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Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Hokkaido Summer 2012 北海道夏季之旅 - Noboribetsu JR Station 登别駅

Noboribetsu JR Station (H28), along Muroran main line.

Note: Similar to train stations in Furano and Biei, there are no lifts or elevators available in Noboribetsu JR Station. One will need to climb/descend the stairs of the overhead bridge to reach the opposite platform. Recommended to reach at least 15 mins prior train departure timing, especially if you are carrying bulky luggage.

Discounted train tickets:  
Between Sapporo and Noboribetsu, discount for group of 4 tickets purchased.
- Total fee = 7,880 yen (instead of 15,400 yen, ~50% discount), for unreserved seats.

JR Hokkaido:
Train timetable:


What's nearby?
(1) Bus stop:
NA, NB, NC and ND buses will make a stop at Noboribetsu Onsen. Bus fee = 330 yen.
- NA and NB buses will stop by Date Jidaimura (时代村) before going to Noboribetsu Onsen, therefore travelling time will be slightly longer.
- NC and ND buses go directly to Noboribetsu Onsen.

Donan bus timetable 
Departure timings from Noboribetsu JR Station:
Departure timings from Noboribetsu Onsen:

Do refer to Noboribetsu Tourist Association website for information on how to take the bus.
Noboribetsu Tourist Association:

(2) Noboribetsu Marine Park NIXE:

There are three theme parks in Noboribetsu - Bear Park, Date Jidaimura and Marine Park. Marine park is located less than 10 mins walk from the train station. Upon stepping out of the train station, look to your right and make your way towards this dark red coloured castle - that is Noboribetsu Marine Park.

Lockers are available for a nominal fee (depending on the size) in the train station. Upon arrival in the morning, you can lock your luggage in the train station and make your way first to the marine park.


To me, one of the joy derived from travelling on train is eating ekiben - a boxed meal with local specialties sold in train stations and on certain train services. These beautifully wrapped boxes are packed with sumptuous ingredients - seafood, meat and vegetable delicacies which are all freshly harvested from Hokkaido. A huge variety of ekibens, with different combinations of ingredients, are available - some make use of seasonal ingredients, while others are exclusively sold in certain train stations only, therefore you can never get tired of them. Do try one when you take the train next time (especially for longer train journeys).


Commemorative stamps:  

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Hokkaido Summer 2012 北海道夏季之旅 - Noboribetsu Grand Hotel 登別グランドホテル

Stayed 15.07.2012 (1 day)
Booked through Rakuten Travel

- Located in Noboribetsu hot spring town, a stone throw away from Noboribetsu Onsen bus terminal.

- Mode of transportation from Noboribetsu JR Station:
(1) Taxi: Approx 13 mins; fee = ~2,500 yen. Recommended if you are carrying large luggage and travelling in groups.
(2) Bus: take either Bus NC or ND and alight at Noboribetsu Onsen (N11). Bus NA and NB drop by Date Jidaimura (时代村) before going to Noboribetsu Onsen. Approx. 20 mins; fee = 330 yen.

- Booked a twin room for 27,000 yen, inclusive of 2 buffet style meals (dinner and breakfast). If you prefer non-smoking rooms, do remember to state your preference during hotel reservations.

- Hotel offers three different types of hot springs (out of the 9 available in Noboribetsu) - sulphur, sodium chloride and iron. There are two separate communal bathhouses for men and women. Each communal bathhouse has an indoor and an outdoor section and the designs are unique for each bathhouse. All bathhouses are closed between 0230 - 0330 hours in preparation for the alternate usage. Therefore, it is recommended to do your first soak upon check-in and another one in the morning, in order to fully utilise both facilities.
Note: you will need to pay a bathing fee of 150 yen per person upon checking out, regardless whether you use the communal bathroom facilities or not. This fee is typically not included in hotel room charges.

- Main shopping street, Gokuraku dori (极乐通商店街) is just 2 mins walk from the hotel. Another 10 - 15 mins walk to reach Jigokudani (Hell Valley, 地狱谷).

- Direct bus service (at a nominal fee) ferrying guests from Sapporo to the hotel is also available. However, reservation is required if you intend to use this service.

