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Sunday, March 31, 2013

Hokkaido Summer 2012 北海道夏季之旅 - Shiroi Koibito Park 白色恋人馆

Visited 13.07.2012

Shiroi Koibito Park, owned by Ishiya, the manufacturer for Hokkaido signature biscuits - Chocolat Blanc et Langue de chat. This white chocolate biscuits has become a "must buy" souvenirs for visitors to Hokkaido. However, the biscuits has lost its exclusivity because they can also be purchased in both Haneda and Narita Airport, which means one do not have to travel all the way to Hokkaido to purchase them.


A European theme park, this place has grown to become a popular tourist attraction in Sapporo. Only admission to the exhibition hall (Chocolate Factory) requires a fee (600 yen). Apart from that, one can wander around in their outdoor rose garden and enjoy the hourly Chocolate Carnival --- free of charge.

Recommended products: 
(1) One of my favourites is Mifuyu (美冬), a pastry sandwiched with chocolate, and comes in three different combinations:
- Dark chocolate with blueberry
- Milk chocolate with caramel
- White chocolate with sweet chestnut
(2) Delicious white sponge roll cake with smooth white chocolate cream. Cake is also sold in Chocolate Lounge.

Trivia: Chocolat Blanc means white chocolate, while Langue de chat means cat's tongue in French.

Attractions:


(1) Chocolate Carnival, which begins a the top of every hour, is a parade of jolly singing and dancing mechanical dolls. All the figurines at different parts of the park come to life, creating a fun-filled 10 minutes musical.


(2) Chocolate Factory - visit the main exhibition hall to better understand the history and the manufacturing process of chocolate from both the past and now. Very artistic European decor, with intricate details put into all corners of the exhibition hall. Factory also provided a peek at the production line of the famous white chocolate biscuits. While you are focusing on the freshly baked biscuits, do lookout for the "moving" decorations in the factory!


(3) Chocolate Lounge - located on the fourth level, cafe provided a good view of Chocolate Carnival hourly performance, while sipping hot chocolate/white chocolate drinks and tasting their signature delicious white fluffy roll cake. A great place to drop by for a quick break.


(4) Other exhibitions:
- Old style children's toy box featuring huge classical toys collection e.g. Mickey Mouse, their very own Hello Kitty and Ultraman as well.
- Gramophone gallery showcasing how audio devices have evolved over the years.


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Shiroi Koibito Park 白色恋人馆
http://www.shiroikoibitopark.jp/english/index.html
Admission fee = 600 yen

View Larger Map

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How to get there?
- Take subway via Tozai line (orange) and alight at Miyanosawa (T01).
- Follow the signage to the park; approx 7 mins walk from subway station.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Hokkaido Summer 2012 北海道夏季之旅 - Chisun Hotel Sapporo

Stayed 13.07.2012, 14.07.2012 (2 days)
Booked through Misa Travel (hotels.com.sg)


- Booked a double room, exclusive of breakfast. Approx 105 SGD per room/night.

- Business hotel, owned by Solare Hotel & Resorts, is located in between Sapporo and Odori subway stations. Approx 7 mins walk from either subway station. Hotel is located on the south side of Sapporo JR Station.

- Small room (not much walking area) equipped with basic amenities. Competitive price considering its strategic location.

- A cheaper option (if you don't mind an even smaller room) is Chisun Inn Sapporo (also owned by Solare) located just opposite to this hotel.

- Located near prominent landmarks such as Clock Tower and Sapporo TV Tower.

