Feb 2017 – Japan

<SAPPORO.LAKE SHIKOTSU.NISEKO.NOBORIBETSU.OTARU>

We flew into Sapporo New Chitose Airport for the last two days of the 2017 Sapporo Snow Festival. Upon arrival, we went down to the bus station to buy bus ticket to Sapporo Downtown Susukino. As mentioned before, taking airport bus can save the hassle of carrying luggage around the train station and direct route to destination. The time taken is not much of a difference.

In this case from New Chitose Airport to Susukino, airport bus was 1030yen/pax for 67mins whereas subway train with one transfer was 1790yen/pax for 50mins. We got ourselves an airbnb for a week and it was situated right at Hosuisusukino station. After we alighted from the airport bus, it was about 7mins walk. Our luggage was light so we had no problems walking on the slippery ground with our luggage.

However on our way back to New Chitose airport, we took the subway train because of our heavy luggage and it would be impractical to walk 10mins to the nearest airport bus station. The entrance to Hosuisusukino station from our airbnb was less than a min away.

 

Day 1: We walked to see the ice sculptures at susukino station area and snow sculptures at odori station area.

Snow conditions: I want to emphasize on walking on snowy and slippery grounds. Yes, this is Japan and there will be workers to shove the ice/snow away. But they do not do it all the time so you still have to be careful. Upon arrival, we have seen so many slip-and-fall cases, ambulances being dispatched and many near-misses.

You just have to wear some good walking shoes with good traction. You can also add on metal cleats for extra traction. I can tell you that even with good traction, it is not 100% slip-proof. You still have to take precaution by walking in smaller steps, identifying “safe” grounds to walk on.

As for winter clothing, there is really no need for extreme clothing such as thermal underwear. Yes you can wear it but make sure that you will be staying outdoors for long hours otherwise you will feel uncomfortable in them in a heated place.

There was an onsen nearby which was about 15mins walk from JR Sapporo but we wanted to rest early.

Day 2: We bought the subway day pass because the weekend day pass was cheap, at 520yen for unlimited rides. We went to the Tsudome site for snow activities which was part of the Snow festival. Then we went back to JR Sapporo for some lunch. We booked ourselves with a  local bus tour operator to bring us to Lake Shikotsu Illumination and Ice Festival. On wkends, there were fireworks too. The bus journey was about 2 hours with one toilet break. We had about 2 hours free time at Lake Shikotsu and the fireworks was at 6.30pm. The fireworks lasted for 20mins and then we walked back to the parking area to head back to JR Sapporo.

IMG_3575

Day 3: We headed towards Niseko using local train. From our airbnb, we took the subway train to JR Sapporo then took the JR towards Otaru. From Otaru, we made a transfer towards JR Kutchan. We paid 1840yen/pax for 124mins. Our hotel in Niseko upper village had a free shuttle from JR Kutchan so we were taken care of.

IMG_1292

As we were early so we went for early lunch then took the free shuttle bus outside of our hotel to go to Hanazono 360 for our snow mobile – rabbit course.  Then we took the same shuttle to go Hirafu Gondola Station to take the gondola to go up to the mountains. This was the only gondola station which allowed “sight-seeing” at their gondola. The others would require you to ski/snowboard down the mountains.

Then we took the shuttle bus back to the hotel and checked-in. We had a private onsen in our suite facing the Hirafu Mountain. The hotel also had public onsen segregated into different genders. Also, if you are shy, you can rent their private onsen for 45 mins for 2000yen.  Then we had dinner at Abucha-2 and stood at the traffic intersection and witnessed many fall hazards. Both vehicles and pedestrian will experience these hazards so drive/walk with caution.

Day 4: We checked-out of Niseko and headed towards Noboribetsu, passing by Lake Toya.

We skipped skiing in Niseko because we would need about 4-5days and we did not had enough time. From JR Kutchan, we took the train to Oshammambe, made a transfer towards Noboribetsu. We paid 4370yen/pax for 225mins on unreserved seats.

IMG_1675

Upon arriving at JR Noboribetsu, once we exited, there was a taxi-stand and bus station. We had booked a ryokan for the night and it came with kaiseki and breakfast for 2.

We took the public bus heading towards Noboribetsu Onsen for 340yen/pax. We alighted at the JCHO stop which was the hospital stop. This stop was before the onsen so pls ask the driver or check your google map.  A few more stops will bring you the the popular Hell Valley/Dai-ichi Takimotokan.

