Let’s start off our Hokkaido trip with by touring the its number one city, Sapporo. A This Hokkaido mini itinerary guide for 5 days 4 nights starting begins at the New Chitose Airport, which has many international flights, and then heading heads to Sapporo and Otaru. Then we will make our way to the outlying areas like Noboribetsu Onsen and Lake Toya, before finally we will heading further out to Furano and the Biei area. Keep track of places to go and things to eat to enjoy your trip in Hokkaido!.
■Hokkaido Trip Day 1: Checking out places to go and things to eat in Sapporo City!
■Day 1: Morning
New Chitose Airport → Sapporo City (car: approximately 50km, train: 37 minutes, bus: around 1 hour 20 minutes)
Advice: Once you arrive to at New Chitose Airport, head to the JR Sapporo Station, the center of Sapporo. A convenient way to getting to JR Sapporo Station is by taking the Rapid Airport train from the airport. During the day there is a train every 15 minutes and it is the fastest way to get to Sapporo. If you have time to spare you could take the airport shuttle bus. There are many bus stops in nearby cities such as Susukino and Odori Park.
Advice: The 3 major iconic dishes in Hokkaido are Sapporo miso ramen, soup curry and kaisendon. There are ramen shops all over the city, however if you plan to stop by while you are sightseeing, we recommend the Odori Park to Tanukikoji area.
There are soup curry specialty shops that have long lines to little known spots throughout the city. If you want to eat kaisendon (sea food rice bowl) we recommend heading to the Sapporo Jyogai Market (Jyogai Ichiba) a seven minute walk from Tozai subway line Nijuyon-ken Station or going to Nijo Market (Nijo Ichiba) which is located in walking distance of Odori Park.
Many kaisendon specialty shops close in the afternoon, if you plan on having a bite make sure to stop by between breakfast and lunch hour.
Advice: For the first day of Sapporo sightseeing, we recommend walking through Odori Park, which spans through the city from east to west, then heading to the 3 major sightseeing spots in Sapporo. You can walk to each spot and it will take about 4 hours at a leisurely walk. You can get a panoramic view of the city from Sapporo TV Tower’s observation deck; we also recommend the night view from here.
Tip: Visitors can casually walk around the campus of Hokkaido University located in the northern side of JR Sapporo Station. The poplar tree-lined street and museum is a place you can’t miss. If you want to take your time, it will take 2 to 3 hours, however you can go around the place area in about an hour.
To go to Hitsujigaoka Observation Hill, Shiroi Koibito Park, Moerenuma Park and Mt. Moiwa Observation Deck, taking the public transportation (subway, train or bus) or taxi is convenient. In total, budgeting 3 to 4 hours for this excursion will be necessary.
Advice: Many café’s operated by sweets brands that represent Hokkaido are located around Odori Park. Many stores offer light meals and can be a good place to stop by for lunch. Kitakaro and Rokkatei have spacious shops to look for gifts. Most gifts can be purchased at shops in New Chitose Airport, however there are some limited items that can only be purchased in Sapporo that is worth checking.
Advice: Seasonal Ingredients from all over Hokkaido is are gathered in Sapporo. Especially the seafood in Hokkaido has rich variety and taste. Sushi, sashimi, and grilled fish is are especially must-tries for all travelers. In the entertainment district of Susukino, there are many high-class sushi restaurants, also plus there are many casual places to enjoy seafood such as kaisen Izakaya (seafood pubs) and robatayaki restaurants, where the food is slowly grilled with over charcoal fire. For food other than seafood, we recommend jingisukan (Genghis Khan) where lamb or mutton is cooked in a special pot. Most jingisukan restaurants open at night and there are some places that offer all- you- can- eat courses.
Hokkaido Trip Day 2: Taking the train from Sapporo to Otaru! Shopping and walking around the canal
■Day 2: Morning
Sapporo → Otaru (Car: approximately 39km, train: 35 minutes, bus: 1 hours 10 minutes)
Wall Street of the North → Otaru Canal → Otaru Canal Cruise
Advice: A convenient way to getting to Otaru from Sapporo is taking the JR Rapid Airport train from JR Sapporo Station. If you plan to visit the outskirts area of Otaru such as Shakotan Peninsula and Yoichi, we recommend renting a car in Sapporo for efficiency. You can go sightseeing around Otaru City on foot. There is a bus from Sapporo to Otaru, however it takes longer than the train.