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Chisun Hotel Sapporo チサン ホテル 札幌
北海道札幌市中央区北二条西2-9
http://www.solarehotels.com/english/chisun/hotel-sapporo/guestroom/detail.html?nid=HKD_CHSap_e

大きな地図で見る

Friday, March 29, 2013

Hokkaido Summer 2012 北海道夏季之旅 - Odori Park 大通公园 & Sapporo TV Tower 札幌电视塔

Visited 13.07.2012


Odori Park: Located in the heart of Sapporo and the park stretches about 1.5 km long. Sapporo TV Tower is typically referred to as the starting point and the park ends at Sapporo City Archive Museum. Odori Park is also the main venue for Sapporo Snow Festival held in February every year. Intent of visiting this park was to search for this famous pushcart selling grilled corn. I believe there are a handful of such stalls distributed within the park and the one we patronise was located at the foot of TV Tower. Grilled corn has become a specialty of Odori Park and popularity has grown to the point that numerous souvenirs have been derived and even a corn mascot was developed! Therefore, it is a common sight to see locals strolling leisurely in the park and munching on freshly grilled corn. Cost about 300 yen for one stick of corn.

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Sapporo TV Tower: Constructed in 1957 and a prominent landmark in Sapporo. Standing at 147.2 m in height, it bears some resemblances to Tokyo Tower. Tickets to visit the observatory deck can be purchased on the third floor, the same floor to ride onto the elevator to reach the observatory deck.

Observatory deck is located at 90.83 m above ground. The whole stretch of Odori Park can be seen on the west side, and on a clear day, Okurayama Ski Jump Stadium (one of the venues for 1972 Olympic Winter Games) can be spotted from afar too. JR Tower and Sapporo JR Station can be seen on the north side.


TV Tosan is the mascot for Sapporo TV Tower and you can practically find him at all corners of this attraction. A shop is located on the observatory deck and sells a variety of merchandise featuring this adorable character and his family. Bought a handful of souvenirs from the shop - miniature wish board (840 yen), magnet (262 yen) and milk candies (157 yen).


Tips:
(1) Collect a 10% discount voucher for its admission tickets from the tourism information centre in Sapporo JR Station.
(2) If you plan to visit Clock Tower as well, both tickets can be purchased together at a discounted price of 720 yen. Admission fee to Clock Tower and TV Tower costs 200 and 700 yen, respectively.

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Sapporo TV Tower 札幌电视塔 (さっぽろテレビ塔)
Odori Subway Station, Exit 27
Admission fee = 700 yen (630 yen with 10% discount voucher)
http://www.tv-tower.co.jp/

View Larger Map

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Commemorative stamps:

Sapporo TV Tower - TV Tosan

Hokkaido Summer 2012 北海道夏季之旅 - Sapporo JR Station 札幌駅, Sapporo-Otaru Welcome Pass


Sapporo JR Station, undoubtedly the busiest train station in Hokkaido.
Train station serves as an interchange for numerous lines. Express train services have been established to ferry passengers to various parts of Hokkaido from Sapporo JR Station, in the fastest possible time.
- Rapid Airport to New Chitose Airport, nearest airport to Sapporo
- Super Soya & Sarobetsu to Wakkanai
- Super Hokuto & Hokuto to Noboribetsu, Lake Toya and Hakodate
- Asahiyama Zoo Train and Super Kamui to Asahikawa
- Super Ozora and Super Tokachi to Kushiro and Obihiro, respectively
- Okhotsk to Abashiri

Two gates are located on east and west side of train station.

What's nearby?
(1) Sapporo subway station, for both Namboku (green) and Toho (blue) lines.

(2) Shopping malls: Daimaru, ESTA (Bic Camera, Uniqlo and Sapporo Ramen Republic), Stellar Place and Paseo.

(3) Attractions:
- T38, observatory located on the 38th floor of JR Tower.
- Hokkaido University, about 5 mins walk from north exit of train station.
- Former Hokkaido Government Building, about 5 mins walk from south exit of train station.

(4) Numerous hotels to choose from.
- Jul 12: stayed in Chisun Hotel Sapporo, about 6 mins walk from south exit of train station.
- Feb 13: stayed in Best Western Fino Sapporo, about 5 mins walk from north exit of train station.

