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Saturday, August 31, 2013

Hokkaido Winter 2013 北海道冬季之旅 - Oshinkoshin Falls オシンコシンの滝

Visited 05.02.2013


Attraction on Twinkle Bus Shiretoko-go Kawayu-Utoro Line.

Oshinkoshin Falls is located on Shiretoko Peninsula. This natural landscape is selected as one of Japan's 100 most beautiful waterfalls.

In winter (late January to early March), one will be able to catch the breathtaking sight of drift ice on Okhotsk Sea!

- Large masses of drift ice on Okhotsk Sea -
- Sunset -
- Overlooking Okhotsk Sea from Oshinkoshin Falls -
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Oshinkoshin Falls オシンコシンの滝

大きな地図で見る

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How to get there? 

(1) JR Twinkle Bus:
- Twinkle Bus Shiretoko-go available from Feb to Mar. Fee = 1,000 yen.
- Twinkle Bus Doto Shiretoko/Akan & Doto Akan/Utoro available from July to August.
JR Hokkaido: http://www2.jrhokkaido.co.jp/global/index.html

(2) Shari Bus:
- Board Shiretoko line (知床线) from Shari Bus Terminal (beside Shiretoko-shari JR Station) and alight at Oshinkoshin Falls bus stop. Fee = 1,330 yen.
- Sightseeing Bus available from 28 April to 31 Oct. One bus per day. Starts from Shari Bus Terminal and ends at Utoro Onsen. Fee = 1,800 yen.
Refer to bus schedule: http://www.sharibus.co.jp/rosenbus_shiretokosen.html

Hokkaido Winter 2013 北海道冬季之旅 - Mt Iwo 硫黄山

Visited 05.02.2013


Second attraction on Twinkle Bus Shiretoko-go Shibecha-Kawayu Line.

Mt Iwo stands at 512 m tall and is an active volcano. Thick fumes can be seen arising continuously from several spots in the mountain, yet another first hand encounter with a "living" earth (after Jigokudani) right in front of my eyes.

Snow build up was too thick for us to venture closer towards the mountain. Therefore, it was mainly photo taking and snow playing in front of the fuming volcano.

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Mt Iwo/Iou-zan 硫黄山

大きな地図で見る

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How to get there?

(1) JR Twinkle Bus: 
- Twinkle Bus Shiretoko-go available from Feb to Mar. Fee = 1,000 yen.
- Twinkle Bus Doto Shitsugen/Shiretoko available from July to August.
JR Hokkaido: http://www2.jrhokkaido.co.jp/global/index.html

(2) Sightseeing bus:
- Operated by Akan Bus, this 1 day sightseeing bus departs from Kushiro JR Station and makes a stop at Mt Iwo.
Akan Bus: http://www.akanbus.co.jp/sightse/index.html
From April to October: http://www.akanbus.co.jp/sightse/s001.html
From January to February: http://www.akanbus.co.jp/sightse/w001.html

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Hokkaido Winter 2013 北海道冬季之旅 - Lake Mashu 摩周湖

Visited 05.02.2013


First attraction on Twinkle Bus Shiretoko-go Shibecha-Kawayu line.

A beautiful crater lake located in Teshikaga town, well known for its clear waters. Lake Mashu is about 20 km in perimeter, occupying an area of 19 km2. Weather was good on the day of visit and we managed to get a panoramic view of the entire lake.

Myth? On most days, the lake is obscured by fog and mist. And it is said that one will be down on luck if he/she sees the clear water surface. Hopefully this is not true...


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Lake Mashu 摩周湖
http://www.masyuko.or.jp/pc/sightseeing/masyuko.html

View Larger Map

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How to get there?

(1) JR Twinkle Bus: 
- Twinkle Bus Shiretoko-go available from Feb to Mar. Fee = 1,000 yen.
- Twinkle Bus Doto Shitsugen/Shiretoko available from July to August.
JR Hokkaido: http://www2.jrhokkaido.co.jp/global/index.html

(2) Local bus:
- Operated by Akan Bus, local bus (Mashu line, 摩周线) departs from Mashu JR Station and terminates at Lake Mashu first observatory. Two round trips per day.
Bus schedule: http://www.akanbus.co.jp/localbu/mashu.htm

(3) Sightseeing bus:
- Operated by Akan Bus, this 1 day sightseeing bus departs from Kushiro JR Station and makes a stop at Lake Mashu.
Akan Bus: http://www.akanbus.co.jp/sightse/index.html
From April to October: http://www.akanbus.co.jp/sightse/s001.html
From January to February: http://www.akanbus.co.jp/sightse/w001.html

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Hokkaido Winter 2013 北海道冬季之旅 - DL Fuyu-no-Shitsugen Train 冬季湿原号

Travelled 05.02.2013


Kushiro JR Station (1109 hrs) > Shibecha JR Station (1224 hrs)
Fee = 1,040 yen + 300 yen for reserved seats = 1,340 yen

Fuyu-no-Shitsugen train is a limited period train service available during the winter season between February to March. It travels along the Senmo line between Kushiro and Shibecha, passing through Kushiro Marsh, the largest wetland in Japan.

Highlights:

- Kushiro River -
 - Steam locomotive was once the conventional way to drive rail trains. Most trains now are driven by diesel and electric locomotives which are comparatively more efficient and reliable. Despite its decline due to technological advancement, steam locomotives still remain attractive and popular to many people. For the older generation, it revives many fond memories of train rides in their earlier years. And for the younger generation (including myself), we can relate the signature train head and continuous plume of exhaust steam and smoke emerging from the chimney to what was depicted in numerous fictional story books and animations. Being able to sit on this train was indeed a dream came true for me.

