“I’m on a boat.” Four words to sum up our journey to (and from) the north. In this portion of our article series, we’ll take a quick look at our modes of transportation, the amenities, and a few tips for the cruise.
Taiheiyo Ferry will be the lucky company to transport or ragtag group of travellers to Hokkaido’s shores. Taiheiyo has three ferries in their fleet: the MS Ishikari, the MS Kiso, and the MS Kitakami. The ferries and their routes changes daily between Taiheiyo’s different routes.
Hokkaido is the largest prefecture in Japan. As such, there is much more to see and do outside of the largest city, Sapporo. While you’ll need more time to properly visit all of Hokkaido, there are many worthwhile excursions and places to visit with Sapporo acting as your home base.
Asahikawa Asahikawa is the second-largest city in Hokkaido. It’s a little under two hours away from Sapporo if you take the Hokkaido Chuo bus. A return trip ticket to Asahikawa will cost you 3,750yen, and buses depart around every 20 minutes. You can check out the bus time table here.
So, what is there to do in Asahikawa? Well, Asahikawa is home to a few festivals all its own. First and foremost is the Asahikawa Winter Festival, which began in 1947 as the ‘Iyomante‘– or ‘Bear Festival’ in Ainu. The 55th Asahikawa Winter Festival will be held from February 6-11 (how convenient!). The festival includes an international ice sculpture contest, a snowman garden,
fireworks, oh– and just the world’s largest snow sculptures (as declared by the Guiness Book of Records). Sculptures here measure around 130 metres in length!
One of the nifty things about working in Fukushima is that you get to meet people from all over the world. All of use have different experiences and different climates back home. Some people grew up in the land of ice and snow (hello, Canadian friends!) and some folks have never seen snow in real life. As such, how to dress for snowy weather not be something everyone is familiar with. In our third entry of FuJET’s Inside Look to the Hokkaido 2014 trip, we’ll be taking a quick gander at what to wear/how to dress/what to pack to stay warm in Hokkaido!
When packing for winter weather, remember to take into account the fabric and materials of the clothing you’re packing. Your top picks of materials for staying warm would be wool(ウール (uuru)), wool-synthetic blends, and synthetics(acrylic アクリル (akuriru) and ナイロン (nairon)). Try and avoid cotton(綿 (men)) (especially for socks!) wherever possible. Why? Wool and synthetics will keep you warm, even if they get wet. Cotton will sap away your heat when wet and make you even colder. Down and fleece are also great clothing choices! Read more
So, there’s a snow festival in Sapporo. Big whoop. What ELSE is there to do while I’m there? Sapporo was originally established as a trading post with the Ainu people in 1821 by the Tokugawa shogunate. The growth of the city was exceptionally well planned, resulting in actual city blocks and streets that make… well.. sense! In our second instalment of our Hokkaido Inside Look, we’ll take a look at some of the sights to see in Sapporo itself, as well as provide you with resources.
Sapporo Maruyama Zoo
Located 2.5km from our hotel, the Maruyama zoo is one of the most famous zoos in all of Japan. The first zoo in Hokkaido, Maruyama was established in 1951. It houses over 1,000 animals which represent over 200 species. The park has daily shows where you can check out the meals of a different park citizen (and the animal!) up close. There is also the ‘Birds of Prey Free Flight’ experience where you can learn about what it takes to handle birds of prey…oh yeah, and maybe even hold one of these majestic hunters. The park includes a family of polar bears, a monkey mountain, a petting area, tigers, otters, lions, timber wolves, snow leopards and more. I’m going to have to stop myself here because I could go on all day about how excited I am about visiting this place.
February Hours: 9:00-17:00, Cost: 600 yen
To get to the zoo, you can easily walk directly from our hotel and be there in under 30 minutes. Or, from the Maruyama koen Subway Station (Tozai Line[T06]), take the Dobutsuen sen JR Hokkaido Bus to the Dobutsuen mae bus stop, or walk 15 minutes from Maruyama koen Subway Station (Tozai Line[T06]).