My 9N 11D Trip to HOKKAIDO – Part 3: LAKE TOYA

The Hokkaido trail continues.

After a 3-hour drive from Hakodate, we arrived at our ryokan, Kohan Tei in Lake Toya in the late evening.  As our booking included dinner, we had a very decent buffet dinner in the hotel.  The next morning we headed out early to explore the pretty town.

Our Stay:
KOHAN TEI
Lake Toya

It was a lovely bright autumn day and trees have turned red and gold.  Driving through the small quiet roads in Lake Toya town, we appreciated the slow unhurried pace of life and took time to enjoy the gorgeous weather and beautiful scenery.  We spotted a pretty cafe and decided to pay it a visit.

Cafe-House Raidojuku was warm and cosy and so homely!  It looked like we had stepped into somebody’s bar and dining room.  Toys, knick-knacks, potted plants all add up to the homely feel and we even had a big teddy sitting with us at the table – too cute!  Run by a retired couple, the menu was simple – we had some cheese sandwiches, omelette and coffee with teddy.  It’s such a comfortable place, so we took our time and lingered a while.

Cafe-House Raidojuku

From Cafe-House Raidojuku, we took a drive around the town.  As you can see from the map, the place is well-contained and everywhere is easy to get to.  We read about a good soba restaurant and set about locating it – didn’t take us long to find it!

 

Sobakura is another quaint little eatery.  There’re only a few tables and I’ve heard it’s always full so we made it a point to be there just after they opened, ie around 11.00am.  It’s a neat cosy place, very simply fitted out with plain wooden furniture.  We had the whole place to ourselves when we arrived, right until we finished our meal.

 

The soba here was amazing – smooth and slurp-worthy with a nice al dente texture, just the way I like my noodles.  My bowl of sansei & mushrooms soba in sweet clear broth was brimming over with deliciousness while the others also thoroughly enjoyed their soba with freshly-fried tempura as well as the cold soba.

SOBAKURA
36 Toyako Onsen
Toyako-cho
Abuta-gun 049-5721
Hokkaido
Tel: +81-142-75-2345

 

Abuta Shrine

 

Interesting stuff in the park by the lake!

We took a walk along the lakeside and it was a super windy and chilly day and the sun was shining gloriously.  Lake Toya is huge volcanic caldera lake, measuring 10km in diameter east-west and 9km north-south.  It’s so big that from where we were, it looked like an endless sea.  The strong wind caused fast ripples on the lake which was kinda fascinating to watch.

After the walk in the chilly wind, we needed hot coffee and the obvious choice was Wakasaimo Cafe which is very popular as it has frontal view of the lake.  We of course couldn’t resist some of their delectable cakes as well and took our time chilling out at this cafe.  The view from our table was superb.

Cakes & coffee and ice cream!

After coffee and cakes, some of us were still peckish so we headed up to the 2nd floor where there’s another popular restaurant, Sendoan, for a bit of lunch.  Their unagi’s really good.

 

WAKASAIMO CAFE
Ground Floor
SENDOAN Restaurant
1st Floor Wakasaimo
144 Toyako Onsen, Toyako
Abuta-gun 049-5721
Hokkaido
Tel: +81-142-75-2782
Open: 11.00amn – 7.00pm

 

The next day we decided to venture a bit further out from Toyako town.  We headed out to Lake Hill Farm, about 20 minutes’ drive away.  It’s a really pretty place, a great place for kids as there are ponies, rabbits and even a goat on the farm.  We stayed for coffee and ice cream!  Yes, get a taste of Hokkaido’s famous soft serves here, in so many flavours too!  Definitely a scenic spot to stop by.

Lake Hill Farm

 

If you are driving from Lake Toya to Sapporo, there are countless fruit farms to stop by and visit, along the way.  We were there at the right time – apples, pears and grapes were in season.  Freshly-picked fruits, like literally just from the trees, were all on sale for a song!

Fruit Farms

 

Along the way, if you need to stop for a bit of retail therapy or just to stretch your legs and catch a bite, the Rera Chitose Outlets Mall should not be missed.  There are a lot of Japanese brands here, besides the usual international brands.

Rera Chitose Outlets Mall

Lunch in the Mall

We had lunch in the mall before continuing our drive to Sapporo.

Watch out for my next post – all about our time in Sapporo!

