Saturday, December 29, 2018

Seven Days of Freezing in Japan (Narita - Sapporo - Otaru - Hakodate - Asahikawa - Niseko - Tokyo)

Otaru Canal

Third time in Japan in less than two years and it gets better and better.

Itinerary : Narita - New Chitose - Sapporo - Otaru  - Hakodate - Asahikawa - Niseko - Tokyo - Manila

Day 1 - Manila to Narita

Narita Airport

Again, many thanks to Cebu Pacific I was able to get a very cheap flight to Narita Airport. Spent the night at the domestic airport and retrieved my Hokkaido 3-day pass for P7,300 or 16,500 yen/147USD. Travel time was 4 hours and 10 minutes.

Day 2 - Narita to New Chitose to Sapporo to Otaru

Domestic Terminal

I did not sleep much at the lobby of the airport and I woke up early for my 7:45 am flight to Hokkaido. Thanks to Jetstar Japan for another cheap flight. The secret is you have to book at least six months in advance. Travel time is 50 minutes.

Nearing the airport, I saw what I was about to experience is Sapporo.

Susukino, Sapporo, Hokkaido

From New Chitose, I used my JR Pass, without the pass I would have paid 1,200 yen. Travel time was only 45 minutes.

The Stay Sapporo

From the Sapporo station, I boarded the subway using Nambukino subway and paid 200 hen. After 2 stops, I reached Susukino and walked for 10 minutes before I reached the Stay Sapporo. There are now two of tbem in Susukino so be mindful where you are staying. I paid 14,700 yen or P7,350 for a 4-night stay. It's my second time here. The last time was March 2017.

I took a quick lunch and then went to Otaru. Again, I used my JR pass. I was suppose to pay 1,280 yen or 2,560 roundtrip back to Sapporo. Travel time was 40 minutes only.

I roamed around Otaru although the weather was -6 and it was snowing.

I did not mind the weather and I was walking in a very thick snow.

Part of the itinerary was to go to Naruto's place for their famous chicken. Well, it was good but the price was 1,100 yen for a half-part chicken.

After 5 pm, it was already dark and I postponed my plan in going to Mt. Tengu. I went back to Sapporo and decided  to use my pass to T38 in JR Tower in Sapporo.

Without the pass, I would have paid 720 yen. Thanks JR pass for this treat! The skyline view was magnificent,

Day 3 - Sapporo to Hakodate

It was freezing cold the following morning (-8) and it was snowing hard. I had difficulty getting up, taking a bath, finding my way and getting onboard the rapid train.

Along the way, the weather improved a bit. Travel time to Hakodate using the rapid train was more than 4 hours. Again, I used my JR Pass. I was suppose to pay around 18,000 yen for the round trip ticket. Remember, I paid 16,500 for the pass!

Finally, I reached my destination. I went to the local tourist information (all stops have one in Japan) and asked for places I could visit.

And I ended up in the morning market.

 I was about to  buy this huge crab from Alaska (15,000 yen), problem was I was suppose to wait for an hour for it to be cooked. One hour! I have only 3 hours to spare in Hakodate. Bye crab! See you when I eat you!

Parting with th huge crab, my second choice was to eat clams and oysters and tbey were SUPERP and expensive. One piece is worth 800 yen and I ate 4 pieces.

The visit will not be complete without going to the old red brick warehouses. 

I strolled around Hakodate and got lost. I was saved by the tram just in time to board the train back to Sapporo.

Day 4 - Sapporo to Asahikawa

There was only one destination and thaw was to visit the Asahiyama zoo in Asahikawa. Again, the JR Pass. I was suppose to pay 9,600 yen for a round trip ticket. Thanks to JR Pass! Travel time was 1.5 using the train and 40 minutes using the local bus. Fare in the bus was 440 yen.

The main attraction was the Penguin walk and I did not mind paying 1,200 yen for this once in a lifetime experience.

 I saw wolves, owls, foxes, polar bear and a lot of winter animals.

 Aside from the penguins, I also enjoyed watching the seals!