Recognition: Featured in Michelin Guide Hokkaido 2012.


Noboribetsu Grand Hotel 登別グランドホテル
〒059-0592 北海道 登別市 登別温泉町154番地

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Saturday, May 25, 2013

Hokkaido Summer 2012 北海道夏季之旅 - Day 6 Itinerary: Noboribetsu 登别

Day 6 - 15.07.2012

Breakfast: Ekiben, bought from Sapporo JR Station.

Sapporo JR Station (0730 hrs) > Noboribetsu JR Station (0842 hrs)
via Muroran main line.
Fee = 7,880 yen for a set of 4 tickets.

Kept luggage in lockers available in Noboribetsu JR Station.
500 yen per large sized locker.

Noboribetsu JR Station > Noboribetsu Marine Park NIXE
approx. 5 - 10 mins walk.
Fee = 2,400 yen


Noboribetsu JR Station > Noboribetsu Grand Hotel
via taxi.
Fee = ~2,500 yen

Check in: Noboribetsu Grand Hotel

Lunch: Tenho, ramen shop located along Gokuraku dori.

Covered Noboribetsu Onsen Walking Trails, took approx. 2 hrs:
(1) Jigokudani Loop Course, Tessen Pond.
(2) Oyunuma Observatory, a good view of Mt Hiyori and Oyunuma.
(3) Taisho Jigoku
(4) Oyunumagawa Natural Foot Bath


Dinner: Noboribetsu Grand Hotel

Night stroll to Jigokudani (Demon's Fire Trail) and Gokuraku dori.

- End of Day 6 -

Hokkaido Summer 2012 北海道夏季之旅 - Mt Moiwa 藻岩山

Visited 14.07.2012

Mt Moiwa is about 531 m above sea level. Observatory deck on the summit promises visitors a spectacular view of Sapporo city - both in the day and at night. Ropeway first ferries visitors to a mid station and two mini cable cars (unique in the sense that they moves on a track instead of hanging on a cable line) will tranfer visitors to the next station on the summit.

at 1830 hours
at 1840 hours
at 1900 hours
Personally I feel that the best time to visit Mt Moiwa should be in the late afternoon/early evening, just before sunset. Captured in front of your eyes, apart from the beautiful sunsets, is the transition from day to night whereby the city of Sapporo "brightens up" as the sky starts to darken - a phenomenonal experience that is beyond words to describe! This visit to Mt Moiwa was a great way to end our last night in Sapporo as well. It was also after this memorable experience that made us want to visit Mt Hakodate, which is named as the top three best night views in the world.

Note: It can also get a bit chilly on the summit in the night (even in summer), so do remember to bring additional clothing to protect yourself from the cold especially if you plan to stay outdoors to witness the transition of scenery.

Tip: Grab a 200 yen discount voucher from tourism information centre in Sapporo JR Station. Did notice that the discount vouchers were also available in the streetcar - placed near the driver's seat.


Mt Moiwa 藻岩山
Fee (for both ropeway and cable car) = 1,700 yen (1,500 yen with discount voucher)

View Larger Map


How to get there? 
- Susukino or Nihonyon chrome > Ropeway Iriguchi by Sapporo Streetcar; Fare = 170 yen per ride
- Look out for the free shuttle service bus, which ferries passengers to Mt Moiwa Ropeway Station.


Commemorative stamp: 

Hokkaido Summer 2012 北海道夏季之旅 - Sapporo Beer Garden 札幌啤酒园

Visited 14.07.2012

Returned to Sapporo from Otaru and headed to Sapporo Beer Garden to settle for an early dinner. One of the goals of this trip was to try out Genghis Khan BBQ, a specialty of Hokkaido. Originally planned to patronise one of the recommended restaurants in Susukino but it was full house on the day of visit (13.07.2012). Sapporo Beer Garden houses a handful of BBQ restaurants within its premises - Garden Grill (the highest end among all), Lilac and Genghis Khan Hall. A beer museum is also located in this compound - for a better understanding on development of Sapporo Beer since it was introduced in 1877.

