Saturday, 27 February 2016

Hokkaido 5-Day Itinerary: Day Two

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

On the second day of our trip, it was still below freezing but at least it was sunny in the morning with blue skies. Our hostel was only a five minute walk away from JR Sapporo (札幌) and I wished that I had realized earlier that a system of underground malls connected Sapporo Station, Odori Station (大通) and Susukino Station (すすきの). It could be easier to take the subway but it was also convenient and warm to walk.

Sapporo TV Tower
On this particular day, we got a subway day pass which allowed unlimited use for 520 yen on the weekends. On weekdays it costs 830 yen. We took the subway from Sapporo to Odori Station and took Exit 27 to the Sapporo TV Tower.

View of Odori Park from the Sapporo TV Tower
The tower is located at one end of Odori Park and offers a panoramic view of the city along with all the action along the very long Odori Park with beautiful rolling mountains in the background. We went in the day time but I would imagine it would be even more beautiful in the evening. It cost 720 yen to enter.

Walking down
After snapping some photos and roaming the gift store, we opted to take the stairs down. The tower is only 147 metres tall with the observation deck at 90 metres, so it wasn’t a long way down. I actually quite enjoyed the walk because it allowed me to see the scenery without the filter of a window and I could hear the city’s humming.

Ski/snowboard slope
Attack on Titan
We explored this side of Odori Park with the ski/snowboard slope and featured Attack on Titan sculpture before heading back to the subway and going to Susukino Station. We found the ramen alley which was much shorter than I expected and only half the shops were opened for lunch. We chose the one at the end and it was good but too greasy for my taste.

Ramen Alley
Susukino Ice Festival
Ice sculpture with frozen seafood
Susukino featured a street of ice sculptures and some even had real frozen seafood inside the blocks of ice because there is a seafood market in the area. As we were admiring the sculptures, snow began to descend rapidly and we made our way back underground to JR Sapporo to take the train to Otaru (小樽).

On the way to Otaru
The trip to Otaru took about 45 mins (640 yen) but there is a 30 minute route (950 yen) if you catch the JR Rapid Airport train. We didn’t see much out the window during the journey because it was a misty white blur of blowing snow. Fortunately, when we arrived the snow had ceased but the temperature did drop into the night.

The Otaru Snow Light Path Festival (小樽雪あかりの路) started at 5pm so we arrived around 2pm not wanting to have to wait too long. It was actually great timing because we had enough time to explore and see the sights by day and night.

Otaru snow sculptures
First we saw the snow sculptures in the Temiyasen Kaijo area (手宫線会場). The sculptures here were not as grand or professional as the ones in Odori Park but they were cute and went well with the vibe of the canal town. The lanterns with real pressed flowers and leaves were beautiful.

Otaru Canal by day
Building where Rokkatei was situated
Ice cream at Rokkatei
We kept walking toward the canal and snapped some daylight photos in the Unga Kaijo area (運河会場). Streets in Otaru were not as snow-free as Sapporo so it got pretty icy when it froze over. Onto the shopping street, we visited LeTao (ルタオ) and had absolutely creamy and delicious ice cream on the second floor of Rokkatei 六花亭 (280 yen). Hokkaido is really successful at selling tourists omiyage foods. I was more tempted to buy items labelled as “exclusively sold here” than any other place I have visited in Japan.

Otaru Canal by night
Unga Kaijo area
Otaru lantern festival
When it began to get darker at 5pm, we made our way back to the canal to see the lanterns. There were lights strung on the water and also on the snow covered walkway next to the canal. Candles were lit under snow lanterns which we saw people making fresh earlier in the day. We also went back to the snow sculpture street which was even more magical all lit up now. There was an open fire where pieces of sweet potato and mochi were grilled and given out to visitors to keep warm. This gesture really made it feel like a community event where you’re welcomed to view the chilly beauty of Otaru.

Back to the Temiyasen Kaijo area
Keeping warm around the fire
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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