2016 Winter Holiday - 9D8N Hokkaido free and easy itinerary

It's time to plan holiday for 2016. Where are you going this year? 

This year, I'm going to visit Japan's most famous skiing hub & hometown of Shiroi Koibito 白い恋人 aka White Lover cookies ...... drum roll ...... HOKKAIDO!!!



Yellow markers are those popular places among tourists, red markers are those places that I'm going to visit.


Updated 6th June 2016

* I moved one night from Sapporo and added Lake Toya in my itinerary.

Singapore - Sapporo - Otaru - Niseko - Lake Toya - Noboribetsu - Hakodate

Highlights

- 2 nights stay in luxury ryokan (traditional Japanese inn) with private open air onsen (hot spring) bath, one of the ryokan room (85m2) is as big as a smaller unit of 4 room HDB flat!
- 2 nights of kaiseki dinner (traditional Japanese multi course cuisine with appetizer, sashimi, grilled dish, meat dish, tempura, dessert and etc)
- 2 mornings of traditional Japanese breakfast with rice, miso, grilled fish, veggie and etc
- 2 days skiing in Japan's most famous powder snow ski resort 
- 1 night stay lake view room in Lake Toya
- Delicious sushi, ramen, Hokkaido crab, yakiniku, BBQ

Day 1
Midnight flight depart from Singapore to Sapporo CTS airport via Tokyo, arrive CTS at 1pm.
Airport limousine bus bound for Sapporo City Centre 札幌中央 at bus berth number 65 if you are coming from international terminal. Alight at Minami-Sanjo-Susukino-eki 3条すすきの駅 bus stop
Visit Tanuki koji shopping arcade, Susukino
Stay overnight at Mercure Hotel Sapporo 11,400 yen = SGD140/room
To see if Sapporo is snowing click Sapporo city webcam 



Day 2 
Visit Sapporo Central Wholesale market, Nijo market, Sapporo TV tower, Sapporo Clock Tower, Ramen street
Visit Odori park winter illumination and German Christmas market beside TV tower
Stay overnight at Mercure Hotel Sapporo 11,400 yen = SGD140/room 



Day 3
Take hotel shuttle bus to Sapporo JR station Depart from JR Sapporo to Otaru. Board the bus bound for Asarigawa Onsen 朝里川温泉行 from JR Otaru station Chuo bus terminal platform number 2 (bus number 13) and get off at Kourakuen-mae 宏楽園
Visit sushi street, Otaru music box, marchen square, Otaru canal (light up after 5pm in winter), Otaru station
Stay overnight at Otaru Kourakuen ryokan, in room private onsen, half board 58,664 yen = SGD796/room



Day 4
Depart from JR Otaru to Niseko Kutchan JR station
Take Niseko or Donan bus from Kutchan to Hirafu Intersection ひらふ十字街, see bus time table here OR 15-20 mins taxi ride at 2,000-3,000 yen
4 hours snowshoe hiking with Niseko Photography 38,000 yen/session
Stay overnight at M Lodge 16,800 yen = SGD222/room
Mount Yotei webcam link here



Day 5
6 hours beginner ski lesson with GoSnow 20,000 yen/pax
Stay overnight at M Lodge 16,800 yen = SGD222/room


Day 6
Take Donan bus (schedule) from Kutchan station 倶知安 to Toyako onsen 洞爺湖温泉 via Rusutsu 留寿都
OR
Depart from Niseko (Kutchan JR station) to Lake Toya (Toya JR-Muroran) via Oshamambe
1. JR Hakodate line for Oshamambe (Kutchan - Oshamambe) 
2. Limited express Hokuto (Oshamambe - Toya JR Muroran)
This route is only available limited time, check time table from JR Hokkaido website 
Donan bus from Toya Muroran station 
Stay overnight at Lake View Toya Nonokaze Resort 32,400 yen = SGD420/room



Day 7
Take Donan bus from 洞爺湖温泉 to 登別温泉. Check schedule here
OR 
Depart from Lake Toya (Toya JR-Muroran) to Noboribetsu, limited express Hokuto, 40 mins direct train. 15 minutes bus journey from JR Noboribetsu JR bound for Noboribetsu Onsen and get off at Noboribetsu Onsen bus terminal, 4 minutes walk to Takinoya. 10 minutes by taxi from Noboribetsu JR station.
Visit Jigokudani Hell Valley (geyser lake, hot spring foot bath)
Stay overnight at Takinoya 滝乃家 onsen ryokan, in room private onsen room type D, half board 79,920 yen = SGD1055/room. 