Took the subway and walked approx 10 mins before the distinctive and prominent red brick building and chimney came into sight. Decided on Lilac and chose an indoor table. Cautiously ordered only one serving of lamb marinated with salt (1,400 yen) and one serving of pork, just in case we did not like the strong smell of mutton (otherwise known as 羊骚味 in Chinese).

The meat was served with vegetables - beansprouts, cabbages and slices of pumpkin. A cube of lard was first used to "oil" the hotplate, before putting in the meat and vegetables. The cooked meat can be dipped into the sauce provided before eating.

Conclusion: We were totally blown away by the lamb meat which was very tender and juicy, and not a tint of mutton smell at all. In the end, we had to order another serving of lamb to satisfy our appetite! We were pretty sure that we will eat this again if we visit Hokkaido in future - thumbs up to Genghis Khan BBQ!


Sapporo Beer Garden 札幌啤酒园 - Lilac
Opening hours: 1130 - 2130 hrs

View Larger Map

How to get there?
(1) Subway: Sapporo (H07) > Higashi Kuyakusayomae (H05) by subway via Toho line (blue). Approx 10 mins walk from subway station. Fee = 200 yen
(2) Bus: Take bus on Sapporo Beer Garden/Ario Line (188) on the north exit of Sapporo JR Station.
Frequency: every 30 mins on weekdays and every 20 mins on weekends and public holidays.
Fee = 200 yen
Location of bus stop:
Timetable for Bus 188:

Friday, May 24, 2013

Hokkaido Summer 2012 北海道夏季之旅 - Otaru JR Station 小樽駅

Otaru JR Station (S15), along Hakodate main line. 

What's nearby?
(1) Sankaku market (三角市场) - market is located on your left upon stepping out of the train station. Personally have not been to this market before.

(2) Old Temiya railway track (手宫线) - walk straight along Chuo dori after stepping out of the train station. You will notice a stretch of railway track that is not in service anymore. This is the formal Temiya line, part of the first railway line built in Hokkaido in 1880. Temiya line is a 2.8 km railway line which branches out from Minami-otaru JR Station. Train service was discontinued in 1985 due to low utilisation rates. Part of the railway track was retained and has evolved into a tourist attraction in Otaru. In winter, this is one of the venues for Otaru Snow Light Path Festival which is held for around 10 days in February every year.  

View Larger Map

(3) Otaru Canal (小樽运河) - walk straight along Chuo dori after stepping out of the train station. Undoubtedly the most popular and prominent landmark that everyone will associate Otaru with.  


Commemorative stamp:

Hokkaido Summer 2012 北海道夏季之旅 - Otaru Canal 小樽运河

Visited 14.07.2012

Background: In the past, the bigger vessels will unload goods into smaller ships and this canal was formally used by these smaller ships to transport the goods to warehouses located at the sides of the canal. After WWII, modern docking facilities has totally eliminated the need for this canal and there were plans were put in place by the government to landfill this canal. However, this plan was not fully executed in the end due to astounding rejection voices raised by the locals to retain this canal - which has proven to be the right decision. The canal was subsequently restored to what we see today.

Now: Scenic pictures portraying the beauty of Otaru Canal have been published in numerous travel guide books or introduced in travelogues all over the world. This high level of publicity has attracted millions of visitors to Otaru every year (which ironically only has a population of less than 150,000) - to witness the beauty of this canal at different times of the day.

At the end of Sakaimachi Street, you will notice a small canal (with a handful ducks waddling leisurely in it) on your right. Follow this canal which will eventually lead you to the famous landmark in Otaru.

The most popular photo-taking spot to capture the entire canal has got to be at Asakusabashi (浅草桥), therefore makes this place the most crowded location on this stretch of the canal. While strolling along the sides of the canal, you can find many artists showcasing their artworks portraying Otaru Canal in their very own style and perspective. A tourist information centre is also located on Asakusabashi whereby you can inquire information about other attractions in Otaru, or write and send a postcard back home.

You can never say you have been to Otaru if you have not been to this canal.


