Because it was our third time to spend the holidays in Japan, we opted to insert a side trip to explore the highlights of Hokkaido. It was definitely a surreal experience and we were blown away in Winter Wonderland!
As I posted pictures of our getaway, a number of friends have asked me for details in Osaka, Hokkaido and Tokyo. Inspired to format an actual itinerary with notes collated from dear friends, I organized and wrote this 11-day itinerary.
Day 1: Arrive in Osaka
Konnichiwa! Upon arrival, you will be met and transferred to your hotel. Osaka is a large port city and commercial center on the Japanese island of Honshu. It is known for its modern architecture, boisterous nightlife and hearty street food.
Recommendation: Dinner at Kamukura (Ramen) / HiiKi Ya (Seafood Hotpot with Crab)
Hotel: Hotel Nikko
Deluxe hotel connected to the Subway Shinsaibashi Station. It is located across the street from Daimaru department store and the famous shopping and dining center.
Day 2: Shinsaibashi / Dotonbori
Get ready for your venture around Shinsaibashi and Dotonbori. These are the best known shopping areas in the city! Shops of all kinds and for all ages line the street under a roofed arcade 600m long. There are traditional kimono tailors, western clothing and footwear retailers, restaurants and fast food outlets, jewellers, and boutiques.
If time permits, check out Namba District. It is a short walk away from Dotonbori with a big Takashimaya Department Store and an underground shopping mall with great finds.
Recommendation: Lunch at Genrokozushi (Revolving Sushi); try the flavoured Pancake Balls in Americamura Square; dinner in Syabu Syabu Jin (Eat all you can Shabu Shabu)
Day 3: Tempozan Ferris Wheel / Osaka Aquarium
Sitting at the mouth of the Osaka Bay is the enormous Tempozan Giant Ferris Wheel, formerly the biggest, tallest and most technologically advanced observation wheel in the world. From high up in the air you can enjoy a panoramic view of the sea, the mountains, and the entire city of Osaka. On the seaward side is the Akashi Straits Bridge in the distance; on the landward side downtown Osaka and Mt. Rokko. The night view with illumination is so romantic that this Ferris wheel is famous as a date spot.
Just next to Tempozan Ferris Wheel, you will find the Osaka Aquarium, one of the largest aquariums in the world and famous for its gigantic whale sharks. After entering the building, walk through the tunnel-shaped “Aqua Gate” water tank, take the escalator up to the “Japan Forest” on the top floor, and then follow the suggested route and descend a spiral slope, viewing each tank along the way. Some water tanks are designed to display the fish not only from below the water but also from above, so you can see the fish swimming as if they were flying. If you’re hungry, pop up to the restaurant where you can also enjoy the ocean view. You might be in time to see the exquisite sunset over Osaka Port.
Recommendation: Try the Softserve in Milky; lunch by Tempozan Harbour Village; check out the Lego Exhibit for the kids; dinner at Matsuzakagyu Yakiniku M – Dotonbori
Day 4: Osaka – Sapporo, Hokkaido
Today, you will fly to New Chitose Airport, Hokkaido and drive to Sapporo City. It is the capital of the mountainous northern Japanese island of Hokkaido and is famous for its beer, skiing and annual snow festival (featuring enormous ice sculptures). The Sapporo Beer Museum traces the city’s brewing history and has tastings and a beer garden. Drop by Mitsui Outlet then proceed for hotel check-in.
Recommendation: Dinner in Ramen Museum (7F BIC Building) Sapporo City
Hotel: The Lake View Toya Nonokaze Resort (B/D)
The hotel offers guests a panoramic view of Lake Toya from the hot spring baths. Free Wi-Fi is accessible throughout the property and free shuttle service from JR Sapporo Station is available upon request.
Day 5: Niseko Village / Hanazono Resort
Niseko is the most famous ski resort in Japan, known for having tons of light powder snow, spectacular backcountry and a large number of foreigners. Niseko’s resorts are very accessible and welcoming to foreign visitors, which they keep busy with plenty of vast, long ski runs, endless powder, and a growing number of after-ski activities.
