Our trip to Hokkaido was in end September/early October 2016 for 9 nights 11 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 Chocolates Cafe served 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 was.
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! But I can assure you, all would be good – food in Japan is generally delicious – we’ve never had a bad meal there!
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 and done with window-shopping salivating at everything in sight, 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!
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?
There’s always time to take a selfie!
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.
Look out for Part 2 where I’ll be sharing on our experiences in Hakodate and Lake Toya!