Advice: First thing to do after arriving at JR Otaru Station is head towards Otaru Canal. It is about a 15 minute walk from the station. On the way you will go by a street with old bank buildings called the Wall Street of the North, while strolling through the area head towards the canal. The view of the canal can be enjoyed while walking alongside it, however we also recommend taking a ride on the Otaru Canal Cruise. If there is an opening on the day, you can hop on, but it is better to make reservations in advance, especially during the holiday seasons.
■Day 2: Must-Haves for Lunch
Kaisendon / Wakadori Hanshinage / Ankake Yakisoba
Advice: Port city Otaru is famous for fresh seafood. From Otaru Canal to Sakaimachi Street, there are many kaisendon (seafood rice bowl) specialty shops and some have English menus. Known as Otaru’s local delicacy, Wakadori Hanshinage (half a chicken, deep fried) and Ankake Yakisoba (an = thick sauce, covered stir fried noodles covered in a thick sauce) shops are located near the station. If you plan to stop by for lunch, make sure you consider the time it takes to get there.
Advice: Otaru’s leading shopping street is Sakaimachi Street with many famous Otaru gifts shops such as glass crafts, music boxes and candles. From Otaru Canal Terminal to Otaru Music Box Museum, located at the end of Sakaimachi Street, is 1km and takes about 10 minutes on foot. On the way there are many sweets shops that represent Otaru such as LeTAO’s Café, Kitakaro and Rokkatei; it might be a good idea stop by and take a break. Many shops near Sakai Street closes around 18:00 to 19:00, so we recommend going shopping early.
Advice: Tenguyama Observation Deck offers a panoramic view of Otaru City to Otaru Ferry Terminal and Otaru Aquarium, with its penguin and dolphin shows, are all popular tourist sites in the outskirts of Otaru. You will want to take a bus from JR Otaru Station and it will take about 3 hours round trip. Also there are many old buildings and warehouses along Otaru Canal that were renovated into retro-style cafes and restaurants; make sure to stop by for a break while you are strolling along the canal.
Advice: It is said that there are over 100 sushi shops in Otaru and many shops arecan be found along a street called “Sushi Street” (Sushiya Dori). It is better to make reservations for popular restaurants, but if you avoid the busy hours, you might be able to get in. Your budget may vary depending on the shop, but it is typically costs around 3,000 yen to 10,000 per person. Uni (sea urchin) and shako (mantis shrimp) caught near Otaru region is are very popular. The best season for shako is spring to autumn and uni is June to August. Fresh seafood dishes prepared with ingredients caught near Otaru is are also delicious. There are also western restaurants with dishes like cotriade and bouillabaisse.
■Hokkaido Trip Day 3: Day trip to Furano and Biei from Sapporo! Gardens and Healthy Lunch!
Day 4: Soak Up Some Hot Springs: Plan A or B!
■Day 4: Plan A, scenic spots and hot spring hopping in the historical hot spring town Noboribetsu!
Advice: Travel to Noboribetsu Onsen (Noboribetsu Hot Spring) from JR Sapporo Station by train or rental car. There is an intercity bus Kosoku Onsen-go from the station, however there is only 1 bus per day. If you take the public bus you will need to change routes and it could take over 2 and a half hours to get there. You could get to popular locations in Noboribetsu Onsen by bus or taxi, however we recommend renting a car for smooth traveling.
■Day 4: Lunch is a must
Jigoku Ramen / Enma Yakisoba
Advice: Famous local dishes of Noboribetsu Onsen are jigoku ramen (hell ramen) and Enma yakisoba (Enma is the god that judges your fate in the underworld), these dishes are named after the popular local site Jigokudani (Hell Valley). Jigoku ramen is a popular dish at the ramen shop Aji no Daio and it is famous for the red spicy soup that looks something the devil would serve up!
Noboribetsu Enma yakisoba are served in various restaurants in the hot spring area, each shop offers a different variation of these spicy stir fried noodles. Many restaurants are located along Gokuraku Dori starting from Noboribetsu Onsen bus terminal.
■Day 4: Afternoon
Jigokudani → Oyunuma → Oyunuma Natural Foot bath → Sengen Park
Advice: If you are not using a rental car, you could use a bus or taxi to reach sightseeing locations. You can walk to the locations, but it takes quite a bit of time. There are pathways around Jigokudani and Oyunuma and you can stroll through the area. It’s a long path trail so we recommend walking shoes and comfortable clothing. It will take about 3 to 4 hours. Every day, foot lamps along the pathway are illuminated from sundown to 9:30 p.m., you can enjoy the stroll in a magical atmosphere.
