Tuesday, February 6, 2018

5 Day 4 Nights in Central Hokkaido - Biel / Furano / Tomamu

Japan has always been a destination in mind to travel to, for the longest time. So when the invite came for a Familiarization (Fam) trip to Central Hokkaido, you can only imagine how ecstatic and excited I was! Courtesy of the Tourism office of Hokkaido, I got to travel to Central Hokkaido, specifically Biel, Furano, and the Ski resorts of Hoshino Resorts, Tomamu!

I've personally never experienced powder snow before, and the crazy cold temperature and all. But I've heard so much about it though. Naturally speaking, I bet 90% of us would usually associate Hokkaido with snow and skiing. And also, the Skiing city of Niseko. You're not wrong, but there's really so much more to Hokkaido than just these offerings. And I'm glad I got to experienced them this trip.


So this Fam trip covers Hokkaido in a different light. We get to go to Biel, Furano, and Tomamu. These are really some solid alternatives to Niseko and Sapporo (city life). And I endeavour to say that now that I've been through all these, I'll def be back again to Biel, Furano, and Tomamu! It was so much fun, and I can't wait to share with you all the experiences and photos below!



Day 1 - Travelling from Singapore to Chitose via Taipei -  Biel Hotel Parkhills


Our journey to New Chitose Airport was via Taipei, flying with Scoot. The transit period was about an hour at Taoyuan International Airport. I must say that an hour's transit isn't that bad, but you'd want to get out of the plane asap so that you can have your meal/some food before the next flight.

Since our flight was at 555am in the morning, we arrived at Taipei around slightly past 1030am. My travel companion for this trip would be Chloe! (@Chloetwl). She's been a good friend of mine for awhile now, and I'm glad I got to do this with her. She has a blog as well, and you may find out more about her over there. 


We arrived at New Chitose Aiport at around 3pm. After clearing immigration and collecting our luggages, we went out and was greeted by Sato-San, Yuka-San, and Wilson.  Sato-San is from Kinki Nippon Tours, which is a travel agent. He is our main guide for the trip, as he is able to conversed in pretty decent English. Yuka-san is an officer from the Hokkaido Government. Wilson is also another guest for this fam trip, who is really good with cameras and snapping those photo worthy moments. 




We then hurried our way to our main transport for the trip, which is a van that fits about 9 people at max. The temperature was in the range of -10 to 0 degree celcius. You can only imagine how cold it was the minute we stepped out of the Airport to the waiting area for the van. Haha.


Our first destination was towards Biel Hotel Parkhills. I was actually pretty relieved that the first day was just dinner at the hotel before calling it the night at the hotel, as we all know that long plane rides are never the most comfortable rest. 


Biel Hotel Parkhills is located in Biel. It is in the Kamikawa District, Hokkaido. This simple 3-star hotel was a perfect sight for me especially, since I was really tired from the long flight. We had our dinner in the hotel premises itself, before calling it a night. 


Located within the hotel itself, there is also the Shirogane, which is an Onsen village. I've always love Onsen since my first experience with them a couple of years back. But its my first time experiencing it in Winter! A perfect way to end the night I must say. 


The Fam trip team purposely picked this hotel for 2 reasons: It is located pretty near to the places we are about to venture to from the start of day 2 (Aoiike Blue Pond), and there's also quite an iconic place within walking distance from the hotel - The Shirahige Waterfalls.



(Photo by @wilzworkz_wilswong)


Referencing my info from ZEIKKEI Japan, this waterfall is located 600m above sea level in the Shirogane Hot Spring Village of Biel City, and it stands at more than 30m tall. The water flowing down the gaps between the rocks resembles a white beard, earning it the name Shirohige (white beard).


As it was winter at the time we were there, most of the surroundings were covered in snow. But it was still a sight to behold, with the blue clear waters at the bottom of the waterfall. 






Mandatory shots of the bridge which leads to the waterfall. Heh.



Day 2 - Aoiike Blue Pond - Shikisai-no-oka - Goto Sumio Art Gallery-Museum - Furano Marche - Fukuzushi - New Furano Prince Hotel - Ningle Terrace

Aoikke Blue Pond

We kicked start our day by travelling to this iconic spot nearby the Biel Hotel Parkhills - The Aoiike Blue Pond. 