Being a ryokan, it means living room + dining room + bedroom are combined into one room. The gentleman would come into your room to setup the tatami bed. The ladies would come into your room to setup the dinner and breakfast.

For the most time, we just left our main door unlocked.

Once we have arrived, we got to choose our preferred timing for dinner and breakfast.

We chose 5.30pm for dinner and 8.30am for breakfast. The ladies would enter your room slightly early to set up so pls be prepared.

After dinner, we went to the public onsen. Although the onsen was small, it was good enough. The outdoor onsen was too hot and even in the snowy weather; we could not tolerate the hot temperature in the natural onsen.

WE ENJOYED OUR KAISEKI DINNER AND BREAKFAST.

Day 5: The next morning, the hotel was kind enough to send us to the Jigokudani Hell Valley. In fact we can walk about 20mins or take the public bus and alight at bus terminal and walk along the street to reach the hell valley.

On our way back, we chose to walk back in the snow. It was fun but not recommended for senior citizens.

After check-out, we were supposed to head back to JR Sapporo. There was a direct bus at the bus terminal near our hotel but that day they only had a morning bus.

We can also take a bus and make transfer. But we chose to head back to JR Noboribetsu. Yes, we can take the JR back to JR Sapporo but we chose the bus option because it was much cheaper and only cost 1850yen/pax for 100mins.The bus stop was beside a supermarket so we had our lunch there while waiting for our bus.

Then we had a luxury course for dinner at a Japanese restaurant with hairy crab and etc in Susukino. Then we crossed over to take the tram to Mount Moiwa. As we had our ICOCA card, we used it in Sapporo for our travels. In Hokkaido, they accept ICOCO /SUICA/PASMO as well.

We alighted at the Ropeway iriguchi tram station and walked over to the free shuttle bus to reach Mount Moiwa Cable car station.  Then it was the same way back to Susukino.

Day 6: We went to the Ice Star hotel whereby the hotel was made of ice. The hotel provided paid shuttle bus service and we used it. The meeting point was at JR Sapporo North Exit at the Bell Square and cost 1000yen/pax/way. Once we arrived, we played on the snow mobile again and this course had up/down slopes and it was fun.

We visited the ice hotel and ice bar and you can stay at their ice hotel if you are up for a challenge. We went back to JR Sapporo and took the train to Otaru. From JR Otaru, it was easy to walk to the famous canal and the Sakaimachi shopping street. Then we walked back to JR Otaru and went back to JR Sapporo.

IMG_3322

Day 7:From our airbnb, we walked about 10 mins to visit the Nijo Market to have fresh seafood for breakfast. Then we walked in the snow towards the Sapporo TV Tower and took the subway train to Makomanai Station. Then we would take a local chuo bus number 106 to visit Takino Suzuran Hillside Park Snow World. It was a free entry snow park during the winter and you can play their snow tube for free.  The local buses have timing so pls check before you go as there will not be any taxis available once the bus services have stopped.

If you are into bulk shopping for Japanese snacks, you can buy them at Tanuki Koji near Odori station. Here you will pay lesser than what you will pay at airport DFS and they will pack in carton boxes for you to check-in at the airport.

At the time, I will need to inform you that in New Chitose Airport, it is a huge shopping center. This means that you can buy whatever you need at the airport and then check-in. This is completely different from Tokyo airport, whereby you need to check-in your luggage before entering the DFS zone.

So try to arrive at the New Chitose airport early for shopping and visiting the Hellokitty/Doraemon/Royce Chocolate parks.

IMG_4109

We arrived early and left our luggage at the locker storage. Then we took the free shuttle bus to Rera Chitose Outlet.

IMG_3875

Then we went back to the airport for more shopping!

I hope we will come back again to Hokkaido the 3rd time. We have been here during autumn and winter.

 

—————————————-

I have written a comparison on how to do tax refund in Paris/Bangkok/Tokyo (link). In Hokkaido, it will be the same. But over at the departure immigration, there are staff asking you to remove the tax refund slips, stapled inside your passport. Be careful to remove it slowly or else you might tear a passport page.

 

You can read about my previous post on my <Tokyo.Osaka.Kyoto> (link).

Advertisements

Dec 2016 to Jan 2017 – Japan

This was a trip to welcome 2017 and we landed/departed in/from Tokyo Narita.

We preferred the airport bus transportation mode because there was no need to do any train transfers, carrying luggage up/down the stairs/escalators and pushing the way through commuters.

Prior to our trips, I would checked the options of getting day passes for subway/buses and if our planned activities transportation costs will exceed the day passes.

