Lake Toya is a volcanic caldera lake in Shikotsu-Toya National Park just an hour drive away from Noboribetsu. It was formed by volcanic activity around 110 thousand of years ago.
It’s a beautiful place of serenity. Right in the middle of the lake is Nakajima – a group of 4 islands. There are ferries to and fro the islands, but guided tour is encouraged as these islands are uninhabited so as not to disrupt the wildlife on the islands. We had hoped that we could hop on the swan boat to circle around the islands but apparently it would be a 1-2 hours trip.
We still went for the swan ride as our kids were all so excited when they saw the huge swan boats. There were 2 options, pedal boats or motor boats. Keeping in mind that we still have about 3 hours of driving to do, we opt for the more expensive but relaxing motor boat.
It was a short but relaxing 30 minutes ride. The lake was peaceful and we actually let our 6yo took the steering wheel. It was absolutely fun for the kids controlling where to go on the lake.
After the ride, we stock up some snacks for the road trip and to our next pit stop – Onuma Quasi National Park.
Onuma Quasi National Park 大沼公園
Known for its picturesque lakes and majestic volcano, Mount Komagatake, Onuma Quasi is a huge park of around 9000 acres. It is also a well-known spot for autumn leaves viewing.
We had thought this was just a small park and it would be a short pit stop. But it turns out to be really big. They have this huge carpark with eateries all around and several trails around the park. It was quite a delightful stroll along the park, watching the ducks in the lake, with the majestic mountain in the background. There are also various activities available, such as hiking, canoeing, and cycling so one can easily spend half a day here.
After all the sight-seeing, it is time to head towards the city – Hakodate.
Hakodate is best known their fresh seafood and the spectacular view from Mount Hakodate. It is Hokkaido’s third largest city, located at the southern tip of the island that sees plenty of domestic tourists every year but not so much of international tourists.
For dinner we choose to go to Tsunezushi, which was included in Bib Gourmand for the Michelin Guide Hokkaido 2017 that lists shops where you can enjoy food for 5,000 JPY or less. It is run by an elderly couple who doesn’t speak nor understand English and we had to use our limited Nihongo (Japanese language) to order our food. This sushi joint is popular with the locals and is known for using fresh seafood from Hakodate. The shop is quite small, just 2 tables and a row of chairs in front of the counter. There is also a second storey but I am not sure if it is any bigger.
And unfortunately, I wouldn’t recommend this place to families with young kids. From the photos online, we saw sitting area that can accommodate a small group hence we decided to go. But the table is really meant to sit 4-5 adults comfortably (we have 4 adults and 4 kids) and it doesn’t help that the patrons at the next table were smoking.
Food wise, quality is good but not exceptional. As this is a sushi restaurant, they do not have much food choices that is suitable for my 1yo toddler as most foods are raw. Without the kids tho, this would have been a nice place to have nice sushi and beer in an authentic setup.
Good thing is, there is a Mcdonald’s nearby. The kids were overjoyed haha.
10-16 Matsukazecho Hakodate Hokkaido 北海道 函館市 松風町 10-16 | Tel (+81)138 26 4872 | 4pm – 11pm |
Hakodate Morning Market 函館朝市
Fresh seafood is the highlight of Hokkaido and where could be better than having seafood right at their port? The size of this morning market is much smaller compared to the one in Tokyo – Tsukiji. But it is evident that they are focus on one thing – seafood.
Seafood everywhere! Crabs, make up almost 70% of what the stalls are selling and we were so spoilt for choices. Besides crabs, there were also plenty of Hokkaido kombu, melons, dried scallops, dried mushrooms on sale. Now that I am back to Singapore, I regret not grabbing some of those dried scallops and dried mushrooms!
After circling around the market, we finally decided on this particular stall who were trying to sell us this whole crab that weights almost 3 KG.
We managed to bargain this beauty plus some BBQ seafood (oysters, prawns, scallops) and some beer to 33,000 yen (S$420~). For price comparison, one single crab leg costs around 2000-2500 yen in the market. And since we have 8 pax, we were not sure if 1 crab would be enough for us. Turns out that, the crab is really meaty! It was so fresh, sweet and juicy and having it outdoor in the cold weather with beer was just awesome. This is our most expensive meal in Hokkaido, which I personally feel is worth it. We were all so full and our tummies felt so satisfied after this.
Hakodate Morning Market 函館朝市
9-19 Wakamatsucho, Hakodate, Hokkaido 040-0063, Japan | 6am – 2pm
Renowned for its spectacular view, Mount Hakodate is in our must-go list. The ropeway was closed on the day we visited, but good thing is we drove, so we simply drove up to the observatory point instead.
And the view, is indeed spectacular.
Seeing it in person and in photos are just so different. Once you have been there, it is hard not to be amazed by the unique coastline that Hakodate is built on. While this side is a bustling city, the other side of were nothing but mountains. What a huge contrast!
19-7, Motomachi, Hakodate-shi, Hokkaido 040-0054 Japan | Tel: (0138) 23-3105 | Website
Kanemori Red Brick Warehouse
Rebuilt in 1909 after a massive fire, these iconic warehouses were redeveloped to commercial complexes, to provides shopping, dinning, and entertainment.
On the outside, it looked like the century-old buildings that they are. On the inside however, they are full of shops selling souvenirs. There is this particular shop near Kanemori Warehouse that sells musical boxes and the whole place is just so magical. Beautiful melodies filled the place and whimiscal musical boxes/soft toys/photo frames and even musical christmas trees can be found in this shop.
Kanemori Red Brick Warehouse
14-12, Suehiro-cho, Hakodate, Hokkaido | Telephone 0138-27-5530 | Website
There is also a branch of Lucky Pierrot here. Lucky Pierrot is a fast-food chain exclusively found in Hakodate. And according to their shop front claims, they have the best local hamburger in Japan. At first glance tho, I am not sure I like this Lucky Pierrot. I mean, this clown looks kinda scary haha.
But since this can only be found in Hakodate, we brought their cheeseburger to try. And it was surprisingly good! The buns are soft and the patty was tender. It can get pretty messy because of the soft buns and patties but the taste was pretty good. The burger size is also big, almost like double the usual fast-food chains’ burger size.
But if you want to try, perhaps you should try their Chinese Chicken Burger because that is the burger they claim to be the best local burger in Japan.
While Kanemori Red Brick Warehouse is kinda touristy, we still managed to spend around 5 hours here, just exploring the different warehouses, other shops nearby and having beer at their Beer Hall.
This ends our adventures in Hakodate! Next up, Otaru.