Saturday, 27 February 2016

Hokkaido 5-Day Itinerary: Day Five

Read Day 1 here - Sapporo Snow Festival, Ramen Theme Park
Read Day 2 here - Sapporo TV Tower, Otaru Lantern Festival
Read Day 3 here - Mount Teine, Jingisukan
Read Day 4 here - Odori Park, Susukino Ice Festival
Read Day 5 here - Ishiya Chocolate Factory
Read Day 6 here - Bonus Day! Strawberry Farm

Day 5 was supposed to be my last day in Hokkaido but it didn’t turn out that way. More on that later. With an evening flight, we still had time to explore after checking out of the hostel. We left our bags there and went to find breakfast. We had a surprisingly good pancake breakfast which served pancakes the size of small plates. This was considered big compared to Japanese sized hotcakes.

Pancake breakfast
Then we walked to Odori (大通) and took the Tozai Subway Line (東西線) to Miyanosawa Station (宮の沢駅). It only took about 15 minutes (280 yen). It was snowing quite heavily today so the 10 minute walk from Miyanosawa Station to Shiroi Koibito Park (白い恋人パーク) seemed longer than it was. However, in the snowy mist we could clearly see the words “chocolate factory” on top of the red brick building that we were heading to.

Ishiya Chocolate Factory in sight

Shiroi Koibito Park
We paid the 600 yen admission to the Ishiya Chocolate Factory and entered the buttery sweet confectionary world. The interior was designed with a very European feel with old wooden staircases, tiled fountain, and bricked walls. There were displays of old chocolate boxes, hot chocolate cups and the production process of chocolate. Then we were in a room with glass windows overlooking the Shiroi Koibito biscuits production process. Employees dressed head to toe in white gear were meticulously checking the cookies and stacking the chocolate to be sandwiched between the buttery biscuits.

Passport and biscuit given at admission
Fountain inside the chocolate factory
Hot chocolate cups
Naturally, the next part of the self-led tour was the cafe with a view of the mountains and the gift store downstairs. It’s a superb marketing strategy. First they intrigue you to pay admission and inhale the sweet aroma while looking at the history of chocolate. Second they show you the production of their biscuits and third they give you the opportunity to buy as much as possible and ship overseas! 

Production of Shiroi Koibito
Stairs leading to gift shop
I have never heard of this brand until I came to Hokkaido and everyone was talking about it. It is only sold in this prefecture and is one of the top omiyage (souvenirs) in Japan. I resisted the temptation to buy boxes of sweets (though I did give in at the airport later) but I did try their chocolate drink which was rich and creamy. It was like drinking full fat milk mixed with cocoa powder.


Ishiya Snowman-kun


After the chocolate factory, we went back to our hostel to collect our bags and took the train to Shin-Chitose Airport (新千歳空港). My flight was scheduled for 6:20pm but I never left that night. After several delays, it was finally announced at 7:30pm that the flight was cancelled along with many other flights due to the snow storm. We were directed to line up for the airline’s counter which turned out to be a two hour wait with all my luggage. Fortunately my flight was rescheduled for the next day but my friends flying with another airline got rescheduled for two days later.

Finally by 10pm I was able to leave the airport with a new flight. The airline did not give anybody accommodation or food stipend because they claimed it was due to the weather which is uncontrollable for them.

So for anyone visiting Hokkaido for the Snow Festival, be aware that your travel plans could change with the unpredictable weather! Flying in was a smooth process for me since it was a sunny day but flying out became a huge, delayed hassle including finding last minute accommodation during this extremely busy week. If possible, allow yourself a day of flexibility before and after your planned winter Hokkaido trip.

Anyways it all worked out in the end and I now have a Day 6 of the trip to share.

Read Day 1 here - Sapporo Snow Festival, Ramen Theme Park
Read Day 2 here - Sapporo TV Tower, Otaru Lantern Festival
Read Day 3 here - Mount Teine, Jingisukan
Read Day 4 here - Odori Park, Susukino Ice Festival
Read Day 5 here - Ishiya Chocolate Factory
Read Day 6 here - Bonus Day! Strawberry Farm
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