Day 8
Depart from Noboribetsu to Hakodate
Visit Kanemori red brick warehouse
Stay overnight at Loisir Hotel Hakodate = SGD142/room


Day 9
Visit Hakodate morning market, Fort Goryokaku
Depart from Hakodate airport to SG in late afternoon



Actual budget/ pax (in SGD)
JAL flight 1321.40
Accommodation 1560
Transport 260
1 day skiing lesson 250 (including ski gear and lift ticket)
4 hours private snowshoe hiking photography tour 270
Shopping 450+
Meal 450 **
Total SGD4500+

** Some hotels or ryokans listed here their room rate include breakfast and dinner

This budget may sound a little expensive, you top up a bit more can go Europe liao. But you see, this budget includes 2 nights stay in luxury traditional Japanese inn ($1000/night and $800/night) with private in-room-onsen, 1 night lake view room ($400/night) at Lake Toya, 1 day (6 hours) ski lesson with ski gear and 4 hours private snowshoe hiking. You remove all these options and book air ticket earlier (for example take Scoot to Tokyo via Taipei then take domestic flight to Sapporo), $3000 is more than enough. You pay what you get.

Visit Hokkaido in a free and easy way instead of joining guided tour if possible. My colleague who just came back from there with SA tours spent about 10 thousands over for the 3 in her family, that's about 4 to 5 grand per person. She spent 9 days there and visited Sapporo, Hakodate, Furano, Noboribetsu, Lake Toya, Otaru. I don't think for the same amount of money can get the same thing suggested in my itinerary. If you want to make sure every single cent of your money is well spent, visit Hokkaido on your own. 

Click here to read day 1day 2day 3day 4day 5day 6 trip report. 

Here is my Hokkaido trip video 





Original plan on 19th Jan 2016

Singapore - Sapporo - Otaru - Niseko - Noboribetsu - Hakodate


Day 1

Midnight flight depart from Singapore to Sapporo CTS airport via Tokyo, arrive CTS at 12pm.
Visit Nijo market, Sapporo TV tower, Sapporo Clock Tower, Susukino
Stay overnight at Mercure Hotel Sapporo

Day 2 
Visit Sapporo Central Wholesale market, Sapporo Factory, Sapporo Beer museum, Odori Park, Ramen street
Stay overnight at Mercure Hotel Sapporo

Day 3
Visit Sapporo town OR day trip to Asahikawa OR day trip to Biei
Stay overnight at Mercure Hotel Sapporo

Day 4
Depart from Sapporo to Otaru, less than an hour train journey
Visit Otaru station, sushi street, marchen square, Otaru canal (light up after 5pm in winter)
Stay overnight at Otaru Kourakuen onsen ryokan

Day 5
Depart from Otaru to Niseko, reach by 12pm
Sign up snowshoe hiking
Stay overnight at M Hotel or M Lodge

Day 6
6 hours skiing lesson at Hirafu
Stay overnight at M Hotel or M Lodge

Day 7
Depart from Niseko to Noboribetsu, reach by 1pm
Visit Jigokudani Hell Valley (geyser lake, hot spring foot bath)
Stay overnight at Takinoya 滝乃家 onsen ryokan or Daiichi Takimotokan

Day 8

Depart from Noboribetsu to Hakodate
Visit Fort Goryokaku, mount Hakodate
Stay overnight at Comfort Hotel Hakodate or Loisir Hotel Hakodate

Day 9

Visit Hakodate morning market, Kanemori red brick warehouse
Depart from Hakodate airport to SG in late afternoon

Budget/ pax
Flight SGD1200
Accommodation SGD1300
Transport SGD250
Skiing lesson SGD250 (including ski gear and lift ticket)
Snowshoe hiking SGD60
Shopping SGD200 *
Meal SGD300** 
Total SGD3500

* I'm not a shopaholic so I guess this amount is more than enough
** I will usually settle my breakfast at café or convenience store which can save quite a bit, some hotels or ryokans listed here their room rate include breakfast and dinner

I did some train fare calculation, I don't think I need Hokkaido rail pass. Since I won't be travelling back to Sapporo after Hakodate, Hokkaido rail pass will not pay off the trip. 

I will be spending 4D3N in Sapporo, sound a bit too much in Sapporo, I'm thinking if I should do a day trip to visit Blue Pond in Biei. But I think Blue Pond would be probably frozen by the time I go there, if that's the case then no point to go see Blue Pond covered under thick snow. Hmm .... maybe I can cut down 1 day from Sapporo and spend that 1 day at Lake Toya instead? 

