Day 1 Honolulu 〜 Chitose Airport
10:40 am Everyone was on time at Honolulu airport to check-in and met all together again at the departure gate, including the people from the Big Island and Kauai. 11;34 am, Our flight left 6 minutes ahead of schedule. 2 hours later, we were served the first meal: chicken and rice, potato salad, and a cookie for dessert.
Before we landed in Hokkaido, we were served a meal: egg and ham sandwich and macadamia nut chocolate treat. As we approached Shin Chitose Airport, the view of the open fields and really “green” scenery was so beautiful and very different from landing at most large city airports. After a smooth flight, we landed at Shin Chitose International Airport. It was a very pleasant 8 hours 17 minutes flight
Day 2 Chitose International Airport
The JTB staff greeted us and walked us from the International side to the domestic terminal. The animal display lining our walk was quite exciting, and we all paused along the way, some of us took photos. After check-in, the group used the free time to explore the terminal building that had dozens of restaurants and shops.
Day 3 Chitose 〜Asahikawa 〜Kamikawa 〜Sounkyo Onsen
In the morning, we met our English-speaking guide and bus driver downstairs. Everyone’s luggage was loaded on the bus, and we headed for Asahikawa. She came earlier and greeted us with a warm welcome.
On the way, we stopped at the Sunagawa service area, and many in the group started buying souvenirs or “omiyage” and snacks; they enjoyed shopping and started right away!
We then stopped at Asahikawa Ramen Village, and everyone went on their own to try different ramen shops in town. Some went to the Uniqlo store to shop. I heard “Taking the hem up at the store was quite fast !” We left for the next destination ON time.
We then proceeded to Otokoyama Sake Brewery, where their sake products have won top prizes and awards in Japan and other countries. Guests enjoyed all the special sake samples only available at this museum. Non-drinkers were able to try pure,nature-filtered water from the snow-covered mountain,Daisetuzan.
At Kamikawa Ice Pavilion, we experienced the lowest recorded temperature in Hokkaido – minus 41 (F/C)degrees below zero. We were provided the protective clothing and gear to be able to withstand the extremely bitter cold!
What a treat! Nice and warm.
Next stop was Sounkyo Onsen we saw the towering 100-meter high Ginga and Ryusei Water Falls that left many awestruck. It is said that Ginga represents “woman,” and Ryusei is the “man.”
Many guests enjoyed the onsen hot spring for the first time and looked forward to the next onsen stop. Dinner buffet included delicacies from the Hokkaido area: salmon, ikura, vegetable tempura, Genghis Khan meat, fresh sashimi, noodles, and desserts.
Day 4 Sounkyo Onsen 〜Biei 〜 Furano 〜Tomaru
Early morning sunlight refracting on trees by the window of the restaurant was a blessing. The hotel breakfast at the Matterhorn restaurant included European “Alps” style cuisine. Everyone enjoyed the variety of pastries, sausages served along with fresh apple juices, and a variety of coffee. of course Japanese breakfast too.
We boarded the bus and went to Biei Hills to see the patchwork field.
We also went to Goto Sumio Museum of Art to see his paintings. Goto Sumio is a master of Nihonga, Japanese style-paintings using naturally-derived pigments. One of the most famous works he did was in China. He also captured the scenic beauty of cherry blossoms throughout Japan.
We went upstairs to the Furano Grill restaurant for lunch. The restaurant was filled with guests.
Vichyssoise creamy cold potato soup, hamburger steak, and local organic vegetables served for us in a cozy room with a panoramic view of Tokachi mountain range. Dishes were very flavorful and so full of the natural colors of the region.
Next, we went to Blue Pond & Blue River… It was really so BLUE! The pond was built to prevent damage to Biei in case of eruption but the natural minerals that dissolved into the water make it a popular tourist spot.
When we arrived at the Tomita Farms parking lot, we didn’t see the lavender fields until suddenly the beautiful color “exploded” right before us as we approached the farm area. The smell and beauty were breathtakingly stunning. This was one of the highlights of the tour. Other flowers in bloom were begonia, angelonia, french marigold, dahlia, zinnia, spearmint, peppermint, baby’s breath, and many others. The beauty of Tomita Farms touched each of us so deeply, many wanted to stay longer and didn’t want to leave…
We arrived at Hoshino Resort Tomamu. The buffet dinner was heavenly! The selections included special crab and beef teppanyaki, salmon and ikura handroll sushi, as well as all the other sumptuous dishes. After dinner, we headed back to our rooms to get some rest, knowing that we had to wake up early the next morning. Who is going to wake up for the optional tour?
Day 5 Tomaru 〜 Shiraoi〜Lake Toya
Met at 4:30 in the morning to take the shuttle to go to the Gondola for a 13-minute ride to Unkai Terrace (sea of clouds). We were unable to see Unkai but able to see the layers of clouds over the mountains with a backdrop of the sunrise, partially shinning gold like a thread. Never seen before. Some ventured out on the Cloud walk and Cloud pool overlooking the clouds and view below.
Some went on a walk to Mizuno Kyokai (Chapel on the Water) and viewed the beautiful church designed by famous architect Tadao Ando. Beautiful and serene. You can experience sepias in the fall, white shades in the winter, multicolored flowers in the spring, and intense green in the summer like this.