(5) Hokkaido-Sapporo Food & Tourism Information Centre, located outside west gate.
- Collect brochures and discount vouchers for various tourist attractions in Hokkaido.
- Seek help/advice from English & Mandarin speaking staff at the information counters.
- Purchase Hokkaido products and souvenirs.

(6) Kiosk, located outside west gate.
- Sells Hokkaido products and souvenirs as well.
- Purchase merchandise from Farm Tomita.

Kyun Chan - Mascot for Hokkaido Tourism Campaign
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Sapporo-Otaru Welcome Pass 
Price = 1,500 yen

Exclusively for foreigners, this pass can be purchased from the following places: 
  • JR Information Desk (JR Sapporo Station West Exit)
  • JR Hokkaido Visitors Information Desk (New Chitose Airport Station)
  • JR Travel Service Center (Twinkle Plaza) Sapporo Branch (JR Sapporo Station)
  • JR Travel Service Center (Twinkle Plaza) South Exit Branch (Sapporo Stellar Place 1F)
There are two portions to this package:
(1) Subway ticket entitled to 1 day unlimited rides on Sapporo City Subway (does not include electric tram).
(2) JR ticket entitled to 1 day unlimited rides on railway section between Otaru and Sapporo.

Preparation: 
(1) Passport to be shown at the time of purchase.
(2) Decide which day the JR ticket will be used, as this information will be asked for during ticket purchase.
(3) Two tickets can be used on separate days (do not need to be consecutive days as well). Therefore, for two days stay in Sapporo, one day can be spent visiting attractions located within Sapporo city and the other day can be dedicated to Otaru.

Optimisation:

- Subway ticket usage
  • Sapporo > Odori - Visit Sapporo TV Tower and Clock Tower; fare = 200 yen
  • Odori > Miyanosawa - Visit Shiroi Koibito Park; fare = 280 yen
  • Miyanosawa > Sapporo; fare = 280 yen
- JR ticket usage
  • Round trip from Sapporo to Otaru; fare = 620 yen x 2 = 1,240 yen
Total fare = 2,000 yen
Sapporo-Otaru Welcome Pass = 1,500 yen
Savings = 500 yen

More information on Sapporo-Otaru Welcome Pass: http://www2.jrhokkaido.co.jp/global/english/railpass/welcome.html

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Commemorative stamp: 


Thursday, March 28, 2013

Hokkaido Summer 2012 北海道夏季之旅 - Day 4 Itinerary: Sapporo 札幌

Day 4 - 13.07.2012

Breakfast: Furano Natulux Hotel

Furano JR Station (0854 hrs) > Takikawa JR Station (transfer) > Sapporo JR Station (1055 hrs)
Fee = 8,480 yen for set of 4 tickets. Additional 510 yen for each reserved seat.

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Check in: Chisun Hotel Sapporo

Visited Twinkle Plaza in Sapporo JR Station to purchase Sapporo-Otaru Welcome Pass.
Fee = 1,500 yen

Utilised 1 day unlimited subway train rides ticket of Welcome Pass.

Sapporo (H07) > Odori (H08)
by subway via Toho line (blue).

Visited Odori Park and Sapporo TV Tower.

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Odori (T09) > Miyanosawa (T01)
by subway via Tozai line (orange).

Miyanosawa > Shiroi Koibito Park
approx 7 mins walk.

Dessert: Chocolate Lounge, in Shiroi Koibito Park

Miyanosawa (T01) > Odori (T09)
by subway via Tozai line (orange).

Visited Clock Tower, before heading back to hotel.

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Dinner: Matsuya, outlet in Susukino.

- End of Day 4 -

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Hokkaido Summer 2012 北海道夏季之旅 - Kodamaya 小玉家

Visited 12.07.2012



Day 3 was a very wet day (rained for almost the entire day) and we all yearned for a hot soupy bowl of noodles to warm our stomachs. We landed up in Kodamaya for a warm, hearty bowl of handmade soba. Soba served in either hot or cold form and comes with a variety of toppings - tempura, pork cutlet, beancurd, seaweed, unagi, etc.

