catch the Unkai Terrace or Sea of Clouds.
  • Free, unlimited access to a man-made beach with a wave pool, onsen and shower facilities.
  • Great weather – close to 0 degree celcius up there.
  • Free bus services for shuttling around the resort
  • Recently renovated
  • Drinking water available right from the taps in the room toilets

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Room for improvement:

  • Staff couldn’t quite understand our requests; language barrier
  • The nearest towns, for more food, petrol or supermarkets, are at least an hour away by car.

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Some notes:

  • Hotels typically charge for parking. Parking rates may vary according to the size of your car.
  • Space is a premium in Japan, so don’t expect super spacious rooms.
  • All hotels we stayed at provided Febreeze or an equivalent. Thumbs up man. Good for them shoes or the carpet.

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Click here for the Itinerary in Summary; details in the following articles:

Protip #1: Taking the wheel in Hokkaido
Protip #2: Enjoying some rest in the restroom
Protip #3: Avoiding bill shock at restaurants
Protip #4: Chilling and dropping off at convenience stores
Protip #5: Taking the Dreamliner Boeing 787

 

Accommodation in Toyako, Hokkaido (Toyako Manseikaku Hotel Lakeside Terrace)

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Name: Toyako Manseikaku Hotel Lakeside Terrace

Address: 21 Tōyakoonsen, Tōyako-chō, Abuta-gun, Hokkaidō 049-5721

Map code: 321 519 551*55

Approx room rate per pax: 23,000 Yen

Parking rate: No charge

Free Wi-Fi access: Yes, but only at the hotel reception area

My rating: 4.5/5 (Good rating cause of the free fireworks display every night!)

Thumbs-up:

  • Off-street parking lots; 2-minute walk away from the hotel reception
  • 7-Eleven is just in front of the hotel reception
  • Free red bean pancakes given out during certain hours at the hotel’s snacks shop
  • Extremely polite service staff
  • Big bottles of shampoo and body foam
  • Daily housekeeping service
  • In-hotel washing and drying machines – one each, situated in the onsen bath area. 300 Yen for 30-min wash and 100 Yen for 30-min drying cycle. No need to bring your own detergent.
  • Nice breakfast spread
  • Lake view – Lake Toya!
  • Many sculptures around Lake Toya
  • Easy access to boating activities as the lake’s mere metres away
  • Free fireworks display every night. Closest I’ve ever been to a fireworks display. View the display from the comfort of your room. Walk to the lakeside for a closer view. Max convenience.

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Room for improvement:

  • No in-room tap for drinking water. You have to call reception/ operator and they will deliver a jug of iced/hot water.
  • Staff couldn’t quite understand our requests; language barrier
  • Hotel needs a renovation/ revamp – old vibes.

Some notes:

  • Hotels typically charge for parking. Parking rates may vary according to the size of your car.
  • Space is a premium in Japan, so don’t expect super spacious rooms.
  • All hotels we stayed at provided Febreeze or an equivalent. Thumbs up man. Good for them shoes or the carpet.

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Click here for the Itinerary in Summary; details in the following articles:

Protip #1: Taking the wheel in Hokkaido
Protip #2: Enjoying some rest in the restroom
Protip #3: Avoiding bill shock at restaurants
Protip #4: Chilling and dropping off at convenience stores
Protip #5: Taking the Dreamliner Boeing 787

To-dos in Hakodate

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In Hakodate, you will find an airport. Sadly, airport exploration wasn’t in the itinerary. We flew in, collected our luggage and zoom, we boarded the OTS car rental company shuttle to collect the Toyota Boxy, oops I mean, Voxy.

And off we went to Hakodate. Please note, this isn’t an exhaustive list. Far from it. Japan has loads to offer. I’m only choosing the ones that left an impression on me.

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Hakodate Kanemori Red Brick Warehouse

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Aside from the pretty sights (red brick buildings, bay view), the main attraction here would be the warehouse shop, selling anything from seafood to snacks like the Potato Farm fries. This area is just 700 metres away from the Hakodate Kokusai Hotel. Stock up here if you wish as the prices are pretty much the same everywhere.  Spend above 5,000 Yen to free yourself from taxes – 8% savings.

Mount Hakodate Ropeway

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Walk further down – about 10-15 minutes away – and you will reach the foot of Mount Hakodate. Fork out 1,280 Yen per pax for a 3-minute ride up. The gondola comes every 5 minutes.

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What a view. Good place for family photos. The sole restaurant here is pricey though. During peak hours, you may need to wait quite a while to get a ride down. We waited close to an hour – in the cold no less.

Hakodate Railway Station

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I like trains. You will get to see pretty flowers and some sculptures. Inside the station, you will find a 7-Eleven.

 

Matsumae Castle / Matsumae Park

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This place is quite mesmerising. A huge park with loads of flowering cherry blossoms.

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You will get to see a Ninja village/ showcase too. Shall not spoil it for you, so here’s a wide shot. haha

IMG20170510135016.jpgWorth your time. And after your tiring walk around the park, exit the park and walk down one street. You will find a mighty harvest of food places.

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Click here for the Itinerary in Summary; details in the following articles:

Protip #1: Taking the wheel in Hokkaido
Protip #2: Enjoying some rest in the restroom 
Protip #3: Avoiding bill shock at restaurants
Protip #4: Chilling and dropping off at convenience stores
Protip #5: Taking the Dreamliner Boeing 787