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Hokkaido Southern Route from Sapporo

2 nights, 3 days

Hokkaido Southern Route from Sapporo

Enjoy the dynamic nature of beautiful Lake Toya-ko where the famous summit will be held in 2008 and Noboribetsu Onsen Hot Spring, one of the representative spas of Japan.

*Sapporo/Donan Zone round-trip ticket (9,000 yen)
This tour covers the southern area starting from Sapporo, the central region of Hokkaido. If you plan to use JR trains to get around, a 'Sapporo/Donan Zone round-trip ticket (valid for 5 days)' is very convenient. You can get on and off any local JR line (nonreserved seat) including Limited Express and Express Trains as many times as you like.

This ticket is sold at major JR stations, travel centers and travel companies including JTB throughout Japan.
It takes more time to issue than an ordinary ticket, so allow a little extra time when visiting the train-ticket counter.

1st Day
Noboribetsu-onsen Hot Spring
Tokyo (Haneda Airport) > Sapporo (Shin-Chitose Airport), 1 hour 30 minutes
Osaka (Kansai Airport) > Sapporo (Shin-Chitose Airport), 2 hours 15 minutes
Osaka (Itami Airport) > Sapporo (Shin-Chitose Airport), 2 hours

Shin-Chitose Airport (15 minutes by free shuttle bus) > Northern Horse Park > (15 minutes by bus) > Shin-Chitose Airport > (4 minutes on the JR line) > Minami-Chitose > (40 minutes on the JR line) > Noboribetsu > (8 minutes by bus, 330 yen) > Noboribetsu Date Jidaimura > (10 minutes by bus, 330 yen) > Noboribetsu-onsen Hot Spring
Northern Horse Park
On the 1st day, you'll visit the 'Northern Horse Park' in Tomakomai from Shin-Chitose Airport. A free shuttle bus service operates out of the airport every hour. 'Northern Horse Park' is 50 hectares of natural parkland where you can enjoy an entire day of horseback riding or cycling. From April to October, fragrant flowers bloom in the vast flower beds, starting with the crocuses in spring, and moving through the seasons with narcissus, tulips, muscaris, lavender and roses, and all sorts of herbs as well. There is also a restaurant where you can enjoy a barbeque dinner and an open-kitchen restaurant where locally produced food is transformed into culinary delights.

Noboribetsu Date Jidaimura
To JR Minami-Chitose Station via Shin-Chitose Airport,
you go to Noboribetsu on the JR Muroran Honsen line, and then to the 'Noboribetsu Date Jidaimura' theme park by bus to Noboribetsu-onsen Hot Spring. This is a reproduction of a town from the Edo period (1603-1867), so simply walking around there will conjure up visions of Samurai. Numerous attractions are offered, including a Ninja show.

Noboribetsu-onsen Hot Spring
At night you'll stay at Noboribetsu-onsen Hot Spring, which is about 10 minutes away from Noboribetsu Date Jidaimura by bus. This is one of Japan's major spas, dating back to 150 years ago, and the source spa gushing out is called 'Jigoku-dani or Hell's Valley'. The symbol of this resort area spreading along the river is the demon. After bathing in the spa, have fun searching for demon statues at various places in town.

There is an express bus service to Noboribetsu-onsen Hot Spring from Sapporo city center, too. So, it might be a good idea to use this bus if you would like to spend more time at the spa.