Ordered a bowl of tempura soba for 800 yen. Apart from the soup being a bit sweet for my liking, the huge serving of buckwheat noodles was filling and satisfying! Shop sells various types of rice bowls and udon as well, if you want alternatives to soba. Menus are printed with English and Mandarin translation and you can refer to the appetising food replicas on display outside the shop before placing the order.

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Kodamaya 小玉家
富良野市幸町5番1号
< 5 mins walk from Furano JR Station.
http://www.furano.ne.jp/kodamaya/
Opening hours: 1100 - 2030 hrs, closed on Tuesdays.

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Tip: Kodamaya has another outlet in Furano town.
富良野市幸町12番10号
Opening hours: 1100 - 2030 hrs, closed on Wednesdays.
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Hokkaido Summer 2012 北海道夏季之旅 - Farm Tomita 富田农场

Visited 12.07.2012


Fourth and last flower park of the day.
So far, the most crowded flower park out of all visited on Day 3. Took the Furano-Biei Norokko Train from Biei and alighted at Lavender Batake, the nearest train station to Farm Tomita. Weather continued to be unpleasant and we were totally drenched by the heavy rain during the walk from the train station to Farm Tomita.


Opened since 1958, Farm Tomita is a flower park well received by many visitors, both locals and foreigners. Its popularity has risen to such a level that people automatically associate lavender flowers with Farm Tomita and relate Farm Tomita to Furano. Most tour packages will choose Farm Tomita as the main flower park to visit in summer, which well explains the crowds in the park seen during this peak season. Captivating and beautiful flowers, arranged in neat rows of complementing colours, is truly a pretty and unforgettable sight in this 4 hectares wide flower park. Sad to say, we had to stay indoors most of the time due to the heavy downpour and could not tour this place completely. Instead, it was mainly souvenir shopping for us during our stay here. Farm Tomita has a comprehensive line-up of lavender related products - potpourri in various forms of packaging, fragrances, toiletries, moisturising cream, eye masks, etc. Not forgetting food such as milk pudding, sparkling drink and soft serves, all have a refreshing touch of lavender scent/flavour in them.

If you are tired of lavender already, do try out a slice of Furano melon (priced at 200 yen/slice) and you will be awed by its natural sweetness (something that all of us misses most from Hokkaido)!

Tips:
- If time permits, Tomita Melon House is located just beside the flower park. Truly a place for melon lovers which I will make it a point to visit next round hopefully.
- Merchandise from Farm Tomita are also sold in Furano Marche and Kiosk Souvenir Shop @ Sapporo JR Station.

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Farm Tomita 富田农场
http://www.farm-tomita.co.jp/en/index.html
Free admission.
Opening hours: 0830 - 1730 hrs (June to August); 0830 - 1700 hrs (September); 0900 - 1630 hrs (October to April)

View Larger Map

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How to get there?
(1) Furano bus, to Grape Juice Factory, Rokkatei, Winery and Farm Tomita. Only available in July and August. Fee = 300 yen (from Furano JR Station).
Furano bus: http://www.cbnet.co.jp/furanobus/index.html
(2) Twinkle Bus Furano Lavender Course, makes a 50 mins stop at this attraction.
One bus per day, departs from Furano JR Station at 1010 hrs. Bus service only in operation in July and August. Fee = 1500 yen.
(3) Approx 7 mins walk from Lavender Farm JR Station, a temporary train station which is only opened when Furano-Biei Norokko Train is in operation. 
(4) Approx 25 mins walk from Nakafurano JR Station.

