Hokkaido trip: looking for advice..


doodah

Senior Member
Dec 23, 2007
2,044
0
36
#1
Planning a self-drive 3-week Hokkaido trip in July 2011 for my wife and myself. Hope to traverse from one end (Cape Shiretoko) to the other (Cape Shakotan).

I'll have to say this trip planning process is probably the most painful one I've ever experienced. It's not the dearth of information that gets to me, but the fact that most of it is in Japanese. Sigh...

So, I hope to solicit some useful info from CSers who have traveled there on their own. Here are the issues I face:

a) Is it necessary to book hotel all the way? I'll be there in July. The towns I plan to visit include Utoro-Saki (near Shiretoko), Lake Akan, Kamikawa, Higashikawa (near Asahidake in Daisetsuzan), Kamifurano, Hokuryu and Shakotan.

b) So far, I've gotten some accommodation info from Google Maps, Trip Advisor and Lonely Planet). Is there a site/book with more comprehensive info?

c) How do I get the map codes of various destinations and hotels for the Japanese GPS? I know of Mapion and Puchitabi. But I'm hoping to find a site in English... Sigh..

Any other advice or help will be GREATLY appreciated.

Thanks.
 

Last edited:
Nov 16, 2010
77
0
0
North
#3
hi, cool links. any good suggestions to share if going in Dec for holidays. What sorts of equipments to bring along beside a camera etc.. thanks..;)
 

Oct 9, 2010
132
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0
#4
Do you read Chinese? Bec the best guide book ain't Lonely Planet...

You can go to Prologue (ION) or Kinokuniya (Ngee Ann City) and buy the few Hokkaido travel guide books (usually from HK or Taiwan). They are highly informative, 100 times better than Lonely Planet. Each has an entire section on self-drive trip. Available only in Chinese.:bigeyes:

June-July is their peak season. Many Japanese and tourists going to Hokkaido during this period. You are advised to book in advance. But, if you are a risk taker, you can always drive and book whenever you come across a hotel of your choice.:think:

If you can afford to pay well, just book the fly-and-drive tour from Prime Travel - 1st class ultra luxurious! :cheergal:
 

nuts

Senior Member
Jan 21, 2002
2,051
0
36
47
www.roving-light.com
#5
....
So, I hope to solicit some useful info from CSers who have traveled there on their own. Here are the issues I face:

a) Is it necessary to book hotel all the way? I'll be there in July. The towns I plan to visit include Utoro-Saki (near Shiretoko), Lake Akan, Kamikawa, Higashikawa (near Asahidake in Daisetsuzan), Kamifurano, Hokuryu and Shakotan.
I went in July this yr but I was backpacking, and I did not prebook alot of places. So alot of the cheaper options in the popular places are booked out, eg Furano, Biei. However, you are self-driving, which open up alot more choices. There are many small and nice pensions and B&Bs out of town, which I think are lovely. But it depends whether you like exploring and driving around to look for accom.

I remember one of the days I reached Sapporo abt 11pm, wanting to catch a connecting overnight bus to Hakodate. But even the overnight bus was fully booked and I walked 1+hr around the Sapporo bus & train station area looking for cheap accom to no avail. In the end, met an American guy who was also looking for accomm and in the end, we had to share a double room for S$320++. It was past midnight and I was shagged out! Well, with a car, things would be slightly different I guess... :)
 

jukebox19

New Member
Mar 15, 2010
58
0
0
#6
Hokkaido is big island and travelling from point to point will be long. In Japan public transportation is so convenient that driving is not needed. In Hokkaido, most signboards will probably be in Japanese (mainly Kanji).

Why not consider going to Kyushu and use trains and local transport. Easily for 3 weeks can cover the island and also the southern part of Honshu up to Himeji/Hiroshima. And many sign boards will have English.

In Japan you need not live with a car. Take train, long distance JR and other buses and local bus in the cities. Driving in cities you will get disorientation, and looking for parking may be a headache and not that convenient, and parking fees are not cheap.

Your partner need to be a good navigator and able to read maps! For matrimonial peace, not worth doing Hokkaido DIY by driviing.
 

nuts

Senior Member
Jan 21, 2002
2,051
0
36
47
www.roving-light.com
#7
While Japan is easily doable by public transport, Hokkaido is one part that is best enjoyed with a car. And some remote parts like Shiretoko, the train only reached until Shari. From there, its only buses, which are not only restrictive but really expensive! For travel in Shiretoko, car is the way to go. And even in Furano,Biei, Horkuryu etc, the train schedules may not be as flexible as you want. Still best enjoyed with a car.
As for other parts of Japan, it'll be really hot in July. I went Hokkaido and Tohoku, and Hokkaido was abt just right but in Tohoku, it was already unbearably hot. If not for the festivals, I would have just stayed in Hokkaido.