2nd Day
Experiencing Nature at Lake Toya-ko
Noboribetsu Station > (40 minutes by JR line) > Toya Station > (25 minutes by Donan bus, 320 yen) > Lake Toya-ko > Lake Toya-ko Sightseeing Boat (from 1.320 yen), Nature Tour > (15 minutes on Donan bus, 320 yen) > Usuzan Ropeway > (15 minutes on Donan bus, 320 yen) > Lake Toya-ko > (20 minutes by bus, 320 yen) > Toya Station > (90 minutes by JR Limited Express) > Hakodate Station
Lake Toya-ko
From Noboribetsu Station to Toya Station by Limited Express Train on the JR Muroran Honsen line. You go to Lake Toya-ko by bus from the station. This is a beautiful caldera lake situated in Shikotsu Toya National Park, and it never freezes over, even in winter. The 2008 G8 Summit Conference will be held here with presidents and prime ministers staying at the lakeside hotel. Let's take a trip on the lake in a sightseeing boat. On one of the islands, Naka-no-shima, there is a 'Forest Museum' exhibiting nature's bounty and the creatures of Lake Toya-ko. From May to October, you can take one of the tours to watch the Ezo Shika deer living in the forest of Naka-no-shima. If you really want to get in touch with nature, visit the 'Toya Guide Center' and check out the many dynamic programs such as the canoe trips in summer and walking tours on the snow fields in winter.

Mt. Usu-san
Mt. Usu-san situated at the lakeside is currently taking a break from the most powerful volcanic activity, but it still emits fumes. There is a walkway from which you can get a closer look at the crater that erupted in 2000. Mt. Usu-san has had several large eruptions, including one in 1943 where the upheaval of land created a new mountain called Showa Shinzan.

If you have enough time, take the Mt. Usu Ropeway (return ticket 1,450 yen) and view the lake from the mountain top. It takes 15 minutes by bus from Lake Toya-ko to the ropeway boarding point.

There is also a spa area by the lake. From the end of April to the end of October, there are spectacular fireworks every night, so it would be fun to stay there overnight and relax. Some of the hotels accept guests just to enjoy the spa without staying overnight.

Go to Hakodate on a JR Limited Express Train. The night view of Hakodate is stunningly beautiful, so much so that it was included in the world's three best night views along with Naples and Hong Kong. Take the ropeway and enjoy the romantic town lights at night from Mt. Hakodate. At the top is a restaurant with windows that show off the 360deg panoramic view.

You can take a ropeway from the Horaicho stop, which is a 7-minute ride (200 yen) on the street car from in front of Hakodate Station.

3rd Day
Sightseeing at Hakodate City Center
Hakodate Station > Short walk > Hakodate Morning Market > In front of Hakodate Station > Bus (100 yen) > Sightseeing within the city > In front of Hakodate Station > (City train 15 minutes 220 yen) > Goryokaku-koen-mae > Goryokaku-koen Park> City train (220 yen) > Hakodate Station
Morning Market
Get an early start and visit the 'Morning Market' that opens at 5 a.m. There are 300 stalls in the Hakodate Market selling fresh fish and shellfish including the famous crab and squid, foods and everyday items. After browsing through the market, try the sushi or ramen in one of the shops on the adjacent 'Donburi Yokocho Ichiba'.

Western-style buildings
You'll notice numerous Western-style buildings in Hakodate. The city developed as a port where foreign ships visited from the end of the 19th century and internationalization progressed from there. The center of the city is the Motomachi area. If you would like an efficient tour of famous spots such as the 'Catholic Motomachi Church', 'Hakodate Russian Orthodox Church', 'Old British Consulate of Hakodate' and 'Kanemori Red Brick Warehouse' now utilized as a shopping mall, we recommend the 'LCSA Motomachi' circle line bus. Departure and arrival is from in front of Hakodate Station and 1 circle takes about 40 minutes. The cost is 100 yen, paid when you board the bus. Or, you can take a street car.

Hakodate in winter with its clear air is also very special. In February, the 'Hakodate Winter Festival' is held and the city sparkles with lights.

If you are a history buff, visit the 'Goryokaku' fort by bus. The ruins of the star-shaped fortress modeled after European castles are open to the public as a park. Originally, the fort was built as a defensive base for foreign ships, but at the end of the 19th century, Samurai warriors who were opposed to the new government seized the fortress and an intense battle ensued. If you climb the steps of the 90-meter-high Goryokaku Tower and look around, you can actually see the star shape of the fort.

About 3 hours and 40 minutes by JR Limited Express Train from Hakodate to Sapporo. There is a flight service from Hakodate Airport, too.

*Photo (C) Hokkaido Tourism Organization