Head to Hanazono Adventure Park. It has a range of fun and exciting snow-play activities for all ages. All activities are situated directly in front and no experience or equipment are required.
Recommendation: Stop by Lake Hill Farm, Toya – enjoy the ice cream and desserts; lunch at Prativo then have dessert in Milk Kobo; dinner in KAMIMURA or Ezo Seafood
Day 6: Otaru Village
Otaru is is a small harbour city just a 25-minute drive from Sapporo.The canal makes for a pleasant stroll during the day, when artists present their works to passing tourists, and during the evenings when old fashioned gas lamps are lit and provide a romantic atmosphere. Its beautifully preserved canal area and interesting herring mansions make Otaru a pleasant day trip. Check out various Otaru glassware, try Wine Tasting in Otaru Bine and visit the Music Box Museum. and the Museum of Venetian Art. You can do some whiskey tasting at Nikka Whisky Distillery.
Recommendation: Lunch at Fujizushi, Sakaimachi Street; eat Crab and corn at the Market.
Day 7: Sapporo, Hokkaido – Tokyo
Take a quick Sapporo tour this morning before flying to Tokyo. Visit Odori Park where the Ice Festival is held every February and take photos at the Sapporo Clock Tower.
Recommendation: Check out Royce Chocolate Factory by the Airport; dinner at Gyu-An (Kobe Beef) Ginza
Hotel: The Courtyard by Marriott Tokyo Station
Modern and non-smoking accommodation with free Wi-Fi in all areas. It is conveniently located just a 4-minute walking distance from Tokyo Station.
Day 8: Ueno / Asakusa
Hop on to Ginza line and arrive at Ueno and Asakusa. If you want to get a feel for old Tokyo, Ueno in the Taito district is a good place to start. It is famous for its park, museums and market. With cherry blossoms that bloom in spring and lotuses that flower in summer, Ueno Park, the oldest and largest park in the city, is regarded one of Tokyo’s most beautiful. Inside there are temples, shrines, and pagodas, also a pond, a zoo and some of Japan’s finest museums.
Then head to Asakusa’s main attraction – Sensoji, a very popular Buddhist temple, built in the 7th century. The temple is approached via the Nakamise, a shopping street that has been providing temple visitors with a variety of traditional, local snacks and tourist souvenirs for centuries.
Recommendation: Lunch at Yabu Soba, Ueno; dinner in Imahan, Ginza – Specialty is Sukiyaki
Day 9: Shibuya
Hop on the Ginza Line and arrive at Shibuya, Omotesando and Harajuku. The name “Shibuya” is also used to refer to the shopping district which surrounds Shibuya Station, one of Tokyo’s busiest railway stations. This area is known as one of the fashion centers of Japan, particularly for young people. It is also considered a major nightlife area. Omotesandō is a zelkova tree-lined avenue stretching from the entrance to the Meiji Shrine, to Aoyama-dori where Omotesando Station is. Harajuku is the center of Japan’s most extreme teenage cultures and fashion styles, but also offers shopping options for adults and some historic sights.The focal point of Harajuku’s teenage culture is Takeshita Dori (Takeshita Street) and its side streets, which are lined by many trendy shops, fashion boutiques, used clothes stores, crepe stands and fast food outlets geared towards the fashion and trend conscious teens.
Recommendation: Lunch at Genki Sushi, Shibuya; dinner at Ganko Food, Ginza
Day 10: Tokyo Disneyland or Disneysea
Transfer to Tokyo Bay Makuhari and proceed to Tokyo Disneyland or Disneysea. The seniors can stay in Makuhari Outlets which is just 5 minutes from the hotel. There is also a big Aeon Mall there where you can watch movies and choose from a variety of restaurants .If you’re ending late in Tokyo Disneyland or Disneysea, have dinner in Ikspiari Shopping Mall which is just by the Maihama station. Be aware though that it closes at 9PM while Disneyland closes at 10PM.
Hotel: Tokyo Bay Makuhari (B)
Day 11: Fly back to Manila
Take the Airport Shuttle from Tokyo Bay Makuhari. In Narita, have meals and buy souvenirs on the second floor before entering through Immigration. The selection is better there than the one’s inside.