Day 5 - Sapporo to Niseko

The weather that day was the best so far in Sapporo.

Unfortunately, my 3-day pass expired and I paid 4,480 yen for a round trip bus ticket. Since it was snowing and the road was very slippery, travel time using the bus was 3 hours and 45 minutes.

After 4 hours, I reached the Annupuri Ski Resort.

I did not have the time to learn how to ski neither did I have the time to ski.

Day 6 - Sapporo to Hakodate to Tokyo

Everything was planned. Everything was happening according to the plan.

The following morning I woke up early and was ready to go to the airport. I remembered sending an email to my hostel in Tokyo and I asked for directions. So, I opened my email and to my surprise, I saw my Jetstar flight cancellation due to weather. I decided to go to Sapporo station and use the Shinkansen from Sapporo to Hakodate and the Hakodate to Tokyo.

I did not buy the JR Pass (P15,000) since I will be staying only in Hokkaido and instead I bought the Hokkaido Pass for P7,500 online. Arriving at Sapporo JR station, I bought the Shinkansen ride for P13,500 and boarded the first available ride. Unfortunately, arriving in Hakodate, the bullet train was late due to an accident in Tokyo.

Good thing I was able to catch the  connection in Hakodate just barely 5 minutes before it departed. I had plans of buying souvenirs, gadgets and stuff in Tokyo since I will be arriving 2pm. But unfortunately, I arrived at my hostel past 9pm due to the 2 hour Shinkansen delay.

I did not have time to roam around and instead stayed at the hostel. I stayed at 1 Night 1980 Hostel Tokyo Asakusa Simple Stay. I paid 2,900 yen and it was a great stay. The capsule room was excellent and the staff was very accommodating.

Day 7 - Tokyo to Manila to Batangas

Good thing Cebu Pac flight back to Manila was on time and I arrived 8pm in Batangas just in time to be part of the New Year celebration.

It was great experience and I Love JAPAN!

Tips when in Japan
1. Buy the JR Pass.
2. Use the Willer overnight bus if you want to save in hotel expenses by sleeping inside the bus at night.
3. Food is quite expensive. You can buy affordable ones in 7-11, Family Mart or Lawson Station.
4. Visit the castles and temples
5. Stay in hostels or dormitories.
6. Bring a coin purse for your loose change and there will be a lot.
7. Ask for directions either at the Information Center inside the train station or the Tourist Station.
8. There are various trains - local, Shinkansen, subway and street cars.
9. The Shinkansen station is different from the local train (example - Shin Osaka is the Shinkansen station and Osaka Station is the local train station)
10. Travel light and bring a water.
11. Try the local food.
12. Walk left and stay left in escalators. 
13. Buy the JR Pass online, it is cheaper.
14. Be aware of the areas in the train station and inside the train. 
15. Japan is safe but please stay safe and be street smart.
16. Observe trafffic rules.
17. You can leave your bag in the hostel and travel the whole day and then get the bag later.
18. Bring medicine. I eat a lot and sometimes, I ate something different.
19. Make your itinerary at night by asking the front desk if your itinerary is feasible.
20. Laundry is cheap and very easy.
21. If the train door won't open, press the open button
22. Secure a map, mark your destinations, know how many stops, remember your stop and listen to the train operator announcing the stop or look at the monitor inside the train for your station.
23. If you need discounted food, try buying before the grocery closes, they will sell the food 50% off.
24. Ask first for the price of the food before buying.
25. Be silent inside the train or elevator.
26. Keep your trash and do not litter.
27. Enjoy the toilet.
28. Know the weather and bring the appropriate clothing.
29. Early morning walang breakfast, head for 7-11, Family Mart or Lawson.
30. If you want cheap food, go to the food section of a mall or grocery store.
31. Madaming kinds of passes in Japan, ask the train or bus station.
32. Almost all station ay may Information Counter, you will never get lost.

3 most important things
1. Never lose your passport.
2. Never lose your money.
3. Never lose your JR Pass.

Enjoy Japan!

Arigato gozaimasu for reading!

Special Thanks to Marina, the front desk attendant in Sapporo.