Sunday, October 22, 2017

Day 1 of The 8 Days, 7 Nights (Mostly Self-Drive) Summer Trip in Hokkaido [Japan]: Comprising Furano, Otaru, Lake Toya, Noboribetsu & Sapporo!



With a clear view of the blue sky when i woke up from my slumber on Thai Air's Boeing 747-400 plane, i took it as a good omen for fantastic weather in the next few days; an essential condition for nice photos!

The fact that we were a few thousand feet in the air (with forming ice crystal on the glass) was lost on me apparently and even if i did remember, the plane still needed to fly about one hour plus to get to New Chitose airport.

Situation changed as the plane descended and you can read more on my posting for the "the eyes in the sky above New Chitose". Well, i am at least happy that it wasn't pouring cats and dogs.

No matter what, i was even more excited to have finally arrived at the Land of the Rising Sun; a country listed in my childhood's composition on the things i wish to do when i am an adult.

And do you know that i super love the cartoon "Doraemon" when i was young? It's double happiness to have the statue welcoming us when we reached the arrival hall! p.s. there's a doraemon waku waku sky park in the airport and you can check out the information here.

Friends, who had travelled to Japan, often heaped praises on the toilets and that's the first thing i do at the airport; check out the washrooms!

Super clean, to the extent i think i can eat in the toilets, and they were all equipped with electronic bidets (known as washlets to some)! In the 8 days i was in Hokkaido, i can count with one hand the number of toilets that don't have the electronic bidet.

Need data? Get data sim from the vending machines! 1.2 GB for 3,500 yen (about S$41) and 3.2 GB for 5,500 yen (about S$65). Too expensive? Can explore Starhub Data Travel which only cost me S$20 for 3 GB of data!

Next step - proceed to the information counter a floor below where we can register for the shuttle van that shall bring us to the car rental company that we had booked before the trip!

A flower galore along the streets; they were pretty common and you can read more about it at a separate posting here.


Let's now surround ourselves with Hokkaido's greenery as we drove to Furano! Unlike the winter season where snow can be an issue, driving in summer was quite a breeze. 

Nevertheless, hazards still exist and you may click here for the hazards of driving in Hokkaido (in summer).

There were many tunnels!

I can take tons of selfies as Alex wasn't too comfortable to have me controlling the steering wheel, given my track record in South Korea; i.e. specifically the car accident at Jeju Island.

Stopped at Shimukappu rest station for a toilet break! Want to know more about the village? Click here; specialties of the village were said to be the melons and charcoal used for barbecuing.

Snacks were my main objective when i stepped into the store and i am mindful to only choose the kind Alex and i would eat; a box of wafer sticks is always a safe choice.

p.s. the speed limit at the countryside is usually about 40 kilometers an hour for good reasons; road bends are common and some can be rather sharp. In addition, there's always a risk of wild animals crossing the road.

These structures were placed as prevention for landslide?

For someone who lives in a tropical country, i cannot understand the purpose of the arrows; which i presume were to indicate the correct direction of traffic. However, Hokkaido is known for its thick, heavy snow and it wouldn't help if the arrows were drawn on the ground with the 100% likelihood that they would be hidden once winter arrives. [Update: a Ms Boo has kindly informed me that the arrows are to indicate the correct side of the road during winter. Thanks Ms Boo!]

Rivers!

Our My driver - as there were six of us, we got two cars! Since Alex and i would be going back to Singapore later, we decided to pay for the rental of our car so that it's less confusing towards the end.

Point of the picture - to show you the mountains!

Out of the mountain road into a region that was filled with plot and plot of agricultural crops! The sky wasn't, thankfully, as gloomy as the scene that greeted us when we disembarked from the plane at New Chitose.

Sunflower field and melon farm! So tempted to visit them but our stomach was growling; it's already lunchtime and our first stop in Furano was lunch at a restaurant said to be ranked third in the area.

The main town in Furano! Relatively laid-back with a boring atmosphere which didn't help when the weather was also quite hot. Back in Singapore, this would mean switching on the air conditioning in my room and taking a nap!

Our friends arrived shortly after (they lost their way) and we had a great lunch at Teppan Okonomiyaki Masaya! Please click here for my review.

Exploring the town on foot as our travel companions were still enjoying their food; i am known as food inhaler at work as i tend to eat very fast. Anyway, here's a hair salon in furano with eye-popping prices; in Singapore, a student cut usually cost about 1,000 yen at neighbourhood salons.

Ginger cat that appeared pissed with my intrusion.

Honestly, it's a rather nice town to retire in; so long our North Korean friend doesn't fire any more missiles across Japan! p.s. that incident happens a few weeks after my return from Hokkaido.

