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Enjoy Spring in Otaru,Minato Machi! Recommended places and events.


Otaru – Rusutsu – Niseko  April 19th 2019

Otaru city famous as a Hokkaido port town is not only filled with romantic streets but is also a town filled with nature.

Other charms are the Otaru sushi and sweets. You can enjoy sightseeing all year round.

This time we are going to recommend sightseeing spots and events that you can enjoy during the spring.

There will be little known places, and also spots popular with the locals during this season. During the cherry blossom season there will be sights to see and events to go to so you can get the most out of Otaru.

| Contents |

1. Otaru’s Recommended Spring Spots
 1-1. Secret Cherry Blossom Spots [Tenjo-ji]
 1-2. Sakura as far as the eye can see [Temiya Park]
 1-3. Local Rest Spot [Hiraiso Park]
 1-4. [Mysterious Waterfall] Only in Spring
 1-5. [The Takashima Ghost] Seeing it is a miracle! <
2. Recommended Otaru spots in Spring
2-1. Plum Wine Festival 2019
2-2. Otaru Festival
2-3. The 14th Peony Festival
3. Things to know about traveling in Otaru in Spring
 3-1. How is the spring weather in Otaru? How about the temperature!
 3-2. We recommend warm clothing!

1. Otaru’s Recommended Spring Spots

1-1. Secret Cherry Blossom Spots


Picture provided by Otaru Sightseeing Association

Proceed from route 5’s Nyuusen Jujigai on the road towards the mountains and you will find Tenjo-ji a hidden cherry blossom viewing spot.
Tenjo-ji has about 30 Yoshino Cherry Tree”s which fully bloom by early May.

The reason that Tenjo-ji is so popular is its Japanese style appearance and cherry blossom which embody the feeling of spring. There are also statues, of Kanon, Rokujizo and Gokoushi which create a beautiful contrast with the cherry blossoms.

One step into Tenjo-ji and you will feel like you have entered a space of purity where you can feel truly relaxed.

As it is located away from the main sightseeing area, there are few visitors and it is still a secret cherry blossom spot.

1-2.Sakura as far as the eye can see [Temiya Park]


Picture provided by Otaru Sightseeing Association

Temiya Park located in Otaru is a popular cherry blossom viewing spot frequented by locals. From Mid- late May around 700 Ezoyama Sakura  and Yoshino Cherry trees will be in bloom.

Temiya Park is not just for cherry blossom viewing but is also home to the  the Kuri Forest known as the northern border and Temiyaryokuka Botanical Gardens.

We recommend enjoying cherry blossom viewing by taking a walk along the row of cherry blossom trees.
Temiya Park is located on top of a mountain, so you can enjoy looking down at Otaru and the cherry blossom from it.

Also Otaru is home to many wild birds  so you may be lucky enough to spot some wild birds whilst viewing the cherry blossoms.

1-3. Local Rest Spot [Hiraiso Park]


Picture provided by Otaru Sightseeing Association

The next location is Hiraiso Park a  famous cherry blossom viewing spot well loved by the locals just like Temiya Park.
Hiraiso Park  is home to about 100 Yoshino Cherry, Yae Sakura and Ezoyama Sakura.

During the cherry blossom season,the park is filled with people having Genghis Khan or walking through the park gazing at the cherry blossom.

In the middle of May all three varieties of Sakura will be in full bloom and is a recommended sight to see.

You will feel warm inside when you see all three cherry blossoms bloom at the same time.
If you walk a little you will come to the Hiraiso viewing platform where you can see views of Otaru.

The view at night also makes this place a popular date spot for the locals.

1-4. [Mysterious Waterfall] Only in Spring

A mysterious waterfall located in Otaru.

This is a famous cherry blossom spot, Gozensui Waterfall, located on a cliff to the south of Temiya Park.
It is located in Temiya Cave side alongside the Otaru Sea side road, and is so secluded that it is easy to pass by. 

Why is it known as the phantom waterfall? Well, this waterfall can only be seen when the snow melts or after heavy rain.  It is very elusive and can only be seen at certain times.

The force that the water flows also changes depending on the amount of water, so the waterfall always appears differently.
A lot of cars pass though this area, so if you are taking pictures please be careful.

1-5. [The Takashima Ghost] Seeing it is a miracle!


Even among locals there are many people who have never seen the Takashima Ghost.
What do we mean by ghost?

During spring and summer only , a mirage appears  at Otaru’s Ishikari bay .
Due to this mirage the view of the opposite shore appears to change in size and length which lead it to be called the Takashima ghost.