Hokkaido Summer 2012 北海道夏季之旅 - Furano-Biei Norokko Train 富良野・美瑛ノロッコ号

Travelled 12.07.2012


Biei JR Station (1508 hrs) > Lavender Farm Station (1543 hrs)
Fee = 440 yen + 300 yen for reserved seats = 740 yen

Furano-Biei Norokko train is a limited period service on the Furano line, available during the summer period from June to August. There are a total of three such train service per direction, per day and this is the only train that makes a stop at Lavender Farm station, a temporary station within walking distance to Farm Tomita in Nakafurano. Boarded the last Norokko train service bound for Furano for the day and alighted at Lavender Farm station. Later found out that the signature colourful train locomotive was under repair and a replacement was used for that day.


Highlights: 

  • Train moves much slower than usual, at 85 km/h. Allows passengers to view the scenery more closely along the route between Furano and Biei/Asahikawa. 
  • A boarding certificate is issued to all passengers - proof that you have been on this limited period train service! Design of the certificate changes every year, thus explains its exclusivity. A commemorative stamp is also available in the reserved seats carriage, which you can imprint on your boarding certificate. 
  • Part of seats in the reserved seats carriage faces the train windows directly, allowing passengers to sit back and admire the scenery outside (without straining their necks).
  • A shop in the reserved seats carriage which sells simple snacks and drinks and Norokko train merchandises. Bought a nanoblock, a miniature representation of Furano-Biei Norokko train for 1,000 yen.
  • When the train approaches an attractive spot, crew will make an announcement through the PA system to alert passengers to divert their attention to the scenery outside. However, all the announcements are made in Japanese. 

Hokkaido Summer 2012 北海道夏季之旅 - Biei JR Station 美瑛駅


Biei JR Station (F37), along Furano line.
Asahikawa Airport > Biei, via Lavender Bus. Fee = 360 yen.

Train station is built with Biei soft stones, creating this rustic feel. During peak period in summer, Mandarin speaking staff is deployed to this train station. Do keep a lookout for someone wearing lanyard with "Mandarin translator" tag, especially if you need help buying train or Twinkle Bus tickets from the counter. Biei JR Station is also a popular boarding point for the sightseeing train - Furano-Biei Norokko train during the summer season.

Note: Train station has no lift/escalator. Similar to Furano JR Station, one has to climb the overhead bridge to get to the opposite platform. Will recommend passengers with bulky luggage to reach at least 10 - 15 mins prior train departure timing.

Train timetable: http://www.hyperdia.com

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What's nearby?
(1) Biei Tourism Association (四季情报馆). Located on your left once you step out of the train station. A place to visit to acquire essential information of attractions in Biei and purchase souvenirs.

(2) Boarding/alighting point for the following Twinkle Bus courses: 
- Biei Hill Country Course: follows the Patchwork Road. 
- Biei Takushinkan Course: visit to Takushinkan Gallery, Shikisai no oka and Bibaushi Elementary School.
- Biei Lavender Course: travels along Roller Coaster Road, Furano Marche and Furano Winery. Course ends at Furano JR Station. 

(3) Hotel Lavenir. Approx 3 mins walk from train station. A popular choice of hotel stay in Biei due to its strategic location. Tried making a reservation with this hotel about 3 months beforehand, but it was already fully booked during the peak summer season.
Hotel website: http://www.biei-lavenir.com/

(4) Post office. Approx 2 mins walk from train station. Walk straight after stepping out of the train station.

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Commemorative stamps: 

- Biei JR Station - 
- Biei Tourism Association -

Hokkaido Summer 2012 北海道夏季之旅 - Asperges, Biei Senka 美瑛选果

Visited 12.07.2012


Asperges is a French restaurant which utilises seasonal ingredients all grown and produced in Biei. Knowing that Asperges was a popular restaurant in Biei, I made a reservation for lunch at 1130 hrs the day before with the help of staffs from Furano Natulux Hotel. Calling to make a reservation is strongly recommended as this restaurant gets pretty packed during lunch hours - was not able to book a table for 12 noon and had to settle for the earlier timing of 1130 hrs.


