Saturday, March 31, 2018

Day 4 in Hokkaido - My 8 Days, 7 Nights (Mostly Self-Drive) Summer Trip to Japan

I am the type who can't go back to sleep once i see the sun and that's a major problem for me when sunrise is like 4am in Hokkaido and our room at Daiwa Ryokan didn't come with curtains! p.s. did like the netting though as they kept out the bugs.

As the day was still early and i didn't like to waste my time on the futon without being able to go back to dreamland, i decided to drive out to 7-11 convenience stall for a light breakfast.

Breakfast consisting of hot milk coffee in a can and Japanese rice balls! I even chose a darn good spot for breakfast where right in front of us was the iconic Nakajima Island of Lake Toya.

Onigiri with beef shigureni was pretty good with substantial filling although i very much preferred the satisfying egg mayo sandwich! There were so many selections at the convenience stores that even if i didn't have breakfast in any of my Hokkaido accommodations, i think i could still try an onigiri with a different filling every single day.

On our way back after a short exploration at the Usuzan ropeway; not so much the ropeway which hadn't open for business. However, Alex was totally in awe of this new mountain known as Shōwa-shinzan.

Went back to Lake Toya again; albeit another section where i realised Nakajima Island wasn't just ONE island and the one just in front of us was Kannon Island.

Got back to Daiwa Ryokan and prepared to leave. It was only when i took notice of these strips of sticker on the floor that it dawned on me that they were there to mask the defects!

Blocks of wood next to the hand bath outside Daiwa Ryokan; maybe they could be used to make a small bonfire, especially if the weather starts to turn cold?

Empty plot of land with many wild flowers that were commonly seen in our trip. I even had a separate posting on them here.

I usually don't check the bonnet of my car but something caught my attention!

A bee was stuck in the front fender and it was as dead as a dodo! Maybe because it was summer; there were many insects and throughout the five days i had the rented car, i counted quite a number of bees and even smashed butterflies and moths.

Leaving to seicomart as our travel mates would need breakfast to kick start the day! I was still full but i could definitely indulge in a serving of authentic Hokkaido milk!

Alex, as usual, got his favourite Glico Pocky sticks!

While chatting with our travel mates, Alex enthusiastically shared our early morning visit to Usu Volcano Global Geopark and got them persuaded to pay it a visit.

Think all of us didn't regret as the scenery was drop dead gorgeous; i even gained some knowledge about the preparedness of the community (via the disaster prevention theatre) as the region had been hit with four eruptions from year 1900 to 2000.

Just a short drive away from Mt Usu was the place where we enjoyed filling our stomach with cherries and blueberries for the price of just 880 yen a person; the fruit picking in Takashina Fruit Farm at Sobetsu Fruit Village!

Continuing our journey to the next destination on our itinerary; Noboribetsu! 

Crossing over a stream; did i share that in summer, you can actually do water rafting in Hokkaido? We didn't plan for any as most of us are not adventurous and i think it can also be pretty pricey to do it in Japan as compared to Southeast Asian countries like Malaysia or Indonesia.

On a freakish high vehicular bridge!

Stopped the car at this area which looked like a carpark yet wasn't one. Could be a rest stop for visitors to stretch their legs and check out the scenery.

View wasn't much in this season, honestly.

As evidenced by the tyre marks on the ground, i guess some drivers were more keen to practice their drifting at the open space. Pretty good if you ask me.

Photos taken of the road; the drive was easy and there weren't many cars that we had encountered. p.s. Alex was the main driver whereas i am designated as the vehicle commander (and self assigned photographer).

Japanese shrine (Karurusuyakushi Shrine) with an interesting white torii.

I can't imagine i can take so many pictures when the journey between Sobetsu Fruit Village and Noboribetsu was less than an hour!

Long accustomed to the greenery on the mountains, this anomaly on the hilltop was a topic starter in the boring car ride. According to google map, i think we were closing in to Noboribetsu.

The existence of large hotels confirmed that we were near!

I recognized this view from the google map street view and knew exactly where we should turn; to the right where our accommodation in Noboribetsu, Takimoto Inn, stood!

Parking was opposite the inn and as it was past lunch time, it's a matter of chop chop registered with the reception counter on level two, chop chop checked in to our wonderful room and chop chop took a quick bath in the in-room shower!

After which was deliberating on where to have lunch! Eventually settled it at a izakaya (informal Japanese pub) with my first authentic gyu don in Japan!

Walking after a meal aids in digestion although before we took on the walking trail, let's check out the sengen park (geyser) with its colourful, gigantic cudgels.

Following which would be the 2-hour long walking trail that brought us to notable attractions in Noboribetsu; Hell Valley (地獄谷)Oyunuma (大湯沼)Oku no Yu (奥の湯) and Oyunuma Brook Natural Foot Bath

Guess what we need after all the walking?! Food obviously and once again, the group of six couldn't decide what to have and we eventually stepped into a smoky restaurant, Isekura (いせくら), which served charcoal grill food. Funnily, we didn't order any grilled stuff.

Exploring the Gokuraku Shopping Street, the main commercial street at the onsen town of Noboribetsu where we had our lunch and dinner. Aside from souvenir stores, there's also a humongous statue of the king of hell!

Day four was a fun-filled day with the likes of fruit picking and the natural foot bath but the biggest highlight of my Hokkaido trip was experiencing Japanese onsen! I was blessed to be granted admission to Onsen Heaven at Dai-ichi Takimotokan as it is a sister accommodation to Takimoto Inn.

Once i got over the shyness of being naked, the overall experience was just epic; from soaking in the seven different spas, from indoors to outdoors, from hot to cold etc to the usage of branded horse oil shower gel and shampoo. I am sorry i can't take pictures for decency and privacy reasons but i am so looking forward to experiencing my next onsen.

After the satisfying soak, we chanced upon the musical giant cudgel at Dai-ichi Takimotokan. As it was a bit late and i needed to get something from the car, we didn't stay throughout the performance.

Quite creepy with deserted streets and a cloudy sky with a full moon above us; but we were in a relaxed mood after the onsen and the sleep that night turned out to be so good!


Detailed Postings for Day Four
  1. Lake Toya
  2. Usu Volcano Global Geopark & Usuzan Ropeway
  3. > Toya Caldera and Usu Volcano Global Geopark Mountaintop Disaster Prevention Theatre
  4. Fruit Picking in Takashina Fruit Farm at Sobetsu Fruit Village
  5. Takimoto Inn
  6. Sengen Park (Geyser)
  7. The Walking Trail / Pathway at Noboribetsu
  8. > Hell Valley (地獄谷)
  9. > Oyunuma (大湯沼)
  10. > Oku no Yu (奥の湯)
  11. > Oyunuma Brook Natural Foot Bath
  12. Gokuraku Shopping Street
  13. > Lunch at a Izakaya (たこ焼き 永森)
  14. > Humongous Statue of the King of Hell
  15. > Dinner at Isekura (いせくら)
  16. The Gigantic Musical Cudgel (大金棒) @ Dai-ichi Takimotokan
  17. Onsen Heaven @ Dai-ichi Takimotokan