Archive for the ‘Hokkaido’ Tag

2019 Summer Trip to Hokkaido   Leave a comment

I usually go to Japan in the spring and the fall. But this year, domestic trips took up the entire spring season, so I decided to go to Japan in July. The only place to travel to in July is Hokkaido, because the rest of Japan is muggy, humid, and hot. My friend, Kendra had gone to Hakodate, and I had not been there on my trip to Hokkaido 2 summers ago. So this time, I wanted to include Hakodate in my trip. I invited Valerie to be my roommate and Marcus and Linda from Kansas City to join us for their first trip to Japan. So I planned this 10-day trip for the four of us, starting in Chitose near the airport to Lake Toya, to Hakodate and finally to Sapporo. We ordered our rail passes and our pocket wifi from the JR website. I made all the hotel reservations near train stations.
We all arrived at Chitose airport in the evening, so we stayed overnight near the train station. The next morning, we traded our rail pass vouchers for our rail passes and made seat reservations to Lake Toya. The hotel provided a shuttle to pick us up at the station and the driver took us through the mountains on a scenic route. We got to our hotel, checked in, and since our afternoon was free before dinner, we took a lovely, leisurely walk along the lake front. There were sculptures and lake tour boats to enjoy along the way, with flowers and trees and benches. We went back to prepare for dinner in our kimonos. After dinner we went out to the lake to watch the nightly fireworks show. Then back to our hotel for our refreshing onsen baths.

Dinner at our Lake Toya ryokan. Many small dishes!

After breakfast the next morning, I did another quickie onsen bath before we checked out and took the shuttle back to the train station for our 2-hour ride to Hakodate.

Selfie on the train.

Our Sheraton Hotel was right next to the station. We stayed there for 3 nights and every morning we went across the street to the Hakodate Morning Market for fresh seafood breakfast! They had many choices of delicious seafood. On our first afternoon, we decided to look for some famous Hokkaido soft serve ice cream. The next day we toured around the city: we went to a star-shaped fort called Goryokaku, ate hamburgers for lunch at Lucky Perriot, and went to Motomachi-the European district where we had tea at the British Consulate and saw the Russian Orthodox church.

 

Goryokaku Fort

That evening, we took the ropeway up to Mount Hakodate for the view of the city at sunset and at night. It was very cold up there.

Hakodate city at night from Mount Hakodate

On our second day, we took a bus out to a small tropical botanical garden in a glass building. Then Val and I went to Yunokawa Onsen, while Marcus and Linda went to the Red Brick shopping area. It was only $10 for us to enjoy the lovely onsen and then beautiful 100-year-old garden near the lobby. Hakodate has several locations of Snaffles, where we got their heavenly, light & delicious mini cheesecakes. It was our favorite treat of the entire trip!

Lovely 100-year-old garden


We took a 4-hour train ride to Sapporo and checked in to the Nest Hotel, located between the train station and Odori Park. Great location!

The first thing we did after checking in was to look for Zoff eyeglass shop. We found the closest one back at the train station underground mall.

New glasses for these 3, ready in 45 minutes!

For 3 nights, we had dinner at the Bic building where on the 10th floor are many restaurants, including a ramen hall with several ramen shops. I was so excited to find Tonkatsu Tamafuji, that we had to eat there. I had never eaten at the one in Kapahulu, because of the hours-long wait.

We took a day trip to see the Tomita lavender farm, the blue pond and the Shikisai Hills flower farm. Although I had done these things 2 years ago, I didn’t want my friends to miss these. We were lucky because Yumi from Tokyo booked a private car w/English speaking driver who drove us around all day!

Tomita Lavender Farm

Shikisai Hills flower farm

The next day we took the train to Otaru, where we walked, shopped and ate our way around town. Val and I took a cab to Kim Glass Design where we tried our hand at blowing glass, making our own drinking glasses. It rained in the afternoon, the only rainy day of our entire trip!