Otaru Canal 小樽运河
- Location of Asakusabashi

View Otaru Canal in a larger map


Commemorative stamps:

- From Tourist Information Centre at Asakusabashi -

- From Tourist Information Centre located along Chuo dori -

Hokkaido Summer 2012 北海道夏季之旅 - Sakaimachi Street 堺町通り

Visited 14.07.2012

From Marchen intersection, walked along Sakaimachi Street to reach Otaru Canal.
Both sides of this street are lined with shops:

(1) Seafood - being close to the fishing port, seafood has got to be fresh here in Otaru. Stopped by one of the stalls to confirm my hypothesis. Picked an abalone and a scallop from the tanks placed outside the stall and the seafood were cooked right away on the hot grill. Scallop was pleasantly sweet and abalone meat had a firm yet chewy texture.

(2) Glasswares - there are several shops selling glasswares and Kitaichi Glass (北一硝子) is the most well-known among them all. Some shops provide hands on experience to make your very own glasswares that you can bring back home as souvenirs. Do note that prior reservations/booking may be required to attend these classes. Personally have not tried this before due to time constraints.

Kitaichi Glass:
List of glassware shops that provide hands on experience:

(3) Sweets and confectionery - apart from Otaru's very own Ginnokane and LeTAO, other established names from other parts of Hokkaido have set up branches in Otaru as well.

- Rokkatei (六花亭): originated from Obihiro and some of their popular products include marseillan butter sand biscuits (raisins and cream sandwiched between two pieces of biscuits), chocolate biscuits sandwiched with white chocolate (雪やこんこ) and strawberries coated with white or milk chocolate.
- Kitakaro (北菓楼): originated from Sunagawa and is well-known for their Baumkuchen layered cake.

Both Rokkatei and Kitakaro is located side by side, along with LeTAO main shop.

View Otaru Sakaimachi in a larger map

Hokkaido Summer 2012 北海道夏季之旅 - LeTAO

Visited 14.07.2012

LeTAO is another famous confectionery with several shops located in Otaru. Particularly wanted to visit the main shop located at Marchen intersection. This building comprises of three levels: shop on its ground floor, cafe on the second floor and an observatory on the top floor.

No admission fee/minimum expenditure required in the shop to enter the observatory. Take the lift up to the third floor and climb the stairs to reach the highest point of the building. You can get a very good view of Marchen intersection, Sakaimachi Street and Ishikari Bay from the observatory.

Couldn't resist the temptation after seeing the delicious looking cheesecakes in the shop and decided to go for a second round of coffee/tea break in their cafe. Ordered a slice of Tropique Double Cheescake and a milk pudding to share. Was definitely impressed by their signature cheesecake - soft and creamy texture, unveiling rich flavours in every mouthful! Apart from their popular cheesecakes that have brought them fame, LeTAO has other products such as Royale Montagne (chocolate in a pyramid shape) and cheese flavoured langue de chat (named "Ironai“) that can be brought back home as souvenirs/gifts.


< 5 mins from Minami-otaru JR Station


Hokkaido Summer 2012 北海道夏季之旅 - Ginnokane 银の钟

Visited 14.07.2012

Background: Ginnokane is a famous sweets & confectionery shop which originated from Otaru. The main shop (一号馆), which was formally a bank, is located conveniently at Marchen intersection (童话交叉点).

Souvenir shop is located on the ground floor. Some of their more popular products include Camembert cheese cake and lavender flavoured langue de chat. As samples are provided, you can try them before deciding what to purchase.

Decided to drop by its cafe, that occupies the second and third floor, for a quick coffee/tea break. What attracts most people to this cafe (I think) is their pretty & exclusive cups & saucers that can be purchased together with the drink. All of them are printed with their logos and there are various designs to choose from (prices vary with the design too). Each drink set comes with a small piece of cake as well. Many Hello Kitty fans made it a point to pop into this cafe when they come to Otaru, to purchase cups imprinted with their favourite character!


Ginnokane 银の钟
Main shop located at Marchen intersection (童话交叉点).
< 5 mins walk from Minami Otaru JR Station.


Hokkaido Summer 2012 北海道夏季之旅 - Otaru Music Box Museum 小樽音乐盒堂 & Yume no oto 梦之音

Visited 14.07.2012

In Otaru, you will find yourself surrounded by many European style buildings, admiring intricate artworks and handicrafts such as glasswares and musical boxes, dropping by unique coffee houses/cafe - a strong artistic ambience and nostalgia can be felt in this small town.