The way or the manner in how I plan will depends on the following: types of airlines, arrival airport, flight timing, accommodation place, airport buses timing and etc.

As I have been to Japan over the last ten years, there is no need for me to blog on everything. Otherwise, I may not be able to complete this post. The first step is difficult and I have taken the first step.

I am sure many of you know about the JR pass eg. 7 days JR pass. I always have no chance to use it. This is not because I do not travel to many places in Japan. It is because in order to maximize the cost-effectiveness, I will have to travel to more places in a short span of time. On the other hand, there are so many cheaper alternatives to travel. So there is no reason why a JR pass will be useful to me.

Alright, enough of my personal view. Let’s get things done fast.


<Tokyo.Osaka.Kyoto>

We bought the airport limousine bus package which consisted of a round trip airport bus ticket and 3 consecutive days for Tokyo subway. Then we took the airport bus to Shinjuku Expressway Bus Terminal because we had an overnight bus to Osaka at this bus terminal.

IMG_2192

As we had landed early, we had 10 over hours to spend in Tokyo. In Japan, many types of storage lockers for luggage were easily available. So we wanted to store it at the bus terminal and board the bus directly. The self-automated lockers were mostly unavailable but as always, there was a plan B. The Tokyo Tourist Info Center was on the same level of the bus terminal, which was at level 3. This center closed at 11pm so we had to come back early. Our bus departing to Osaka Namba OCAT was at 11.45pm so it was alright.

IMG_2208

IMG_2308

winter illumination at shinjuku – they look like sakura trees

> I will skip the details on what we did in Tokyo because I want to focus on the overnight bus to Osaka which costs us 10500yen single seat configuration. I bought the instant when the tickets were available online because it was the peak season.

There are many different types of overnight buses available so take your time and choose the bus you need. For me, I look at the departure/arrival timing, types of buses, types of seats, departure/arrival point and price.

IMG_2402

Throughout the 8 hours journey, there were 3 toilet breaks and you have your own charging point, curtains to create your personal space and blanket and the ride was so smooth. There were 2 bus drivers and they took turn to drive the bus.

IMG_2429

IMG_5653

IMG_5652

Toilet breaks was awesome! Clean and hi-tech toilets. I thought they were karaoke room in the first place.

So in order to minimize walking and spending on unnecessary transportation, I made the choice to arrival at Shinjuku Bus Terminal so that we could just walked over to the Tokyo Hotel whereby we would be staying towards the last leg of our journey; to safekeep one of our trolley luggage and send our amazon/rakuten packages to the hotel reception.

IMG_6381

I sent all these to hotel so that I could checked-them in. Of course you can get them at Narita DFS tax-free but not all are available and you need to hand carry. In any case, there is hardly any price difference and shipping from amazon/rakuten is free. Amazon can send to convenience store which means you can collect it from eg. lawson if you do not have a local address.

Then, we spent our time in Shinjuku area and went back to the bus terminal to board our overnight bus. Since we would be arriving in Osaka OCAT, we found an airbnb in Namba area which was nearby Dotonbori. This airbnb saved us $300 because it was the New Year peak season. I understood how airbnb works because I have been using their services for some time. The largest factor in getting a good experience is all about the airbnb host. So if all else fails, I will just book another place or hotel. The backup plan was to stay in this hotel nearby OCAT and it would cost $300 more than what we have paid for our airbnb in this peak period.

Airbnb host had rules so we respected that. Once we arrived at OCAT, we walked over to JR Namba East Exit at Osaka Takashimaya which was the nearest to our airbnb, found a storage locker and stored out stuff. We could not checked-in until 4pm in the afternoon and it was not a big deal.

So we just went ahead of our sight-seeing within Osaka. There were many types of transport passes in Osaka and the most suitable for us on this trip was: 2 days Osaka Amazing pass. Even if we did not do most of the activities on the Osaka Amazing Pass, our transportation costs would exceeded the price of the amazing pass. As for the other days in Osaka, we would just used the ICOCA pass which worked the same as PASMO/SUICA in Tokyo.

img_2479.jpg

I will emphasize on the time before you can buy your tickets online eg. disneyland tickets. So I will buy it at disney store at takashimaya tokyo. I did try to find discounted tickets but there is no such tickets for disney. However, there is discounted tickets for sanrio puroland at those discounted tickets shops nearby shinjuku station. Many years later, you can buy all types of tickets online, receive e-ticket, print it and proceed to entry.

