There’s nothing more difficult than revisiting a country you visited with your love one. I have fond memories of Japan. Especially, from the trip in August 2015. I remember how excited I was to escape Bangkok to meet my beloved for a week in Tokyo. Despite the heat, we had an amazing time. I miss that. I miss him. I miss arriving in the airport and seeing him waiting there. The kisses, the hugs, the unforgetable butterflies that came with being newly in love. We were 2.5 months into our relationship at that point and I haven’t seen him since his impromptu visit in June. There are so many memories that I remember vividly – so much so that it hurts. Reminiscing about him brings up a tremendous amount of emotions. I can’t help, but cry (a little). I’m the kind of girl that loves hard. When I love, I love and when I hate I will hate to the day I die. Its never a good idea to be on my bad side. Anyway, this week will be interesting. I already know that there will be a lot of things that will destroy me a little inside. Bit by bit, like a knife slowly cutting into an open wound. A wound that keeps having salt rub into it. Its three months today, actually, since he made his final decision to leave me. Still pains me everyday. I love him so. Always have, always will. I cannot even start to comprehend how lucky I am to have fallen in love with him. To me he might end up being the only man I love and be in love with. The two things aren’t the same. I have love someone before. But I was not in love with him. Not like this. He’s everything I ever wanted and more. The most influential person in my life, my push, my drive, my motivation to be a better person. Now I’m nothing without him, but I will one day make him regret leaving me. If not with me, I hope for dear life that he never falls in love again. Never find someone who loves him. And don’t he dare ever get married with someone else. I will wait and do everything and anything I can to get him back. To love, cherish, respect, and look after each other again. I don’t need anything else; just him.
The trip started off with an early arrival at the airport to queue up since its Songkran holiday and a tremendous amount of people are traveling. Anyhow, it took us half an hour in the line to drop our bags and about another half to get through immigration and security. We then had an hour to shop, eat, and get ready to board the full flight bound for Sapporo’s New Chitose airport. The flight is filled with Thai tourists coming in tour groups. Surprisingly, many old people either that or young families. Where did people our age go? Tokyo?
After landing I found that answer very probable. Hokkaido looks barren, dry, and gloomy. I knew that spring just rolled in and its not their high season in April. But really? The streets were practically empty. The tourists we saw around are either Chinese or Thai. Anyway, we rented a car via Toyoto-rent-a-car company, so we went to pick up our Fielder and head off to Noboribetsu which is only about an hour or so away from the airport. It was an easy drive on an empty road. The drivers here behave so well! I was warned by my parents to do the same and adhere to the local culture. And so I did.
Once we got to Noboribetsu, we went to explore Jigoku-dani “Hell’s valley” first. The geographical setup of the area is interesting. It kind of does look like hell. Because my brother got hungry before we could walk up to the crater lake, we decided to have lunch first before attempting the hike up. Its only a half an hour walk. We seeked out a Soba restaurant which ranked no1 on TripAdvisor, however, it was closed on Wednesday. Hence, we ended up having a random bowl of ramen. Not that it was bad though. So I’m not complaining.
Mt Oyuma’s crater lake is nowhere as impressive as those volcanoes in Indonesia. But its still good to stand on an active volcano with its fuming smoke. After exhausting ourselves, we finally head to checkin at Oyado Kiyomizuya ryokan. The place have two kinds of room – Western and Japanese. The Japanese one is where you sleep in a tatami mat room on a mattress. Its an interesting cultural experience for those who haven’t tried. Along with wearing kimono and stripping naked at the hot spring. Luckily, when I went in, there was no one there. So I had the outdoor pool to myself. Great experience. I actually like it a lot more than the indoor pool, since its ventilating and easier to breathe. The restaurant we went to was recommended by the hotel, its called Onsen Ichiba. There’s a variety of food on the menu and food was edible. Nothing special.
Before reaching Lake Toya, we went to ChiKyu Miyasaki in Muroran to view the whitehouse on the Pacific coast. However, the weather was so grey that we didn’t see a thing. Next stop is the Mt. Usu and Mt. Showa – the ancient volcano and its baby. There, we took the gondola up to the top of the mountain where we had a view of Mt. Showa, Lake Toya, and the crater of Usu. Its a beautiful place, sadly we came too early in the Spring season to see flowers blossoming. The up side is that there are minimal tourists around the entirety of Hokkaido.
The rest of the day was spent eating – first at Boyotei for lunch then Lake Hill Farm for ice cream. There’s really not much to the Lake Toya area on a gloomy day. We decided to skip the Bear Park due to reviews saying that its depressing to see the bears caged. The highlight of our day is the onsen at the Toya Sun Palace hotel. While the hotel room is mediocre at best, the onsen pool is amazing! The bathhouse is new, clean, and well maintained. And the onsen itself…omg…so picturesque. The outdoor pool overlook the lake and the island in the middle. Such stunning sight! It make the onsen experience so much better. I wish there’s less people though. If I do come back to Lake Toya, I’ll either go stay at the Windsor Hotel or get a place with private onsen bath on the lake.
