Friday, January 6, 2012

Winter Holiday in Hokkaido in December 2011 - Section 3

Welcome to third sector of my winter holiday in Hokkaido, Japan in December 2011. This part will explain about our time we spent when we stayed in Kutchan.


Part 1 ~ The Journey From Otaru to Kutchan


On Monday (12 December), we woke up at about 10.15 a.m. to pack up our bags to go for a five-day stay in Kutchan. We would be staying at The Chalets at Country Resort Kutchan for the short five-day stay there. This resort is not located in Niseko itself, but actually in the town of Kutchan. Beside Kutchan lies the village of Niseko. Niseko is a village located in the southwest of Hokkaido, Japan. It is a popular skiing village, with many foreigners from various countries.

To tell the truth, I'm not quite fond of Niseko and Kutchan because while staying there, my mum could not join us in most of our activities as she caught my dad's flu in Otaru. Due to all this, there may be a possibility that I may have no desire to go back to Kutchan or Niseko in future should anything like this happen again.

After checking out of the Grand Park Hotel Otaru at 11.30 a.m., we decided to have lunch at Victoria Station Restaurant Otaru again. I had my usual steak on a hot plate. It was quite a filling lunch.


The view of the Sea of Japan and the port with snowfall

The view of our hotel room just before we checked out

Another view of the Sea of Japan as seen from our hotel room

The interior of the Victoria Station Restaurant Otaru

Otaru as seen from the Victoria Station Restaurant

The steak on a hot plate which I ordered for lunch

The exterior and entrance of the Victoria Station Restaurant


After having a sumptuous lunch at Victoria Station Restaurant Otaru, we headed for a long driving road time of 2 hours 30 minutes towards the rural town of Kutchan from the suburban port city of Otaru. We travelled along the coast of the Sea of Japan, and it was indeed a beautiful sight, especially during the winter season.

On the way to Kutchan from Otaru, we decided to stop at a cafeteria, known as Drive-in Marufuku, located by the Sea of Japan. This cafeteria is located in the town of Yoichi. While there, we had a nice cup of hot tea, along with some light bites, such as fried chicken, which is also known as chicken karaage (Japanese: 鶏の唐揚げ). After having our snacks at the cafe, we then resumed our journey to Kutchan. The roads along the way to Kutchan were really covered in a blanket of snow.

At the same time on the way to The Chalets at Country Resort Kutchan, we made a brief stop at a nearby Lawson convenience store for a bathroom break and to purchase cooking oil. It was still snowing when we reached the Lawson convenience store.


The view of the Sea of Japan just after leaving the city of Otaru

The Sea of Japan when we were travelling along the fenced road between Otaru and Yoichi

The exterior of the cafeteria, Drive-in Marufuku, by the Sea of Japan in Yoichi

The Sea of Japan, as seen from outside of the Drive-in Marufuku seaside cafeteria in Yoichi

The interior of the seaside cafeteria in Yoichi

The Sea of Japan during a heavy snow storm, taken from inside Drive-in Marufuku seaside cafeteria in Yoichi

One of the light bites we had at the Drive-in Marufuku seaside cafeteria: Chicken karaage (鶏の唐揚げ)

The snowfall just before we left the Drive-in Marufuku seaside cafeteria in Yoichi

A snowy bridge on the way to Kutchan from Niseko

A heavy snowstorm on the way to Kutchan from Otaru

The snowfall just outside the Lawson convenience store

A snowy forest while getting closer to The Chalets at Country Resort Kutchan

The deserted and snowy railway track near Hirafu Station on the JR Hakodate Main Line

The signboard and logo of The Chalets at Country Resort Kutchan


After a driving journey of 2 hours 30 minutes from Otaru to Kutchan, we finally arrived at The Chalets at Country Resort Kutchan at 3.20 p.m.. Prior to arrival, we had to pass through a quiet railroad crossing located on the JR Hakodate Main Line.

As soon as we arrived at our destination, we went to the reception hut and cafe to obtain our chalet key. The name of the chalet we stayed at was Notoro (能取). Many parts of the resort were covered in a blanket of snow.

Once we reached our chalet and opened the entrance door, I helped my parents unload all our baggage from the car. We then put all our baggage in the kitchen and in the living room. After putting out all the battery chargers for our electronic devices, we settled in for the night.


Our chalet for the next 5 days: Notoro (能取)

The Chalets at Country Resort covered in snow

The dining room of our chalet, Notoro, as seen from the living room

The kitchen in the Notoro chalet

The living room in our Notoro chalet


After we had a long rest, my parents decided to cook up some dinner for us. We were lucky that we purchased all our food items from Otaru a few days before we set off to Kutchan. In the dining room, we all had a warm and hearty dinner.