Got to know this restaurant through CNA's Japan Hour programme and liked the concept of incorporating seasonal ingredients which were freshly plucked from the fields of Biei every morning, in their dishes - one of the initiatives of Biei JA (agricultural association) to sustain farming activities in Biei. No English menu was available at that point in time, but fortunately I did check out the menu (with the help of Google Translate) on their website prior visiting. While putting together this page, realised that they revamped their webpage last year, and have updated their content with English version too!



Ordered two different lunch courses (the cheapest as well). Overall lunch experience was excellent - initially wanted to rush through lunch such that we can catch the earlier Furano-Biei Norokko train at 1302 hrs, but the atmosphere of the restaurant was just too comfortable and laidback, which had us enjoying our lunch in a leisure manner.

(1) Lunch course for 2,100 yen:
  • Field of Biei, assortment of 20 different types of vegetables from the farms in Biei. Aesthetically pleasant and healthy dish, which reminded me of the colourful flower parks in Biei. 
  • Nanatuboshi (Seven Stars) rice produced in Biei, four kind of beans and bacon risotto. All felt that this was a very delicious and savoury rice dish, one that will attract us to patronise this restaurant again. 
  • Cherry tomato in syrup. Just the right amount of sweetness - a simple dessert to complete the meal. 
(2) Lunch course for 2,650 yen:
  • Potato cornet, contains mashed potatoes and fried sweet potato chip.  
  • Field of Biei. 
  • Slices of Biei pork, accompanied with mashed potato and roasted onion. Felt that the pork was slightly salty, but the roasted onion was very unexpectedly juicy!
  • Cherry tomato in syrup.
  • Strawberry jelly with ice cream. A very delectable dessert - strawberry jelly melting as soon as it saw the temperature difference in the mouth! 
  • Chocolate and carrot financiers. 1 piece each. 
  • Coffee, black tea or herb tea to choose from. 



After lunch, we visited the market in Biei Senka, which sells Biei locally grown agricultural products and livestock, a similar concept to Furano Marche. Ingredients that were utilised by Asperges can be purchased in this shop too. Food such as rice, corn and potatoes were also available for taste testing. Bought a few packets of tidbits - dried sweetcorn and milk cubes, which cost around 200 - 250 yen per packet.

Tip: Biei Senka operates a stall in New Chitose Airport. If you happen to depart from New Chitose Airport, you can still do your last minute shopping there.

Recognition: Restaurant was rated 1 star in Michelin Guide Hokkaido 2012.

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Biei Senka 美瑛选果
北海道上川郡美瑛町大町2丁目
http://bieisenka.jp/

Asperges
< 10 mins walk from Biei JR Station.
http://biei-asperges.com/
Opening hours:
- 1100 - 1900 hrs (1 Apr - 3 Nov), closed on Wednesdays.
- 1100 - 2000 hrs (Jul to Aug), no rest days in this two months.
- 1100 - 1900 hrs (Nov to Mar), only open on weekends. Closed from Dec to Jan.

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Hokkaido Summer 2012 北海道夏季之旅 - Hill of Zerubu ぜるぶの丘

Visited 12.07.2012


Third flower park of the day. 
As we had some time left, our taxi driver proposed this other flower park as the final stop of our sightseeing day trip. Hill of Zerubu has been a well-known flower park in Biei, and is also the park nearest to the train station.


Highlights: A large garden where flowers are planted in a circular fashion - an exclusive feature of this park. A large variety of flowers are planted in this garden during the summer season. Apart from lavender, lilies and roses were spotted in this area, which I have not seen or missed out in other flower parks earlier in the day. What attracted me most was this amazing plot of land dedicated to sunflowers - an extremely beautiful sight that is beyond words to describe.


A great way to end our day trip in Biei!

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Hill of Zerubu ぜるぶの丘
http://biei.selfip.com/
Opening hours: 0900 - 1700 hrs

View Larger Map

How to get there?
(1) Approx 2.3 km from Biei JR Station. Alternatively, bicycle rental shops are readily available near train station - can choose to ride to this attraction instead. 

