[Sapporo, Hokkaido] Hokkaido Shrine, Okurayama Ski Jump Hill, Shiroi Koibito Park
The Japan Series is back! Continuing from the last post on Japan way back in March 2012, Day #4 of our trip continues with private day tour in the city of Sapporo! Prior to our trip, we have already arranged with English-speaking guides for just the two of us, from here. The HokkaidoExperience.com domain is not longer working it seems.
Before I get to that, our first breakfast at the fabulous JR Tower Hotel Nikko Sapporo comes with a choice of either Japanese breakfast, or Western Buffet style. We chose the Japanese breakfast, which made us feel as if we were in Japan Hour with traditional-style dishes. Didn’t know what we were eating in many instances.
We met our guide after breakfast – she was already waiting for us at the hotel lobby. After we made our booking via Hokkaido Experience, we were contacted via email by Sapporo English Guides. If you have any questions, now would be a good time to ask them! They were incredibly helpful – giving us information prior to arriving to Japan, what type of clothings to prepare, the names and hobbies of our guides, and even the weather forecast!
“Your guide will be Hiromi Makino on 10th and Nobuko Iwasaki on 11th. Hiromi loves reading Shakespear and Nobuko is a devoted cyclist. They are both friendly and knowledgeable guides and you will enjoy visiting places with them.”
Anyway, Hiromi gave us a little briefing, and off we went on a (mainly walking) trip around Sapporo! This is a full-day private-tour, just for the two of us.
We felt that in a country like Japan where we didn’t didn’t understand the language, it would be much more meaningful to have an English-speaking guide. At the same time, we didn’t have to worry about the time, spending as much time as we want at individual spots and determining our itinerary as we went along.
As most of the places we visited are major tourist spots in Hokkaido, I shall only touch on the highlights here. Among some of the places we visited were the major historical buildings in the city center : Former Hokkaido Government Office, Sapporo Clock Tower, Odori Park, Tanukikoji Arcaded Shopping Mall and Susukino Entertainment Area.
Most of the tour in the morning was conducted by walking from one place to another. In the cool weather, it was a real treat to walk in the morning sun with Hiromi. Despite being a guide, we loved how we could chat with her on everything – even the little things on her family and how she ended up as a Sapporo guide.
Our lunch for the day – yummy-licious ramen again.
After lunch, we headed to Hokkaido Shrine where Hiromi taught us shrine etiquette : rinsing our hands and mouth before entering the shrine, tossing a coin into the offering box and clapping our hands twice – very interesting stuff!
As our luck would have it, our visit coincided with Shichi-Go-San, a traditional rite of passage for Japanese kids that is typically done in the month of November. We didn’t visit on the 15th exactly, but we did managed to see a number of cute kids dressed in Kimono.
After the shrine visit, we headed to Okurayama Ski Jump Hill where the 1972 Winter Olympic Games was held. It was a short distance away, so we took a cab there (the fare was already included in the tour fee). In case you didn’t know, cab fares in Japan are exorbitant.
We marveled at how high the hill was!
A cable ride was needed to get us to the top of the hill. Hope you’re not afraid of heights?
The magnificent view after we reached the top.
Our last stop of the day brought us to Shiroi Koibito Park where the famous 白い恋人 is manufactured in the chocolate factory. Also, located at the Park is a chocolate museum. Check out the website for more details.
How could we miss the observation tour of the Shiroi Koibito cookie production line? This is a must-see!
We ended up buying a truckload of 白い恋人 chocolate cookies and lugged them back to our hotel. It has been a lovely experience touring Sapporo city with our lovely guide, Hiromi. If price is not an issue, I would highly recommend Sapporo English Guides for your trip to Sapporo, or other parts of Hokkaido.
In part two of our adventure in Hokkaido, we made a visit to the romantic port city of Otaru with yet another fabulous guide, Nobuko Iwasaki. For now, I’ll leave you with a picture of Otaru Canal.