It has even been referenced in old works of literature (Nishiezo nisshi and the Sainishiezo nisshi).

Both works were compiled by Takeshiro Matsuura who explored this area at the end of the Edo era.
These works of literature contains detailed accounts of the Takashima ghost.

Nowadays the Takashima ghost is famously known as a  “Haru no fuubutsushi” a spring poem.

In order for the mirage to be seen, many conditions need to be met.
There are many locals who have never seen the Takashima ghost, so if you see it whilst on your travels then you will be considered extremely lucky.

Please take a look at this related text.

  • Taste some domestically produced wine! Otaru Wine Gallery

  • A safe bet even for first timers!  The perfect Otaru canal guide

2. Recommended Spring Spots in Otaru

2-1. Otaru Plum Wine Festival 2019


Picture provided by Otaru Sightseeing Association

An event where you can taste and compare recommended plum wines. Otaru Plum Wine Festival 2019 runs from April 19th to May 6th at Tanaka Sake Brewery.

There is a fantastic  selection of  Hokkaido plum wines as well as plum wines from all over the country and Hokkaido’s first sparking plum wine that you can buy and taste.

Our recommendation is the prized plum wine that will only be available during the festival period.

The  plum wine that is only available during the Otaru festival is considered to be very rare.
There is only  a limited number available, so it is only available while stocks last.

We will also show you how to really enjoy your plum wine. Take this chance to find the plum wine that is perfect for you.

2-2. Otaru Festival


Picture provided by Otaru Sightseeing Association

Held from May 24th – 26th Otaru Spring Festival is an event mainly based around food

As part of the event  we have incorporated the character Un-Gappa  for young children to enjoy. There will also be a bingo event for the younger ones to enjoy.
The schedule is action packed with  a karaoke competition, YOSAKOI SORAN dance parade, a food competition, and  an anime party in conjunction with the Otaru Anime Party.

2-3. The 14th Peony Festival


Picture provided by Otaru Sightseeing Association

A historical building in Otaru Shukutsu. The old Aoyama Villa if calculated based on current costs, it would have had a construction cost of ¥3.5 billion is the home of the Peony (shaku-shaku) festival from May 25th to June30th.

Be greeted at the front of the building by a breathtaking red pine tree which is said to be more than 100 years old.

In the garden there are about 400 Peonies decorating the garden creating an air of elegance.
You can see peonies, cherry blossom, azalea, plum  and hydrangea in the gardens depending on the season.

The appearance of the garden varies depending on the season in which you visit.

3. Things to know about traveling in Otaru in Spring

3-1. How is the spring weather in Otaru? How about the temperature!

天気 イメージ

It is officially spring, but in Otaru the temperature is quite low and there tends to be a few chilly days.
The average temperature in April is 10.5℃ and the average temperature in May is 16.2 ℃ so there is still some snow on the road. deg

There will be puddles and areas difficult to walk through, so we recommend that you bring sturdy shoes with a non slip sole.
From late April to May trainers/ sneakers will be fine to use.

3-2. We recommend warm clothing!

冬小物 イメージ

If you are planning on doing sightseeing we suggest wearing a spring coat and long sleeve clothing.
In May it will be fine if you just carry a jacket with you.

As the wind can be quite chilly, bringing a wind proof jacket and gloves may be beneficial.

The morning and nights tend to be considerably chilly so if you are going out during these times, please dress accordingly.

Please take a look at this related text.

  • The setting for NHK drama  Massan, a Yoichi highlight is a draw for many visitors.

  • [Spectacular view] ( Nishin-Goten)Learn about Otaru’s history


So how about it? I hope we were able to explain to you what makes  Otaru Minatomachi such an attractive destination.

The spring in Otaru is a little cold, but it more than makes up for it with all of the wonderful things to see and do.
With the seasonally changing face of  Otaru and the feeling of nostalgia you get walking around, Otaru is a town you can really ejoy.

Comparing the Costs and Time of 4 Travel Methods from Sapporo to Shiretoko


The World Heritage Site of Shiretoko Peninsula is located in the east of Hokkaido. And there are many who are thinking of visiting the place, which has the charm of a great outdoors that can be enjoyed throughout the year.

But aren’t there also a great many people that don’t know how to go from Hokkaido’s central city of Sapporo to Shiretoko?

So on this occasion, we will introduce the travel time, costs and things to note of each transportation method from Sapporo to Shari-Utoro, the gateway to both the Shiretoko Peninsula and the Shiretoko Five Lakes.