I then sat by my laptop computer uploading all my videos I recently took onto YouTube. My brother and I then set up our blankets and pillows in the living room, as we decided to sleep there for the night. By two o' clock that night, all the lights were out and we had a good night's sleep.


Part 2 ~ Exploring Kutchan


On Tuesday (13 December), we slept through the entire morning until close to 12 noon. My dad and I, along with my younger brother, decided to explore around Kutchan that day. As my mum recently caught my dad's flu, she had to stay indoors to recover from her illness. After breakfast, I saw that there was a larger chalet beside us, of which I am unable to remember its name.


The larger chalet beside our Notoro chalet

The chalet, named Shimano, where we stayed at back in June 2009

The view of our chalet, Notoro, as seen from the outer surroundings


At around 2.20 p.m., I, along with my dad and younger brother, headed to Kutchan for lunch at a sushi restaurant, named Yoteimaru. We had three types of sushi, which were hotate (scallops), engawa (flounder fin), and O-toro (tuna belly) respectively. We also had tempura, french fries and chicken karaage for lunch.


A variety of shops in Kutchan taken from the entrance to the Yoteimaru Sushi Restaurant

The signboard of the Yoteimaru Sushi Restaurant Kutchan

The four plates of sushi: 2 hotate (scallop) sushi and 2 engawa (flounder fin) sushi

Plate of O-toro (tuna belly) sushi

A plate of chicken karaage

The interior of the Yoteimaru Sushi Restaurant Kutchan

After a hearty lunch at the Yoteimaru Sushi Restaurant in Kutchan, we decided to go to the Home Amenity Center (Homac) supermarket to purchase some groceries in preparation for dinner later that night. The drive from the Yoteimaru Sushi Restaurant to Homac was relatively short.



The outer scenery just before we left for Homac

The car park outside the Homac Supermarket in Kutchan

After purchasing our groceries, we went to JoJo's Cafe and Bar to have tea. Just outside the cafe, I managed to take some photographs of Mount Yotei. While having tea there, my dad had a bowl of hot soup, while I shared some potato wedges with my brother.



Mount Yotei, as seen from the car park near JoJo's Cafe and Bar

Outside JoJo's Cafe and Bar

Mount Yotei, as seen from JoJo's Cafe and Bar

The logo of JoJo's Cafe and Bar

The interior of JoJo's Cafe and Bar

The plate of potato wedges, which I shared with my brother


After having tea at JoJo's Cafe and Bar, we headed back to our Notoro chalet before cooking dinner at about 8 p.m.. Somewhere close to 12 midnight, my mum asked my dad and I to go out to a 24-hour convenience store, and purchase some beverages.


My dad went down to purchase the beverages, while I waited in the car, as it was too cold for me to go out. Within 15 minutes, we arrived back at the chalet before 1 a.m.. I then used my computer for a while before I went to bed at 2 a.m..


Part 3 ~ Snowmobile Ride in Kutchan


On Wednesday, my brother and I woke up at about 10.30 a.m.. My dad decided to bring us on a snowmobile course ride on that day. Just before breakfast, we made a reservation for a snowmobile course at 2 p.m..


After having breakfast and taking a shower, we drove off to the snowmobile area in Kutchan, with a stopover at a soba noodle restaurant for lunch. Frankly speaking, I'm not quite a fan of soba, but my soba tasted alright.


The view of the chalet resort before leaving for our snowmobile wonderland day

The exterior of the soba restaurant in Kutchan

The car park outside the soba restaurant in Kutchan

The English food menu in the soba restaurant in Kutchan

My main soba course: Kamonanban (Soba with tender duck meat and spring onions)

The interior of the soba restaurant in Kutchan

The snowy landscape taken on the way to the snowmobile resort


After having a lunch of soba, we headed to the snowmobile resort at about 1.35 p.m., arriving at the resort just in time before 2 p.m.. At the snowmobile resort reception, my dad and my brother opted to go together, whereas I rode on my own snowmobile. I have some pictures that I took at the snowmobile resort.


The snowmobile resort in Kutchan lined up with various snowmobiles

The snowmobile course route covered in snow

The reception and clothing house at the snowmobile resort in Kutchan

Another view of the snowmobile track covered in snow

A picture of myself, my brother and my dad on our snowmobiles, taken by the snowmobile trainer


Along the snowmobile race course, several pictures of the snow and ourselves were taken. I can show you some of them below.