This is a good way for me to use those credit cards with cashback and I get to save some money. At the same time, I also feel more secure because I have book/buy my ticket before I land. I also can pay for most of my expenses and have more cash to pay for other stuff. There is this website which I always use to buy my attraction tickets and with the referral fee, I get to save even more. (link)

Back to our trip, I will skip most of it until I insert some photos.

Here is a run-down:

Day 1: Arrive in Tokyo, take overnight bus to Osaka

Day 2: Arrive in Osaka OCAT, Osaka Castle Aqua-liner, Shinsaibashi, Amerika-Mura, Tsutenkaku Tower, check-in airbnb, Matsuzaka Beef at Yakiniku M.Hosenji, Tomburi River cruise, Abeno Harukas, Dontonbori

Day 3: Umeda Sky building, HEP Five ferris wheel, Umeda Pokemon Center, Shitenmoji Temple, Kuromon seafood market, Den-Den town, Tenjinbashisuji shopping arcade, Miyukimori Shrine Korean town (optional), Sengoku The Real (show at Osaka castle), Dontonbori, countdown at Kitamido Temple, walk back to JR Namba

For Day 2 & 3, we used the 2 days Osaka Amazing Pass. As I am looking at my itinerary while writing this post, my total costs for activites and transportation for 2 days is approx 8000yen but the 2 days pass only costs 3000yen. So it was a good deal. As I have mention before, there are too many transportation tickets to buy so you need to work out the sum in order to find the most ideal pass.

IMG_3398

Day 4: Namba Yasaka Shrine, Sumiyoshitaisha Shrine, Rinku Premium Outlet, Osaka Prefectural Flower Garden

note that day 4 was 1 January 2017 so many shrines were crowded and many shopping places were closed. we went to Rinku Premium Outlet because it was New Year Day and lucky bags were for sale. I planned it this way because I wanted to buy lucky bags aka fukubukuro because it was a great deal!

Before I had planned to visit Osaka Prefectural Flower Garden at night, I checked the transport timing. This garden had some awesome winter illumination and in order to go, we would need to take the JR to Mikkaichicho station, changed to a local bus and walked about 10 mins. It was not a big issue but on the way back, the local bus were out-of-service so we had to walk to Mikkaichicho station approx 30mins. This was not a big issue to us but it was winter and the wind-chill factor was a concern. We can prepared ourselves with proper clothing but there was no urgency to visit the garden and suffered later. I was also not sure about getting a taxi because taxi might not be available and I also did not want to drive there. So we just stayed put at dontonburi and it was fun because there was so many things to eat and shop.

The Japanese use solar calendar so beside New Year, they also welcomed Year of Rooster even though the lunar calendar for CNY was later.

Day 5: USJ

from JR Namba, we walked to JR Osaka Namba station and alighted at Nishikijo Station to make transfer and arrived at Universal City Station

Day 6: checked-out Osaka airbnb and took local train to Kyoto station, deposited our luggage at hotel and went sightseeing, Fushimi Inari Taisha, Tenryuji Temple, Arashiyama Bamboo Grove, Yasaka shrine, kyoto station to check in. we skipped Gion which was planned for the night

Day 7: walked to Nishiki Market then to kimono rental shop, we had a kimono outdoor photoshoot at Gion then it was an overnight bus back to Tokyo. The bus boarding point if just right outside the hotel we stayed in kyoto. So we just deposited our luggage with them and came back at night to wash up and collected our luggage.

> The overnight bus back to Tokyo costs us 6630yen single seat configuration. I bought the instant when the tickets were available online because it was the peak season. This bus type had early bird price.

Day 8/9/10: we used the 3 days consecutive Tokyo subway pass here. I will skip on this part.

On our day of departure, we had to be at the airport by 9am so we had to leave the hotel by 8am. But the airport bus was at 7.20am  so we took this timing and the boarding point was just right outside the hotel lobby.

IMG_7385

usually I will stay at the apartment behind this hotel and if I have a morning flight, I will board at this hotel or if I have more time and NEX is cheap, I will take NEX else any airport bus will do. Usually when I take NEX, it will means I do not have many luggage. I can use the forwarding service but I did not.

Now I will try to add in the photos so that I can continue to blog on the Hokkaido trip.

You can read it here (link).

 

 

 

Japan Trips

Tonight I am going to finish what I have plan to finish. That is to blog on my Japan trips which I have plan to write for more than 10 years.

I will not be able to backtrack on all my Japan trips for these 10 years so I will concentrate on my recent Japan trips i.e 2017 New Year and 2017 Sapporo Snow Festival.

At the same time, I have too many blog posts to complete but I am not going to do it.