We will start off by writing our self drive travel experience in Hokkaido as this post allows us to share our whole trip experiences & photos, follow by adding travel guides and how to plan your Hokkaido trip posts later on.
As usual, we normally buy air tickets during promotion, so when AirAsia launched KL to Sapporo flight, we managed to book 2 way return for only RM248 per pax which is the cheapest ever flight to Hokkaido.
With AirAsia X flight, we arrived morning 8am at Shin Chitose Airport which is 45 mins away from Sapporo City. Upon arriving Hokkaido, weather was negative 15 degree Celsius and visibility was very low even our plane couldn’t move upon landing and needed tow truck assistance to the gate.
Weather Condition Upon Arriving Hokkaido
Shin Chitose Airport is an attraction itself. With plenty of dining option available, it is the best starting point to fill our tummy with authentic Japanese food!
The famous Ebisoba Ichigen
Food hunt starts! Ebisoba Ichigen – Shrimp & Salt Ramen
Ebisoba Ichigen is a shrimp based ramen which is very popular in Sapporo, the soup is filled of awesomely good shrimp umami topped with oozing nitamago, tender japanese char siew & shrimp eggs. Ichigen opens at 10am and fills up very fast hence it is good to be there before 10am.
Not too sure how it taste, I wonder? Extra Spicy pls >.<
If your departure flight is in the morning like ours, it is recommended to tour Shin Chitose Airport during your arrival before starting your Hokkaido Trip as you wont have time to visit it during departure day. The airport is also home to both Royce Chocolate World & Doraemon Sky Park.
Shin Chitose Airport is also the perfect place to buy omiyage (souvenirs) from Hokkaido with all famous souvenirs such ask Kinotoya, Le Tao, Shiro Koibito, Royce Chocolate, Snaffles are available in this airport. If your flight is in late morning onwards, Shin Chitose Airport is a great choice to do your final shopping. Shops gradually opens from 8.30am. If you are taking AirAsia X flight, it might be too rush on departure day.
Pikachu wearing Shin Chitose Airport Uniform
Our trip started with only 2 of us before my brother & sister decided to join. Since there are 4 of us we decided to self drive. Before the trip, we were struggling to choose whether to self drive or travel by train and bus. The unknown fear of driving in different country and inexperience in snowing condition kept us thinking.
However, by the end of the trip we were glad that we decided to self drive as it is more convenient to get around and to visit secluded areas especially during winter. Jumping in to the heated car is much more comfortable than shivering in coldness while waiting for public transport.
We booked our car online with ToCoo!, one of the very reliable online car rental in Japan (Will blog in details on how to self drive in another post). If you are planning to drive few days, rent from companies that offer Hokkaido Highway Pass which allows unlimited expressway with fix fare on certain highways. Do note not all car rental companies offer this.
Note: International driving license is needed to rent a car in Japan.
Whether to self drive depends on where are you visiting. You dont have to self drive if you are planning to visit Sapporo & Otaru only. But if you plan to visit several places & smaller towns like Hakodate, Niseko, Lake Toya, Noboribetsu, Furano, Biei, Shiretoko, it is best to self drive.
Our Nissan Note – Very Fuel Efficient Car
For our first Hokkaido road trip, we decided to explore Hakodate – Lake Toya – Niseko – Otaru & Sapporo. Since Hokkaido is very big, it is impossible to visit all their cities unless you have plenty of time.
First Stop – Hakodate (函館)!
Hakodate is approximate 280km away from Shin Chitose, though on paper it looks like a mere 3 hours drive. During winter, always double your usual travel amount when self driving as in winter roads are slippery due to formation of black ice and speed limit will be reduced to 50kmph during bad weather.
So our regret was not to visit Lake Toya first since Lake Toya is located between Chitose & Hakodate. Nevertheless we still enjoyed the long ride along the coastal road. It took us 5 hours plus to reach Hakodate with several stopping in convenience shops for rest & food along the road.
Located at the southernmost tip of Hokkaido, Hakodate is the third largest city in Hokkaido. Founded in 1454, the city is best known for the spectacular views from Mount Hakodate and its delicious, fresh seafood with squid as it prime attraction.
After 5 Hours drive, we arrived Hakodate and out for dinner
Dinner at Lucky Pierrot
Lucky Pierrot is Hakodate’s home grown fast food chain few several restaurants in Hakodate. We ordered Shrimp Burger, Lucky Cheese Burger, Chinese Chicken Burger, Chinese Chicken Curry to try.
Though famous for their Chinese Chicken Burger, we do recommend to try their Grilled Squid, Shrimp Burger & order Chinese Chicken Curry instead as we find the Chinese chicken taste much better with curry.
Another must try at Lucky Pierrot is the Grilled Squid! Very tender & delicious
Hakodate Morning Market
One of the must visit attraction is definitely Hakodate Morning Market, is where a cluster of 300 shops selling fresh seafood and vegetables. In short is where you get to taste one of the freshest seafood.
