Thursday, January 1, 2015

Travel diaries: Sapporo, Furano and Shinjuku Travel and Food Edition 2014 (Picture heavy!)

First of all, Happy New Year dear readers! I hope you had an awesome New Year's Eve. May you have an awesome year ahead.

This Japan trip has been part of my dream for a very long time. I love watching Japan Hour and orgle at the food and scenery. Snow is also something I have never seen before, so I always wanted to see and feel for myself what is it like. 

In order to make the most out of this trip, I planned it in such a way that we could get to see snow and also get to experience what Tokyo is like. We first flew to Haneda International airport in Tokyo then switched to Haneda Domestic Airport to fly to New Chitose Airport in Sapporo. One thing I was thankful for was the extra transfer time I gave ourselves when I planned our flights. We had a comfortable 2 hours to transfer unlike some passengers whom had to rush to connect to their flight. Not a good idea to plan transfers too close especially when you have kids. Another reason being that the Haneda International and Domestic terminals are in two locations. There are free shuttle buses that you can take and it takes about 10 minutes to get from one terminal to another. One thing to note is during winter it is quite a regular occurrence that flights going into or out for Hokkaido get canceled because of bad weather. We were very lucky it did not happen to us.  

Taking a train from New Chitose Airport to Sapporo station was surprisingly easy. Announcements were also made in English in the trains. From Sapporo station we had a less than 10 minute walk via the underpass to Sapporo Grand hotel. Instructions with pictures were given on how to walk to the hotel and it was very easy to follow. We reached the hotel in the afternoon and while waiting to be checked in, we walked outside to get out first taste of the snow.

Just outside the hotel

Sapporo Grand Hotel is a lovely old school hotel and we were delighted with our Grand in Grand Deluxe Double room which came with our very own circular jet bath. We spent every evening soaking in it and looking out of our window. 

We had a great view of the garden and took opportunity to go outside and play in the snow. Our very own little snow play area.

For the next two nights, we spent time wandering around Sapporo and planning on how to get to Furano by train. Odori Park was within walking distance and the Winter Illumination and Munich Christmas Market was going on. Loved the pretty lights and the unique craft stores selling their wares.

Sapporo TV Tower

View from the tower
We initially wanted to have a view of Sapporo from the tower but got side tracked by our hungry tummies. We ate at the restaurant inside called New Sanko. The food was delicious and relatively cheaper than in Singapore.

Beef and cheese fondue

Beef with a generous slab of foie gras
I fell in love with the carbonara, it was so good!
Got to hug Santa. Don't know who was happier, Santa or me.

Failed jump shot

Day 2 was spent planning out how to get to Furano. Even though taking the Lavender Bus was the most convenient option, we chose to take the train instead for safety reasons. We have been reading of accidents because of the icy roads and didn't want to risk that. Taking the trains was slightly complicated. We took a shorter route so we had to take a train to Takikawa from there switch to another train that takes us to Furano. Once at Furano we took a cab to New Furano Prince Hotel. That journey took us about 2.5 hours.

View from our hotel window

The hotel grounds are beautiful. We wandered around just soaking up the atmosphere. Nothing beats seeing snow fall for the first time and touching the soft powdery snow.

Of course we had to go for all the snow activities. We tried skiing and failed terribly, snow rafted, almost fell off a banana boat, tandem rode on snow mobiles and tried sledding. And yes we also made snow angels and made our very own snowman. Damn it was hard.

Getting out of Furano proved to be a challenge. All this while we have been hearing of very bad weather conditions in Hokkaido, we didn't really experience it except for the last day on our way back to New Chitose airport. On hindsight, we should have returned to Sapporo for a night before flying off. We got on the wrong connecting train at Takikawa on our way back to Furano. The trains also arrived late and we were rushing to make our flight to Haneda. Let's just say it was miserably cold when we had to wait at the station for our late train. Anyway to cut the long story short, we missed our flight but we managed to get onto another one and did get to Haneda airport for the next part of our journey, Tokyo!

This part of the trip was very relaxed so we didn't plan much except for Disneyland which was a must.

Chocolate churros anyone?

We had a blast although we didn't get to sit on all the rides we wanted. We visited on Christmas eve and the crowds were huge. Wait time for the popular rides were 2 hours long. Anyway we bought many gifts.