What do you think?

Hokkaido is segregated into 4 areas.
Central Hokkaido including Sapporo, Otaru, Niseko, Noboribetsu
Northern Hokkaido including Asahikawa, Furano, Wakkanai
Eastern Hokkaido including Abashiri, Kushiro
Southern Hokkaido including Hakodate

My itinerary focus on central and southern Hokkaido which most of the tour groups depart from Singapore also do the same in winter time. Northern Hokkaido is another popular region to visit during spring/ summer time when you will see a lot of flowers.Central area is very popular among tourists and definitely a must-not-miss-destination in anyone's Hokkaido itinerary in all seasons. 


Sapporo is the largest city in Hokkaido, it is also one of the major transport hub in Japan.

Beautiful town Otaru is worth to visit, many people will choose to visit Otaru as day trip from Sapporo. I want to take it easy, enjoy Hokkaido in slower pace so I plan a night stay in Otaru instead.

Niseko is the largest ski resort in Japan, its famous powder snow attracts many skiers all over the world every winter. I'm not quite into skiing, but I have never tried skiing before, so I was thinking why don't include skiing in this trip? Rusutsu is another popular ski resort, especially among tour groups from Singapore. Both Niseko and Rusutsu are close to each other, Rusutsu is very self contained, main hotel is at the mountain foot with restaurants, shops and etc. There's nothing much outside of hotel. Niseko (Hirafu village) is an English friendly town where you have different accommodation choices from luxury to budget lodge. There are also shops, bars, cafe and restaurants in town. 

Noboribetsu is Hokaido most famous hot spring town, it is surrounded by beautiful hills, the onsen town hot spring water is coming the famous Jikokudani Hell Valley.

Hakodate is located at Hokkaido southern tip. One must not miss delicious and fresh seafood in Hakodate.

Sight seeing is just part of it, my itinerary is mostly about experiencing different activities in Hokkaido, such as hot spring, skiing, Japanese cuisine and staying in traditional Japanese inn. In order to save time, I choose flying into Hokkaido Chitose airport in Sapporo and leaving Hokkaido from Hakodate airport. Else I will have to fly in and out via Chitose airport, if that's the case, I may not consider Hakodate into my itinerary. There is no price difference between these 2 options. I may even need to consider getting 5 day Hokkaido rail pass (22,000 yen) which cost SGD270 if I choose to travel round trip between Sapporo and Hakodate, not only waste time but paying more $ as well. I only need to pay SGD180 (14,800 yen) for the 1st option, save time save money.

You may wonder why didn't I consider driving in Hokkaido, I did not do any calculation so I'm not sure exactly how much I can save if I take up self drive option. However based on research I had done, driving time is about the same as train travelling time (you may need to double up your driving time during winter), expressway toll fee is as much as train ticket fare (1 pax), parking fee is expensive in Sapporo city. Maybe I can save a few thousands Yen from this option, but I have no experience driving in winter time and this can be very dangerous in the heavy snow fall Hokkaido. I may not able to see road marking which covered under snow, I may end up hitting the kerb because I can't see the road marking, I may not able to stop in time at stop line or pedestrian crossing, I may encounter many unexpected scenarios during the trip, even minor accident can ruin the whole trip. Well, the good thing about driving in Hokkaido is, I can get to access a lot of places which public transport access is not available. 


This is just preliminary planning, all suggestions are welcomed!



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39 comments

  1. can i know how do you book the ryokan in otaru

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    1. Hi JP, I booked directly from ryokan website

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  2. Hi, I'm planning a trip to Hokkaido (first time), but there was a few airports. I'm confused which airport to arrive.Can you pls help me on this. Thanks.

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    Replies
    1. Hi Joey, CTS new chitose airport in Sapporo is the international airport in Hokkaido, flights from Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore and other places flying into Hokkaido via this airport. However most flights still require transit at Tokyo or Osaka. In my itinerary, I choose to fly into Hokkaido via Sapporo and leave from Hakodate airport. I'm taking JAL and transit is required at Tokyo. The reason why I choose to leave Hokkaido from Hakodate is because I do not want to travel back to Sapporo the end of the trip, it's pretty time consuming and waste of money. You should first plan where you want to visit then fly out from the nearest airport from your last destinations in Hokkaido or the easiest way would be in and out from Sapporo.

      http://www.japan-guide.com/list/e1101.html

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  3. Hi, I'm planning to visit Hokkaido next January, and may have some route with yours. maybe will skip Niseko since none of us are skiing. Did you buy JR Pass ? So my route could be like : Sapporo - Otaru - Noboribetsu - Hakodate. In and out from New Chitose Aiport. Which one you prefer? Is it worth to buy jr pass? I've checked hyperdia, but still need any suggest. Thanks!