Advice: If you have spare time, it is a good idea to go to Noboribetsu Bear Park by ropeway and Noboribetsu Date Jidaimura, a theme park with Edo Period historical building replicas. Either facilities close around 4 to 5 p.m., so it might be better to stop by here then heading over to the illuminated pathway in Jigokudani area. Also some hot spring hotels offer public baths that you can stop by while sightseeing.
■Day 4: We recommend a relaxing dinner at hotel!
Advice: Near the Noboribetsu Onsen area there are many hotels that have dining facilities, so there are few restaurants that offer dinner in the area. If you decide to spend the night in Noboribetsu Onsen, you should make sure to order the dinner inclusive plan. There are various meal plans depending on the facility, such as buffets using seasonal local produce, full course meals filled with food gathered from the mountain and sea, and ozen ryori.
■Hokkaido Trip Day 4: Plan B, one night at Lake Toya Hot Spring and lake resort in the outskirts of Sapporo
Advice: Lake Toya Hot Spring is the center point for sightseeing in the area. There are 4 buses per day to Lake Toya Hot Spring from JR Sapporo Station;, reservation by phone is required (Donan bus). When taking the train, take the Super Hokuto from JR Sapporo Station to JR Toya Station, from there take the bus to Lake Toya Hot Spring. It is possible to use the bus to go sightseeing in the Lake Toya area, however using a rental car is more efficient.
■Day 4: Lunch is a must
Advice: Around Lake Toya, there are few restaurants and cafecafés that offers a panoramic view of the lake. There aren’t a lot of famous local dishes, however there are few menus menu options using scallops from Funka Bay located in the outskirts of Lake Toya. Dishes such as Hotatedon (scallop rice bowl), scallop okowa (sticky rice), deep fried scallops and scallop ramen can be enjoyed at restaurants, train stations and service stations in the Lake Toya area.
■Day 4: Afternoon
Toyakokisen → Usuzan Ropeway
Advice: The highlight of Lake Toya sightseeing is the lake cruise. The boat operates every 30 to 60 minutes (depending on the season) and you can buy boarding tickets that day. There is a summertime-only fireworks viewing cruise that is also quite exciting. To get to Usuzan Ropeway, use the local bus. There are only few buses so make sure to keep track of bus departure times when planning.
■Day 4: If you have the time!
Cuisine: Okadaya / Waksaimo Honpo Lake Toya Honten
Advice: The two major sweets of Lake Toya are Okadaya’s shiroi oshiruko and Waksaimo Honpo’s wakasaimo. Okadaya’s shiroi oshiruko is made from daifuku beans harvested in the area. Wakasaimo Honopo’s wakasaimo is a white bean paste with kombu (edible kelp) mixed in shaped like yaki-imo (roasted sweet potato). Both shops have cafés that offers sweets and regular food menu, it is a convenient place to have lunch.
■Day 4: Must-Haves for Dinner
Dinner at the Windsor Hotel Toya Resort & Spa
Advice: The Windsor Hotel Toya Resort & Spa is Lake Toya’s luxurious resort hotel.
There are restaurants listed in the Michelin Guide Hokkaido such as Michel Bras Toya Japon. It is possible to get seats at the restaurants if reservations gets canceled, if there is a restaurant that you want to go to, we recommend making reservations ahead of time. You can also stay at other hotels and have dinner here.
■Hokkaido Trip Day 5: To New Chitose Airport from your accommodation
A: Noboribetsu to the Airport (car: approximately 73km, bus: 1 hour 15 minutes)
Advice: There are only 2 Express Airport buses per day in the morning. If you are heading to JR Sapporo Station there is the Kosoku Onsen-go bus once per day or you can use the train.
B: Lake Toya Onsen to the Airport (car: approximately 100km, train: 1 hour 30 minutes ~)
Advice: From JR Toya Station head to JR Minami-Chitose Station and transfer to the train heading to the airport. Depending on the transfer at Minbami-Chitose Station your travel time may vary, so make sure to check the departure schedule beforehand. The bus from Noboribetsu Onsen to JR Sapporo Station takes about 2 hours and 45 minutes, then you will transfer to the airport shuttle and head to the airport.
*Times and distances are a reference guide
*Prices and options mentioned are subject to change.
*Unless stated otherwise, all prices include tax.
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