Hokkaido is a large island in the north of Japan. For a good part of the year, the island is covered in a thick blanket of snow, and the views are amazing. In February, I went for a weekend there to celebrate my birthday, and I’m here to give you my itinerary so you can see the best sights the island has to offer.
We traveled by plane from KIX to Sapporo and arrived at around midday. So, we went to our hotel to drop off our bags and set off to go and see a real, working chocolate factory!
Shiroi Koibito Park is about a 20 minute train ride from JR Sapporo station, in a quiet neighbourhood. The whole park is designed to look like a tudor manor, with white washed walls, criss-crossed with black beams. The first stop was the chocolate factory itself. Turned out it was part working factory, and part history museum; which turned out to be really interesting. We could see the workers making cookies, and the whole factory was very quirky-looking, totally reminded me of Willy Wonka.
Outside, there are some nice gardens to walk around, especially in the snow as they cover all the trees in multi-coloured wrappings to keep them healthy in the colder weather. There’s also a nice, yet strange, collection of wendy-houses to explore.
The best part of the gardens though was the snow slide that had been set up, and then left unattended – that’s Japanese health and safety for you! There were two rubber rings you could use, all you had to do was climb to the top, and slide on down! It was pretty quiet when we visited, so we took a few turns before heading out.
We stopped for some food just past the factory at a little curry house and enjoyed a couple of beers, as the snow went a little crazy once we sat down. Waiting out snow storms with a curry and beers? Perfection. Then we headed back to the hotel for a relax in the onsen and an early night!
Today, we went to the famous Asahiyama Zoo. The main reason for us visiting here was to see the penguin parade – which was so awesomely cute! The whole zoo was fairly interactive though, with little domes peeking out into the different enclosures so you could get a close up view of the animals. The fact that the zoo was covered in snow made the place look really magical, and it was nice to see these animals in their natural (ish) habitats in all the snow and ice.
That night we went to find one of the island’s stranger foods – dancing squid! The squid is so fresh that it’s still moving! It’s not alive, but it sure looks like it is! Just a quick poke with a chopstick and you’ll see the tentacles start to wiggle! Apparently, if you pour soy sauce on them, they go crazy – but we didn’t find this out until we got back!
Today was definitley the thing I was most looking forward to – visiting the Ice Hills Hotel!
We were staying at the Cross Hotel (more on this below) who actually run the Ice Hills Hotel, so we had booked our trip through them, and the coach was waiting outside in the morning to take us there. The journey wasn’t too long, and we got to enjoy some of the beautiful Hokkaido scenery on the way.
The first thing we did when we arrived was book onto one of the snow activities, as we thought these might get busy later on (they didn’t though – pretty sure it was just us and one other group). We decided to go for the snow banana boat. Yes, it is a real thing, and yes, it is awesome. After this exhilaration, we decided we needed a beer to calm down, so headed on over the ice bar. This place was so stunning so I’ve added lots of pictures below for you to enjoy. We grabbed a bottle of beer each, relaxed, and snapped lots of pictures.
After finishing our drinks, we went off to explore more of the hotel itself. There were 3 ice rooms you could stay in, each with a different design. Again, it all looked so amazing, I can’t even count how many pictures I took. I have no idea on the price or what its actually like to stay in one of these rooms (bad blogger!), but I can only imagine it would be fairly epic.
We still had a good chunk of time left here so headed back to the bar. This time around we tried the ice cocktails. Pretty low alcohol and high price, but very tasty and served in a glass made of ice. Then we saw someone taking a shot in a very interesting way that we had to try for oursleves! There was a big chunk of ice on top of the bar with two rivets running down it. The bartender would line up your liquor of choice (vodka for me please!) and you would wait with an open mouth at the bottom of the rivet- then down comes the stream of alcohol!
As this was our last day in Hokkaido, we decided to visit the Sapporo Beer Museum before traveling back to Kyoto as it was fairly close to both our hotel, and the station. Unfortunately for us, the whole museum was actually closed. Pretty annoying really as it didn’t mention anything on the website about the closing dates, so just be prepared if you’re planning on going.
We did have the chance to eat one of Hokkaido’s famous dishes though – Genghis Khan. It’s named after the Mongol leader, as it is in the style the Mongol troops used to eat. The meal is made up of lamb and vegetables, and is grilled on a metal dome, to represent the warriors helmets. A definite must when visiting the island, as lamb is pretty rare across Japan!
We also enjoyed a nice chilled glass of chocolate beer each – adding to the list of weird flavoured food and drinks here in Japan. It basically tasted like fizzy chocolate milkshake – very interesting!
We stayed in the Cross Hotel Sapporo, which was very conveniently located for all of our explorations. While this might not be the cheapest option available, this trip was to celebrate my birthday, so we went for a bit of luxury this time. The hotel was very modern and comfortable, and we really enjoyed our stay there. The hotel even has an onsen with a great city skyline view, which is great for relaxing in after a day of sightseeing. I would whole-heartedly recommend this place, the staff were very helpful, and spoke English, the rooms were clean, bright, and spacious. I was very happy with the whole experience.
It also had the best welcome mat ever, as evidenced by the photo above.
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