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My 9N/11D Trip to HOKKAIDO – Part 2: HAKODATE

Hakodate is the 3rd largest city in Hokkaido, after Sapporo and Asahikawa. Our leisurely drive from Noboribetsu took about 3 hours as we took our time and stopped for coffee along the way. We reached our hotel, Dormy Inn Express in the late evening. After checking in and freshening up, we headed out looking for dinner. We drove a short distance – it’s easy to get around in Hakodate, and found ourselves at Daimon Yokocho – food alleys serving local food.

The eateries in Daimon Yokocho are all tiny, some seating just about 6 people! Most of them were full as locals and tourists planted themselves enjoying drinks and food. In some of the outlets, we could see the owners sitting down with their guests and having a merry time!

The eateries we wanted to try were packed so we finally chose one which could accommodate us and we had some seafood soup and crab congee. Those were our appetizers as after that, we crossed over the main road and had a proper dinner in a restaurant. It was a restaurant specializing in grilled dishes and we had some really good stuff that night. The grilled squid was outstanding – we order that twice!

 

Hakodate Morning Market
One of the highlights of our time in Hakodate was of course the Hakodate Asaichi – Hakodate Morning Market located opposite the Hakodate JR Station. There are about 250 stalls in this bustling market and we absolutely adored gawking at all the fresh and dried seafood on sale. Everything was so tempting – we couldn’t decide fast enough which type of crabs to go for first.

In the end, we gave in to the fresh king crab and settled down at one of the bigger stalls to savour one. Our live king crab weighed more than 2kg and this was served to us in 2 ways: half of it grilled and the other half steamed. Words can’t describe how incredibly sweet and delicious that king crab was! It was money well spent – that crab cost about RM830.

We also tried our hand at squid-fishing in the market. Admittedly, it’s a touristy thing to do but we just had to try it! It’s a fail-safe thing – you just have to decide which squid you want to catch! Our caught squid was then immediately cleaned and cut-up and served to us sashimi-style. The strips of translucent succulent squid were sweet, dipped in shoyu + chopped ginger.

Seasonal fruits like the famous Hakodate melons and grapes were on sale and we bought a whole melon and bags of grapes to eat throughout the day! Dried scallops were aplenty everywhere and we bought a kilo of those – not cheap but they were very fresh and of premium quality.

 

We loved the market so much that we visited it again the following day for breakfast before heading to Lake Toya. The Donburi Yokocho Ichiba, the food arcade in the market had all kinds of temptations which were really hard to resist! Seafood rice bowls, hairy crabs, grilled scallops – we had them all, and more!

 

We spent some time downtown, strolling and shopping at the famous Redbricks Warehouses and the surrounding area. We checked out the famous Lucky Pierrot cafe just across from the shopping warehouses. We are not sure what the fuss was all about as we found their burgers rather rudimentary at best. I guess the novelty was just to visit the cafes as each cafe spots a different theme in their deco.

A Lucky Pierrot burger

 

Later that evening we took the cable car up to Mt Hakodate for the famous nightview of the harbour and city. There’s always a long queue for the cable car so one really has to be patient. The ride was only about 3 minutes and of course it’s very cold up there. We had to pull our jackets tightly as it was also windy and jostled with lots of people to get the best spot to take photos of the breath-taking night scene below!

We stayed two nights in Hakodate Dormy Inn Express and on the 3rd day after another hearty seafood breakfast at the Hakodate Morning Market, we set out for Lake Toya. The route we took had us driving through the beautiful lush greenery of orchards and farms. We could also spot Mt Komagatake in the misty distance as we drove through the beautiful Onuma Quasi park areas.

It was rainy that day but that did not deter us from stopping to admire the lake in the Onuma Valley.

 

We also stopped by Kurobeko Yakiniku (Challenge Beef) and had a most delicious and memorable lunch of beef yakiniku!  The restaurant only served the best Onuma beef produced by farmers in the region!

The setting was like a ranch with solid wooden tables and benches inside the spacious dining hall. From the windows we could see the rolling countryside and hills – it’s all very rural and close to Mother Nature!

Our lunch cost around ¥13,000 for some of the best Wagyu beef and we had quite a lot!   The restaurant is open from 11am to 8pm and is situated along the road from Lake Onuma to Shikabe town.

Just grill them and enjoy!

Kurobeko Yakiniku
436 Kami-Ikusagawa, Nanae-cho
Kameda-gun, Hokkaido 041-1100
Tel: +81-138-67-3653

Stay tuned for the next part of our journey – Lake Toya & Sapporo!