Kim Glass Design

Our last full day in Sapporo, we walked to Odori Park, where we were lucky to come across a jazz festival there! Then we went to Nijo Fish market and went shopping at Daiso, Don Quixote and in the shopping malls on street level and below street level where there are mazes of shopping.

Notice the road repair gates with Hello Kitty.

The fabulous food! Of course, everywhere we went there was soft serve ice cream; Melon flavor, chocolate, lavender and more! Also, every city seems to have their own version of light and fluffy cheesecake. The seafood in Hokkaido can’t be beat for freshness and flavor. I’ve never had crab leg tempura until Hakodate. Peaches, melons, grapes, ramen, soup curry, tonkatsu, and ikura were all amazing!

Tonkatsu Tamafuji

Miso ramen, so yummy!

Juicy, sweet peach!

Crab tempura.

Melon soft serve

Lari’s Top Seven: (because I had done some things 2 years ago)
7: Fresh, sweet peach -with juice dripping down your chin
6: Tonkatsu Tamafuji (although Honolulu has one, I never went there)
5: Snaffles cheesecakes in Hakodate
4: Yunokawa Onsen and garden
3: Lake Toya
2: Hakodate Morning Market
1: King Crab and scallop cooked on the fire at Sapporo Nijo Market

Valerie’s Top Ten:
10: Hakodate Fish Market: Kani Tempura breakfast every morning with fresh fruit (preferably $40 grapes! 😂) Cantaloupe and Apples
9: 7-11: Morning coffee, Seaweed Musubi, Onzen (?), and snacks galore – wanted to buy them all!
8: Lake Toya: Enjoyed walking along the Lake’s pathway on that beautiful sunny day taking photographs of the activity, the scenery, the boats, and one another. One regret was not taking the boat to the four islands in the center of the lake.
7: The Blue Pond: Although man-made, the color is beautiful and mystifying. It was hard to leave.
6: Furano: Tomita Farms – The Lavender fields were beautiful; however, the lavender ice cream was remarkable!
5: Shikisai flower Farm – Amazed by the colors and designs created by the method in which the farmers planted their flower beds. Breathtaking!
4: Rooftop Yunokawa Onsen and 100 year old garden: In the garden, all the plantings were perfectly placed around the koi pond. What a wonderful place to find yourself or to become centered.
3: Sculptures: They were all so beautiful and they were everywhere! In public streets, in the park, the fish market… wish I could read Japanese! I’m sure each one had a story.
2: Glass Blowing with Kim: What a hoot, so much fun! The staff were so helpful, no stress! End product was gorgeous… to mine eyes!
1: And last, but not least, I loved the Ropeway Tower and Gorytaku Park with the temple in the center. I LOVE temples! The surrounding trees were phenomenal… The Historical buildings in Otaru, the Russian Orthodox Church, temples in the surrounding area – all AMAZING!
FOOD AND DESSERT: Given a choice, I would definitely eat dessert before dinner! SNAFFLES, all flavors, is my favorite!

Linda’s Top Ten:

10. Goryo kaku Tower and park, Hakodate

9. Blue pond, beautiful and weird.

8. Nikko in the rain.

7. Nebuta Museum WA-RASSE in Aomori.

6. Toilets!!  They were clean, abundant, and free.  What more could a visitor want??

5. The trains and other forms of public transportation were fantastic, and on time.  Like our experience with the Swiss trains when the clock “clicked” the minute the train moved, clean and comfortable, and unlike the TGV you could see the view out the window.  They could be that fast but were not, and this was good.

4. Lavender and lupine, et al. fields were beautiful and lavender ice cream much to my surprise was yummy!

3. Rice fields trimmed in marigolds.

2. I  loved the social rules (being considerate of your neighbors, not talking on phone in train car, cueing for everything).  The “rules” were frequently explained or printed in English, Chinese, Korean, occasionally in Spanish and German and obeyed.  Soooo, civilized!

