Hokkaido & Osaka, Japan: Trip Summary

Among travel destinations, Japan is our first love. We lived a few months in Osaka & Tokyo in 2007 & 2008. During this period, we visited many places in central Japan such as Kobe, Kyoto, Himeji, Ise Shima, Hakone (Mt Fuji), Yokohama. Since then work trips took me to Japan about half a dozen times between 2016 to 2019 with an opportunity to explore new places like Nagoya.

The idea of a family trip has been brewing since travels opened up post-covid. We decided on a combo of new + down the memory lane experience. New = Hokkaido. Down the memory lane = Osaka.


Mt Yotei
Hokkaido (6 days)
  • Day 1: Daisetsuzan National Park, Asahidake Onsen (~230kms)
    • Pick up rental car from New Chitose Airport Suzuran Shop
    • Drive along highway E38 to Furano (126kms)
    • Drive further to Asahidake Onsen (70kms) & ropeway to Mt. Asahidake
    • Drive back to Higashikawa (28kms) for the night @ Morinoyu Hanakagura
  • Day 2: Daisetsuzan National Park, Sounkyo Onsen (~170kms)
    • Drive around Mt Asahidake to Obako (80kms)
    • Drive back to Ryusei & Ginga waterfalls (6kms)
    • Drive back to Kurodake Ropeway station (3.5kms) & ropeway/chair lift to Mt. Kurodake (closed for temporary maintenance during our visit)
    • Drive to Asahiyama Zoo, known for Polar bears and other cold weather animals (60kms)
    • Drive back to Higashikawa (16kms) for the night @ Morinoyu Hanakagura
  • Day 3: Biei, Jozenkai & Otaru (~270kms)
    • Drive from Higashikawa to Shirogane Blue Pond (36kms) in Biei
    • Drive south to Hoheikyo Dam (180kms) in Jozenkai Onsen
    • Drive west to Otaru for the night (50kms) @ Hotel Torifito Otaru Canal
  • Day 4: Shakotan coastal drive (~170kms)
    • Drive from Otaru to Shimamui Coast & Cape Kamui (70kms)
    • Continue drive along the coast to Niseko & Rusutsu for the night (98kms) @ Villa Rusutsu
  • Day 5: Lake Toya, Mt Uzu and Shribetsu River Rafting (~130kms)
    • Drive to Showa Shinzan Bear Ranch & Mt Usu Volcano Craters near Lake Toya (38kms)
    • White water rafting with Niseko Adventure Centre (60kms) & Rusutsu (30kms) for the night @ Villa Rusutsu
  • Day 6: Bye Hokkaido (~100kms)
    • Drive to CTS, Chitose airport through Shikotsu-Toya National Park (100kms)
    • Return car and flight to Osaka
  • Day X: Saved for the next trip
    • Noboribetsu Onsen
    • Shiretoko & Akan-Mashu National Park
    • Otokoyama Sake Brewing Museum / Sake brewery tour
    • Nikka Whisky Distillery tour in Yoichi
    • Usuzan West Crater
    • Ainu Museum / Cultural Experience
What is Ainu?

Ainu people are the indigenous people of Hokkaido, Japan. The culture and language is unrelated to the Japanese. The Ainu have lived in Hokkaido for thousands of years, but their population has declined sharply due to Japanese colonization from 1869. We did not experience any aspects of Ainu culture during our trip. Recent revival efforts are focused on cultural centers or museums.

Google Maps – https://maps.app.goo.gl/7PxHvthJbGcJsSpE9
Osaka & Nara (4 days)
  • Day 6: Osaka
    • Land in KIX, Kansai Intl Airport & train to Namba
    • Walk through Den Den Town & Dotonbori
  • Day 7: Nara
    • Train to Nara
    • Deer Park & Toda-ji Temple
  • Day 8: Tengachaya, Namba Parks, America-mura
    • Down the memory lane of Tengachaya
    • Shopping @ Namba City/Parks (Uniqlo :-x)
    • Walk through America-mura
  • Day 9: Bye Japan
    • Train to KIX, Kansai Intl Airport & flight to Singapore
  • Day X: Saved for the next trip
    • Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route
    • Roller coasters in Nagashima Spaland amusement park near Nagoya

