EATANDTREATS JAPAN: HOKKAIDO TRAVEL GUIDE

I love Japan, to the point where I am lost for words to describe my love for Japan, or even to describe Japan itself, but one thing for sure, it should be on everyone’s bucketlist and you better believe me on this one.

Last month, I embarked on my very first encounter with a part of Japan which I have been wanting to go for so long: Hokkaido! Though it’s famous for its Winter, but I arrived just before the Summer’s about to end and Autumn is just moments ahead (and by the time this post is written they’re already in the Fall), it was a memorable trip, especially since I got the chance to share the happiness with my sister which I couldn’t be happier about, and along the trip I got SO MANY requests and questions from you guys regarding my Hokkaido trip, some I have answered through some Instagram posts and live Instagram Q&A, but I am going to make an even more detailed approach for those of you who are planning a trip to Hokkaido, hence this Hokkaido Travel Guide!
Hokkaido is a part of Japan that’s located in the Northern part of the country and the whole area’s pretty spacious for sure, and while they're mainly known for their charming Nature scenery, I experienced quite other various charming sides of Hokkaido and this guide will cover certain areas that I visited during my days in Hokkaido, and I don’t know, but I can see future visits to Hokkaido, I really want to go back here during Winter to check out more of what they have in store.

One thing that I overheard about Japan to the point where it almost bores me is how expensive Japan is, well that could be true, but NOT that expensive! I’ve been to Japan 5 times in 2 years and stayed in fancy hotels and resorts (Westin, Ritz-Carlton you name it), and at the end of the day when I counted the cost it’s still pretty okay, but again everyone travels in different ways, not everyone is a luxury traveller, and not everyone is a budget traveller, point is there are ways to make your stay in Japan affordable and one thing for sure, you gotta do the work, wait for deals, stay in AIRBNB, go to travel fairs where they sometimes offer package bundles with cheaper deals and more.

I hope you enjoy the guide that I've compiled, it took a while to write as I really wanted to provide you with more details, and most importantly, I hope this guide can help you while you're arranging that upcoming trip to Hokkaido!
HOKKAIDO AIRPORTS
Depending on where you're travelling from or to Hokkaido, there are a few airports in Hokkaido, but the main International airport is the New Chitose Airport that's located in Sapporo, at the beginning of my trip to Hokkaido (aka first day of arrival) I made it through Asahikawa Airport.
Asahikawa Airport
The other airports include: Wakkanai Airport, Mamanbetsu Airport, Nemuro Nakashibetsu Airport, and Kushiro Airport.

CURRENCY AND EXCHANGE RATE
Japan’s currency is Japanese Yen (JPY) and by the time this post is being written (October 7th 2017), 1 JPY = IDR 121 and changing on a daily basis. Visit this website for the updates on the exhange rate. It's important to carry Japanese Yen in Japan as most places only accepts the currency, US dollars are accepted but at very certain and niche places like hotels or some Duty Free shops.

LANGUAGE
Japanese language is largely spoken here in Japan, based on my experience coming to parts of Japan, I notice that shop staffs (well not all) can speak fluent Mandarin, but generally they (Japanese) are not the best English speakers, rest assure as I found Japanese people incredibly nice and patient in helping us and explaning stuff tho.

WEATHER
As one of the countries in this world with four seasons (not the hotel), Japan is blessed with constant dynamic Nature changes that’s not only beneficial for them but also for tourists like me! Fall is definitely my favorite time to visit Japan for the weather is just perfect! Spring was also breezy yet sunny, Summer is incredibly hot (up to 42 degree celcius) and in contrary to that, Winter is freezing cold.
My tour guide told me that if you're looking to find beautiful blooms in Shikisai No Oka or Farm Tomita (lavenders), then it's best to come during Spring/Summer for the best months of blooms. The weather in the Fall is perfect, but there won't be much blooms growing at both Shikisai No Oka/Farm Tomita, but of course the trees would turn red (and I got to experience that even though technically it's a random tree that I found on our way to Sobetsu lol), and in Winter, expect to see most of the trees as branch.
COMMUNICATION
As someone who works mobile and needs to stay in touch with clients through emails, Whatsapps or DMs, I need Internet Connection almost all the time and while internet is not the cheapest thing in Japan, but you can always find cheaper hacks! You should be able to find WiFi/Sim Card rental in the airports but specifically for WiFi rental, you HAVE TO proceed the payment with credit card (in case something unwanted like loss/stolen/broken happens) so they can store the credit card details for deposit, but anyway you can purchase the Sim Card with cash.

...BUT what I usually do is that I normally rent the WiFi from a WiFi rental provider in Jakarta like wi2fly or from tour agents like Wendy Tour (in Central Park) for as cheap as IDR 500k ($38) for 7 days (unlimited, 3GB/3 days and automatic renewal as the day turns).