<Table of Contents
1. JR + Bus
2. Intercity highway bus, Eagle Liner
3. Airplane + Bus
4. Car / Car-Rental
In Conclusion

1. JR + Bus


Photo by Wikipedia: Kiha 183 Okhotsk/ 221.20

Our first introduction will be the transportation method that uses JR and Buses.

To go from Sapporo Station to Shiretoko-Shari Station (which is the station nearest to Shiretoko) the general method is to either go to Abashiri Station or Kushiro Station via the Express and transfer to to JR Senmo line train bound for Shiretoko-Shari.

The costs and time will vary based on which station you transferred from and until what station you used the Express on.

If you transfer at Abashiri Station, the fare for a one-way trip would be 9,930 JPY (as of April 2018) and the boarding duration would be 6 hours and more. If you transfer at Kushiro station, a one-way trip would cost 10,790 JPY (as of April 2018) and the ride would take around 6 hours and a half.


Photo by Wikipedia : Utoro depot, Utoro bus terminal. Shiretoko National Park / 221.20

In order to reach Utoro (the entrance to Shiretoko’s tourism spots) from Shiretoko-Shari Station you need to board the route bus operated by the company Shari Bus. It will take around 50 minutes and will cost 1650 JPY.

If you are actually thinking of going from Sapporo to Utoro, then if we factor in the transfer times it’ll be over 8 hours and a half! With a morning departure from Sapporo and an evening arrival, that’s a full day trip!

Also, the final route bus departing from Shari Station for the Utoro Bus Terminal is at 6:10 PM. Please make sure to plan accordingly with that in mind.

2. Intercity highway bus, Eagle Liner


Photo by Wikipedia :Sapporo Bus Terminal / 221.20

Next, we would like to introduce a transportation method that uses the “Eagle Liner”, an intercity bus operated by the Shari Bus Co,.

The merit of an intercity highway bus is that it doesn’t require any transfers; it enables you to directly access Shiretoko’s tourism hot-spots such as the Utoro Bus Terminal from Sapporo Terminal located in the heart of Sapporo City.

That way, you will not have to worry about planning for the transfer schedules. The fare from Sapporo to the Utoro Hot Springs Bus Center is 8230 JPY.


Not only can it drop you off at the Utoro Hot Springs Bus Center at Shiretoko, but one of its good points is that it can also directly go towards lodging accommodations such as the Shiretoko Daiichi Hotel!

On the other hand, it also has demerits in that it only operates one round trip per day. If you are heading towards Shiretoko from Sapporo, then you must ride the night bus that departs from around 11PM and arrives at Utoro Hot Springs Bus Center in 6:30AM at the next day.


As for the return-bus, if you are returning to Sapporo from Shiretoko, then you will have to ride the noon bus that departs at 9:20AM from Utoro Bus Terminal and arrives at the Sapporo Terminal at 4:25PM in the noon.


As both trip will be a 7 hour affair, we recommend you prepare a neck-pillow so that you will be comfortable during the long trip.

Since there will be no breaks along the way for midnight buses, Please do not forget to prepare your own drinks. Furthermore, the bus will have 3 seats per row and will have an on-board toilet (for added buses during busy seasons, there might be cases where they will have 4 seats per row but no on-board toilet).

[For details and reservations, please click here] Eagle Liner

For other buses besides “Eagle Liner”, you might also use the “Dreamint Okhotsk Liner”, a city bus that runs between Sapporo and Abashiri. If you use this bus, it offers varied options with 9 operations in 1 day, including night buses.

[For details and reservations, please click here] Dreamint Okhotsk

3. Airplane + Bus


Photo by Wikipedia : Memanbetsu Airport / 221.20

If you are going to Shiretoko by plane, then the nearest airport would be Memanbetsu Airport.

However, in order to reach Memanbetsu Airport from Sapporo, you will need to board a plan from New Chitose Airport. This requires you to travel to New Chitose Airport from within Sapporo City.

Though there are options such as the Bus, JR and taxis if you are going towards New Chitose Airport from Sapporo city, the fastest and most convenient would the JR Airport Express. With this, the travel time would be around 40 minutes and the fare would cost 1070 JPY.

There are regular bus services that has 6 round-trip schedules from New Chitose Airport to Memanbetsu Airport, and while the fare changes during reservation periods and such, for normal prices a one-way trip costs around 24,000 JPY. The flight will take around 50 minutes.