- Unfortunately, the steam locomotive was out for maintenance on the day of travel and was replaced by diesel locomotive. Retro styled train carriages, four-seater arrangment (seats facing each other), sharing one window frame, overlooking the beautiful snow covered Kushiro Marsh throughout the 80 mins journey. A good view of Kushiro River winding through this massive and protected wetland can be seen at the comfort of your seats. Do keep a lookout for Tanchos and Sika deers along the way too!





- There is a cafe carriage, in which food, drinks and limited edition souvenirs are sold. Coal stoves are found in every carriage - apart from keeping indoor temperatures warm, one can purchase a dried squid from the cafe and put in over the stove grill. Ventured into the caboose/brake van, which is coupled to the end of the train. The open-ended feature of caboose allows passengers to enjoy the trailing scenery, which I personally liked in particular on this train ride.



- Similar to other sightseeing/limited period trains, train boarding certificates were issued to all passengers by the train conductor after the tickets were checked. The commemorative stamp counter is located in the cafe carriage - don't forget to collect one before alighting from the train!

- Related information: http://www2.jrhokkaido.co.jp/global/english/train/tr022_01.html

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Commemorative stamp: 

Monday, August 5, 2013

Hokkaido Winter 2013 北海道冬季之旅 - Washo Market 和商市场

Visited 05.02.2013


Washo Market, together with Sapporo's Nijo Market and Hakodate Asaichi, are known as the top three markets in Hokkaido. Being located near the fishing port, Washo Market has plenty of fresh seafood to offer everyday! As tourists, it is unlikely (and impractical) for us to be lugging these seafood back home from market. The main reason why most people make it a point to visit this market is to savour Kushiro's specialty - katte-don (勝手丼)! 



Katte-don is actually pretty similar to chirashi - a bowl of rice topped up with various kinds of seafood. However, for the former, you can choose which seafood to appear on top of your bowl of rice! First buy a bowl of rice (which is available in different sizes) from one of the stalls and with that bowl of rice, approach shops with big banners/signboards inscribing "勝手丼" to start creating your very own katte-don. Choose from a wide variety of seafood, whereby the price for each slice/portion are clearly displayed. My own version of katte-don comprised of uni (sea urchin), ika (squid), scallop, clams and otoro (fatty tuna) and all tasted superb! The uni was creamy, scallop was firm and sweet, and not forgetting the piece of fatty tuna which literally melted in our mouths. For the more adventurous folks, you may want to try out raw whale meat here in Washo Market (was not daring enough to eat that).

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Washo Market 和商市场
北海道钏路市黑金町13-25
< 3 mins walk from Kushiro JR Station.
Opening hours: 0800 - 1800 hrs

View Larger Map

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Video: Washo Market was featured in one of the episodes from《Women 爱旅行》. Fast forward to 26:50 on highlights in Washo Market.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Hokkaido Winter 2013 北海道冬季之旅 - Twinkle Bus Shiretoko-go

Joined 05.02.2013, 06.02.2013

- Shiretoko-go and Sounkyo-go Twinkle buses (from JR Hokkaido website) -
As part of Hokkaido winter tourism campaign, JR company introduces additional bus services (Shiretoko-go and Sounkyo-go Twinkle Buses) between late January to early March, to various destinations in East Hokkaido. These destinations include majestic natural landscapes such as Lake Mashu, Lake Kussharo, Mt Iou and Oshinkoshin falls, and hot spring paradise in Sounkyo, Kawayu and Utoro. What I like most about this service is that the departure/arrival timings of these buses are planned to fit into their existing train schedule, therefore allowing passengers to transit between bus and train efficiently!

Tip: Try as much as possible to reserve and purchase the bus tickets early (stated as 3 days beforehand in small prints), preferably at Twinkle Plaza which can be found at major train stations (Sapporo, Asahikawa, Obihiro, Hakodate, Kushiro and Abashiri). Did try to purchase the tickets on the day itself and fortunately was allowed to do that. As this bus service is exclusive to JR passengers only, you may be asked to show your JR Pass or tickets prior purchase.

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Summary: 

Made use of three out of five available routes for Twinkle Bus Shiretoko-go. The fee for each route cost 1,000 yen.

(1) Shibecha - Kawayu Line: 
- SL Fuyu-no-Shitusugen Train from Kushiro arrives at Shibecha JR Station at 1224 hrs.
- Allows passengers to transfer to this bus that departs at 1240 hrs.
- Attractions covered: Lake Mashu and Mt Iou

(2) Kawayu - Utoro Line: 
- Same bus serving Shibecha-Kawayu Line, therefore one do not need to alight or change to another bus if you are continuing the journey to Utoro Onsen.
- Attraction covered: Oshinkoshin Falls

(3) Utoro - Shiretoko-shari Line:
- Bus pick up passengers from hotels in Utoro Onsen between 0735 to 0745 hrs.
- Arrive at Shiretoko-shari JR Station at 0835 hrs to catch Ryuhyo Norokko Train that departs at 0855 hrs.

JR Hokkaido website: http://www2.jrhokkaido.co.jp/global/index.html
Shiretoko-go & Sounkyo-go Twinkle buses (2013 edition): http://www2.jrhokkaido.co.jp/global/pdf/e/ml201212.pdf