Hokkaido Summer 2012 北海道夏季之旅 - Patchwork Road 拼布之路

Travelled 12.07.2012

- Buckwheat, asparagus and barley fields -
Patchwork road is located on the northwestern side of Biei, and passes through various agricultural fields which are all arranged in square plots of land. These plots of vegetation resembles patchwork when viewed from above, thus explains how its name came about. To me, it was indeed an eye opener as I finally got to see how some common vegetables looked like before it ends up on our plates. As we passed by each field, our taxi driver will stop and introduce that vegetable to us - buckwheat, asparagus, potatoes, barley, rice, etc.

Biei is well-known for its scenic natural landscape of fields and hills. Another highlight of Patchwork Road is its "famous" trees that are located along the route. Most of them became "celebrity" trees after appearing on TV commercial or packaging.


(1) Ken & Mary tree - this giant poplar, standing in the middle of a field, was featured in Nissan skyline "Love Skyline"commercial in 1972. It is named after the actor & actress in the commercial.
(2) Seven stars tree - a lone oak tree that appeared on Seven Stars cigarette packaging in 1976.
(3) Family tree (亲子の木) - made up of two taller trees with a smaller tree protected in between by both.


(4) Mild Seven hill - this colony of trees appeared in Mild Seven cigarette advertisement.
(5) Northwestern Hill Observatory Park - a pyramid shaped observatory which allows one to see Mt Tokachi range on a good day.

- View from observatory -
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How to get there? 
(1) Twinkle Bus Biei Course. Route covers Ken & Mary tree, Seven stars tree, Family tree and Northwestern Hill Observatory Park. Departs from Biei JR Station and entire bus trip takes about an hour. Bus service is only available from June to October. Fee = 500 yen.
(2) Bicycle is another popular mode of transportation to tour the Patchwork Road. Do take note that it takes approximately 3 to 4 hours to cover the entire course and there are slopes (uphill) to overcome along the way.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Hokkaido Summer 2012 北海道夏季之旅 - Aoi ike (Shirogane Blue Pond) 青い 池

Visited 12.07.2012


Some may find this scenery familiar. Yes, this picture appeared as one of the wallpapers in Macbook Pro (http://www.apple.com/macbook-pro/features-retina/). Located near Shirogane onsen area, this pond is mysteriously blue in colour. Because of rain, waters appeared to be murky (as shown in the picture above) due to soil erosion. Otherwise on a good day, one will be able to see the reflection of white birch from the waters clearly.


Background: A dam/dike was built by Hokkaido Development Authority for emergency preparedness - to hold back volcanic mud if volcanic eruption from Mt Tokachidake is to occur. Waters started to collect in this dike. Reason for the blue waters remains unknown despite water analysis conducted. However, one hypothesis given was colloids formed from aluminium containing water from Shirogane and Biei River, reflect as blue colour under sunlight. Indeed, a beautiful picturesque created by natural phenomenon.


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Aoi ike (Shirogane Blue Pond) 青い池
Approx 18 km from Biei JR Station
Biei Tourism website (in Japanese): http://www.biei-hokkaido.jp/kankouspot/refresh/refresh.html


View Larger Map

How to get there? 
(1) Twinkle Bus Asahikawa Sweets and Biei Course, makes a 30 mins stopover at this attraction. Only available on selected dates in July and September.
Fee for complete course (board and alight at Asahikawa JR Station) = 2,500 yen
(2) If you plan to stay at Shirogane Park Hills Hotel, Aoi ike is about 45 mins away by foot.
Park Hills Hotel: http://www.biei-hotelparkhills.com/english/footpas.html

Monday, March 11, 2013

Hokkaido Summer 2012 北海道夏季之旅 - Shikisai no oka 四季彩之丘, 四季彩の丘

Visited 12.07.2012


Second flower park of the day.
Shikisai no oka is a well-known flower viewing spot in Biei during summer season. Covers a huge land area of 7 hectares in size, approximately 30 different species of flowers are grown here, creating a magnificent landscape of beautiful flowers. No admission fee required, but visitors are encouraged to donate 200 yen which will go towards park maintenance fund. To me, strolling/walking is the best way to admire this panoramic scenery if time and weather permits. One can also choose to ride on a tractor bus, buggy or cart to tour the park more efficiently, but for a nominal fee.