Anyway, my 2cents for TS :)

Hokkaido is big island and travelling from point to point will be long. In Japan public transportation is so convenient that driving is not needed. In Hokkaido, most signboards will probably be in Japanese (mainly Kanji).

Why not consider going to Kyushu and use trains and local transport. Easily for 3 weeks can cover the island and also the southern part of Honshu up to Himeji/Hiroshima. And many sign boards will have English.

In Japan you need not live with a car. Take train, long distance JR and other buses and local bus in the cities. Driving in cities you will get disorientation, and looking for parking may be a headache and not that convenient, and parking fees are not cheap.

Your partner need to be a good navigator and able to read maps! For matrimonial peace, not worth doing Hokkaido DIY by driviing.
 

limwhow

Senior Member
Jun 9, 2009
7,048
0
0
Life revolves arOnd East Coast
#8
Hello TS.
Firstly, I apologise for piggy-backing on your thread like this.
I will be going to Hokkaido in mid December, which is about a month down the road.
I have been searching high and low for a smallish, privately-family-run Ryokan anywhere in Noboribetsu and/or Sapporo where 7 of us can stay and indulge in outdoor Onsen with the snow flakes falling on our face while we enjoy the soak.
Somewhere where they provide a night stay with traditional Japanese breakfast and dinner.
There are quite a few such Ryokans (Inn) on the net but my main reason for asking this here is should any one of you have first-hand experience and could recommend me.
I thank you in advance, and I thank TS for allowing me the opportunity to ask here.
 

doodah

Senior Member
Dec 23, 2007
2,044
0
36
#9
You can go to Prologue (ION) or Kinokuniya (Ngee Ann City) and buy the few Hokkaido travel guide books (usually from HK or Taiwan). They are highly informative, 100 times better than Lonely Planet. Each has an entire section on self-drive trip. Available only in Chinese.

June-July is their peak season. Many Japanese and tourists going to Hokkaido during this period. You are advised to book in advance. But, if you are a risk taker, you can always drive and book whenever you come across a hotel of your choice.

If you can afford to pay well, just book the fly-and-drive tour from Prime Travel - 1st class ultra luxurious!
Cooool... I'll go take a look at Kinokuniya. :cool:

Thanks for the advice for advance booking.

I've heard of Prime Travel, but prefer cheaper accommodation... ;)

I remember one of the days I reached Sapporo abt 11pm, wanting to catch a connecting overnight bus to Hakodate. But even the overnight bus was fully booked and I walked 1+hr around the Sapporo bus & train station area looking for cheap accom to no avail. In the end, met an American guy who was also looking for accomm and in the end, we had to share a double room for S$320++. It was past midnight and I was shagged out! Well, with a car, things would be slightly different I guess... :)
Thanks for sharing your experience. I'll make sure I try to do advance booking for all my accommodation. Anyway, I've already come up with an itinerary including the places to stay.

While Japan is easily doable by public transport, Hokkaido is one part that is best enjoyed with a car. And some remote parts like Shiretoko, the train only reached until Shari. From there, its only buses, which are not only restrictive but really expensive! For travel in Shiretoko, car is the way to go. And even in Furano,Biei, Horkuryu etc, the train schedules may not be as flexible as you want. Still best enjoyed with a car.
Indeed, Shiretoko is on my list of places to visit. So, driving is a must.

More importantly, I am an avid landscape photographer, so I'll need to get to a number of places at some ungodly hour. :bsmilie: Buses are not acceptable for me.

The only place where I feel public transport is sufficient is in the Dolomite Mountains of Italy. All the photographic sites can only be reached by hiking anyway. :)

Thanks for all your input. Really appreciate that.