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MY 9N/11D TRIP TO HOKKAIDO – PART 1: CHITOSE/NOBORIBETSU

Our trip to Hokkaido was in end September/early October 2016 for 9 nights 10 days covering Noboribetsu, Hakodate, Lake Toya and of course, Sapporo. We decided to visit during autumn when the weather was delightfully cold and yet with the fall colours still visible. We took the Air Asia night flight directly from KLIA2 and arrived at the New Chitose Airport the next morning at 8.20am.

This 1st post covers what we experienced in Chitose and Noboribetsu, with a short sojourn to Sapporo, just for the Sapporo Autumn Food Festival.  We returned to Sapporo later and spent the last few days of our trip in this city, so there will be more to share on Sapporo in Part 3.

Such a cute welcome at the airport!

The happiest road around!

After immigration which was a breeze, we took some time to explore the airport. It’s not a very big airport but well-designed and as always, spotlessly clean and totally functional. After a warm welcome by a passage of exotic animals on display, we made our way to Level 3 where there’s Gourmet World and Smile Road (what a nice name!) where Royce Chocolates, Doraemon and Hello Kitty rule.

The Royce Choclocates Cafe serves freshly-made breads and pastries, a selection so big that it’s really hard to make our choices, and we were also reserving tummy space for the ramen up in Level 4 where the Food Court is.

 

Once we were up at Level 4, it’s like food and shopping had immediately started! There are many outlets selling seafood produce and restaurants offering ramen (mainly) and other Japanese food. We zoomed in to the ramen – there were so many outlets beckoning customers so just pick one which appeals to you!

There are so many ramen eateries to choose from!

 

Visitors landing at Chitose Airport should allocate some time to check out the airport as there’s plenty to like and marvel here.

Shopping starts at the airport!

There’s plenty of shopping to be done at the airport!

 

Once we have filled our tummies, we proceeded to pick up our rental car from the Car Rental Centre minutes away from the airport terminal. We then headed to Sapporo Odori Park to catch the Sapporo Autumn Food Festival. It was the last day of the festival and the crowd was all out to enjoy themselves!

Odori Park

Perfect weather to enjoy the Sapporo Autumn Festival at the park

The busier part of Sapporo – with alternative transportation too!

 

After checking out the stalls and having some of our favourite Japanese dishes, we piled back into the car to make our way to Noboribetsu, a popular onsen town in Hokkaido. It took us about an hour’s drive from Sapporo. We checked into our charming ryokan – Noboribetsu Manseikaku, rested a bit and then it was time for dinner. We opted for the buffet spread in the resort which had a good selection of Japanese dishes.

We stayed at this charming ryokan in Noboribetsu

View from our ryokan

The buffet breakfast & dinner at Noboribetsu Manseikaku were pretty decent!

 

Noboribetsu is a charming little town with hot springs being its main attraction. The next morning, after breakfast in the ryokan, we visited one of the biggest hot springs in Noboribetsu – Jigokudani (Hell Valley), just a few roads away from our ryokan. There are walking/hiking tracks all around the site and if you are so inclined, it takes 1-2 hours to complete the track. The smell of sulphur was pretty strong around the area with sulphuric vapours steaming out from the ground.

Gorgeous weather – bright, sunny & cold!

Fancy trekking around these hills?

 

After that, we made our way to Noboribetsu Date Judaimura, a theme village built to showcase the Edo era. It was a bright sunny day – perfect to explore the sights and attractions of the theme village. There were ninja shows, samurai theatre, ghost house, ninja maze, restaurants and of course, lots of shopping too!

Entrance of Noboribetsu Date Judaimura

The outdoor comedy show – dialogue’s all in Japanese though!

These noodles were incredibly yummy!

The indoor samurai show – we had to queue some time for this.  Again, everything’s in Japanese 🙂

The shopping street inside the village

Life in an Edo community, centuries ago

Can you spot the cat? 😛

 

After leaving Noboribetsu Date Judaimura, we went for lunch at one of the quaint little restaurants along the main road near our ryokan. There are only a few streets in this onsen town, really.

We loved the quaint shops and eateries in Noboribetsu!

 

After lunch, we made our way to Hakodate, about 200km away, a journey that took almost 3 hours.

It was a beautiful drive, although the sky was a bit cloudy as we got some magnificent views of the Pacific Ocean along Uchiura Bay. We stopped by a rest area to have some hot coffee and took in some cold ocean breeze before continuing on to Hakodate.

 

STAY:
Noboribetsu Manseikaku
21 Noboribetsu-onsen
Noboribetsu
Hokkaido 059-0551

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