Exploring Eastern Hokkaido with JAPANiCAN

by Rosemarie John on March 4, 2015

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Day 3 – An Afternoon on Ice

We woke up to dense fog again and by the time we had breakfast, the sky had cleared. We boarded our bus and hit the road. Day three was when I tasted melon ice cream for the first time. I wasn’t very keen at first but since chocolate had run out, melon it was! I was pleasantly surprised by how tasty it was., It wasn’t overly sweet and I felt as if I was actually eating the fruit itself.

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The roads twisted and turned. Up and down hillocks we went. Along the way we encountered wild deer, foxes and eagles. Our guide was complementing our luck of having the opportunity to see some wildlife. Our driver nodded in agreement. In fact it was he who spotted the eagles and beckoned us to see them. Three hours into our journey the bus pulls up beside one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen – Lake Shikaribetsu! Surrounded by mountains, this vast lake is completely frozen. A makeshift village is constructed that houses an ice bar, open bath hot spring, a chapel, igloo bedrooms you could sleep overnight in and snowmobiles for hire.

I walked down towards the lake. There was no water, no reflection to be had. Instead, I kept walking, walking on the lake. On powder snow so soft that I felt I was touching whipped thick cream. It was snowing mildly and the snowflakes softly kissed my face. The trees around the lake looked like they were sprinkled with icing sugar and the entire landscape looked like dream!

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At the ice bar we had a hot cup of Kahlua and milk. The combo tasted awesome and very apt for the temperatures we were in. We have many a times explored a country by ourselves, but being on a tour this time gave us a stress free feeling and made our experience a relaxed one. We didn’t have to keep trying to figure our way around. Coupled with the fact that we were journeying in the interiors of Hokkaido in the middle of winter, it helped that we always had a bus waiting for us. We must admit that it’s good to have a great organised tour.

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Next stop was Sapporo but not before having lunch. “Teishoku” meaning set meal consisted of butadon (pork rice), rainbow trout sashimi, fried arctic char, soba noodles, picked vegetables and hojicha – green tea that has been roasted in a porcelain pot over charcoal! We enjoyed our meal thoroughly after that heavy workout treading through snow! It was also delightful to eat seafood that was from the very lake we stood on some moments ago.

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I knew our tour was soon coming to an end and I didn’t want to leave Lake Shikaribetsu. It was such a serene and peaceful place despite a few snowball fights happening every now and then. It was quite entertaining seeing people of all ages making snowballs! Back in the bus, I looked out the window and watched the virgin landscape that were full of leafless trees on either side of the road slowly replaced with buildings. We were nearing a city.

Sapporo, with a rectangular street system and food at every corner is the fifth largest city in Japan and we were happy to spend a few days there. Our home for the first night in Sapporo was Art Hotels Sapporo and it had a very boutique feel with western style rooms. We reached the bustling city around 5pm and were happy to have the rest of the evening to explore for ourselves. This was the end of the tour. Though it technically ends on the morning of the 4th day after a good hearty breakfast and check out at 11am, our road journey had ended.

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We bid adieu to Ms Suzuki our guide who we grew very fond of and farewell to our silent driver and our other fellow travellers on the bus. We were grateful that we could share some of our most memorable moments of our journey with them. Hokkaido is breathtakingly beautiful. We had merely glimpsed into its beautiful soul and realized it has so much more to offer. The tour got us acquainted to this wonderful land. Perhaps we will go back there another time and stay longer. For more details on our JAPANiCAN tour – visit their official website.

Stay tuned for what we did the next morning in our next post! We are not done yet.

How We Stayed Connected in Japan

The one thing I cannot live without is data connection! Whether it is for emails, social media or just keeping in touch with mom, data is the first thing I think about when planning a trip. We found it easy to just arrange for it to be picked up at the airport when you arrive by purchasing it online here.

Travel Tips

  • Since the 4-Day Eastern Hokkaido Highlights Tour starts from the Japanese Tourism Board’s counter at the New Chitose Airport, opt to stay the night at a nearby hotel.
  • The 4-Day Eastern Hokkaido Highlights Tour will only be visible on the official website during winter season. So search online closer towards the season.
  • Make sure you wear comfortable shoes that have gripped soles to prevent from slipping on ice or buy anti-slip grip soles from the airport convenience store called Lawson.
  • Most washitsu hotel rooms do not have enough plug points to charge all your equipment simultaneously, so make sure you carry a power bank as additional support.
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