1. The Hokkaido “tour” arranged by  Lari and meeting Valerie.  It was great seeing you again, meeting Val, and thank you so much for doing the planning, Lari.  Hokkaido had been on my 2-do list for decades.

2017 Summer in Hokkaido   2 comments

Presenting the latest episode of

“Hawaiians in Hokkaido”

Starring: Lari and Anna Sumida

July 12-26, 2017

      This trip was unexpected because I got an email from Odetta Fujimori who asked if I was interested in taking her son, Keala Fujimori’s Holoholo Hokkaido tour, because there was a cancellation. So I asked Anna, who is teaching, and she said yes, since this tour was during her summer break. So we both signed up and Keala met us for dinner to give us details about the tour. Keala is our tour guide and driver and there are only 6 of us on this Lavender Tour: Ed and Odetta Fujimori, Joyce and Harold Asato and Anna and I. This custom tour costs $4000 not including air, but all meals and drinks are included. So Anna and I decided to fly to Tokyo for 3 days then we flew to Chitose to meet the tour group and came home from Chitose after the tour.

I found an AirBnB apartment in Shinagawa, and it was close to the train station and very compact-just right for 2 of us and much cheaper –about 1/3 the cost of a hotel! We adventured on our own. On the first day, we went to Tokyo Edo Museum in Ryogoku. Next door is a small Sumo Museum. We had chankonabe for lunch nearby-it was nice because we got to try a lunch special with small-sized serving instead of the huge bowl that the sumotori eat. Then we took the metro to Asakusa and Kaminarimon Thunder Gate and Sensoji Temple and then by train to Yotsuya, to meet my college friend, Sharon Banno, who has a very successful Amway business in Japan. She took us to her brand new luxury apartment and we met her husband for dinner at a local izakaya.

The second day in Tokyo, we met Yumi Ibaramoto at Yanaka and strolled through Yanaka Ginza then we went to Ueno and strolled through Ameyoko shopping street. We took a train to Ginza and Anna shopped at Tokyu Hands before meeting Yumi’s family at Umenohana, for fancy Yuba kaiseki dinner. Yuba is liquid tofu and you skim the “skin” off the top, dip it in sauce and eat it.

The next day, we decided to take a train to Tokyo Tower and returned to our apartment for our luggage before checking out and riding the train non-stop to Haneda for our flight to Chitose. When we arrived in Chitose airport, we were amazed at all the shops, food samples and everything in that airport. We had fun before we met Keala and our tour group.

Keala, our tour guide and driver extraordinaire, gave us such a wonderful experience, like no other tour-because it was personalized for the 6 of us. He took us to all the best places to eat, to wonderful and amazing experiences, to meet his friends and his wife, and so much more than any other tour could offer. We went to a kombu farm, where we could buy kombu directly from the farmer, to an udon factory, to glass blowing where we could make our own glass bowl or cup, to a dairy farm, to an asparagus farm, a melon farm, sunflower farm, lavender farm, blue pond, and so much more.

Our accommodations were superb, from regular hotels to little hideaway ryokans, to large fancy ryokans, and to a ski resort chalet. But the food! Unmatchable! He took us to the best ramen shop, the best tonkatsu, the best sushi, the best buta-don (pork on rice), the best izakaya, the best seafood in a fish market, the best seafood at a “secret” ryokan, -nothing but the best! I thought I didn’t like uni (sea uchin) until I tasted the sweet, fresh uni at the fish market. We shopped to our hearts content, because all we had to do was leave all our shopping in the van until the end, when we had to pack up all our omiyage into boxes. Hokkaido has the best ice cream-so creamy and good. They also have the best, sweetest melons, sweet cherries, mushrooms, oysters, hairy crab, and delicious asparagus. Depending on when you go to Hokkaido, you will encounter the best of each season in fruits, vegetables, seafood, and more. We went to 2 sake breweries and to Nikka Whiskey. I drank a lot of Sapporo Classic beer which is not exported, so only available in Japan. Sapporo was having a Beer Festival in Odori Park, with each block having a different brand of beer in tents all through the park. After shopping all day, it was great to sit and have a cold beer at the festival.