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    Replies
    1. Hi Jessica, JR pass (http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2361.html) is way too expensive. You should consider Hokkaido rail pass (http://www2.jrhokkaido.co.jp/global/english/railpass/rail01.html) instead. I did not buy Hokkaido pass for my trip since I not going back to Sapporo, single trip ticket is cheaper than Hokkaido rail pass for my case.

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  4. Hello. Am planning to do for honeymoon in last week Dec/ 1st week January. Thanks for your itinerary! Save me some research! First timer there.
    Woah the ryokan with onsen is quite steep at 800/night. I guess it'll be worth it haha.

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    Replies
    1. Hi, I hope it's worth it too! You better reserve your accommodation ASAP. Year end in Hokkaido can be busy and I know some hotels already fully booked. Enjoy ya holiday!

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    2. Thanks for the reply! May i know which room you got at Takinoya? a bit confused with the rooms, which one has in-room baths.

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    3. I booked type D from Japanican.com as it offers cheaper rate than booking direct and it's an English website also. Room type D (Japanese Western style 和洋室) & DW (Japanese style 和室) come with outdoor onsen bath (源泉掛け流し露天風呂付き) whereas room type CW, CY, AW, AY come with indoor bath (内風呂付き) but not onsen

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    4. thanks, i've booked type D too. =)
      I now have a day unplanned, not sure whether to go Furano or niseko or others ski place. My thinking is, i can visit ski in the day, do not have to stay over. I know traveling take time.
      I'm spending 5 days at sapporo until new year then go to otaru, UNPLANNED, nobo, lake toya, hakodate. Yes i know it is a long time to spend in sapporo/otaru, I'll explore the nearby town while being based in sapporo (cheaper hotel during new yr period, so far).
      Welcome any suggestion!

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    5. You don't have to travel to niseko if you want to ski, there are a few ski resort around Sapporo, http://www.welcome.city.sapporo.jp/special/feature_article/ski_resorts/?lang=en

      Maybe you can consider a day trip to Asahikawa? Or day trip to Biei to see blue pond (likely would b frozen and covered by snow but you should be able to see blue river along the way)?

      Delete
  5. Hi Iva,
    I am planning a 7D/6N trip to Hokkaido/Chitose airport, end Nov. There will be 4 of us. 1st time to Hokkaido. Planning to visit Central Hokkaido. Appreciate if u can advise best/convenient area to stay where its central to most attractions. Is it easy to move around on our own w/o tour guide?

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    Replies
    1. Hi Thuang, this itinerary is for my Hokkaido trip in this coming December. I have not been to Hokkaido yet but I believe it's pretty easy to visit there without tour, I did that a few times at other part of Japan. You can see the hotel which I had selected in my itinerary.

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  6. hi may I know which operator you choose for your ski lesson? is it an all in package or we have to book the lift ticket separately?

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    Replies
    1. Hi I booked first timer adult pack from Go Snow https://www.gondolasnowsports.com/programs/adult-first-timer-pack
      Everything is included

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  7. Hi Iva,
    I am planning for a Hokkaido trip 16-23 Dec taking almost a similar loop as yours. Will you be able to share any idea in terms of travelling from Niseko to Lake Toya. I have been researching for train route between Kutchan and Lake Toya, but could not find anything. It appears Donan bus is the only option but there is no schedule available. Any help you could offer.

    Thanks
    Doris

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    Replies
    1. Hi Doris, initially I plan to take train from Kutchan at 9:28am to JR Toya Muroran (reach at 12:24pm) with one transfer at Oshamambe, but now I couldn't find this route anymore. I will have to wake up very early in order to reach Lake Toya by noon time.