Hello TS.
Firstly, I apologise for piggy-backing on your thread like this.
I will be going to Hokkaido in mid December, which is about a month down the road.
I have been searching high and low for a smallish, privately-family-run Ryokan anywhere in Noboribetsu and/or Sapporo where 7 of us can stay and indulge in outdoor Onsen with the snow flakes falling on our face while we enjoy the soak.
Somewhere where they provide a night stay with traditional Japanese breakfast and dinner.
There are quite a few such Ryokans (Inn) on the net but my main reason for asking this here is should any one of you have first-hand experience and could recommend me.
I thank you in advance, and I thank TS for allowing me the opportunity to ask here.
You can also post questions in Japan Guide as well as Trip Advisor. There are some 'experts' in those forums who will be able to advise you.
 

texasrs

New Member
Oct 1, 2005
83
0
0
#11
If you're driving around most important thing is to have the phone numbers of the places you are going to to input into the GPS. Unless you know Japanese the GPS can be tricky to use only thing I could figure out was inputting the phone numbers haha. Having said that, when are you going to Hokkaido, if you are going soon (which means winter time) do you have sufficient knowledge of driving on ice and snow? It can be pretty dangerous if you do not know that.
 

doodah

Senior Member
Dec 23, 2007
2,044
0
36
#12
hi doodah
i recommend tripadvisor , check their hokkaido travel forum
you can find latest info there
cheers
paul
http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowForum-g298143-i5078-Hokkaido.html
Thanks. I am aware of that.

If you're driving around most important thing is to have the phone numbers of the places you are going to to input into the GPS. Unless you know Japanese the GPS can be tricky to use only thing I could figure out was inputting the phone numbers haha. Having said that, when are you going to Hokkaido, if you are going soon (which means winter time) do you have sufficient knowledge of driving on ice and snow? It can be pretty dangerous if you do not know that.
Thanks for your advice. I've noted the phone numbers & map-codes of places I wanna go. I plan to go to Hokkaido in July, so won't be driving on ice/snow.
 

thomasq

New Member
Jul 14, 2007
259
0
0
South-West
www.flickr.com
#13
Bring a long a ultra wide lens. Tripod and remote shutter release is must as you will be taking lots of pictures with your wife.
Flash for indoor since you will probably stay in some nice old hot spring hotel.
 

windwaver

Senior Member
May 19, 2007
1,276
0
36
Europa
windwaver.tripod.com
#14
a) Is it necessary to book hotel all the way? I'll be there in July. The towns I plan to visit include Utoro-Saki (near Shiretoko), Lake Akan, Kamikawa, Higashikawa (near Asahidake in Daisetsuzan), Kamifurano, Hokuryu and Shakotan.
Base on my experience, it's best to book accommodation in the places you visit towards the end of the day. As you're driving, you have more flexibility in planning that.
 

numez

New Member
Aug 25, 2010
34
0
0
#15
Hello TS.
Firstly, I apologise for piggy-backing on your thread like this.
I will be going to Hokkaido in mid December, which is about a month down the road.
I have been searching high and low for a smallish, privately-family-run Ryokan anywhere in Noboribetsu and/or Sapporo where 7 of us can stay and indulge in outdoor Onsen with the snow flakes falling on our face while we enjoy the soak.
Somewhere where they provide a night stay with traditional Japanese breakfast and dinner.
There are quite a few such Ryokans (Inn) on the net but my main reason for asking this here is should any one of you have first-hand experience and could recommend me.
I thank you in advance, and I thank TS for allowing me the opportunity to ask here.
i stayed at lakeside inn kawanami around lake toya. maybe u can check that out.
 

honda

New Member
Nov 30, 2004
558
0
0
#17
Hi sorry to piggy back on your thread. I am going in February. Is it alright to use canon 60d in the snow?
 

giantcanopy

Senior Member
Feb 11, 2007
6,232
2
0
SG
#19
For popular hotels i would advice on booking them in advance, they get booked like little hotcakes, especially in areas like Toya, Noboribetsu, Daisetsuzan areas. The lake facing hotels in Toya are very very popular in summer, you can get the comfort of viewing the evening fireworks from the hotel balcony. ( the fireworks wasn't impressive though .. )

* i usually prebook my hotels before any trip, so i am not sure if you can "walk in" and book on the spot. But if it is a family trip, i would think there is greater assurance in prebook

Ryan
 

Feb 25, 2008
21
0
0
32
Pasir Ris, Singapore
#20
Hello there

Just to add on, you might wanna try Homeaway (http://www.homeaway.com/search/keywords:hokkaido).

This awesome website shows awesome places to stay in with complete amenities and needs. Its like cottages, or loghouse, or farm house or cabins. The longer you stay, the cheaper it will be.

I'm going next month and i've booked one 'cottage' in Niseko and 2 apartments in Tokyo coz I'm going with my sis family and my parents. You can give it a shot, and I think you should!
 

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