October 17: After a long flight from Honolulu by Hawaiian Air, we finally arrived in Chitose, Hokkaido (including one hour stop-over in Sendai). Our first night hotel, The Grand Terrace Chitose, was about a 10-minute drive from the airport. The hotel was located in the city, but it was bit too far to walk to the city center where there were a variety of places to eat. We found a ramen shop nearby so some of us went to eat ramen, some went to a convenient store in front of our hotel to find snacks and some decided not to go out. I believe all of us went to bed early.
Today’s schedule was to visit Sounkyo Onsen via Asahikawa. We had a buffet breakfast at the hotel and were ready to explore Hokkaido in autumn by a chartered bus guided by Naoko Hase.
The weather was perfect. On the way to Sounkyo Onsen, we stopped at Sakagawa Highway Oasis for shopping and later visited the Takasago Sake Brewery, which was established in 1899 in Asahikawa. They utilize local rice and water to produce their own unique brand of sake. Of course, the men in our group were especially happy to taste free samples of sake.
We stopped at the Asahikawa Ramen Village for lunch. There were a total of 8 ramen stalls under one roof. The bus ride after sake tasting and lunch was ….., you can imagine what happened after that.
Another stop in the afternoon was at the Daisetsuzan Kurodake Ropeway. From a gondola, we could still see some colors at the bottom of the Mt. Daisetsu, but the peak fall colors were already gone. The winter comes early in this part of Hokkaido.
We stayed at Sounkyo Choyo Resort which was situated close to the Daisetsuzan National Park. The hotel had cute Yokui so we all wore to the restaurant for dinner. It seemed everyone enjoyed wearing the Yokui. Overall, the Onsen was very wonderful but some people were still hesitant to go into Onsen.
October 19: After a sumptuous buffet breakfast, we left for Abashiri and later to Lake Akan which is famous for Marimo Moss Balls. Marimo is a green ball made up of filamentous algae and can be only found in Iceland, Scotland, Estonia, Australia and Japan. But, Japan is the only country that has really round Marimo.
The weather was gorgeous, clear blue sky! Not too far from our hotel, we stopped to see Ginga( Galaxy) & Ryusei ( meteor) waterfalls. The Ryusei Waterfall was said to be the most beautiful waterfall in Sounkyo. Both waterfalls had been selected as top 100 waterfalls in Japan.
It took us about 4 hours to get to Abashiri from Sounkyo. On the way, we stopped for lunch and we ate “Ishikari nabe”, which is a seafood hotpot. It was very tasty. We stopped at the Abashiri Kanko Fruits Farm and picked pears and prunes. Both fruits were really juicy and tasted great.
Every time when we did for rest stop, everyone was buying lots of souvenirs. There were endless opportunities for shopping.
About two hours later, we finally arrived at Lake Akan which is a caldera lake. We stayed at the Akan Yukyu no SatoTsuruga Resort which was located close to the lake. It was a very luxury hotel with great onsen. The buffet had many selections such as French, Chinese, Korean, and Japanese, and the taste was great!
From 8 pm, there was a special torch parade from the lake to the Ainu Kotan. Some of us participated in the parade. Although it was not included in the tour, some of us also went to see the Iomante Fire Festival and Ainu dance at Lake Akan Ainu Theater at night. It costed about $10.
October 20: The breakfast this morning was also fantastic. After breakfast, we took a boat ride and visited the Marimo Exhibition Center where we could see marimo in the aquarium. It is said to take 200 years for marimo to grow to baseball size. It was also exciting to see marimo in the natural habitat through an underwater camera that was placed at the bottom of Churui Bay in Lake Akan.
The next stop was at the Lake Onneto, nicknamed as five-color lake. The color of the lake changes depending on the seasons and the weather. The weather today was cloudy so we did’t see a beautiful blue color but it was still very nice.
For lunch, we ate Obihiro’s specialty food, the Buta don (Pork and rice in one bowl).
Today’s last bus stop was at the Ikeda Wine Castle. On the way to the winery, some trees had full on fall colors. We stopped the bus and enjoyed taking photos. Free tasting of wine was great. Many of us enjoyed the samples.
We stayed at the Hotel Nikko Northland Obihiro, a city hotel close to the JR Obihito Station. It was very convenient for shopping. We visited nearby department store like super-market which had a 100-yen shop. More shopping……
We had “kaiseki” dinner and it was fabulous. We thoroughly enjoyed our dinner!
October 21: We visited Lake Utonai Sanctuary, Northern Horse Park, Ainu Village, and finally to Jozankei. It rained periodically while we were driving but luckily the rain stopped whenever we visited the sites for sightseeing.
At Utonai Sanctuary, we saw some swans. It was very cold. The fall forage in this area was better than other areas that we had visited before. We had lunch at Northern Horse Park. We saw some horses but didn’t spend much time there. The buffet had about 60 different kinds of food items to choose from and it was good.
Ainu village was a good place to learn about the history and culture of Ainu people.
October 22: The temperature went down to around 39 degrees today. It was really cold. On the way to Otaru to see the famous Otaru Canal and the shopping area, we stopped at Hoheikyo Dam, not far from the hotel where we stayed in Jozankei. Most of the colors were gone at Hoheikyo Dam but the surrounding lower area had nice colors.
In Otaru, we walked around the canal areas and had a great sushi lunch. It was so fresh and tasty!
Before we arrived at our hotel in Sapporo, we stopped at the Shiroi Koibito Park, a very popular chocolate factory in Sapporo. Although we didn’t see the process of making chocolate, watching Clock Tower’s 4 o’clock performance was really fun.
After we checked into the Century Royal Hotel, which was located next to the train station, we visited Daimaru Department Store. The food section was really fascinating for most of them.
October 23: It was a totally free day in Sapporo. The weather was perfect, clear blue sky! It was a great day to explore Sapporo on foot. All of us except one couple went to Nijo Fish Market, 100 yens shop, Don Quijote, Tanukikouji shopping area, Tokyu Hands together as a group. We later went to Mt Moiwa to see the beautiful sunset and the gorgeous view of Sapporo City. We used a street car, a ropeway, and a mini cable car to get to the Mt. Moira observatory deck. On the way back to our hotel, we used a subway. It was a first experience for most of them to ride the street car, mini cable car and the subway so they seemed to be very happy. It was an action packed day!
October 24: Another beautiful day in Sapporo! Fifteen of us went to Ario Shopping Mall and the Sapporo Beer Museum, and ate lunch at the Lilac Restaurant in the Sapporo Beer Garden. The food was very good. We checked out the hotel at 2 o’clock to visit Lake Shikotsu. The arrangement of the late check-out at the hotel was really great because we could use the last day of our stay in Sapporo effectively. At Lake Shikotsu, we could see better fall forage but the peak time was also over. On the way to the new Chitose Airport, we stopped at “Sake no Furusatokan” to see the Indian Fish Wheel. Unfortunately, we couldn’t see salmon swimming up the river because it was too dark. At the airport, there were many places to eat at the domestic terminal so we had dinner there.
This tour was truly an Onsen lover’s paradise! It was bit cold but we had a great weather throughout our tour and had a great time.
Posted by Harumi Karel
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