Wi2Fly - Cityloft Unit 2121, Sudirman, Jakarta Selatan 10220. Daily opening hours: 9 AM-6 PM. Phone: 021-3001 0188

Wendy Tour - Ruko Garden Shopping Arcade (near Central Park clusters), please call their office at 021-2942 6820 for more details or come straight to their office. Daily opening hours: 9 AM-6 PM (4 PM on Saturdays)

ACCOMODATION
Accomodation in Hokkaido (or generally Japan) is not the cheapest, probably that's one of the things that makes this country seems expensive, especially during the high season, but anyway with a little bit of diligence and research, you'll find a place with good 

If you check out my Hokkaido trip itinerary, you'll find hotels that I stayed at during my days in Hokkaido and honestly I would be more than happy to recommend them to you! The hotels were 4-5 stars, very convenient with spacious twin beds (Japan standard even for couples) and for those who constantly travel for comfort, I sort of believe that these hotels will be the right options for you to relax after a long day on the road.

New Furano Prince Hotel
Nakagoryo, Furano, Hokkaido Prefecture 076-8511
New Otani Inn Hotel - Sapporo
1 Chome-1-1 Kita 2 Jonishi, Chuo Ward, Sapporo, Hokkaido Prefecture 060-0002

Rusutsu Resort/Westin Hotel Rusutsu
Izumikawa 13 - Rusutsu, Hokkaido Prefecture 048-1711

Noboribetsu Onsen Mahoroba
5 Noboribetsuonsencho, Noboribetsu, Hokkaido Prefecture 059-0551

TRANSPORTATION (GETTING AROUND...)
One of the main reasons why I opted for the tour in Hokkaido is that because after series of research, I notice that certain parts of Hokkaido is best explored using cars/buses, and not every area occupies the train access. Again, not everyone is a lazy traveller like me and I still do believe that you can still explore Hokkaido in your own ways, but maybe you would have to take more steps, but I like to keep things straight to the point and simple so this time, tour all the way!
Sapporo being the crowded city and capital of Hokkaido makes it one of the easiest cities to get around in Hokkaido, I notice the look of the city is similar to Nagoya and train service (MRT) is available in the city so it's really beneficial for tourists like me to get around.
HALAL FOOD IN HOKKAIDO (WHAT TO EAT IN HOKKAIDO)
I second everyone's opinion about Japan (or in particular, Hokkaido) as a Muslim friendly country, as based on my experience going to Japan I feel like they have great selections of cuisine that ranges from poultry, dairy, beef, pork to seafood, and of course while you're in Japan you don't want to miss their uber fresh seafood (right now as I am typing this post I picture a fat thick uni in my mind), and of course, seafood is halal!

I'd love to come back to Hokkaido just for the sake of exploring the food scene, but this time I'm going to recommend you guys the food that's provided from the tour and honestly they were pretty good, somehow there's this stereotype about bad tour food but what I had were pretty legit and different to one another.
Hokkaido Breads & Pastries
Hokkaido is famous for its fresh produce, and that includes their dairy products! That's why when you're here you HAVE TO sample their freshly baked breads, pastries and even soft-serve. I was really mesmerized by the breads that I had at this newly opened restaurant in Biei, Hokkaido called Ferme La Terre! The breads were super fragrant, moist, fluffy, buttery but everything was on this proper balance that it didn't overpower my palate! SO GOOD!
This Pillow Sponge Cake at Iwamizawa Maple Lodge was also impressive! Soft, fluffy, perfectly buttery whipped cream and fresh strawberry sauce dressing!
Hokkaido Soft Cream

If you guys saw my Instagram posts, I know I spammed your timeline with so many soft serve posts, well one can't handle the cuteness, the pretty colors and of course the flavor! Hokkaido soft serve is among the best ones that I've tried so far in my life and I mean from the bottom of my heart! It's just super creamy, super milky and yet everything seems proper and well-balanced! The soft cream from Ferme La Terre and Farm Tomita are two of personal favorites that I tried from the trip!
Ferme Le Terre
 Lavender and Melon soft serve from Farm Tomita
Ainu Traditional Food
Japanese Fusion Cuisine at Iwamizawa Lodge
I have to be honest here, when I looked at the itinerary I was a bit skeptical about this as the itinerary stated that we're going to have flower food and I initially thought it's going to be all green, all flowers, and yes that's still half true BUT turned out the lunch at Iwamizawa Maple Lodge is one of the best lunch in this trip! The food was beautifully cooked, beautifully presented and the flavor was on point! The beef (as you can see below) was amazing and frankly I can still imagine how tender and juicy it was!
Kaisendon at Donburichaya (Halal certified restaurant in Otaru)
Kaisendon is a very well known local food in Hokkaido and one of that's in 'must eat' list. I had this for lunch when we were exploring Otaru and the restaurant's called Donburichaya, the strong point of this restaurant is that it's halal certified so of course, rest assure, my Muslim friends can have some fresh Japanese feast here. Kaisendon consist of various sashimi (raw seafood) like salmon, tuna, shrimp, scallop, uni on rice, and being an avid fan of fresh sashimi what's really not to love about this.

