Hokkaido is the second largest, northernmost and least
developed of Japan's four main islands. Hokkaido's weather is
harsh in winter with lots of snowfall, below zero temperatures
and frozen seas, while in summer, it does not get as hot and
humid as in the other parts of the country. Dramatic peaks,
gorges, and lakes all contribute to making Hokkaido the part of
Japan where nature is at its most vivid.
Getting there ...
We had to keep the trip plan as a secret because my niece will
take her high school entrance exam in Taipei on 7/14,15 (one day
before our trip), and we did not want to distract her until she
finished her exams. We had an early morning flight to Sapporo,
and when we stepped out the airport, we all feel the Hokkaido
cool summer breeze.
[Day 1/2] [Day 3]
The First Day ...
- Shikotsuko (Lake Shikotsu, 支芴湖)
Our first stop out of the airport is Lake Shikotsu, which
is part of Shikotsu-Toya National Park consisting of
three separate areas, Mt. Youtei, Lake Toya and Lake
Shikotsu. Lake Shikotsu, one of the most beautiful lakes
in Hokkaido, is encircled by active volcanoes such as Mt.
Eniwa and Mt. Tarumae. There are famous Jozankei and
Nobo- ribetsu spas on the north and south of the lake,
respectively. We spent about an hour around the lake to
enjoy our first nature (and melon ice cream) experience
Sapporo ("important river flowing through a
plain" in the Ainu language) is the capital of
Hokkaido and Japan's fifth largest city. Sapporo is also
one of the nation's youngest major cities. In 1857, the
city's population stood at just seven people. We stopped
at Odori Park (大通公園) in the city center to stroll around the
park and the underground shopping street. The park
stretches over twelve blocks and offers pleasant green
space during the warmer months, while staging the famous
annual Sapporo Snow Festival in February.
The Second Day ...
- Youteizan Fukidashi Park (羊蹄山湧水泉公園)
Mt Youtei is a silent volcano nicknamed 'Ezo Fuji' which
translates into "Hokkaido's Fuji" because it's
very similar with Mt. Fuji . Spring water of Fukidashi
Park in Kyogoku, at the foot of Mt. Youtei, was selected
in 1985 as one of the "100 Best Waters in
Japan" by the Environment Agency.
Rain and snow that fall on Mt. Youtei seep into the soil
and, after several decades, gush from the foot of the
mountain. The water is a chilly 6 deg C throughout the
year and is rich in minerals. The water can be drunk at
the park, and we all took water bottles to take water
from the stream.
- Toyako (Lake Toya, 洞爺湖)
We went to a vista point on the Lake Toya side of
Shikotsu-Toya National Park. Lake Toya, a volcanic
caldera lake, is a nearly circular lake with 10
kilometers diameter in east-west direction and 9 kms
north-south. Lake Toya is said to be the northernmost
lake in Japan that never ices, and the second most
transparent lake in Japan.
- Nixe Marine Park
Nixe Marine Park is a combination of Danish theme park
and aquarium. We had a quick fire-pot/udon lunch in the
restaurant for the tour groups, and then headed to a few
shows: sea lion show, king penguin parade, and dolphin
show. The aquarium, one of the largest in northern Japan,
is in Castle Nixe, modeled after a Danish castle, where
we can see sharks, rays, salmon, sturgeon, king crab,
frogs, turtles, and other sea creatures.
- Noboribetsu Jigokudani (登別地獄谷)
Noboribetsu is Hokkaido's most famous hot spring resort,
beautifully surrounded by forested hills. Noboribetsu's
major attraction besides its baths is the Jigokudani or
"Hell Valley", where you can view (and smell)
sulfurous steam vents, streams and ponds.
- Showa-Shinzan Kuma Bokujo (昭和新山熊牧場)
This is a brown bear farm where you can buy food (some
sort of bear crackers) and feed those bears. Although all
kids enjoyed feeding bears, it is kind of pity to see the
way those bears begging for food.
[Day 1/2] [Day 3]
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