February 3rd, Monday
We departed Honolulu with 22participants, some of member is already in Japan to join us, everybody looked ready for lots of fun and SNOW!
February 4th, Tuesday
We arrived at Narita Airport and surprisingly it was snowing in Narita. It was so unexpected and temperature was 30degree. It only left us imagination of what Hokkaido would be like…… colder and freezing ….
February 5th, Wednesday
We arrived late at night with 1hour delay due to snow in Tokyo last night but everybody looked READY TO GO even it is freezing cold out side. Our sightseeing begins with total participants of 33!
First we visited store next our hotel in Chitose for snow shoes shopping. Since it is snow country price is much less than what we will find in Honolulu, but most of us has big feet so we ended up purchasing a band goes over your regular shoes with cleats ($15~$25). First festival we visited is Lake Shikotsu (Ice Festival) every year it is attracting more tourist, we only visited during daytime but night time will be lighted up and it must be beautiful. Next is Shiraoi Ainu Village. It is most educational sight to visit to know more about AINU. We met curator Mr. Nakamura who has guided us at the museum. Our lunch was “salmon chan chan yaki=salmon grill on hot plate”. Huge salmon for 4 of us to share with lots of other seafood and vegetable. Some of us ate really good, but most of us can eat not even a half. We went to Sapporo City to enjoy the 65th Sapporo Snow Festival. Sapporo Snow Festival is one of Japan’s largest winter events of splendid snow and ice sculptures lining Odori Park, and along the main street in Susukino. One of the events of Sapporo Snow Festival was International Snow Statue Contest. Having a total of 12 countries from Canada, Korea, Finland, Hawaii,
Hong Kong, Indonesia, New Zealand, Singapore, and Thailand. Hotel across Sapporo station to main festival site is connected wiht under path, so wedidn’t need to freez but tempurture outside was 14degree….. We walked about 3hours for seeing main site and Susukino site. This is a one of parks traveling with us – JTB has booth at main Snow festival site in Odori,all of us were able to rest and enjoyed free hot drink inside of JTB booth which felt like heaven after walking in hours outside.
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Today was a free day where everyone had a option of doing whatever they wanted or to join us in a excursion tour which was going to Nijyo fish Market, Tanuki koji arcade, and 100 yen shop for shopping in the morning, for those that decided to join us to afternoon tour – we took train to Otaru city along Japan sea shore line , Otaru is known for glass ware (MOSTLY known for drip-less Shoyu bottle) and Otaru sweets. We enjoyed train ride, walk along main street of Otaru, food sampling at sweets shop. Some of us made it down to famous Otaru canal for its beauty.
February 7th, Friday
Stop at Sunakawa Highway Oasis for shopping for the most popular pumpkin seeds cookie. Only made and can be purchased at this area.
For lunch we went to Asahikawa Ramen Village. January 25th, 1902 Asahikawa experienced the lowest recorded temperature -41C (-41.8F). Asahikawa Winter Festival was also in the Guinness Book of World Records for there snow sculpture contest, snow lights, and landscape being transformed into a fantasy world. This Village has 8 famous Ramen Restaurants. Asahikawa is famous and known for its shoyu (soya sauce) based broth. Whereas Sapporo is known for its miso based broth and Hakodate for its salt based broth.
Next Stop Takasago Sake Brewery, know brand is “Kokushi Muso=No one can defeat ” We enjoyed knowing how sake was made in 100yrs old building and sake sampling.
We went to Sounkyo (Onsen. Hot Spring), enjoy buffet dinner then we visited Sounkyo Ice Festival with is held at river banks with beautiful light up. We stayed there about 1hr to enjoy 8:30PM fireworks.Temperature 4degree. After watching the fireworks some of us made reservations for a relaxing massage to end the day. Some went to enjoy the Onsen (Hot Spring) and got to experience wearing a yukata.
February 8th, Saturday
Visit Ginga Ryusei Water Fall in Daisetsuzan National Park which was completely frozen.
Affectionately referred to as the “husband and wife waterfall,” this waterfall pairing immediately becomes memorable to the grand scene of having two waterfalls tumble side by side split by a giant rock and backed by snowy mountains. Rated the Top 10 Best Asia Waterfalls.
After we went to Lake Abashiri located in Abashiri Quai-National Park. The lake freezes over from December to April with ice up to a meter thick. There had entertainment of snow banana boat, snowmobile rental, and snow sliding. Arrived at Abashiri, Just a relaxing day with onsen soaking, fabulous kaiseki dinner (Japanese set menu)where again some made appointments for a massage. Each room had beds and tatami room which is a traditional Japanese style floor mat, made out of rice straw.
February 9th, Sunday
Experience ice breaker cruise by “Aurora” (1 hour cruise)
Abashiri is located 44 north latitude and the Ohotsku coast is the southern limit of frozen sea. Drift ice born in the northern part of the sea of Okhotsk. As it travels further southward, the drift ice becomes larger.
Next Stop lake Tofutsu known as swan lake. It takes its name from the Ainu tofutsu, or ‘mouth of the lake’. Lake Tofutsu provides an important habitat for wintering birds. The Swan birds is the rarest in the world. In Japan the swan is known as the tancho and is said to live a 1,000 years. We also visited our sacred place of seeing Japanese red crown crane. Since it was snowing so much and very cold, we saw many of them flying over us.
After we went shopping at one of largest mall in Kushiro, we went grocery shopping, some people bought dinner since it is freezing cold and snowing so hard.
Arrive ANA Hotel Kushiro 5:30PM preparing for tomorrows departure and to get a good nights sleep.
February 10, Monday
Kushiro – Narita – Honolulu
After breakfast at the hotel, we went to Kushiro Washo Fish Market. At this market you can order any kind of fish (served raw) and they will add a topping with rice. The dish is called katte donburi.During the whole tour we ate a lot of great and awesome food, as a result in gaining some weight. Everyone had a great time in the snow. Then it was time for us to go back home.
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