For dinner, luckily, I was able to make a last minute reservation at Michel Bras’ michelin three stars restaurants in the Windsor Hotel. The perk of the low season is that there’s barely anyone even in the best restaurant. Service was professional, friendly, and up to par with the fine-dining atmosphere. The wait time between courses was short, probably due to the limited number of guests. Food itself was good. Standard good food. None of it had a wow factor though. Price wise its exceptable for everything we received. While I was having my seven course dinner, my parents was next door splurging in the other dining room on teppanyaki.
Today we started a bit earlier since we have about a 2.5 – 3 hours drive to Hakodate. We won’t be making any stop along the way due to Mt. Komagatake being closed til May. I would recommend those who wants to visit Hokkaido to come in September. Its towards the end of high season. Peak season is from June – August or come when the sakura are blossoming. Early April is pretty much ugly and many attractions and restaurants are still closed for the winter. Its an easy drive between the two places on the expressway with a view of the Pacific on one side.
Before reaching Hakodate, we made one stop at the Onuma Park to stroll around a quasi national park on this windy day. It was 10c, but with wind chill? Probably went down to 4c. I came prepared for spring weather not winter! Seriously. Lucky that I decided last minute to bring my blue down jacket as well. Anyway, the park is highly recomended – it got a beautiful view of a lake with the mountains in the background. On warmer days, it’ll be possible to do a hike around the park. A complete circuit shouldn’t take so long and then you can walk around the area as well. Its a good photo stop.
In Hakodate the weather didn’t permit us to take the ropeway up Mt. Hakodate to see the panoramic view of the city. So we drove around town quickly to view the Shinto Shrine and Orthodox Church then proceed to do our favorite thing this trip – eating! First stop is the Lucky Pierrot burger chain. While there’s a limited number of selection from the menu that I can eat, my family likes this restaurant a lot. I suggest you burgers lover out there give this one a try. I had more luck at the Red Brick Warehouse where there were Starbucks and other cafes. After shopping for a bit, I grabbed some cheesecake from Snaffles. They were heavenly. Soft, creamy, and melted in my mouth. Japan is definitely dessert heaven.
Our last stop of the day was Uni Murakami, a seafood restaurant beside the Morning Market. Its main delicacy is uni, of course. So we ordered most items from the menu. There were no other tourist there that day which is a win! I always try to avoid places with tourists, especially, Thais and Chinese. Uni Murakami was packed with locals coming – some office people and other families. The food was alright. I didn’t find the uni dishes out of this world rather the variety was good.
After our breakfast at La Jolie Motomachi hotel, we head to Hakodate Morning Market for some live/fresh seafood. The market is small compared to Tsukiji, but yet again nice and clean. I satisfied myself with uni while my parents had crab and scallops. The japanese melon (yubari) was a delicious sweet treat at the end.
When we’re all full to the point of being able to roll around, we head off to Niseko for some skiing. We drove straight there with no stop until the milk ice cream shop near Pravtivo in Niseko Village. Since its the end of the ski season, most of Niseko is closed. Only a section of Hirafu was open for us to enjoy. At the base, we rented a full set of equipment including jacket, pant, beanie, gloves, boots, poles, and skis. So basically, you don’t have to bring anything to ski here. They have a good selection of colorful jackets to chose from.
The snow condition wasn’t that great, but its better than nothing. We bought the 5-hour pass. Since only a few lifts were opened, we got bored after a few hours. So we head over to Hilton Niseko Village to checkin and relax in the outdoor onsen. Both our room and the onsen have a great view of Mt. Yotei aka Little Fuji.
After a wonderful breakfast at the hotel, we spend sometime taking photos with Mt. Yotei from Hilton’s parking lot. The sky is clearer today, so we got a good view. Afterwards we drove to Otaru via Yoichi. At Yoichi, there’s a Nikka Whiskey Distillery. We spend about an hour there trying there free tasting whiskeys and purchasing some bottles that are only sold here.
Once we got to Otaru, we found that the ramen place we wanted to go to was closed and the weather was terrible. We had no choice but to stay indoors. Other than walking around eating dessert and sightseeing the canals. There’s really not much to Otaru itself. Good thing that we have a two michelin starred sushi restaurant, Kukizen, booked for dinner. It was the highlight of the day and probably the best meal this trip. The restaurant is right on Sushi street and it wasn’t difficult to locate.
Sapporo is our last stop. Its finally shopping day! But first off, we visited Mt. Moiwa for a great view of Sapporo from on top of the mountain. After that we proceed to ramen alley for lunch and shopping underground between Susukino and Odori station.
Along the way, we kept stuffing our faces with the wonderful desserts of Hokkaido. We ended the day with a fun dinner at Hachikyo. Its a seafood restaurant about a 5 minutes walk from the Best Western hotel. The restaurant’s specialty is a bowl of rice and ikura. Seems like nothing special, but the way its served makes the restaurant atmosphere so lively. Moreover, you get penalty fine if you don’t finish everything in the bowl. I did’t see anyone dare not finish it though. Definitely a great conclusion to our trip.