14 Feb Hokkaido Travel Diary (Part 1)
Daryl and I had a whirlwind 4D3N adventure in North Tokachi, Hokkaido, a few weeks back, and I have to say, this trip to Japan has to one of my more memorable adventures ever.
Best Time To Visit During Winter
I’ve experienced being in a snow environment when I was way younger say the ages of 7 or 8, but I have no vivid recollection of how I felt or how it feels to be surrounded by snowfall and snow. This trip brought that experience to a whole new level – not only did we visited Hokkaido during its coldest period of the year (we were averaging -10 to depths of -30 degrees Celcius), we got 1 to 2 metres worth of fresh powder snowfall every day. So if you are thinking of having the ultimate snow experience, be sure to visit Hokkaido between the mid of January to the middle of February. Though if you wish to see the Igloo Village (pictures above) in Lake Shikaribetsu, it is usually only completed during the end of January, so plan to visit the village then!
Lake Shikaribetsu/ Hotel Fusui Igloo Village
Upon arrival into New Chitose Airport, we headed straight for Lake Shikaribetsu.
During summer, Lake Shikaribetsu is the perfect boating retreat for Hokkaido residents. Just a 2.5 hrs drive from New Chitose Airport, it is not too far away for a weekend getaway. When winter comes, the landscape and atmosphere of the lake changes completely. The lake becomes completely frozen and its surroundings covered in snow. Lake Shikaribetsu’s residents work tirelessly to build outdoor onsens and Igloos for their annual winter festivities which are slated to be completed by the end of January of every year.
We stayed at Hotel Fusui, which gave us the perfect views of the lake. All their rooms face the lake, and if you’re an early riser, wake up to the sunrise beyond the mountains. If you have the time, I would recommend spending a good 2 full days here, just so you can take in whatever Lake Shikaribetsu has to offer, and join in the activities and winter-time-only facilities the Igloo Village offers – like the outdoor onsen, where you get to soak in a hot tub while overlooking the frozen lake, and the Ice Craving Workshop I participated in, where I got to carve out my own cup made of ice, and drink from it! Other winter activities at Lake Shikaribetsu include snowmobiling, snow-shoe hiking with a guide through the forest, attending a concert in a concert hall made entirely out of ice, have a drink at the ice bar, and if you are up for it, stay the night in the Igloos (it will surprisingly be warm (according to the locals!)!
Country Roads Restaurant
Our next stop after Lake Shikaribetsu would bring us to a prefecture called Kamishihoro, a 45-minute drive away from Lake Shikaribetsu. Along the way, we stopped at a restaurant called Country Roads, with the friendliest owners (who are the cooks as well) and servers ever. If you are taking this route, be sure to stop by this humble country-styled restaurant and order their beef stew, you will not regret it!
Address: Country Roads カントリーロード, 136-1 Shimooribe Nishi 2 Sen, Shihoro-chō, Katō-gun, Hokkaidō 080-1285, Japan.
Opening Hours: 11am – 8pm
Kamishihoro/ Nukabirakan Onsen
After lunch, we made a 45 minute drive to Kamishihoro prefecture, where we stayed at Nukabirakan Kanko Hotel. A day’s worth of snow-shoe trekking, visiting the nearby ski slopes, and more onsens would await us, but I shall save all those details for Part 2 of my Hokkaido travel diary coming up later this week.
Prior to this trip, I was told that a winter onsen experience would be unforgettable – nothing beats feeling all warm in a natural hot spring while watching snow fall right in front of your eyes. Which is what I got to experience here. It was too surreal and it would be a huge blessing if I got to experience this again in my lifetime.
Note: The onsen featured in today’s blog post is for both sexes. Usually male and female onsens are kept separate, and you would have to be completely undressed in your gender-specific hot spring. However, if you are heading to the unisex area, be sure to stay covered up with a towel, like what I’m doing!
Address: Nukabirakan Kanko Hotel. Japan, 〒080-1400 Hokkaidō, Katō-gun, Kamishihoro-chō, Nukabiragensenkyōkitaku, 北海道河東郡 上士幌町字上士幌町字ぬかびら源泉郷北区48-1
More exciting updates in Part 2 of this travel diary. Stay close! x