Unfortunately due to bad weather conditions (downpour became heavier), we could only cover a portion of the park. Late July to early August should be the best time to visit this park, when most of the flowers are in their full bloom stage, covering the gaps between the rows. What definitely brightened us up was this huge field of sunflowers located at one end of the park - vibrant colour of sunflower imparting a sense of warmth and positive energy in this wet weather! To me, this was the highlight of this flower park which definitely made this trip worthwhile.


 Shops are located at the entrance of the flower park.
- Fresh vegetables and fruits (e.g. potatoes, zucchini, pumpkins, melons, etc) grown locally were on sale.
- Food stall selling snacks and meals, such as curry rice/udon, croquette, etc to choose from.
- Souvenirs.


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Shikisai no oka 四季彩之丘, 四季彩の丘
〒071-0473 北海道上川郡美瑛町新星第三
http://www.shikisainooka.jp/english/index.html

Opening hours by season:
  • April to May, October: 0900 - 1700 hrs
  • June to September: 0830 - 1800 hrs
  • November: 0900 - 1630 hrs
  • December to February: 0900 - 1600 hrs
  • March: 0900 - 1630 hrs

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How to get there? 
(1) Twinkle Bus Biei Takushin-kan course, makes a 15 mins stop at this attraction. Three trips per day from July to August. Only 1 trip per day in June, weekends in September and October. Fee = 500 yen.
(2) Approx 30 mins walk from Bibaushi JR Station (美马牛). 


- Bought a postcard depicting Shikisai no oka -

Hokkaido Summer 2012 北海道夏季之旅 - Roller Coaster Road ジェットコースターの道

Travelled 12.07.2012


Our taxi driver drove through this 2.5 km stretch of road in Kamifurano that has steep rises and falls. With good control of speed, this road is definitely not as thrilling as the name suggests!

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Roller Coaster Road  ジェットコースターの道
http://en.visit-hokkaido.jp/travelPlanner/details.php?code=6101013000016

Hokkaido Summer 2012 北海道夏季之旅 - Saika no sato 彩香之里, 彩香の里

Visited 12.07.2012


First flower park of the day.
Attraction was not planned in my original itinerary but was told by our taxi driver that this flower park was along the way. Saika no sato occupies about 7 hectares of land, making it the largest flower park located in Nakafurano.


Day 3 was a rainy day and definitely not the best day for such sightseeing trip. Despite covering only a small area of the park due to bad weather condition, the beautiful colouration of flowers covering the entire field still manage to lift up our spirits. Was introduced to other forms of lavender flowers that were grown in this park; spotted some in white, slightly pinkish colours. A shop, which sells snacks (e.g. lavender soft serves) and souvenirs (e.g. lavender potpourri), is also located at the entrance of the flower park.


Reasons to visit: 
(1) Even though this flower park is not served by local buses, it is still within acceptable walking distance from Nakafurano JR Station. Alternatively, you can take a cab from Nakafurano JR Station and walk back after that - to save on transport costs.
(2) Less publicised as compared to Farm Tomita, which means smaller tourist/visitor crowds.
(3) Smaller tourist/visitor crowds means one can take scenic photos with least interference (i.e. strangers in the background).

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Saika no sato 彩香之里, 彩香の里
北海道空知郡中富良野町丘町6-1
http://www.h3.dion.ne.jp/~saika/
Opening hours: 0800 - 1700 hrs, only from June to September.
Free admission

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How to get there? 
(1) Approx 20 mins walk from Nakafurano JR Station.