The snowy landscape during the snowmobile course in Kutchan

A picture of ourselves during the snowmobile course taken by the snowmobile trainer

On top of the mountain during the snowmobile course

The view of the mountain during the snowmobile course, with a hot spring (onsen) in the top right corner


When we were at the peak of the mountain, the snowmobile trainer borrowed my camera to take a picture of us speeding around the mountain race course. These are some pictures.


A photograph of myself on my own snowmobile

A photograph of my dad and my brother on their snow mobile

A photograph of myself speeding on my snowmobile

A photograph of my dad and my brother speeding on their snowmobile

Halfway through the course, the snowmobile trainer and his assistants brought along a hot flask to supply us with hot chocolate to keep us warm. The hot chocolate had a very rich aroma and taste, so I drank 3 cups to keep warm.



At 2.45 p.m., we then drove our snowmobiles back to the snowmobile reception and clothing house. We finally finished our 1-hour snowmobile course at 3 p.m.. After getting all our personal items and using the bathroom, we drove back to The Chalets at Country Resort Kutchan.


On the way back, we found an old and rarely used station on the JR Hakodate Main Line. This station was called Hirafu Station. I managed to get a photograph of the station from the car.


Hirafu Station, as seen from our rented Toyota Car

The snowy railway track between Hirafu and Kutchan on the JR Hakodate Line

Once we reached back at our Notoro chalet, we related to my mum about our time on the snowmobile. It was an enjoyable time on the snowmobile. After having dinner and supper later that night, we went to bed by 2 a.m..


Part 4 ~ Lake Toya and Toyako Town


On Thursday, 15 December, we decided to visit the town of Toyako and see Lake Toya. After waking up at 10 a.m. and having breakfast, we got dressed up to go out. We left our chalet at about 10 minutes before 12 noon. The journey took about 1 hour 45 minutes. I managed to take some photographs along the way to Lake Toya. They can be found below.


The road covered in snow just after we left our chalet

A walkway bridge located above the cold and icy river

Another snowy landscape on the way to Lake Toya


Around 30 minutes into the journey, we decided to stop at a little ramen noodle cafe located somewhere near Oshamambe for lunch. We had a nice, hot bowl of ramen noodles before continuing our journey.


The heavy snowstorm outside the ramen noodle restaurant

The interior of the restaurant where we ate our lunch

The ramen noodle menu pasted on the wall near the kitchen

My bowl of ramen noodles which I had for lunch

By the time I finished my lunch, the heavy snowstorm had already faded. Before we left, I snapped some pictures as usual. After that, I took some more pictures of the snowy landscape along the way to Lake Toya.



Outside the ramen noodle restaurant after the snowstorm had faded

The exterior of the ramen noodle restaurant near Oshamambe

A snowy landscape while on the route to Toyako Town

Another snowy landscape while heading towards Toyako

Lake Toya, as seen from the car

After driving for 1 hour 45 minutes from The Chalets at Country Resort Kutchan, we arrived at the bear farm near Mount Usu at 1.35 p.m.. While my mum stayed as she was still recovering from her illness, I went to see the bears with my dad and my brother.



Mount Usu as seen from the entrance to the bear farm

The entrance to the bear farm near Mount Usu


After purchasing our entry tickets, we purchased some bear food items and went to see the bears. When we fed the bears, some of them stood up, showing their paws to us. When bears hold up their paws to people, it shows that they are asking for food. Once the food was tossed, many of them used their teeth to catch the apples and the bear cookies. I thought to myself that the bears were very clever. These are some of the photographs I took.


A view of the bear farm after we entered

Some bears waiting for some food treats from their visitors

The bear farm just before we left to have some snacks at a mini snack bar near the cable car station

The model of a bear outside the bear farm

Mount Usu as seen from the snack shop


After we left the bear farm, we went to a nearby snack shop to have some snacks before we went to Lake Toya. These are some pictures which I took while at the snack shop. I had a grilled scallop, chicken karaage on a stick, and some fried potatoes.


The grilled scallop which I had at the snack shop


Some of the food items on offer at the snack store near the bear farm and the Mount Usu cable car station


Once we reached Lake Toya, we decided to have a light tea at a small cafe by the lake. I have some pictures that I took while I was there with my family.


A view of Lake Toya as seen from the lakeside cafeteria


Another view of Lake Toya


The interior of the food shop and cafe beside Lake Toya


The piece of chocolate cake which I had while at the lakeside cafeteria


The entrance to the cafe by Lake Toya


After we left Lake Toya, I decided to return to Kutchan by train via Sapporo and Otaru (where I would return to in 2 days' time). My parents dropped me off at Toya Station and my mum accompanied me to the ticket office to make my reservation. They then left me to begin my 4-hour journey back to Kutchan via Sapporo and Otaru. My dad promised to pick me up outside Kutchan Station.


