Japan Hokkaido – My Free and Easy Holiday

My Holiday in November 2019

In 2019, just before Covid hit us, my girl wanted a winter snow holiday before she gets busy over her O level preparation,  so we decided to go Japan, Hokkaido. As this is my first free and easy winter holiday and we cannot speak Japanese,  I did lots of homework before travelling. From hotel, train, bus, food to what to wear.

A holiday with and without a tour guide makes lots of difference.

With a tour guide you maybe so comfortable and easy that you have forgotten places that you had travelled after you come back to Singapore.

Without a tour guide, everything is on your own, lost your way, lessons learnt, but the best part is you get to be more flexible with your time.

Some of my buyers heard that I went to Hokkaido, asked to share my travel internery. Thus, I decided to share it here to benefit those who intend or plan to travel there in the near future.

Japan Hokkaido map

Where actually is Hokkaido (北海道) in Japan?

Hokkaido is located at the northernmost part of Japan, near Russia.

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Why you should visit Hokkaido Japan?

Hokkaido is the most popular destination in Japan, even among their locals. So, there must be a reason behind for people rushing there, right? The natural sights justify for your visit for each different season ya.

When to visit Hokkaido Japan?

You will find a good reason to visit Hokkaido in every season.

All seasons except winter, its a good time to rent a car and travel around the island freely for sightseeing and shopping. If you can’t get an international license to drive there before visiting, there are other options like train, bus or even cycling around to enjoy the beautiful sights.

In Spring, there are Cherry Blossoms Bloom. In Summer, beautiful flowers in Lavender fields in Furano. In Fall/Autumn, the best time to feel this land’s untouched natural beauty. In winter, you can find nearly everything associated with SNOW here. If you like snow activities, you cannot miss the winter trip there.

Why I choose to go Hokkaido Japan in Winter?

Though the best thing to experience was snow during winter in Hokkaido, we didn’t really go there for the snow and cold. In fact, I was trying to minimum the “encounter” with snow by travelling there in the last week of November 2019. However, my girl wanted to see snow for the first time in her life. So, I was just hoping we will get some by the end of the holiday.

The day I landed on Hokkaido, its was 13 degree. I felt over dress with winter wear and wondering if I had brought too many winter clothing. But we didn’t feel this way the every next day, as the snow started pouring in every day till the last day I left 😂 In fact, some of the nights we experienced below zero degree.

What is Hokkaido Japan Famous for?

Hokkaido has nice beautiful scenery everywhere. You will feel like you are walking into your computer wallpaper. If you love taking photos, self drive before winter is a must try.

Its a good place to try Japanese-styled rooms because they are not expensive in Hokkaido. Plus hot springs are mostly provided in these hotel.

red beans 1

I am crazy over red bean, its a must have in all my desserts in Singapore. If you like red beans too, you can get the freshest azuki beans in Hokkaido. My girl has her eyes set on their Gashapon capsule toys machine whenever she sees one😂

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Food is the way to every Singaporean’s heart. That explain why Japan is the most popular travelling spot for all Singaporean. Due to Hokkaido’s geographical location, there are lots of delicious seafood there. I tried the biggest red king crab I have ever taken in the capital of Hokkaido, Sapporo.

Japan Hokkaido What To Do?

During winter, there is a few places you can consider going in Hokkaido.

Where to shop in Japan Hokkaido?

There were a few places that I pin down on my map before I arrive there. As my accommodation was mainly in Sapporo, most of my shopping was done there.

Where to Stay in Japan Hokkaido

I travelled quite often on free and easy holidays. Booking hotels use to be easy especially when my girl was below 12 yrs old. Now that she has turned 15, my choice of hotel rooms becomes limited.

Firstly, there are limited big rooms in most hotels within my budget. Secondly, I can’t put her alone in another room too.

Then I came to realized I should book apartment instead of hotels.

I used to think apartment are big and benefit people travelling in big groups. If you browse through Agoda, it’s not the case. Unless you travel solo, otherwise some apartments are small enough for 3 person like us.

However, you need to read reviews carefully, because some apartments may not be suitable for you. For e.g. I like places near stations, whole apartment to ourselves and I love new furnishing. Plus, I love to travel light, apartment with washing machine is a plus for me!

Apartments can be way more cheaper than hotels and they are more suitable for family stay. However, if your flight is late, you need to know if the apartment support late check in. In Sapporo, I stayed in Residence Plus Sapporo, everything was great except the DIY check in was a bit troublesome. They were just ready then, so I managed to get a very good deal for our stay there. However, another drawback of apartment is, no breakfast, so either stay near convenient store, food court or cook 🙂

Lake Toya
Lake Toya (洞爺湖, Tōyako) is part of the Shikotsu-Toya National Park

Travelling within Hokkaido

You can travel within Hokkaido via bus, train or self drive. Self drive not advisable during winter, bus timing not so reliable, so my only choice was via train.

There are many places you can get the JR train pass even before you travel there. But, honestly you should plan your itinerary first before deciding whether to get one. As for my case, I didn’t plan to go anywhere except Lake Toya and most of the time we will be in Sapporo. So, I figure out getting one day pass makes more sense.

I planned to stay one night in Lake Toya on my 2nd day after landing. I also found a hotel that provide shuttle bus from Sapporo main station to their hotel at a very reasonable rate. I booked a hotel near Sapporo main station the night before going so I minimize my travelling cost as well as avoid the trouble on moving my winter luggage up and down trains. Other options I have considered were:
1. to stay in the same hotel when I get back. That way I can bring a small bag to the lake and leave the rest with the hotel.
2. join a travel agent who will bring us there

Tips on travelling on a winter holiday

Check out my recent post on travelling tips if you are traveling on winter holiday soon.

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