Seafood Udon Nabe at Mingei Goten (Halal certified restaurant in Otaru)
Mingei Goten is a restaurant that specializes in serving seafood nabe udon aka seafood hot pot dish! The miso broth was incredibly tasty and I did not expect that this would come in such large portion and can be shared for four people!
MONEY SAVING TIPS
Stay at AirBNB
If hotels and resorts are too pricy for your budget, then AirBNB will always be the cheaper alternative. You can always filter the pricing per night and they will be looking out for ones that fit your criteria.

Drink tap water
Most restaurants/cafes in Hokkaido prepare free tap water so if you wanna save some money, stay away from the drinks and stick on tap water.

WHERE TO GO AND WHAT TO DO IN HOKKAIDO
The complete list on what to check out here in Hokkaido is on my Hokkaido Itinerary blog post, but  I'll be sharing more photos and details here (list sorted in alphabetical order).

Farm Tomita
Farm Tomita is a flower field in Furano that's best known for its Lavender blooms during spring and summer. It's located just 20 minutes from Asahikawa Airport and 5 minutes away from Shikisai No Oka. I honestly don't think Farm Tomita is comparable with Shikisai No Oka since both is pretty different, Shikisai No Oka is more spacious but aesthetically I found both equally beautiful in their own way, and oh, since I love soft creams, I was super fond of the Lavender and Melon soft serve that's sold in this small stall near the farm entrance.
Fruits Picking
There are fruit farms spread all over Hokkaido but I went to the one around the Sobetsu area, just because the fruits are too good to be missed. Japanese grapes are seriously one of the freshest ones that I've tried, I still vividly remember the scent of the red grapes that lingered around the farm even before I actually entered the farm, for the one price that you're paying you'll have the chance to take as many as you can, but you can't take them back with you (you have to finish the fruits on the spot).
Gotcha Show!
The Gotcha show is located at the Tanukikoji Shopping Arcade and it's a show that features various art performances like Soran Bushi dancing, Kimono wearing, singing, musical performances and collaborations! It was a very enjoyable one hour (and honestly I was so concentrated on the performances that it didn't feel like one hour really), the performances were awesome and memorable, just what a way to end our night in Sapporo! If you fancy, make some time to watch the show!
Ishiya Chocolate Factory
Ishiya Chocolate Factory is a chocolate factory (more like a giant in Hokkaido as you can easily find their products all over Hokkaido) and a beautiful mini theme park in Sapporo that should be perfect for family date! Inside you can shop for their freshly produced milk and chocolate products as souvenirs (like I did), I think I'm going to make a separated post about Ishiya Chocolate Factory alone as I have more to share on an individual post.
Jozankei Kokorono Sato Jozan
It would be such a waste to skip the Onsen experience when in Hokkaido, particularly Noboribetsu being one of the most well known Onsen town there. Let's keep it honest here, to experience Onsen means you have to be full-frontal naked, and if that's a bit extreme for you, then try the famous foot onsen place called Jozankei Kokorono Sato Jozan that's not only beautiful and serene, but hanging out here with your feet soaked in perfectly warm water with the green calming view could possibly be one of the most comforting minutes of your life.
It's required for guests to wash their feet before getting in the onsen
Kan Yasuda Sculpture Museum
Let's keep it fair here, I might not be the biggest art enthusiast but that doesn't mean that I don't appreciate the beauty of it, nor you can force everyone to understand about certain art, but my visit to Arte Piazza aka Ken Yasuda Sculpture Museum was quite a bliss, aside from the simple beautiful sculpture art, the whole area is just pretty me and my sister literally chill for 30 something minutes just enjoying the surrounding, the blue sky and took some pictures.
Noboribetsu Date Jidaimura
Hokkaido Ninja village aka Noboribetsu Date Jidaimura is one of the highlights of my visit there that time simply for its cultural value, beautiful aesthetic (photogenic) and of course: NINJA SHOW! The Ninja Show actually surprised me more than I thought it would, and I would highly recommend you to check out! Just by watching the show, I feel like the actors put good effort in training for the show as the actiosn, timing, choreography was impressive.
Otaru
Otaru is one of my favorite cities in Hokkaido and this charming city is also known as the harbour site of Hokkaido. I was blessed to come on a bright sunny day which kinda brings the charm of Otaru on its peak, the streets of Otaru is mainly filled with various cafes, ice cream shop, restaurants, stores and more, and a little trivia, the brand Dore by Letao is originated from this area and it's still among the best cheesecakes that I've tried!

...and of course, when you're in Otaru you surely don't want to miss the iconic Music Box house where you can not only shop for the various cute music boxes, but also getting your eyes pampered with the almost soothing sounds from the music box.
Sapporo Olympic Museum
Shikisai No Oka
Shikisai No Oka is seriously the spot that you just can't skip when you're in Hokkaido, a flower park that looks like colorful carpet 'made' from arranged blooms! I really wished I had more time to explore the park as I was only given 15 minutes to browse and took quick pics
Usuzan Ropeway and Mountain
The view of the Lake Toya is just stunning from the Usuzan observation deck, and aside from that, you'll experience a natural beauty from the Usuzan gondola that will take you back and forth.
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