Of course, I really enjoyed all the different onsens at hotels and ryokans. The biggest and best was at Yoroushi Daiichi Onsen, where we had a beautiful suite and us ladies got to choose our own yukata. The onsen there had so many pools and a hot stone detox room-even a outdoor co-ed pool, which I ventured out to-no shame-just go for it. Another hotel had a rooftop onsen with a huge TV to watch while soaking. Anna and I enjoyed every minute of this trip! We are so grateful to Keala for providing us with nothing but the best and to Odetta for inviting us.

Anna’s Top Ten:

-10. People watching at Summer Beer Festival in Sapporo, Odori Park w/ Lari, Shorty, & Keala

-9. Keala cooked us delicious shabu shabu dinner in Niseko at Orchards Chalet w/ Niseko cream puffs, Niseko cherries, Furano melons, & Yamanashi peaches for dessert

-8. Sharon Banno’s million dollar condo in Yotsuya

-7. Umenohana restaurant yuba dinner (tofu based kaiseki dishes) in Ginza w/ Yumi’s family

-6. Kushiro Marsh: reminded me of my Father’s favorite Japanese crane calendar pictures he loved

-5. Seeing Olympic skier jump from top then from bottom – AMAZING!

-4. Biei to see Aoi Ike Blue pond

-3. Hokuryu Sunflower Park (and I bought seeds to plant!!!) and all the other farms: lavender, kombu, dairy, asparagus, melon,

-2.Shopping and Glass blowing in Otaru

-1. Owl Onsen Yoroushi

 

Lari’s Top Ten:

-10. All the beer and sake we could drink included with our meals

-9. The wonderful yuba dinner with Ibaramoto family at Umenohana in Ginza

-8. Meeting Sharon in Yotsuya

-7. Making my own bowl by glass blowing in Okura

-6. Watching the ski jumper at Okurayama Ski Jump

-5. The onsen ryokan in Yoroushi

-4. The kombu farm

-3. Aoi Ike blue pond

-2. The Onsens: I love soaking in the hot pools.

-1. The FOOD! Everything was super amazing & delicious!

 

We arrived at Haneda Airport in Tokyo.

We visited with Sharon Banno in Yotsuya, where she lives and works within walking distance.

Yumi went with us to walk through Yanaka Ginza and Ameyoko Ueno.

Asako (Yumi’s sister), Koji (Yumi’s hubby), Anna, Kenzo (Yumi’s son), Lari and Yumi having kaiseki yuba dinner at Umenohana-very fancy place!

On our last morning, we took a quick trip by train to Tokyo Tower.

I love chiso with my sashimi… yummm!

Every day, Keala prepares our day’s itinerary on a white board back of the front passenger seat.

We visited the Kikuchi family kombu farm in Cape Nemuro, far eastern part of Hokkaido.

This was my favorite: Yoroushi Ryokan. Luxurious room, delicious food for dinner and breakfast, and fancy onsen pools, indoor and outdoors.

Notice that the men have the standard yukata, but us ladies have different ones.

 

Yamauchi-san is Keala’s good friend. He owns an asparagus farm and a PV farm that he sells electricity to the grid.

Sunflower farm, so bright and cheerful!

Lavender farm.

Keala and his wife, Tomoko.

 

Melons are super sweet!

Nikka Whiskey is very, very good!

Nagashi somen-grab it as it comes down the bamboo chute!

Glass blowing at Kim Glass Design in Otaru.

Odetta blowing her glass at Kim Glass Design in Otaru.

Keala, Anna and I shared this large beer

 

Okurayama ski jump in Sapporo

Happy birthday, Harold!

At Chitose airport unloading from the van.

Sue sent me this photo of Houdini so sad, missing me while I travel.

 

Posted August 20, 2017 by lariyasui in Asia

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