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Hokkaido in May 2012 (Self-Drive Trip)

Singapore, Singapore
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Hokkaido in May 2012 (Self-Drive Trip)

Hi Everyone!

I have been following this forum and understand there are a few Hokkaido's Expert here. I hope you can take a look at my 10-Days Hokkaido Self-Drive Trip itinerary and provide me with your suggestions. Our main purpose is to enjoy the scenery and nature.

Day 0, May 17 > Singapore to Chitose Airport

Day 1, May 18 > Sapporo

- Sapporo (Reach Chitose Airport before 12 noon)

- Take JR from Chitose Airport to Sapporo City

- Check in Hotel in Sapporo

- Enjoy Sapporo (Visit Nijo Market for lunch, walk around and shop at Sapporo Factory/ Underground Shopping Mall, dinner at Ramen Yokochō)

Day 2, May 19 > Sapporo to Lake Akan

- Check out Hotel and pick up rental car

- Maybe pass through Obihiro for lunch and Kushiro for Japanese Crane Reserve

- Check in a hot spring resort in Lake Akan

Day 3, May 20 > Lake Akan

- Enjoy Lake Akan and nearby lakes and mountains.

Day 4, May 21 > Lake Akan to Sounkyo

- Check out resort in Lake Akan

- Drive from Lake Akan to Kamiyubetsu Tulip Park (Tuilip Fair) to Takinoue Park (Pink Moss Festival) to Sounkyo

- Check in a hot spring resort in Sounkyo

Day 5, May 22 > Sounkyo

- Enjoy Sounkyo Gorge and surrounding.

- Enjoy Mount Daisetsu-zan National Park.

Day 6, May 23 > Sounkyo to Asahikawa City

- Check out resort in Sounkyo

- Drive from Sounkyo to Asahikawa City

- Check in hotel in Asahikawa City

- Enjoy Asahikawa main street

Day 7, May 24 > Asahikawa City to Furano

- Check out resort in Asahikawa

- Drive from Asahikawa City to Higashikawa to Biei to Furano

- Check in a farm/orchard stay in Furano

Day 8, May 25 > Furano to Otaru

- Check out hotel in Furano

- Drive from Furano to Takikawa to Otaru

- Check in hotel in Otaru

Day 9, May 26 > Otaru

- Enjoy Otaru (Kitaichi Venezian museum, Music Box Museum, Canal and Sakaimachi Street)

Day 10, May 27 > Otaru to Chitose Airport

- Check out hotel in Otaru

- Drive from Otaru to Chitose Airport (flight at 8.40pm)

- Return rental car at/near Chitose Airport

Questions: -

1) Is Kushiro worth visiting during May? Should we skip or spent at least a day here?

2) Is Mokotoyama-Onsen Shibazakura Park worth visiting since we will be going to Takinoue Park. Are they on the same route?

3) I am worried that we may not have enough time for Day 4 as quite a distance to cover between Lake Akan and Sounkyo. Do you think Day 4 has too much to cover? Where is a good place to stay along this route if I need to distribute it to two days?

4) Is there any nice scenic route that we can drive? For example, between Sapporo to Lake Akan and Sounkyo Gorge to Asahikawa?

5) Is there any place around our route that is worth visiting for 1 or 2 day? We can cut down the days spent from Asahikawa to Otaru if there are more interesting places.

6) I am using google map to find out the route. Is there a better road planner website to use? I tried the northern navigation map but I cannot locate most of the areas in it. I think it is because I don’t have the Japanese name of the road.

7) Do you have any good hotel/ryokan/onsen (preferably with outdoor hot spring)? Our budget is 10,000 – 15,000 yen per room per night.

8) Does all the car rental company provides free English GPS?

We greatly appreciate your comments and suggestions!

Vancouver, Canada
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1. Re: Hokkaido in May 2012 (Self-Drive Trip)

A well thought out itinerary, apparently a lot of planning has gone into it.

Kushiro is worth a stay for the unique seafood donburi in Washo Market. It is also a good base for the Crane Reserve and Kushiro wetland/Marshland.

For the pink moss parks, a friend who had gone for it says Shibazakura Park is more beautiful.

If you can fit in an extra overnight stay between Shibazakura Park and Kamiyubetsu Tulip Park, consider Abashiri which is worth a visit itself.

As for scenic route, it seems a pity to miss out Shiretoko Peninsula while you are in East Hokkaido.

For driving, the Northern Road site is easier to use but as you said you may not be able to pin-point specific locations. We read a bit of kanji and manage to use the Yahoo site. It is more difficult to use but the quoted driving time is quite close to the real situation, hence we have been using it for all our driving in Japan.

http://northern-road.jp/navi/eng/index.htm

http://drive.yahoo.co.jp/route/search

Your budget is too tight for good onsen ryokans with rotenburo. A well deserved though expensive one in Akan-ko is Tsuruga Akan.

http://www.tsuruga-g.com/tsuruga/

More and more rental cars nowadays come with free English voice-over GPS. When we rent from Toyota in Shikoku even the monitor screen is in English.

