Escorted Hokkaido Autumn Tour
Day 1 & 2
When we left Honolulu, the airport was packed with so many people and the security check-in line was incredibly long. For some, it took more than 30 minutes to clear security. The Hawaiian Airlines flight stopped flying to Sapporo via Sendai today so we were the last customers. There was no special treatment from them. Too bad! The Air Terminal Hotel at Chitose airport was very convenient for our late arrival. Some people still had energy to explore some shops at Chitose Airport, but most of the restaurants and shops were closed by the time they got there. Too bad!
After breakfast, we left for Daisetsu Mountain and Sounkyo Onsen guided by Chiwako, our Japanese guide. A total of 31 people joined the group. We stopped at the Asahikawa Ramen Village for lunch. It started raining while we were eating lunch. Some of us ate lunch quickly and visited the UNIQLO shop right across from the Ramen village. When we went to the Otokoyama Sake Factory, it was so crowded with many visitors from China and other Asian countries. There were hardly any spaces to walk around and there were a long line to sample different sakes. We couldn’t hear the explanation because it was so noisy. Due to a thunderstorm in the area, the Daisetsuzan Ropeway was closed when we got there, so we visited the Ginga & Ryusei Waterfalls instead.
It was a wonderful experience to soak in a hot spring bath. Several couples reserved a private bath and tried out the onsen.
The weather was nice but the ropeway was not working due to strong wind. Unfortunate! About a half of the group went hiking to Momiji Dani (Maple valley) instead. The waterfall at the end of the hiking trail was very nice. The rest of the people stayed at Choyotei Hotel for shopping and relaxing. We left for Abashiri and Lake Akan around 9 am. We were about a week early to see the full fall colors. We stopped at Lake Notoro to see the fields of red sea asparagus before lunch and enjoyed picking pears at Abashiri Kanko Fruits Farm. It was so… juicy and delicious! Ishikari nabe (seafood hotpot) was plentiful and good but the buffet dinner at the hotel was excellent. There were so many choices; Japanese, French, Chinese, & Korean food and they were so onolicious! The group also enjoyed the upgraded rooms at Yufu no Sato. Some of us participated in the Ainu Fire Festival at Lake Akan and it was fun walking with a fire torch from the lake to Ainu Kotan at night.
The weather was very nice. We spent time on Lake Akan visiting Marimo Exhibition Center by boat. After our boat ride, the boat company stopped operating the trip to Marimo Center due to strong winds. We were very lucky! It was still early for full colors but we saw some red leaves. We stopped at Lake Onneto which is well known for five shades of water colors. It was very pretty. For lovers of wine, today was the special day to taste Japanese wine at Ikeda Wine Castle. Unfortunately, no tours of the winery were available for a group of more than 20. It was a disappointment for some wine lovers. The hotel we stayed at in Obihiro, Nikko Northland Obihiro, was conveniently located for shopping. Some of us went to a 100 yen shop near by the hotel and some went to a famous bakery called Rokkatei.
On the way to Lake Toya, we stopped at the Northern Horse Park for lunch. Since we arrived early, we visited their garden. Some of the trees had nice colors so we enjoyed strolling before lunch. On the way to Shiraoi Ainu Village, we visited the Indian Wheel and it’s aquarium. Only a few people could actually see salmon. We visited Shiraoi Ainu Village to learn about the Ainu people and their culture. It was fascinating. There were many onsen lovers in this group so they enjoyed soaking in the hot spring bath for the last several days and they seemed quite satisfied.
Unfortunately, the weather was very unstable with strong winds, rain, and some sunshine. Due to strong winds, Hoheikyou Dam was closed. We visited Fukidashi Park where one can drink one of the purest spring water in Japan. Today’s one of the highlights was to visit Otaru, famous for a nostalgic looking canal and lively shopping area. So far, we have enjoyed nature but today was the day for real shopping although people were buying lots of omiyage on the way. We also visited Kihinkan (old Aoyama Villa), the oldest preserved Japanese house in Otaru. We stopped at Shiroi Koibito Park to buy their famous chocolate. Sapporo is the largest city in Hokkaido and our hotel was situated right next to the Sapporo Station, a great location for shopping mania. They were ready to spend the last yen they had.
Since we couldn’t use the ropeway or visit Hoheikyou, we visited JR Tower T38 observatory to see the Sapporo city lights after we checked into the hotel. Although it was raining, we could still see the night view. After the visit, they were on their own. Some of us went to Ramen village inside the ESTA building for dinner.
Today was the free day to enjoy Sapporo City on their own. Twenty people walked to Nijo Market, 100 yen store, Don Quijote, and Tokyu Hands. We left the hotel around 9 o’clock in the morning. Five people still had an energy to visit Mt. Moiwa by a street car and a cable car. We returned to the hotel using the subway.
Luckily, Sapporo Autumn Fest 2015 was still going on around Odori Park until Oct 4. The food fair fest was a huge event like the Sapporo Snow Festival. Instead of ice sculptures, there were hundreds of eateries, beer gardens, and shops representing different parts of Hokkaido. Food lover’s paradise! Some went there during the day and some went there for dinner.
It was the last day of our tour. Many people were still searching for omiyage to take home. Since most of the stores didn’t open until 10 am, some went for a walk nearby, some rested at the hotel, and some were busy packing their luggage. We spent several hours shopping at Daimaru Department Store and nearby shops. We had more shopping opportunity at the Ario Shopping Mall. About a half of the group went to the Sapporo Beer Museum to taste Sapporo beer before we left for Chitose Airport. It was an action packed tour of Hokkaido. Although we had some weather issues, it seemed everyone had a great time. Hope to see you again in the near future!
Posted by Harumi Karel
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