Photo by Wikipedia: New color car / 221.20

To get from Memanbetsu Airport to Utoro, the direct-access bus “Shiretoko Airport Liner” (operated by Shari Bus and Abashiri Bus companies) is in operation from the first part of June to the first part of October, as well as January to March. The trip duration is around 2 hours and 15 minutes and the fare is 3,300 JPY.

For other periods other than the ones stated above, you will have to use the airport shuttles (Abashiri Bus) from Memanbetsu Airport to Abashiri Station, the JR from Abashiri Station to Shari Station, and then finally route buses from Shari Station to Shiretoko Utoro. This will take over 3 hours, including transfers.

However, if you are going to travel from Memanbetsu Airport to Shiretoko Utoro via a rented car, then the shortest route is around 90km and you will arrive via a drive in 2 hours or less. If you have no problems renting a car, then the combination of an airplane and a car rental would be expedient!


Also, when going to Shiretoko from Sapporo, we recommend using the Nakashibetsu Airport for airports other than Memanbetsu Airport. Nakashibetsu Airport is the same as Memanbetsu Airport in regards to Shiretoko Utoro; the shortest route is around 90km and takes 2 hours and less. Although it will be slightly farther, it is a recommended driving route as you will be able to pass through the Shiretoko Mountain Pass.


However, there are no regular bus routes from Nakashibetsu Airport to Shiretoko Utoro. However, every year during the winter season (from the first part of January to the first part of March), a reservation-type bus called the “East Hokkaido Express Bus” has a single service a day that connects Nakashibetsu Airport to Shiretoko Rausu and Shiretoko Utoro.

[For more details, please click here] Hokkaido Express Bus (JP only)

4. Car / Car Rental


The last method of transportation we will introduce is when you use a car.

To traveling through Hokkaido in your own car that you’ve brought using ferries and such, to when you’re borrowing a rental vehicle, there are those who think that using a car is more easier as it lets you travel in accordance to your personal circumstance.

However, as you can clearly see by looking at all the previously introduced transportation methods, Sapporo and Shiretoko is quite distanced from each other. And as there are no stoplights and quite a lot of static roads, a drive all by yourself is not quite recommended.

However, for routes when going to Sapporo from Shiretoko, the shortest one would be to go through the Hokkaido Expressway and Asahikawa-Monbetsu Expressway towards the Engaru Setose IC, and to drive along public highways towards Shiretoko-Utoro after that. In that case, it will be a trip of over 400km that will take around 6-7 hours, even if you take breaks and head straight to your destination. The highway toll is 3,710 JPY if you start from the Sapporo IC.

There is also another route; go from Sapporo to Chitose, then set off towards Ashoro Interchange by passing through the Hokkaido Expressway that goes through Obihiro, and after that go to Utoro by passing through the town of Teshikaga (where the Lakes Akan and Mashu are) via public roads. This route is slightly longer, with a travel distance of around 440km, but makes up for it by being filled with sights such as the Lake Akan. The highway toll is also slightly pricier as well; from the Sapporo-minami Interchange, it costs 5,490 JPY.


However, though we’ve previously explained that the travel time is 6-7 hours if you use a car, this travel is one where if you did not take breaks. This trip is actually one where you take moderate breaks, so please maintain plenty of leeway in your time.

In Hokkaido, there is also the risk of the roads being frozen not only during Winter, but also in Spring and Fall (especially in the mountain passes of the east Hokkaido zone). Please focus on driving carefully by listening to announcements of road conditions before and during your drive.

In Conclusion

With all of that said, how was our introduction of the transportation methods from Sapporo to Shiretoko? You can quickly travel using airplanes or you can take it slow and enjoy the journey on the JR or on a drive. The choices are yours! Avoid any difficult itinerary and enjoy your trip to Shiretoko!

First time touring in Hokkaido? Here are Top 7 Hokkaido Hot Springs You Should Know


Touring through Hot Springs is one of the more popular parts of Hokkaido tours.

Fitting for a place that boasts the most number of hot springs in Japan, Hokkaido houses many attractive Onsen places such as famous springs that represent Japan and hot spring villages loved by the locals as a place of rest; there are even mystical baths only known to experts!

Among the greatest joys of Hokkaido’s hot springs is that you can enjoy the great outdoors while being fully satisfied by warm hot springs.

However, Hokkaido is still a large, large place; there are only so many hot spring villages you can go to during your travels!

So on this occasion, let us introduce 7 best and popular Hot Spring picks heavily recommended for your first Hokkaido travel. We will also fill you in on their locations, commendable points, as well as the properties and effects of their spring waters!