Singapore, Singapore
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2. Re: Hokkaido in May 2012 (Self-Drive Trip)

Hi William,

Many thanks for your comments and suggestions!

I have read about Abashiri and Shiretoko. Both places seems more like a popular winter sightseeing locations and I am afraid there isn't much to see in early spring. In addition, I think there may be too far and we will need more days. We would like to have a slow and easy holiday so that we truly enjoy each location. We are sure that we will be returning to Hokkaido since all of us love it there.

However, I realised now that the Tulip Fare may be very near to Abashiri so I will read up more on this city to decide if we should go. I can't seems to locate Shibazakura Park in google map but will try to search later again.

Since this itinerary is okay (with some changes as you have suggested), we will be booking our accommodation. More research! And I may need your expert help agan later. :)

Once again, thanks so much for your time!

Vancouver, Canada
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3. Re: Hokkaido in May 2012 (Self-Drive Trip)

So glad to hear from someone who intend to have more than just one visit to lovely Hokkaido. We had been there 3 times and still haven’t seen all we want to see. The only season we haven’t been to Hokkaido is spring. How we envy you going there at that particular period!

Shibazakura Park is located roughly south of Memambetsu Airport. It would fit in nicely after a drive from Akan-ko/Kussharo-ko/Iou-san/Mashu-ko and then a stop over visit to the park on the way to Abashiri.

http://www.shibazakura.net/access.html

Hate to disagree but Shiretoko Peninsula is not a winter sightseeing destination. In fact during winter months access is limited and some routes are closed due to heavy snow and adverse weather conditions. Shiretoko Go-ko Five Lakes and the Kamuiwakka-no-taki are not accessible during winter. Neither could one take the Aurora cruise after Oct. Shiretoko is a paradise if you are into nature and the great outdoor. We had 2 days there during summer and wish we could stay longer. The reason I bring up Shiretoko is that it is a highlight in East Hokkaido and hate to see it not being included if going all the way east from Sapporo. Personally I would rather skip Sounkyo and Furano. Sounkyo is more enjoyable during autumn for koyo while Furano is more for summer flowers.

Singapore, Singapore
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4. Re: Hokkaido in May 2012 (Self-Drive Trip)

Hi Wlliam,

Thanks for your advice!

I have revised my itinerary and hope you can have a look at it. I'm not sure if the time is too tight or we will be to ambitious to complete the route.

Day 1, May 18

> Chitose Airport to Obihiro

Day 2, May 19

> Obihiro to Kushiro to Kushiro Shitsugen National Park/ Akan International Crane Center to Lake Akan

Day 3, May 20

> Lake Akan

Day 4, May 21

> Lake Akan to Lake Mashu to Mt. Loh to Lake Kussharo to Shiretoko

Day 5, May 22

> Shiretoko

Day 6, May 23

> Shiretoko to Abashiri to Shibazakura Park to Menanbetsu (or overnight at someplace between Shibazakura Park and Kamiyubetsu Tulip Park)

Day 7, May 24

> Kamiyubetsu Tulip Park (Tuilip Fair) to Mombetsu toTakinoue Park to Sounkyo

Day 8, May 25

> Sounkyo to Asahikawa City to Higashikawa to Biei (remove if short of time) to Furano (remove if short of time) to Takikawa to Otaru

Day 9, May 26

> Otaru

Day 10, May 27

> Otaru to Chitose Outlet Mall (RERA) to Chitose Airport

This will be our second trip to Hokkaido. The first time in early April, we used the train system and concentrate mainly in Sapporo, Lake Toya and Noboribetsu. Hopefully our third trip to Hokkaido will be in next Jan/Feb for Skiing!

Cheers!

Vancouver, Canada
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5. Re: Hokkaido in May 2012 (Self-Drive Trip)

Wow, can’t envy you enough! Already planning your next trip before this one, any chance of taking me along, lol.

Are you arriving late in Chitose that you need to spend a night in Obihiro or you have specific sites you want to visit in Obihiro!? I’m not saying Obihiro is not worth a stay. Just that on a tight schedule you may want more time for the other destinations.

On your latest plan you will be spending 2 nights in Akan-ko. Unless you go for some cheaper accommodation or else you will be spending quite a bit if you choose to stay in Tsuruga.

We drove from Obihiro to Akan first and spent 1 night there. Then without backtracking, we spent another night in Kushiro visiting the Crane Reserve en-route. From Kushiro we took in the viewpoints of the Wetland/Marshland before going up to Kussharo-ko, Iou-san, Mashu-ko and then bedded down in Shari for the Shiretoko Peninsula. The drive to Kussharo-ko is shorter from Akan-ko, but to start from Kushiro you need to backtrack if you want to take in the Wetland/Marshland and the Crane Reserve on your way up to Akan-ko.

While visiting Akan-ko don’t miss out Onnetou-ko whose lake scenery is better than Akan-ko, IMO. On your way from Mashu-ko to the Shiretoko Peninsula make an effort to stop by the beautiful Kaminokoike Pond.