      From Kutchan 6:24am - Oshamambe 7:58am / Oshamambe 09:01am - Toya Muroran 09:27am
      From Kutchan 12:42pm - Oshamambe 14:19pm / Oshamambe 15:21pm - Toya Muroran 15:47pm

      http://www.hyperdia.com/cgi/en/intervaltime.html?dep_node=KUTCHAN&arv_node=OSHAMAMBE&search_target=intervaltime&diagram=38586&year=2016&month=12&day=14&searchday=20161214

      http://www.hyperdia.com/cgi/en/deptime.html?dep_node=OSHAMAMBE&arv_node=TOYA(JR-MURORAN)&search_target=deptime&diagram=201613&year=2016&month=12&day=14&searchday=20161214

      Donan bus schedule
      http://donanbus.co.jp/kougai/ route number 9
      http://donanbus.co.jp/kougai/wp-content/uploads/sites/4/2013/11/%E9%83%8A%E2%91%A8%E4%BC%8A%E9%81%94%EF%BD%9E%E6%B4%9E%E7%88%BA%E6%B9%96%E6%B8%A9%E6%B3%89%EF%BD%9E%E5%80%B6%E7%9F%A5%E5%AE%89%E9%A7%85%E5%89%8D.pdf
      bottom right table

      Luckily you asked me, else my plan will be screwed up. Thanks!

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    2. Hi Doris, Hyperdia time table might not be correct. You can check the time table on JR Hokkaido website. There should be other train timing available between 7am to 12pm from Kutchan to Oshamambe.

      http://www2.jrhokkaido.co.jp/global/

      Choose time table and the 4th route, currently time table is only available up to 30th September 2016. Let's wait for their update.

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    3. have a similar qns, but from otaru to noboribetsu. i have a day of accommodation not booked yet in btw otaru and nobo, not sure whether to stay 1 more day at nobo or to stay say somewhere in the middle for better traveling.
      maybe u can share ur travel routes in your blog! thanks

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    4. Hi Pandapan, I will be travelling from Sapporo (2 nights) - Otaru (1 night) - Niseko (2 nights) - Lake Toya (1 night) - Noboribetsu (1 night) - Hakodate (1 night) then leave Japan.

      Delete
    5. Hi Iva, just wanted to share with you that i have changed my itinerary around such that i go from Sapporo to Lake Toya first followed by Niseko. This allows for smoother transport arrangement.

      Just wanted to check with you if you have any insight on the company that offer skiing lessons via the link you provided in your blog. I wanted to try skiing and have zero experience and do not want to sign up with just any company. Any advice will be greatly appreciated.

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    6. Hi Doris, I actually get to know GoSnow from Grand Hirafu website - http://www.grand-hirafu.jp/winter/en/, seems to be their official englisg ski school. GoSnow tripadvisor rating looks pretty good.

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  8. Hi Iva I will be travelling to Hokkaido in December with the family. We will spend 17 to 23 (check out morning)in Niseko and travel around Hokkaido from 23 to 27 (flying out morning 28 Dec from Chitose).

    We have 5 full days 23 to 27 Dec. Could you suggest an itinerary for us?

    Thanks very much for your help.

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    Replies
    1. Hi you can find suggested from http://www.japan-guide.com/list/e1101.html. You can also download tour itinerary from Chan Brother, CTC etc for your reference.

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  9. Hi I like yr itinerary. Can you let me know the details of how you plan to travel from Lake Toya to Noboribetsu eg by train or bus or both. Thank you.

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    Replies
    1. Many had asked about the transportation. I will try to share something over the weekend k?

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  10. Loves your Finland itinerary for my honeymoon last Dec. My wife enjoys the Santa Claus mood, husky-ride, snowmobile and the Northern Light, except me - I am freezing cold over there. Haha.

    Shall try out ur Hokkaido itinerary next!

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    Replies
    1. Haha ... yeah it's very cold up there in Rovaniemi. Hokkaido gonna be very cold also in December. I will share my travel report once I come back from Hokkaido.

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  11. Hi

    We plan to go Hokkaido in last week of November 2017, are there things to see or day tour avaialable?

    Or day tour only available from December 2017 onwards?

    Any recommended places to visit by day tour in last week of November if day tours are availanle?

    Any recommnedation on hotels near Bus terminal or tour desks so that we can book and travel easily for about 5 night stay in Sapporo?

    Thank you
    Q

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    Replies
    1. Google day tour from Sapporo, you will see many

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  12. Hi can you share how did you book for ski trip in niseko?

    Thanks.

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    1. Hi I booked online via Go Snow website, adult first timer pack full day

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  13. Have u uploaded the reports from other days for Hokkaido?

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  14. hi would like to ask the date u went to hokkaido for this post?

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  15. Hi Iva,

    May we know which month you went to Hokkaido? Thanks.

    ReplyDelete