Hokkaido, Japan’s second largest island is the place for sumptuous seafood, picturesque views and intriguing culture. It is also a place that varies its look as the seasons change; so much so that visiting it only once in a certain season is not enough. While it had always been the Boy’s wish to visit Hokkaido, I have had the privilege to visit it once during autumn. So this time round we decided to go flower hunting in summer.
Time difference: +1 hour
Transiting at Tokyo Haneda was not as difficult as we had thought, even though we had to collect our luggage to check them in again. The airport website provides clear instructions on what needs to be done, and together with the English directions and signage, the process was a smooth one. We transferred to the domestic terminal via the shuttle bus, which arrives every 6 minutes. There is also a guide at the shuttle bus waiting area, who will inform you of which terminal to stop at depending on your departure gate.
Arriving at New Chitose Airport, we made our way down to the train station to exchange for our Hokkaido JR Pass. Given that it was a pretty small counter serving loads of tourists, the waiting time was pretty long. By the time it was our turn, we had missed our connecting train to Asahikawa. It was another waiting game of 1 hour plus, as we discovered to our surprise the availability of free wifi at that particular station after obtaining the free wifi pass from the tourist information counter.
After checking in to Asahikawa Grand Hotel, we did not have much time left, as most places close at 6pm. Hence, we decided to head on to Biei to check out what we can explore with just 3 hours. According to the map at the tourist information centre, Biei is divided into 2 areas, Patchwork Area and Panorama Road. As per the advice of the guide, Patchwork area is of a better walking distance for us. But what I felt very amusing as well was that whenever we told our guides that we were going to walk, most of them would display a shocked face, followed by a smile along with the phrase ‘がんばって’ (ganbatte), meaning don’t give up.
Although there was the option of renting bicycles to speed up our travel, research on the internet said that the slopes and hills of Biei are quite steep. Unless one has the stamina and strength of the cyclists of Tour de France, chances are we will dismount and push our bikes, which was what we saw pretty often during our walk.
And so began our 8km trek for the first day. After about 40 minutes, we reached our first stop, Zerubu Hill Observatory. Although it was the time of flowers, there weren’t many colours when we were there, which made us wonder if the flowers have started wilting. On closer look however, we could see the purple of the lavenders.
Given that it was a small park, we moved on quickly from Zerubu Hill to the Ken & Mary Tree. Made popular by the Nissan Skyline commercial in 1970s and named after the characters in the commercial, it is a tree everyone goes to see in Hokkaido.