Flights & Visa

  • Scoot
    • SIN, Singapore to CTS, Chitose: Scoot, TR892 (1 hour stopover in Taiwan). Bid for ScootPlus at SGD 205 and did not succeed.
    • KIX, Kansai Intl Airport to SIN: Scoot, TR819
    • Scoot deploys the Boeing 787 Dreamliner on long-haul routes which are pretty comfortable compared to other low-cost airlines.
    • Used a 20% discount voucher that came from KrisFlyer Milestone Rewards
  • Jetstar Japan
    • CTS to KIX: Jetstar Japan, GK154
  • Visa
    • As resident of Singapore, I could apply for visa online (JPY 832 / SGD 8). For once I did not feel ripped applying for visa!
    • If you are in India, visa has to be applied through VFS. I wish the online visa is made available soon.


Restaurant @ Morinoyu Hanakagura in Higashikawa
  • Queen’s Hotel Chitose, 1 night, Agoda (4/5)
    • Functional, located near Chitose airport
  • Morinoyu Hanakagura, 2 nights, Agoda (5/5)
    • Luxury, Japanese-style room with in-room hot bath
  • Hotel Torifito Otaru Canal, 1 night, Agoda (4/5)
    • Functional, near Otaru canal
  • Villa Rusutsu, 2 nights, Direct (4/5)
    • Luxury, wooden log villas at the base of Mt. Shiribetsu
  • Yuki Nihonbashi, 3 nights, Airbnb (3.5/5)
    • Functional, located in Namba, Osaka

Car Rental & Local Transport

Shirogane Blue Pond Parking Lot
  • Japan is known for its fast trains & efficient public transport. Hokkaido is unlike the rest of the country. Train & bus connectivity is limited and infrequent.
  • Plenty of car rental companies operate in Hokkaido such as Toyota, Nissan, Orix, World Net. I picked Toyota Rent a Car for no particular reason.
  • We showed up at the Chitose airport counter. After verifying our booking, they ferried us to an area which is cluster of car rentals companies. The paper work took about 10 mins. Toyota has 2 shops in close vicinity. Poplar & Suzuran. I randomly picked Suzuran.
  • The adaptive cruise control in Toyota Sienta Hybrid was amazing and I had lot of fun experimenting. At the end of the ~1200km journey in Hokkaido, the EV driving ratio was ~50%.
Osaka & Nara
  • We did not buy the JR Pass. All the journeys were short distance hence did not make sense.
  • We did not buy any of the Osaka metro passes.
  • KIX, Kansai Intl Airport to Namba and return: Nankai airport express, JPY 970, 50 mins
  • Namba to Nara and return: Kintetsu Nara line from Kintetsu Nippombashi station, JPY 680, 50mins (5 mins walk from our Airbnb accommodation)
  • We used Osaka metro once for a 1-stop ride from Namba to Shinsaibashi


  • October is the peak-to-end stages of Autumn, the beautiful fall foliage + pleasant chills.
  • Rain is not common in October but Hokkaido presented us with rains from day 2 + night of surprise snow.
  • Osaka was sunny with 15-20ºC.


  • Note that cash is the ONLY option in many locations in Japan such as ticket vending machines, even manual ticket counters, food trucks, restaurants. Carry plenty of cash. In spite of my best estimates, I had to exchange some currency at KIX at a poor exchange rate.
  • Singapore residents: Instarem’s Amaze (referral link) virtual credit card continues to work well for foreign currency transactions with forex charges much lower than ~3% fees by credit cards
  • Singapore residents: For cash, Changi Travel Exchange. Paid in SGD online a day in advance & picked up JPY from Terminal 1. Hassle-free & better rates than the other airport money changers run by banks.


It is always fun & quirky in Japan, you just need to pause & observe. We expected this trip to be memorable & it turned out to be that way in spite of starting troubles with visa (The game of miles played a big role in getting us back on track, thank goodness!). The first river rafting experience for our daughter was definitely a highlight. The food, sweets/ice creams, people, systems, roads, train – the sense of aesthetics & the beauty in simplicity is mesmerizing.

Being in Japan has taught me to say ‘I wonder,’ more often than ‘I think.’

– Pico Iyer in his book “A Beginner’s Guide to Japan”

If you are reading this, you know how to reach me. If not, twitter @rajspace

1 thought on “Hokkaido & Osaka, Japan: Trip Summary

  1. Pingback: Our Whitewater Rafting experience on Shiribetsu River in Hokkaido, Japan – Rajiv Renganathan

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