Squid Fishing – After catching the squid, they will prepare fresh squid sashimi immediately
Our Breakfast in Hakodate
Giant Hokkaido Scallop, not the usual ones in Malaysia. Very fresh & sweet
While waiting for our Uni
Uni lover.. When a dish of Uni couldn’t satisfy us at Uni Murakami
Munching & keep on munching – There many stalls offering seafood snacks such as Steam Octopus, King crab bun
Which restaurant to try next?
Donburi Yokocho Ichiba is a food alley arcade nearby the Hakodate Morning Market, is the place to find some of the best seafood donburi in town. Also one of Hakodate’s specialty Dancing Squid donburi is found there.
Dancing Squid Don with Ikura & Ika Sashimi
Generous bowl of Ikura, Uni & Kani Donburi
Uni, Hotate & Kani Donburi
Dancing Squid donburi is where the chef catches a live squid from the aquarium and quickly prepare the dish. As the squid is killed very fast, the muscle still reflexes hence the name dancing squid. This culinary skill is to ensure the ultimate freshness of the squid.
Video of Dancing Squid
Rest assured you do not have to gobble up the whole thing. Upon presenting the dish and upon verification of customer (and upon taking photo, videos, snapchat, hoo ahh from tourists), the waitress will retrieve the bowl and the chef will further slice the squid into thin slices.
Russian Orthodox Church
The Motomachi area which is located at the foot of Mount Hakodate became one of the favourite area for foreign residents. Hence you can find a wide variety of beautiful exotic townscape with Western-style buildings and slopes.
Motomachi Roman Catholic Church
Old Public Hall of Hakodate Ward
Typical Tourist Mood
One of the street in Motomachi, Hakodate
Idatakimasu! Marukame Udon
Kanemori Red Brick Warehouse
The Kanemori Warehouse in Hakodate is another must visit. Located by the bay side, it was originally a port warehouse. Recently been redeveloped into an atmospheric shopping, dining and entertainment complex. This is the place to try amazing Hakodate patisserie such as Snaffles & Petite Merveille.
Pumpkin & Milk Ice Cream
Petite Merveille is famous for their delicate design pastries and cheese souffle. Not only that they are also famous for incorporating pumpkin as main ingredient in their cakes & ice cream
Japanese cheesecakes are totally different compare to other variety of cheesecake such as New York Cheesecake which are usually very solid. Japanese cheesecakes are often as soft as cotton candy with milder cheese flavour.
Petite Merveille allows customers to taste their cheese souffle and definitely recommended is their Caramel Cheese Souffle. The enrich caramel flavour yet not overpowering the mild cheese is definitely to die for.
They even make cakes super duper cute you might just buy and keep as long as possible instead of eating it.
Milkissimo offers premium gelato and originates in Hakodate, you can order the beautiful flower petal ice cream from this stall.
Flower Petal Ice Cream
Snaffles Pastry – Original, Chocolate & Caramel. Definitely a must try. Original flavour is the best, you can forget bout other flavours.
March – Limited Edition Sakura Blossom & Strawberry Frappuccino
Let it snow.. Night view of Kemori Warehouse
Mount Hakodate View
Mount Hakodate was awarded 3 stars in the Michelin Green Guide Japan describing the view from the mount top as worth taking time out to see. The ropeway requires only 3 minute to reach the top, and there are souvenir shops and restaurant as well.
It is recommended to visit around 1 hour plus before sunset so you can take 3 different types of shot, afternoon, evening & night shot. During winter, remember to wear sufficient warm clothes as it is very windy & cold on the mountain.
Hakodate Beer brew artisan local beer delivered direct from their brewer, so if you are interested to try out local beer, this is the place. It is a beer hall with 200 capacity offering a variety of food as well.
Goryokaku Tower stands just next to the Goryokaku which allows visitor a magnificent panoramic view of the entire star-shaped fort and surrounding moat unveils itself to visitors from the observation platform of the 107-meter Goryokaku Tower.
On the observatory deck
Perfect view of Goryokaku Fort
Bird eye view of Hakodate
Hakodate Magistrate Office
The Hakodate Magistrate Office in the center of Goryokaku Fort is the administrative institution established by the Shogunate during the opening of Hakodate Port. From the tower, it is only 5 mins walk to the fort goryokaku and is free for visitors to visit.
Hakodate Tropical Botanical Garden
Hakodate Tropical Botanical Garden is the place to see snow monkeys enjoying their onsen during winter time. It is not actually a vast space of park but more like a mini zoo with tropical botanical garden showcase.
Hakodate Tropical Botanical Garden
After 3 days, our Hakodate trip has ended. Our next destination – Lake Toya! Stay tune for more post.
For hotels, we uses HotelCombined to search for cheapest accommodation.