For the first sector between Toya and Sapporo, I caught the Limited Express Hokuto No. 11. I was originally scheduled to depart Toya Station at 3.44 p.m., but the train was delayed for 5 minutes.


The name plate of Toya Station on the JR Muroran Main Line


The Toya Station platform


The Limited Express "Hokuto" No. 11 bound for Sapporo finally arrives at Toya Station


After 5 minutes of delay, I finally left Toya Station on the Limited Express Hokuto No. 11 bound for Sapporo at 3.49 p.m.. I took a Green Car (first class) ticket. I was originally assigned to seat No. 6A, but due to another passenger taking my seat, I had no choice but to move to seat No. 7C.


The conductor saw that my seat was taken up, and she offered to re-seat me at Green Car seat No. 7D. She then checked my ticket and brought me 2 cups of orange juice, which I ordered. Here are some pictures and videos which will explain the sector between Toya and Sapporo.


The Green Car cabin on the Limited Express "Hokuto" No. 11 bound for Sapporo between Toya and Higashi-muroran


My 2 glasses of orange juice


A field that is not so covered in snow


My relocated seat, 7C, for the journey between Toya and Sapporo


A view of the Pacific Ocean, as seen from the JR Muroran Main Line


My ticket for the sector between Toya and Sapporo


Another view of the Pacific Ocean on the JR Muroran Main Line


キハ183系 特急北斗11号 札幌行き 東室蘭駅から発車とグリーン車

The box of almond chocolates which I purchased from the on-board trolley service


A brief stop at Noboribetsu Station

The KiHa 183 series DMU Green Car cabin on the JR Muroran Line

Stopping at Tomakomai Station

The rear view of the KiHa 183 series DMU Green Car cabin on the JR Chitose Line


The front view of the KiHa 183 series DMU Green Car cabin on the JR Chitose Line



Passing by a shopping mall in Tomakomai



New Chitose Airport, as seen from the Limited Express "Hokuto" No. 11 bound for Sapporo


The KiHa 183 series DMU Green Car cabin on the JR Chitose Line

キハ183系 特急北斗11号 札幌行き 車窓から新札幌駅に到着

At Shin-sapporo Station


Passing by a train yard near Sapporo

After a travel time from Toya for 1 hour 45 minutes, I finally arrived at Sapporo Station at 5.35 p.m., 6 minutes behind schedule. I had about 5 minutes of layover at Sapporo before my next train for the sector between Sapporo and Otaru.



The 2nd floor Green Car cabin of the KiHa 183 series DMU train used for "Hokuto" limited express services


A crowded Sapporo Station platform in the early evening hours


Between Sapporo and Otaru, I took the Rapid Airport train No. 171, using a reserved seat ("u" seat) car. At 5.40 p.m., the train entered Sapporo Station, and I settled into my assigned seat No. 4D for the second sector from Sapporo to Otaru.


At 5.44 p.m., the train pulled out of Otaru Station, heading for a 33-minute journey to Otaru. I have some pictures and a video of the Sapporo to Otaru sector.


721系 快速エアポート171号 札幌行き 札幌駅から琴似駅

My reserved seat ticket for the sector between Sapporo and Otaru


My seat, 4D, for the journey between Sapporo and Otaru


The interior of the reserved seat ("u" seat) cabin for the sector of my train journey between Sapporo and Otaru

At my usual start point station, Otaru-chikko Station


Passing by Wing Bay Otaru


The Grand Park Hotel Otaru, where we will be staying from 17 December until the day we fly back home


The rear view of the reserved seat ("u" seat) cabin for the sector of my train journey between Sapporo and Otaru


After a 33-minute journey from Sapporo, I arrived at Otaru Station at 6.17 p.m.. I snapped some pictures of the platform I was on and the train which I took.


The 721 series EMU train which transported me to Otaru from Sapporo earlier


Otaru Station Track No. 5


At Otaru Station, I had about 21 minutes of layover at Otaru Station before my final sector to Kutchan. I went over to track No. 2 for my train to Kutchan, which would leave at 6.38 p.m. for a journey time of 1 hour 08 minutes to its destination.


By the time I reached track No. 2, there was a heavy snowfall, and it started to get really cold.


I'm taking the 6.38 p.m. train to Kutchan from track No. 2


The scenery of houses in the snowfall taken from Otaru Station


Otaru Station platform in the snow


The train that I would be taking back to Kutchan would be a normal local train, stopping at every station. At around 6.30 p.m., the KiHa 201 series DMU train, which would transport me back to Kutchan, entered Otaru Station. I entered the train and settled in for the journey to Kutchan, which would take 1 hour 08 minutes. We finally left Otaru Station at 6.38 p.m., right on schedule. As this was a regular local train service, I didn't take much pictures on my final sector between Otaru and Kutchan.