Two musical box shops are located at Marchen intersection (童话交叉点):

(1) Otaru Music Box Museum - has an extensive collection of musical boxes, in different shapes and sizes. From the conventional ones in wooden boxes, to those decorated with adorable looking figurines or even Japanese style ones (with Neko or nigiri sushi), one will definitely be spoilt for choice in this place! There is also a wide range of melodies you can choose from - classics, anime theme songs and even the latest pop songs. Do note that not all of musical boxes are made in Japan, so do check the labels/stickers on them to confirm the manufacturing country.

Unknowingly spent a substantial amount of time choosing a musical box with my desired combination. Opted for a DIY of musical box - chose a simple wooden box to house the mechanism that plays my preferred melody.

A popular photo-taking spot is located just outside the shop - a steam powered clock that sounds a chime every 15 minutes and whistles hourly to tell the time.

(2) Yume no oto - also owned by Orgel Doh, this shop which is of a much smaller scale is a heaven for cartoons and anime lovers. All the musical boxes sold in this shop are decorated with cartoon and anime characters - from Disney characters to Ghibli Studio's Totoro and lately very popular Rilakkuma, you just can't stop exclaiming "kawaii" in this shop!


Otaru Music Box Museum 小樽音乐盒堂
< 5 mins walk from Minami-otaru JR Station


Yume no oto (Character House) 梦之音


Thursday, May 23, 2013

Hokkaido Summer 2012 北海道夏季之旅 - Minami-otaru JR Station 南小樽駅

Minami-otaru JR Station (S14), along Hakodate main line.
Minami-otaru is one train station before Otaru if you are travelling from Sapporo. 

You can choose to alight either at Minami-otaru or Otaru JR Station to start your tour of Otaru:
(1) Minami-otaru JR Station is closer to Marchen intersection. The only Uniqlo store in Otaru is located at the foot of this train station too (location shown in the map below).

View Larger Map

(2) Otaru JR Station is closer to Otaru Canal, old Temiya railway track and Sankaku.

My route:
Alighted at Minami-otaru JR Station > Marchen intersection > Sakaimachi Street > Otaru Canal > Ended tour at Otaru JR Station.


Commemorative stamp:

Hokkaido Summer 2012 北海道夏季之旅 - Day 5 Itinerary: Sapporo 札幌, Otaru 小樽

Day 5 - 14.07.2012

Visited Former Hokkaido Govt Building.

Breakfast: Mister Donut, outlet in Sapporo JR Station.

Utilised 1 day unlimited JR rides ticket of Welcome Pass.

Sapporo JR Station > Minami-otaru JR Station
by train via Hakodate main line.

Shopped at Uniqlo, outlet approx 5 mins walk from Minami-otaru JR Station.

Toured Marchen intersection (童话交叉点):
(1) Yume no oto, Otaru Music Box Museum and Otaru Steam Clock
(2) Ginnokane, sweets and confectionery shop and cafe.
(3) LeTAO, sweets and confectionery shop and cafe.

Walked along Sakaimachi Street.

Toured Otaru Canal.

Passed by old Temiya railway track and ended tour at Otaru JR Station.

Otaru JR Station (1434 hrs) > Sapporo JR Station (1506 hrs)
by train via Hakodate main line.


Sapporo > Higashi Kuyakusayome
by subway via Tohu line (blue).

Higashi Kuyakusayome > Sapporo Beer Garden
approx. 10 - 15 mins walk.

Late lunch/early dinner: Lilacs in Sapporo Beer Garden, for Genghis Khan BBQ.


Nishi-yon-chrome > Ropeway Iriguchi
via Sapporo streetcar.
Fee = 170 yen

Ropeway Iriguchi > Mt Moiwa Ropeway Station
via free shuttle bus.

Took ropeway to Mt. Moiwa summit.
Fee = 1,500 yen (with 200 yen discount voucher)

Roperway Iriguchi > Nishi-hatchome
via Sapporo streetcar.
Fee = 170 yen

Supper: MOS Burger, outlet near Nishi-hatchome streetcar stop.

- End of Day 5 -