From Shiretoko you can go to Shibazakura Park first before bedding down in Abashiri. If you have time and want to spend the night a bit closer to Kamiyubetsu Tulip Park, the town of Engaru is another possibility.

If you are going to Mombetsu, don’t miss the Okhotsk Tokkari Centre. We found the close encounter with those lovely seals quite fun, and with luck you could even end up being kissed by one of them!

Between Biei and Furano try to keep Biei. Even without summer flowers the countryside vista of Biei is breathtaking and the area is best explored with a car. Hills of Zerubu and Atom is a popular summer flower destination but when we drove past it on our way to Asahikawa last Oct we could still see some colourful flowers, so hopefully they would maintain some during May. Also while in Biei do a slight detour to another worthwhile scenic site of Aoiike Blue Pond.

For Rera Outlet Mall, note that there is a free shuttle service to and from New Chitose Airport. BTW, while departing from Chitose allow a couple of hours extra time for the Smile Road between the domestic and international terminals. A fun and enjoyable place to be with Wakuwaku Sky Park, Steiff Nature World, Royce Chocolate World and Hokkaido Ramen Dojyo.

Singapore, Singapore
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6. Re: Hokkaido in May 2012 (Self-Drive Trip)

Hi William,

We will be arriving in Chitose at noon but were afraid that with all the custom clearance and getting familar with the car, we may only be able to reach Obihiro around 4pm and may not have enough time to make it to Lake Akan/Kushiro before the daylight is gone. After the overnight flight, I am afraid my drivers will be too tired. I will discuss with the drivers and see how the feel.

Going with your plan and the expensive stay in Lake Akan, I think we will stay 1 night in Obihiro or somewhere between Chitose and Lake Akan so that we can arrive early the next morning in Lake Akan without having to spend two nights there. That will save us some money. We will then leave Lake Akan around noon the next day and head to Kushiro for the attractions and overnight stay. This plan is so much better!

Thanks for the suggestions and advise! I will also incorporate the places you have suggested. Going to be a very fun and beautiful journey!

Million thankssss!!

p/s...It's only a (day)dream now to return to Hokkaido next year as I have a bigger trip to Vancouver (your homeland!) and Alaska Cruise in Aug/Sep 12. But I will try to save quickly and make it happen in 2014 at the latest. :)

Vancouver, Canada
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7. Re: Hokkaido in May 2012 (Self-Drive Trip)

It is indeed wise not to rush in and starting driving long distance upon arrival especially after an overnight flight. Again envious of you having the option of an overnight flight to save travelling time and without the problem of jet-lag.

FYI, the drive from Chitose Airport to Obihiro is about 2.5 hrs whereas if you go all the way to Akan it would take 4 hrs 15 min. So staying the first night in Obihiro is a good decision. Enjoy the popular Butadon in Obihiro and if you like chocolate go for the famous strawberry chocolate in Rokkatei whose HQ is in Obihiro. Although you can buy Rokkatei chocolate in other parts of Hokkaido including Chitose Airport, the HQ shop in Obihiro is the only shop where you can buy a small handy pack to try it out first.

If you really want to cut short your initial drive upon arrival, you can consider doing the loop course in a clockwise direction by going to Otaru first. The drive from Chitose Airport to Otaru is just 1 hr 15 min.

Nice to hear you coming over this summer, poor Vancouver needs your dollars, lol! Would love to show you around if only we are here but we are planning a summer trip to JAPAN!

Singapore, Singapore
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8. Re: Hokkaido in May 2012 (Self-Drive Trip)

I have initially planned to start the trip in Otaru but one of the travel mates want to buy biscuit and other goodies from Otaru. She is worried the short used by date will not last till we get home. Usually Japanese food has limited shelve life as less or no preservatives uses. So we are making Otaru our last stop. I'm sure we will stuff ourselves with the delicious strawberry chocolates you mentioned!

Now I'n going to envy you because you are going Japan in the summer! Lots of outdoor activities and beautiful flowers! Need help to "house-sit" while you are in Japan? Lol

Vancouver, Canada
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9. Re: Hokkaido in May 2012 (Self-Drive Trip)

Wonder what particular “biscuits and goodies” your friend is seeking!? If only for bringing back home one can do all the last minute shopping in the Fleur shopping area in New Chitose Airport including Rokkatei chocolates and Shiroi Koibito cookies. Slightly less choice yet all the popular brands are still available after immigration and are tax free, hence 5% cheaper.

fleur.new-chitose-airport.jp/en/shop/… (6 pages)

Haha, speaking about house-sitting, how about now!? Part of the backyard fence has collapsed due to last night’s storm creating a big headache for us.

Singapore, Singapore
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10. Re: Hokkaido in May 2012 (Self-Drive Trip)

oh dear...I hope no one is injured in the storm. Maybe now you can go on an early vacation while your house is fix. Have something nice in this unfortunate situation.

It has been a mystery to me why she likes Otaru so much. I finally managed to persuade her to spend only 1 day instead of 2 days in Otaru. Now she wants to buy some mystery cookies in Otaru. :D

TAKE CARE! BE SAFE!