This Blue pond is actually pretty popular with tourist as during the other seasons (Spring, Summer, Autumn), it is a pretty sight to behold with a pond filled with Blueness. 


In Winter, what I experienced was quite entirely different. All the pond was frozen into ice, and covered with snow. Haha. It was still quite nice though, in its own way. 







We then explored further into the Blue Pond region, as Sato-san remembered there was some nice huge empty spots for photos and all that. Very nice place. Here are some of the visuals!








with Chloe the Travel Buddy!

Shikisai-No-Oka

The Next stop was at Shikisai-no-oka. This place is one of those places where you can see abundance of Lavenders all around during most seasons, apart from winter. Talk about insta worthy place, this place fits right in. 

While we were there, instead of endless fields of Lavenders, we witness fields covered in snow. It was also insta worthy in its own way. And you might ask, what is there to do now that the Lavenders are not around yet?

I'm glad you asked. You can still explore this beautiful place via the snow mobile! It was a heck of a fun time riding the snow mobile, just exploring the huge landscape and space of Shikisai-no-oka. What an experience, I must say. Riding the snow mobile for the first time in my life, I certainly had lots of fun doing so.







Apart from exploring the vast space via Snow Mobile and to snap some really nice photos, another highlight of this place is to visit some Alpacas! 

Just located right behind the entrance of Shikisai-no-oka, we were brought to see some really adorable alpacas. We even get to feed them! 




Aren't these alpacas the cutest thing ever!? Hah. Gotta see them in real person. 


Goto Sumio Museum

It was around lunch time by the time we were done with Shikisai-no-oka. We headed to Goto Sumio Museum located at Kamifurano for a visit to the famed museum, before having our lunch at the restaurant located within the museum.

Sumio Goto is probably the most famous Japanese artist, with his worked being showcased around the world. I learnt that this master artist uses pigments from plants, and other kinds of materials for all his artwork. Some of his artworks are so huge that it takes years to complete them.

I was also told that Mr Goto usually have multiple artwork ongoing simultaneously. I guess that's also part of the reason why some of his artwork takes years for completion, as well as it keeps evolving to be a better art piece in time to come.

Unfortunately, Mr Goto passed on recently. But his artwork and his passion for art will most def live on forever.


One of the many masterpieces of Mr. Goto.

Lunch was served at the 2nd level of the Museum. The restaurant is called Furano Grill. where they serve really tasty western affair like Hamburger Steak, Venison, etc. 






Apart from the food, I really like that there's quite a bit of a view to look at too. Facing the window, you get to see Furano's white snowy background that almost look like an artwork of Mr. Goto. Definitely a sight to behold, for sure.

Furano Marche 

Another place we visited on day 2 was Furano Marche, and Biel Senka. Furano being a centre of the Rural community with lots of farmers and such, it is no surprise that a farmers market or supermarket is definitely around the corner and is a good place to visit. 

Hokkaido has one of the freshest produce, with consistent quality. That explains why our meals are always incredibly yummy. 

I personally tried their potato chips and their milk. Both gave me the feels that they're of top notch quality, and I would highly reccomend you to try their milk / ice cream. It'll change your perspertive of milk. Haha. 

Another thing I would totally recommend is the Furano Marche's Milk Ice cream! It's always better having ice cream in cold Winter, and this was no exception, except the fact that Furano's milk is of freshest quality, and as such, the ice cream tasted amazing!



Chloe and her Strawberry based Milk ice cream

New Furano Prince Hotel + Ningle Terrace

After travelling the entire day, we finally made our way to our 2nd stay of the trip - New Furano Prince Hotel! This hotel is located pretty close to the ski slopes, which makes it ideal for skiing. Moreover, there's a well maintained and furnished on-sen. If you don't already know, having On-sen in winter season is always a very good thing. 

They also have a ski lift which lift any person who wants to ski in the other higher level ski slopes. And of cut, the room's are spacious and clean too. An ideal stay in Furano, for sure.

Another really interesting place located right outside the hotel, is this place called Ningle Terrace. This place has small cottages housing different shops selling different things like candles and other art and crafts. What's really interesting is that the shops are changed every couple of weeks, so you won't exactly find the same shops in the same cottage every other week. Haha. Not to mention, this place is very photo worthy as well.

I'll let the photos below speak for itself. Heh.