Read more

What should you actually do when touring through Shiretoko? Here’s a little show-and-tell on Shiretoko’s sights and ways of enjoying them!


The season for summer traveling is just around the corner! For those who are nature enthusiasts, a great many of them might be thinking “This year I’ll definitely go and visit Shiretoko!”
With that said however, you might also hear a lot of confusion and uncertainty from people who do not know how to properly enjoy Shiretoko; “where should we go?”- “Umm, the Shiretoko Go Lakes?” are usually the way these things go.
So to amend that, today we will introduce several ways to enjoy Shiretoko’s beautiful locale, list its most famous hot spots and guide you to a smattering of trial experiences on offer!
Read more

How did I not know about this convenient bus? The Higashi-Hokkaido Tour Bus, explained!

Hokkaido is now receiving much attention as one of Asia’s prime tourist destinations. Eastern Hokkaido (or Higashi Hokkaido) in particular is known to be popular among tourists who appreciate nature.

It is, however, an expansive natural region, and most people have a strong impression that it cannot be traveled effectively without a rental car. That is why not all too many people have taken the plunge and made their way to Higashi Hokkaido.

Last year (2016) however, a limited-time tourist bus began making trips starting in Sapporo and looping around Eastern Hokkaido. The name of that bus? The Higashi-Hokkaido Tour Bus! Now receiving attention for its route which runs from Sapporo to Shiretoko (Hokkaido’s easternmost point) over four days, this bus offers plenty of opportunities for sightseeing along the way.
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From New Chitose Airport to Sapporo by rental car: recommended locations along Lake Shikotsu

view of Lake Shikotsu

From New Chitose Airport—the “gateway to Hokkaido”—to Sapporo it takes only about 50 minutes if you go in a straight line over the Hokkaido Expressway. However, if you’re renting a car at New Chitose Airport and have some time to spare; I recommend not heading straight for Sapporo, but instead to take a route along Lake Shikotsu, where there are several sights worth seeing.

It’s a bit of a detour, but it’s a nice drive with an abundance of nature and a typical Hokkaido-ish feel to it. A few Chitose sightseeing spots await you as well, so let’s see check this route out!

Here I will introduce sightseeing waypoints along Lake Shikotsu in the order they are passed when driving the route from New Chitose Airport to Sapporo.
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Fun One-Day Sightseeing Drive from Sapporo to Noboribetsu Onsen

Noboribetsu Onsen

Noboribetsu Onsen is a popular hot spring area in Hokkaido. With many types of hot springs of various spring qualities, it is referred to as the “Department Store of Onsens”.

The location of this hot spring area makes it a great base for sightseeing. It is a 90 minute drive if you take the highway from Sapporo and a 60 minute drive from Shin-Chitose Airport. The fastest route you can take to get from Sapporo to Noboribetsu Onsen is the one in which you take the highway.

But this time we want to introduce a route on which you can enjoy some sightseeing along the way, as well as the sightseeing spots that are located on this route. This is a great driving route on which you can spend a day sightseeing while traveling from Sapporo to Noboribetsu Onsen. Why not include it in your list of places to go while you are in Hokkaido?
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Getting from Sapporo to Asahikawa: a comparison between train, bus and car

Asahikawa Station

Many people on vacation in Hokkaido travel between the two major cities Sapporo and Asahikawa. Asahikawa has lots of sightseeing spots, like Asahiyama Zoo, famous throughout Japan, and if you’re a fan of sake you’ll definitely want to see the Otokoyama Sake Brewing Museum. Also, around Asahikawa are areas such as Furano and Biei filled with the wonderful Hokkaido scenery, and it has good access to northern and eastern Hokkaido, so it is a popular base for tourists.

This article will compare the distance and time from Sapporo to Asahikawa using three different modes of transport: train, bus, and car.
*The information provided in this article is accurate as of September 2016, and is subject to change.
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The complete guide to sightseeing in Eastern Hokkaido

Kushiro Marsh

In Eastern Hokkaido, there are many fascinating tourist spots and highlights, such as Shiretoko Peninsula, Kushiro Marshland, and Abashiri.
Let us introduce you to the highlights and sightseeing spots that are familiar to the locals in Eastern Hokkaido.
We will also share information about dining and events that can only be enjoyed in Eastern Hokkaido.
We’d love to have you visit Eastern Hokkaido at least once. Please take a moment to read this article at least once before you visit Eastern Hokkaido. We’d love to have you feel and enjoy to the fullest the charms that can only be experienced in Eastern Hokkaido, a place blessed with abundant nature.
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