Escorted tour from Honolulu – Hokkaido Lavender Tour with Harumi
July 6/7: A total of 24 of us met at Honolulu Airport and left for Sapporo by Hawaiian Airlines. The flight was’t full so some of us could stretch a little and relaxed. It was about 7.5 hr. smooth flight and landed in Chitose Airport around 4:40 pm。
After checking into the Air Terminal Hotel which was located inside the terminal building, some of us went out to explore inside the terminal for food and shopping. There were many shops and restaurants on the second and the third floors of the building.
July 8: The sun rises early in Sapporo in summer. The sky was already light around 4 am. It was a beautiful sunny day. On the way to Asahikawa, we stopped at Sunakawa Highway Oasis where many souvenir stores were selling variety of goods from Hokkaido. After eating lunch at Ramen Village in Asahikawa, we went to Otokoyama Sake Brewery to learn about sake making and tasting. When we got there, many purple and white irises were blooming in the garden at the brewery. It looked so beautiful. The guests, particularly men were happy to taste their variety of sake. They looked all happy afterwards!
The next destination was Kamikawa Ice Pavilion where we experienced -41C degrees. Before entering the pavilion, the stuff asked us to participate in coloring. It was bit of a magic act because the colors disappeared after being exposed to some kind of heat. Anyway, we had a good time. Gina Ryusei waterfalls were also very nice.
We stayed at onsen hotel called Choyotei Resort Hotel. How many people have tried public onsen tonight, I wonder? It was an action packed day.
July 9: We were lucky with the weather so far although it was quite hot for Hokkaido. After breakfast, we went to Biei Hills to look at beautiful flower fields. It was so colorful. Afterwards, we went to visit the Sumio Goto Museum of Art. We learned a lot about Japanese paintings. We learned that his post card size painting costs about $10,000. It was amazing! We had a lunch at the restaurant just above the museum. The Japanese style hamburger steak was tasty but the portion was a bit small for the men.
The Blue Pond indeed had aquamarine color water and was very unique. We have heard that the area will be off limits soon. It was packed with local people and tourists so it created a traffic jam. The last place we visited before we checked into New Prince Hotel was Farm Tomita, well known for lavender flowers. It was not fully bloomed but enough to see the sea of purple color. Again, it was packed with people. Lavender ice cream tasted so good. Buffet dinner at the hotel restaurant was good.
July 10: The weather forecast was cloudy/rain today but we were very lucky. The weather turned out to be a very nice sunny hot day. After a sumptuous breakfast buffet at the New Furano Prince Hotel, we visited Shiraoi Ainu Village. Unfortunately, we did not have enough time to stay there because we had to go to Kani Goten restaurant by 1pm. The lunch was delicious Salmon grill. Everybody seemed to be very satisfied.
We also visited Oyunuma for a foot bath. It was very relaxing sitting by the creek where hot spring water was flowing. When we got to the Valley of Hell, it was really hot so we did not spend much time there. The Noboribetsu Grand Hotel was located about a couple of minutes drive from the Valley of Hell and it had the biggest and a variety of onsen pools compared to the other hotels we stayed. The ambience of the onsen was really wonderful.
July 11: Today’s plan was to go to cherry picking in Soubetsu which was about 30 minutes drive from the hotel in Noboribetsu. We were bit worried about the weather forecast of rain but it did not rain so we could enjoy picking cherries and eating them as much as we could. It had different taste from the cherries in the states. It was sweet and sour but it tasted good.
From there, we drove about 2 hours to get to Sapporo, the capital city of Hokkaido. We had lunch individually at the Sapporo Factory which used to be the Sapporo Beer Factory but it is now a shopping center. We also visited Okurayama ski jumping hill which was the previous Sapporo Winter Olympic site. It was quite interesting to see how high the jumping platform was. We used a chairlift to go up the hill to see the view of Sapporo city. When we return to the bottom of the hill, we had a blast because three guests posed as the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd winners not as ski jumpers but as wrestlers.
The Mercure Hotel was situated close to Susukino subway station and was very convenient for eating and shopping.
July 12: It was a free day so we started the walking tour of Sapporo city later than our usual departure time of 9 am. We visited Nijo Fish Market, Daiso (100 yen store), Don Quijote, Tokyo Hands, Daimaru Department store and shopping area near the JR Sapporo train station and returned to Susukino where our hotel was. Oh boy, we walked a lot!!
July 13: We had an excursion to Otaru, Nikki Whiskey Distillary, and Shiroi Koibito Park from Sapporo. It was the hottest sunny day for Hokkaido standard. Since Otaru was close to the ocean, it had some breeze and was nice. Since we arrived in Otaru early, it was not much crowded so we could take a group photo at the canal. It was amazing to see a variety of music boxes at the Music Box shop and museum. Everybody was interested in buying dripless shoyu bottle. Nikka Whiskey was a haven for many men and some women. They were having fun tasting 2 types of Whiskey and an apple wine. Some got several tickets from people who didn’t drink and had a great time singing a song!
The Shiroi Koibito Park was a famous chocolate factory. We got to see the chocolate making and had a plenty time to buy fresh chocolate.
After the excursion, some went to play Japanese game called Pachinko and slot machines and had a great time.
July 14: Last day of our tour. We had several hours before we left for the airport, many of us went to the 100 yen shop again to buy inexpensive souvenirs for the last time. The very last stop was Ario Mall, the very last chance to buy souvenirs. Whoever felt shopped out went to the Sapporo Beer Garden to taste the beers only sold there. Only one person was interested in doing so but the rest all went for shopping mall!
The flight was supposed to depart at 8 pm but left 15 minutes early!! As always, Hawaiian airlines make inside aircraft temperatures so low so it was like sitting inside a refrigerator, very cold!!! Anyway, we all came home safely and happy with lots of souvenir!
Posted by Harumi Karel
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JTB USA Honolulu Office
1450 Ala Moana Blvd., Suite 1370
Honolulu HI 96814
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