One of the nicer houses i chanced upon on my short walking trip.

If i am ever back at Furano, i would make sure to dine at Torisei as i was instantly drawn by the delicious aroma generated by their kitchen, which was exactly the same as Tori Q, when i strolled past.

Spiderwebs everywhere!

A bakery that's located next to another one of the top ranked restaurants in Furano; Yuiga Doxon 唯我独尊 which served curry rice.

Time to move on to our next destination; the airbnb for the night! It's also my first experience trying out airbnb and i am frankly curious to find out the differences.

Another ride about 15 minutes away from Teppan Okonomiyaki Masaya; drove past farmlands and a railway track where most free and easy visitors would travel along if they take the train from Sapporo

Our airbnb for the night! To be truthful, i wasn't that impressed and i guess the issue lies with me as i didn't enjoy the minsu in Taiwan too. For more pictures on the insides of the airbnb, click here.

A very pretty house right opposite the airbnb!

Our intention was to unload our luggage at the airbnb and then proceed to the flower fields. However, we found out that there wasn't a lock for our rooms and being typical kiasi Singaporeans, we decided to load up the cars with our luggage again.

Noticed this towering statue of a Bodhisattva; strangely, i couldn't find more information about it. Those who had stayed in Furano Hops Hotel might be able to provide some insights since the statue is quite near to it.

Shikisai-No-Oka (四季彩の丘) - our first flower fields in Hokkaido!

Sure was beautiful but the above photograph didn't do it much justice. To be bombarded by many amazing photos showcasing Shikisai-No-Oka (四季彩の丘), click here! By the way, do try their Hokkaido soft serve ice cream

Crowd had thinned significantly when we left the place. 

Back when i was researching for the trip, i was considering the above establishment (Lunch & Cafe Fuu) for lunch since it's only a few hundred meters away from Shikisai-No-Oka (四季彩の丘)

Flower fields of Shikisai-No-Oka (四季彩の丘) as we were driving. At this point, i took over the steering wheel from Alex as i seriously miss driving after scrapping my car over a year ago

Ecstatic although 'mistakes' did occur since the rented car was equipped with an automatic gear; e.g. stepped onto the brake pedal when i am suppose to be accelerating as my brain was telling me to shift gear and pushing the gear to "reverse" as i thought R stands for "Ride". 

Other than the aforementioned mistakes, i think i drove pretty well on the relatively straight road. Pity Alex forgives yet never forgets and his nagging continued to rain non-stop on me. 

For such a small town, i am surprised to see a rather large building housing a pachinko parlour! One regret from this Japan trip is that i never get to play the pachinko machine! 

No, we were not on our way back to the airbnb even though we did pass by. Our objective was to check out this magical village that's hidden in a forest and came alive when the sun sets. . 

Flanked by tall pine trees, it did feel kind of mystical as our car got nearer to the attraction. 

Ningle Terrace - the little people village! A not bad place to visit and there were a lot of interesting, unique stuff that you can buy. The only problem i faced was that the prices for those items were on the steep side. 

Motorcycles - why did i take the photo? Because i don't see a lot of motorcycles on the roads while driving in Hokkaido and that's fascinating to me as it's usually the cheapest mode of private motorized transport in a country. 

Dinner at Kumagera - just as i was typing out this post, i saw from TripAdvisor that its ranking has dropped from #2 to #4. To know what i had at this michelin-starred establishment, click here

Night was still young at 9 pm and a trip to the nearby Ralse Mart should be quite fun. Time to load up on bottled water, instant noodles and snacks for the next few days! 

Another regret in Hokkaido; i should have purchased those items on the right side! Know what they are? Sparklers and catherine wheels (i think) for the summer! 

Look like food offerings to me? 

We were there for less than ten minutes before the announcement came on and lights were progressively switched on; yes, the supermarket was closing and we were the last customers! 

A drive back with not much street lights as we cut across the agricultural farms from the main Furano town to our airbnb. Picture taken by me as Alex insisted on driving. :( 

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Detailed Postings for Day 1
  1. The Eyes in the Sky above New Chitose
  2. Street Flowers in Hokkaido in Summer
  3. Driving in Hokkaido - Renting a Car with "Budget Rent A Car"
  4. Hazards of Driving in Hokkaido (in Summer)
  5. Teppan Okonomiyaki Masaya
  6. My First Airbnb Experience
  7. Shikisai-No-Oka (四季彩の丘) Panoramic Flower Fields
  8. Ningle Terrace - The Magical Little People Village
  9. Kumagera - The Michelin-Starred Restaurant


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