Hilton Tokyo is fantastic. I loved our room and the view from it. It isn't very near Shinjuku station (about 10 minutes walk) but it gave us a chance to exercise our legs.

We had some fantastic food.

Ikinari Steak had delicious steak. Cut to order and cooked on the spot. Standing only no sitting.

I got the address for this ramen place through Tripadvisor. Ichiran Shinjuku. The ramen was good but I am sure there is much better out there. It is the first time I am ordering from a vending machine.

Please sir, can I have some more?

Shinjuku is alive and electric. So any people and their traffic crossings are mind boggling, once the green man lights up, people just cross everywhere.

The pastries in Japan are heavenly. Mouth watering and a feast for the eyes. It is hard not to buy everything and eat everything.

I can't resist Godiva
This sounds silly but we were hunting for the famous Tokyo bananas I keep seeing people pictures of. We finally found them at the airport. Unfortunately for us, we only bought a box for ourselves to try and we were basically fighting over them because they were delicious. We bought the caramel flavoured ones.

My Princess Precious wants a piece of the action

Pillowy soft sponge cake

Creamy banana tinged caramel filling
All in all we spent 11 days in Japan. I loved every minute of it but I was eager to get back home to my furbabies whom we missed dearly. Will I come back again? Definitely. I'm addicted to the cold weather, the snow, the shopping, the food, everything. How about you? Have you been to Japan before? What are your favourite places that I should go visit next time?


  1. it looks like you had an amazing time:)

    1. We had I'm already thinking about going back this year.

  2. Looks like you and the little man had a great time, love the look of the hotel room and the food looks yum. I've not been to Japan myslf but m brother has been quite a bit for business but says he never gets the time to look at all the sites, I think he always feels better out there as the food seems to make him feel a lot healthier. I like the idea of going but am not good with long flights which restricts things somewhat xx

    1. My whole family don't like long flights too that's why US and Europe are out of the question for us. The 7 hour flight was manageable. I'm already plotting to return to Hokkaido. :) I want to get a snow fix again.

  3. I love Hokkaido even though it was sooo cold in winter. Otaru and Hakodate are both great places to visit in Hokkaido, and lots of little stops along the way have great onsen (hot springs) which are sooo awesome in the cold weather. I'm definitely hoping to go back to Hokkaido again one day! Tokyo is great for shopping but I love Kyoto a lot more for the traditional, cultural vibe. Japan is definitely a country with lots to explore!

    So glad you enjoyed your trip!

    1. Thank you so much for sharing your itinerary with me, it was so helpful and all the advice. The weather was actually very bearable for us so I'm very thankful I need not worry about my son. I was too shy to try the onset! Hokkaido will be in my travel plans and I'm looking to explore other parts of Japan too. Kyoto sounds interesting.

  4. Hey Jacqueline, what a trip! I've been drooling all over your beauty haul and food pics! Snow is fun when you're on holiday for sure :) That beef. Ah that beeeef!!!

    1. I think my husband still dreams about the beef too, it was just that good. As much as I liked the snow the cold weather is still wrecking havoc on my skin. I'm still suffering from flaky dry skin although I'm moisturizing more than usual. I guess it will go away with time. How do you deal with it on a regular basis?

  5. Oh wow I'm sooo envious of your trip! I haven't been to Japan since I was about 8 but the trip my family took was similar to yours, at least 6 or 7 days and we went to disney, osaka and ate a lot of food! But I want to go back in the future! You really planned your trip well ahead, that's definitely a must! I wish I could've spent some time in that snow too and had a bowl of ramen and some japanese desserts there! Happy new year to you and your family! I've got a short bangkok getaway soon with my mom and hope to visit bali in the coming months!

    1. I hope you will have a wonderful trip with your family. You are going to love Bali, if you like water fun check out the Waterbom park in Kuta, it was so much fun when we visited. I am the kind who must plan trips, I can't bear being to spontaneous just in case things happen.

  6. I am addicted to japan too. Its like a yearly mecca trip for hubby and I. I can email you my 2013/2014 spring itenary for your reference. Let me know what email to send to.

    1. I have a feeling we will visiting Japan regularly too. ;) yes please I would love your itinerary my email address is thank you so much!


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