The interior of the KiHa 201 series DMU local train just after leaving Otaru


Yoichi Station


The KiHa 201 series DMU train cabin just before arrival into Kutchan


After travelling for 1 hour 08 minutes from Otaru, I finally arrived at the Kutchan terminal station at 7.46 p.m.. I managed to take a video of the train arrival at Kutchan Station.


キハ201系 普通列車 倶知安行き 終着倶知安駅に到着と降車

Kutchan Station platform


The KiHa 201 series DMU train that transported me here from Otaru earlier


As soon as I exited Kutchan Station, I met my dad, who was waiting for me outside the station to drive us back to our Notoro chalet at The Chalets at Country Resort. When we reached back at our chalet, we had a warm and sumptuous dinner.


The bedroom, where my brother and I would sleep for our last 2 nights in Kutchan


After dinner, I had a nice shower, and did some stuff on my laptop computer. We then headed off to bed between 1 and 2 a.m..


Part 5 ~ Niseko Village and Niseko Annupuri Ski Resort


On Friday, 16 December, was our final day and night in Kutchan. We woke up at around close to 12 noon, and my dad cooked up breakfast for us as usual. At about 1 o' clock in the afternoon, we set off for another exploring trip around Kutchan and Niseko.


On the way, we stopped at the soba noodle house for lunch. As I am not quite fond of soba, my soba tasted fine, but still, nothing special.


The carpark outside the soba noodle house


The relatively empty interior of the soba noodle house in Kutchan


The soba noodle house menu written in English


The same soba noodles which I had 2 days earlier


The overall exterior of the soba noodle house in Kutchan


After having lunch, we drove to a little cafe in the village of Niseko. I still remember that cafe since December 2010. I took some pictures along the way.


Mount Yotei on the way to the village of Niseko


A snow forest taken from the car on the way to Niseko

When we reached the cafeteria, we went inside and I took some pictures, as usual. While we were at the cafe, we had some dessert and chocolate latte. I even have a picture of Mount Yotei taken from the cafe.



The exterior of the little cafe in the village of Niseko


The interior of the cafeteria


The view of Mount Yotei, as seen from the cafe in the village of Niseko


My dessert, which had quite a weird taste


My cup of chocolate latte


The snowy landscape taken from the cafeteria


After having some nice hot beverages at the cafeteria, we drove to the Hilton Hotel Niseko Village to see more snow. I remembered staying at the Hilton Hotel Niseko Village back in December 2010.


The hotel lobby and entrance hall in the Hilton Hotel Niseko Village


The exterior of the Mount Annupuri Niseko Cable Car station outside the Hilton Hotel Niseko Village


Several skiers and snowboarders outside the Hilton Hotel Niseko Village


After purchasing our cable car tickets, we took the cable car all the way up to the peak of Mount Annupuri. I managed to snap some images of the beautiful and snowy scenery from the cable car.


Just after leaving the Hilton Hotel Niseko Village within the snowy trees


The snowy mountain slope in Mount Annupuri Niseko


Another snowy scenery when we were getting closer to the peak of Mount Annupuri

Once we reached the peak of Mount Annupuri, it was REALLY cold as the temperature was about less that -8 degrees Celsius. We then decided to take the cable car back down as it was too cold to go out of the station.



At the cable car station on the peak of Mount Annupuri Niseko


The snowy view of the peak of Mount Annupuri Niseko on the way back down to the Hilton Hotel Niseko Village


Getting closer to the base of Mount Annupuri and the cable car station at the bottom


The overall exterior of the Hilton Hotel Niseko Village, where we stayed in December 2010

After alighting from the cable car, we then decided to see if there were any reindeers near the hotel. However, to our disappointment, we could not see any. We then decided to see more of the snow before driving back to our chalet.



The cable car after alighting at the base of Mount Annupuri Niseko


The Hilton Hotel Niseko Village exterior taken from outside the hotel


The empty reindeer barn near the hotel

After spending some time in Niseko Village, we decided to head back to The Chalets at Country Resort Kutchan. Along the way, I took a picture of the beautiful snowy landscape during the sunset.



The beautiful snowy landscape in the early evening


Once we reached back at our Notoro chalet, we had a sumptuous dinner and supper. As we had to return to Otaru the next day, we had to pack most of our baggage that night. After packing most of our baggage, we finally went to bed at around one or two o' clock later that night.


This concludes the third section of my winter holiday in Hokkaido in December 2011. All the remaining parts will be explained separately.

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