As Japan has been hit by a record-breaking heat wave which affected thousands of residents this summer, I wanted to break free from the boiling temperature and fly to the possible coolest part of the country even just for a few days. Srsly, the scorching heat makes you irritable, tired and ill. And so, during my school summer break, I decided to pursue and explore as what I named “the north pole of Japan” — Hokkaido.
How to Get There
- By Plane. Hokkaido has several local airports that can cater tourists coming from different parts of Japan, even offering direct flights from selected foreign countries. This is the most convenient form and the fastest ofc. From NGO (Nagoya Airport), I purchased my roundtrip plane tix bound to New Chitose Airport in Sapporo for JPY11,530. This is a promo from Air Asia and you can score such great value too if you’re keen in seat sales.
- By Train. Your Japan Rail Pass (if you opt to have one as you travel w/in Japan) covers also trips from the country’s major cities to Hokkaido. It would take around 4 hours from Tokyo to Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto (via JR Tohoku/Hokkaido Shinkansen) and another 3.5 hours as you take the Hokuto limited express to Sapporo. Approx. 8 hours will be deducted from your time of stay so I think this wouldn’t be a good option for those who have a busy itinerary. For those who are interested also, unfortunately, I can’t give you full details about this since my visa status doesn’t allow me to avail JR Pass and just got this info from japan-guides.
- By Car. As to my friend, google map, traveling from my place (Gifu) to Sapporo would make me drive for 19 hrs with tolls and 26 hrs w/out. Thus, this would NEVER be my choice. Haha! And with the prices per toll you’ll gonna get through to get there, well, good luck on that!
From New Chitose Airport to Sapporo City
- By Train. From Chitose (Hokkaido) station to Sapporo (JR), it would take you 30 mins and JPY860 for unreserved seat or JPY1,360 for reserved one.
- By Car. There are plenty of rental car companies in the airport that you can choose from if you want to rent as you stroll around the island. You can search it on the web and choose the best one that would suit your preference.
- By Bus. You can also go to the Bus Terminal in Chitose Airport and look for the time schedule bound for Sapporo. The bus ticket costs Jpy1030 one-way.
Getting Around Hokkaido
- We rent a car from Toyota Sapporo-East station branch for 48 hours for our Biei-Furano and Shakotan Peninsula routes. The branch was chosen since we’ll be arriving late at night and their office is the only one open until 10PM and the nearest to the station. That made it easier for us to pick-up and return the car. It had cost us JPY 26,784 for an aqua hybrid model with an unlimited coverage on insurance; incurred gasoline was only JPY3,724 for 2 days and JPY5,100 for unlimited pass on expressways around Hokkaido.
- For our Sapporo or city itinerary, we purchased the Donichika Ticket – a one-day subway pass for weekends and holidays at JPY520. What a great save! 🙂
Sapporo City’s hotels and even hostels are ones of the most expensive I’ve ever encountered in scanning for lodging and where to stay. Prices range from 45,000 to 60,000 jpy for a mid-starred, for 3-4 nights stay. When I travel, I don’t want to spend so much in accommodation since I’m just gonna sleep there anyway and out the entire day. As long as it can give me a decent and good sleep and bath, then I’m in. I looked for a superhost in AirBnb and Rina’s place in the city was one lucky star. Her place is neat and very convenient for anything that we need. There’s no free parking but its property is just a minute away from a paid parking lot: JPY600 for the entire night. Got the entire property at JPY26,055 good for 2 persons and for 4 nights stay. (Blessed!) Send me a message if you are interested on staying at her property. Japan has quite strict rules on AirBnb right now so let me know so I can refer you directly.
Most of the beautiful places to go included in our itinerary couldn’t be reached by public transpo. Thus, having a Japan driving license, or even an international license was really a great help. Driving around and feel what we saw and experience was really one for the books. I have listed down where we went but I’ll have another post/s to swathe the details of these amazing spots.
DAY 1: Biei-Furano
- Farm Tomita
- Blue Pond
- Shirahige Waterfalls
- Patchwork no machi
- Shikisai no oka
- Hokusei no Oka Observatory Park
- Seven Stars Tree
- Tree of Ken and Mary
- Mild Seven Hills
- Ningle Terrace
- Panorama Road
DAY2: Shakotan Peninsula
- Cape Kamui
- Shimamui Coast
- Shukutsu Panorama Observation
- Otaru Canal
- Otaru Sakaimachi Street
DAY3: Sapporo City Tour
- Moerenuma Park
- Sapporo Beer Museum
- Sapporo TV Tower
- Odori Park
- Old Government House
- Moiwa Ropeway
BUDGET (Per Pax)
The total amount I spent in Hokkaido was just right for my budget. Here is the breakdown of what I actually incurred.
- Plane Ticket – 11,530
- Car rental – 17,804
- Trains and others – 6,900
- Accommodation – 13,038
- Food – 10,157
- Pasalubong and souvenirs – 12,091 (variable exp.)
TOTAL: JPY 71,520 (Php33,614 for 0.47 is to 10,000 yen conversion)
1. Best time to go. Each season in Hokkaido has its own merit. Snow can make every thing seems so magical during winter. Flowers bloom beautifully during spring. Summer has low humidity and pleasant breezes while autumn has mountain views colored with the changing leaves. There’s no “wrong timing” when talking about when to go.
2. Souvenirs. The best place to buy is in the airport (tested in Chitose airport). Unlike in other countries, prices both in the Japan’s airport and in diff. local spots are just the same. At least, you have every thing to buy in just one place. In Sapporo station, visit this store (below) for your omiyage needs. It’s near south gate/exit.
3. Car rental. This is the best way to get around Hokkaido, as I said. There are some not-so-hidden gems in the island that are only accessible by private cars.
4. Sapporo one-day ticket. Purchase a money-saving pass that allows unlimited rides on subway trains for the whole day. There’s One-day Ticket for Subway Use priced at 830 yen for adults and 420 yen for children. The Donichika Ticket good as a subway pass for weekends and holidays @ 520 yen and 260 yen for adults and kids, respectively. Also Dosanko Pass for one-day streetcar pass for weekends and holidays @ 360 yen per pass.
Hokkaido is the northernmost of Japan’s main islands and the largest prefecture. As the biggest, you can’t have everything in just one trip, hence there’s always a reason to go back. ❤
Enjoy and have fun!