Our Guide Mr Sato-San brought us to his favourite coffee place located in the premises of Ningle Terrace. Known as Mori no Tokei, it has this very chill vibes to it. 

What's unique about this place is that we get to grind our own coffee beans! These grinded coffee beans are then used to make your choice of coffee.

Really excellent place to just chill around after a long day of walking and shopping around in Ningle Terrace premises. 



Fukuzushi

To end off the amazing day, we had our dinner at this local Japanese restaurant called Fukuzushi. To be honest, I've not heard of this place, but I'm so glad that now I know of this restaurant's existence!

We had a full course Japanese meal in the restaurant. It was a mighty delicious meal. Best way to end the night. 





Day 3 - Smelt Fishing at Lake Kanayama - Log Hotel Larch for Lunch - Furano Delice Cheesecake - Traditional Tea Ceremony - Dinner at AJITO.

Smelt Fishing

We kick started day 3 with an experience of a lifetime - smelt fishing at Lake Kanayama! I personally have not fish before in my life, so I was actually quite excited about it! I've always seen in movies or documentaries on how people fish during winter. The picture I'm getting is always a hole being drilled in the frozen ice till it reaches the water, and then you lower your fishing rod down the hole and you fish.

I was not wrong at all! It was almost exactly how I thought it'll be. But this time round, we fish for smelts.

The tent in which we went inside to fish. There's even a heater in the middle to keep us warm while fishing.


I caught 10 smelt fishes in total! Here's one of them!

The best part of fishing for me was when we almost immediately went to fry it in the frying pot! Coating it with some frying powder, it really was the freshest fish I ever had - right off the lake!


Previous 3 photos by Wilson! 


Love the view from the lake. 

Log Hotel Larch + Furano Delice

Lunch was served at Log Hotel Larch. This place reeks of class and fine dining. Even the food served was excellently presented, and it tasted really good too. Two Thumbs up!

Whats even more amazing is that this place is also very photo worthy! Here are some shots i took inside and just right outside the restaurant.








After lunch, we then proceeded for some dessert! I mean, who can ever resist a slice of cheesecake right? Let alone one from Hokkaido, made with Hokkaido's milk!

We went to this nice cafe called Furano Delice where they serve all sorts of cheese cake and everything cheese dessert. Needless to say, we were salivating! It was some really good cheese cake there.






Traditional Tea Ceremony

What was next on the itinerary was actually quite an interesting one for me. I've personally never experience a traditional tea ceremony event in Japan. So it was definitely an eye opener for me.

I learnt that the tea ceremony is held on specific days only, and its purpose is to allow people from other nation to understand a little bit of the traditional Japanese culture. Talk about sharing cultural experience.

I also like the fact that high school girls are the main hosts for the ceremony. This is to ensure that the tradition never fades away. Good job, Japan!





Pre Tea Sweets



Dinner at AJITO

To end off our night, we had a splendid wonderful dinner at this local bar where there are really a lot of foreigners. AJITO - this place gives the cool western vibes. Maybe that's why there are lots of foreigners when we were there for dinner.

I then further learned that AJITO is actually a pub where people who came to ski in the land of Hokkaido, gather and just chill after their day's worth of activities. 





One of the highlight for me in this place was the dessert, as shown below! It was some really yummy dessert, probably one of the best I've ever eaten in my life. Anyone know what that red color looking dessert is!? I can't remember what is it!



Nothing much, just chilling in a ice bar outside our hotel with Chloe.


Day 4 - Hoshino Resorts Tomamu - Hotel Street - Lunch at Bowl Rowl Eni Seafood Rice Bowl - Skiing - Mina Mina Beach -The Ice Village - Water Chapel - Dinner at HAL


Our final full day in Hokkaido, and we spent it at none other that what Hokkaido's famous for - Skiing! We kicked started the day by moving from New Furano Prince Hotel to Hoshino Resorts Tomamu. It was about an hour and a half drive up there.

I personally was very excited as its my first time skiing! I've heard so much about it and I was glad I can finally say that I have tried skiing. Heh.

I believe we have all heard of Hoshino Resorts. They are the famous resort brand all over Japan. And I must say that Hoshino Resorts Tomamu has lots of tourists too. It's probably one of the other famous ski resort, apart from the ones in Niseko.

Mina Mina Beach + The Ice Village + Water Chapel 

There are many things to do in this resort. One can never get bored as there are many interesting places to visit around the vicinity, as well as tourist attractions.

