Sunday, December 27, 2009

Japan Hokkaido Tour


Last week, my wife and I embarked on a 7 day holiday tour to Hokkaido, the northernmost island of Japan. It was our first visit to Japan and it was inevitable that we were thrilled and excited.

My Dear and I have heard so much about Japan in our daily living in Singapore. In Singapore, we have often unwitting or not, taste the food and drinks of Japan, pick up some simple languages of Japan and watch the many cartoons, dramas, movies and documentaries of Japan on TV, which somehow shaped our impression of Japan!

There we went, last week with a tour group, onboard a flight near midnight. The flight lasted 7 hours to reach Tokyo Narita Airport, reaching Japan at around 7 am (Japan’s time is 1 hour ahead of Singapore’s). The particular Japanese airline our group took was quite noisy and bumpy throughout the flight, which sent shivers through our spines at times through its deep ‘crests and troughs’.

We arrived at Tokyo Narita Airport after a 7 hour flight and I must say I did not sleep a din, not because I was not tired but because of the roller-coaster style of the flight. To get to Hokkaido, one must take a Japan domestic flight and sad to say, the domestic flights to Hokkaido do not run from Narita Airport, our group then took an hour coach trip to reach Tokyo Haneda Airport.

Unlike international flights, Japanese domestic flights do not require the tourists to produce their passports. Since our group arrived earlier than expected, we took the flight slated a hour earlier than what we have booked and 1.5 hours later we reached Sapporo Chitose airport where we met our Singapore tour leader and the local tour guide.

It was around 12 pm when we reached Sapporo Chitose airport and thus it was time to feed our hungry stomachs, especially after an exhausting 10 hours of travel, via plane and coach!

My wife and I had a ‘recee’ of the different restaurants in the airport, before settling on one restaurant.

It is common knowledge that the standard of living here in Japan is very high, and hence before departure, my wife and I took care to ensure we have sufficient money to ‘stay alive’ (no la just exaggerating), but to stay happy in our tour of Hokkaido! Our first simple meal already cost us SIN $20 plus! This is what we ate:

My wife and I booked the tour to Hokkaido when prices were great during the August NATAS fair; Hokkaido resonates with us as we love nature, the type of nature that Hokkaido offers: great breath-taking flowers, nature, animals, mountains, hot springs and many more!

Prior to visiting Hokkaido, one must determine what he or she wants to see in Hokkaido. If one wants to see the great stunning display of flowers, visit the lovely island during this time (Autumn), if one is to experience sub-freezing temperatures and to witness the snow-skiing and ice-sculpting monuments, visit the island in winter!

Anyway, after our lunch, we took the coach again and proceeded straight to the places of interest slated for the first day. The tour guide was knowledgable, ‘feeding’ the tour group with snippets and additional information of the island.

Hokkaido is 160 times the size of Singapore, with Sapporo the largest city on the island. There are many places of interests sprawled around the island and to get to one place of interest to another, for the next 6 days or so, our tour group experienced waking up early, experiencing 4 to 5 hours of coach travel to the many places of interests, ate and ate and ate (buffets mainly) and indulged in hot springs for 4 of the 5 nights, so shiok!

Oh, hot springs or ‘onsens’, something interesting which I had tried for 3 nights where you see dozens of naked humans of your same gender soaking with you up and down in waters averaging around 40 degree Celsius!

The Ultra-violet in Hokkaido was especially high though it averaged 20 degree Celsius in the day. Come nights, the nights in Hokkaido at this time, is around 15 degree Celsius, enough to send shivers of coldness down my spine!

When I was having my hot and enjoyable hot spring bath, I witnessed the cold force of nature outsides via the thin window that separated us: the strong howling winds blowing all and sundry amidst the cold temperatures, it was no wonder that the countries with perennial cold temperatures had one of the highest suicide rates in the world with Finland topping the list, as I learnt from the local guide.

Anyway, I would like to invite you to share what I have experienced of lovely Hokkaido through my blog posts in the coming few days and learn of my experiences with the lovely people, lovely animal, lovely flowers, lovely mountains, lovely temperatures. lovely things and lovely scenery as well as lovely supernatural!

Lovely supernatural? Ya, no joking, but for the first night only in the first hotel loh….. where the hotel is equally eerie! Stay tuned to find out more!

Anyway, our tour is really a lovely tour, so much so that I would love to rewrite our whole experiences together and share with all of you who are interested.

So stay tuned as Singapore Short Stories share with you his and his wife’s tour of Hokkaido!