Late breakfast then left the hotel at 10:30 headed to Toya Lake. On the way, we stopped for lunch at Kani Goten Restaurant, a very local salmon-grill eatery and enjoyed “chan chan yaki”. Lots of fish on display, including a lot of dried fish products for sale.
After lunch, we went to Date Reimeikan. First, we met a swordsmith in Date who still produces old Japanese swords the traditional way. Two of our guests volunteered to assist in pounding the hot metal from the fire smelt into the shape of the blade for the sword (katana). It was so hot where the swords were being made. Then, we learned how to make handkerchiefs using Aizome dye. The people of Hokkaido settlers from Tokushima started growing indigo plants in the late 19th century. That was the beginning of the history of the Indigo. Each of us took our design to dry at the hotel room and keep as our keepsake and memory.
We checked in at hotel in Toya and were greeted by a stunning view of Toya Lake as you enter the hotel reception area. What a magnificent view! All rooms at this hotel are facing the lake so every guest can enjoy the lake view throughout their visit. Buffet dinner was fantastic, and we shared three large tables, and we were able to enjoy each others’ company. Some guests wore traditional “yukata” Japanese attire. After dinner, there was a fireworks show on the lake which could even be viewed from the onsen (hot springs) for those who wished to enjoy both.
Day 6 Lake Toya 〜 Sobetsu〜 Otaru
Breakfast at the hotel and left early to head to the cherry farm. This farm also has plums and peaches harvested in August and September; grapes, apples, and prunes in September and October. We picked and ate as many cherries as we wanted, and the owner of the cherry farm climbed up a ladder to pick the very best cherries from the higher branches for us to sample the tastiest fruit. Benisyuuhou cherry and Satonishiki cherry.
After saying goodbye to the family at the cherry farm, we headed to Otaru, a port city of Hokkaido known for glassworks, music boxes, and canals. At the Otaru Music Box Museum, we each made our own music box that produces “heaven-sent sounds” that we again were able to take with us as a souvenir.
Making your own little music box is really fascinating! Only one in the world.
Then we headed towards Otaru Kihinkan.
Before dinner, the guide took us on a tour of the famous “one of the city’s special historical properties” mansion to see the materials and workmanship of the more than century-old villa.
At dinner, we were all served a beautifully prepared tasty “kaiseki” Japanese course dinner.
We went to the Hotel, where we enjoyed a western-style hotel, and we had a good view of Otaru Port.
Day 7 Otaru 〜 Yoichi〜 Sapporo
In the hotel restaurant, we chatted for a while and enjoyed a leisurely breakfast. It was overcast but nice in a way after good sunny warm days in Hokkaido.
Left the hotel to go to the Nikka Whiskey Distillery. Learning the history of the founder, Masataka Taketsuru was very interesting; how he evolved from a sake brewing family to going to Scotland. He fell in love with a Scottish girl, married her and pursued making his ideal whiskey. Yoichi in Hokkaido is a Utopia for him. The history of Nikka Whisky began here.
Then visited AEON Mall for lunch and free shopping time . At the market, we enjoyed looking at the Japanese kitchens to see the products from the bakery, meat department, seafood department, dryfood shelves, and other various sections throughout the store.
Next was Okurayama ski jumping hill (winter Olympics) and the observatory to take in the view. Because it was slightly overcast, only eight of us took the lift to the top and others to the Olympic Museum site to enjoy the history and learn more about the Sapporo Olympics.
Went to Sapporo City where we stayed and said farewell to our tour guide and had we had dinner on our own. Some went to Tanukikoji, and some went to Susukino districts and had fun going out on the last night.
Day 8 Sapporo
Again, nice breakfast with everyone then went to explore Sapporo City with me on foot. First, we went to Nijo Fish Market, where you can see all the local fish vendors. Next, we stopped at the Daiso 100-yen shop and the Don Quijote Store. Returned to the hotel with all the shopping items then at 2:00 left again to go to Daimaru Department Store by taxis for more shopping and eating. Also went to Tokyu Hands Store before returning to the hotel.
We saw Densuke Black watermelon and Yubari melon showcased at very expensive prices, but luckily, we were able to purchase individual slices at an affordable cost.
Very last night in Hokkaido, we ate again on our own. Sapporo city is very lively on Saturday.
9 Sapporo〜New Chitose Airport 〜Honolulu
11: oo we checked out of our hotel and left our luggages at the front desk. Some went out shopping nearby. 1:45 Bus driver came to pick us up headed toward the airport. As there was still a lot of time before checking in, many of us continued to shop for more omiyage at the airport. Our flight took off 8 minutes before the scheduled time. Throughout the flight, we were served ” Hawaiian loco moco, ” and light snacks, which included freshly sliced cuts of apples. We landed in Honolulu on time.
Thanks to the group’s punctuality and organization, we were able to partake in a variety of activities throughout our time in Japan. Thanks to our wonderful tour guide and our driver. We were able to get to each destination smoothly and had extra time to enjoy the moments which will be in our memories forever. I hope that everyone enjoyed this trip and the fun that Hokkaido has to offer during the early months of summer.
Please join us on future JTB tours for another unique experience!
Posted by Tina Kondo
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