One of the iconic places of this resort's vicinity is the famous Ice Village. This place is made up of ice entirely. It as truly a sight to behold.


Drinking in one of the ice bars in the Ice Village


Located in the Ice Village is the Ice Church. This place is a legit church where you can have your wedding ceremony at. So glad I manage to get this one off the bucket list!



Another place of interest to visit is the Mina Mina Beach. Yes, there is a beach that is actually warm in the crazy cold winter.


A man-mad beach, this place keeps you warm in their warm water amidst the cold winter. I really like the fact that people can still go swim, despite it being in Winter season. A good idea, if you ask me.

We also visited what I think is the coolest place to have your wedding - the Water Chapel (or the Chapel by the lake).

This place is a small place but the atmosphere and the romantic feels are superb. I would totally hold my wedding here, if I could! Hah.

Love the cross!

Hotalu Street + Lunch at Bowl Rice Eni Seafood

Another area within the Hoshino Resorts Tomamu is the Hotalu Street. This place is like a shopping region within the resorts, with many cool shops and cafes and restaurants.

We decided to take a rest at one of the cafes in the area, before heading to Bowl Rice Eni Seafood for lunch. Here are some of the visuals!
Nothing beats a warm cup of coffee on hand when the temperature was close to -12 degree celcius!






Exploring Hoshino Resorts Tomamu + Skiing experience

After lunch, it was time to finally head to the resort to ski! But just before we do that, we had some time to explore the area. I always love exploring new places, even more so in foreign land where you can find hidden spots for a nice photo shot.

We went to see the Cloud walk place which is really popular with tourist. To get to this place, we had to take a cable car sort of thing to get up to the mountainous ski area. From there, we had to trek our way through to that place.



One of the great experience after trekking up the skiing slopes was this cafe - Tenbou cafe. Our guide got us the best combination one can ever have in this cafe. A warm cup of coffee + a nice warm lava cake. It was truly a great experience.





We then proceeded to explore more of the resort, as we had some time to kill before our skiing lesson commences. Chloe and I took the opportunity to try to explore new places, as we always like to explore new areas for nice photos, even more so when we are in a foreign land!

Here are some more visuals to share. Heh.








One of the many nice breakfast place. Love the big windows!


After exploring, we then manage to check in to our hotel room, before the ski experience began! We had one of the best rooms available in Hoshino Resort Tomamu. In fact, it's probably my first time ever to have a jacuzzi in my own hotel room! Wow!





The skiing experience commences and we had a good time learning how to ski! Chloe was the fastest learner cos she skied before. Haha. All in all, good fun for sure!







Dinner at HAL Restaurant 

Our final dinner in Hokkaido was at this really amazing place located also within the Hoshino Resorts Tomamu - HAL. This place is a buffet style kind of dinner place where they serve lots of different cuisine.

However, HAL is famous for their king crab and their really amazing wagyu beef! It was simply the highlight of the place for me.





One last group shot before everyone departs from each other.

Day 5 - Breakfast at Tsubaki Salon - Conclusion / Final thoughts

We had our final meal in Hokkaido at Tsubaki Salon, which is located at the 32nd floor of the resort. I love how we had traditional Japanese breakfast. It was really good and fresh.




Conclusion / Final Thoughts

All in all, I really enjoyed these part of Hokkaido. Before this trip, my perspective of Hokkaido usually only revolves around skiing. But there're definitely more to Hokkaido than just skiing and the usual tourist places. 

I really thoroughly enjoyed Biel, Furano and Tomamu. I will definitely be back to explore more of these cities again soon!

Here's an acknowledgement to the following: (Taken from Wilson!)
  1. Yuka Amoh-san, representing the Prefecture
  2. Sato-san for planning the trip
  3. Tushima Kensuke-san of Furano City
  4. Yuta Sumi-san of Furano City
  5. Zhang Yi of Furano City
  6. Hisaki Ono-san of Goto Sumio Museum
  7. Tohru Sakamoto-san of North Gear for setting up our smelt fishing experience.
  8. Momoko Tsuchiya-san of Honshino Resorts Tomamu
Thanks for having us! And for all the hard work behind the scenes, as well as during the media trip. Thanks for showing us around and for all your superb hospitality. We are so blessed. x

No comments: