Sunday 18 November 2012

Hokkaido Day 3: Shiroi Koibito, Otaru & Sounkyo

I woke up early at 5.30am, Singapore time (even earlier than I would for work!), to take another dip in the hot springs since I enjoyed it so much the night before. This time I was more prepared as it was no longer my virgin visit =)

Wearing the special robes used for bathing at the hot springs

Not long after I had entered the hot springs, it started to snow!

The view from my room, which can also be seen from the hot springs

I wanted to jump up and shout, “OMG LOOK it’s snowing! Soooo cool!” However, as no one was with me, I could only do so in my head.. *Sigh*

It’s true what they say.

No matter how beautiful the scenery is, you can never truly enjoy it without the company of someone you love.

After my body was completely relaxed, we proceeded to have breakfast and then packed our stuff to move on to our next destination.

We had a long itinerary ahead so our Ai san had to hurry us off to visit Ishiya Chocolate Factory, the company that makes the most famous white chocolates in the world.

Ishiya Chocolate Factory

Translated as White Lovers, Shiroi Koibito is named after the white snow that covers Hokkaido for more than half of the year. It is unique to Hokkaido and many tourists flock here year after year to buy them.

Shiroi Koibito

The factory has now become a mini museum where visitors have to pay an entrance fee in order to visit.

Ticket Counter

The museum showcases the beginnings of chocolate, how it is made as well as a collection of old toys.

The museum houses quite a large collection of really old stuff
Intricate sugar crafts.. kawaii!

It was quite a nice place to visit although the exterior would have looked much nicer if it wasn’t raining. When we have reached the end, it was time to move on to the next city on our itinerary.

Famous for its beautifully preserved canals and old warehouses, Otaru is known to be the most romantic city in Hokkaido.

Otaru canal
We were huddled so tightly together because the temperature dropped to 4.6°C!

It was also well-known for its delicious cream puffs, cheesecakes and beautiful music boxes! =)

Clockwise from left: Shop selling the best cream puffs; An entire shop that sells only Hello Kitty;
Cafe where you can enjoy a romantic candlelight coffee for two =)
Clockwise from left: LeTAO sells the best cheesecake and coffee in the area;
Hubby with his melt-from-scratch hot chocolate, BEST hot chocolate ever!
Bought 1 slab of their awesome cheesecake =)

But most of my time was spent at the store selling music boxes.

Otaru Orgel Doh
Maneki-neko, translated "Welcome Prosperity Cat". Kawaii ne?
Look out for the "Made in Japan" sign to buy authentic Japanese products

I may not look like it but I LOVE music boxes! There’s something about the twinkling sound that makes me very happy *grin*

I spent more than an hour here, perusing through the thousands of different music boxes and listening to each one intently. I was going to stay there forever if not for the hubby’s constant nagging, “still not done?!” I had to quickly make my decision and bought my favourites home for myself =)

Was supposed to buy a carousel (left) but it was too expensive so I bought the much smaller version (right).
Equally beautiful though. I also bought my all-time favourite, ferris wheel! =)

When I was finally satisfied with my purchases, the hubby and I made our way back to the bus parked at the other end of the road. On the way, we stopped by a seafood stall to buy some BBQ squid to try.

Barbequing on the spot..oishi!

In a blink of an eye, it was time for lunch! Lunch was served at a restaurant at the foot of Mount Tengu, which offers beautiful views of Otaru.

Mount Tengu
Determined to take pictures despite the snow!

By this time, it had already started to snow quite heavily. We were so excited! Although this was not our first experience with snow (the first was on the Swiss Alps of Switzerland), we had never experienced falling snow before! =)

However, the snowy weather meant that we could not ride the cable car to the top of Mount Tengu as planned. But I don’t think anyone was disappointed though.. we were too preoccupied with taking photos! *laughs*

While we were enjoying the snow, our sukiyaki (Japanese hotpot) was waiting for us at the restaurant.

Clockwise from left: Sipping hot Japanese soup in front of a faux fireplace;
Fried Japanese fish with a lot of small bones but I managed to finish relatively easily =);
Noodles and meat inside the soup

Hot soup on a snowing day? Pure shiawase (bliss)! =)

As we couldn’t take the cable car after lunch, Ai san brought us to a sake brewery instead.

Explaining the process of how Japanese sake is made from rice

The quality of the sake produced is highly dependent on the grade of rice that was used to make it. We were also given a chance to sample some of the sake that the brewery has to offer.

One of the staff handing out samples for us to try

Obviously the alcohol-lover hubby bought one bottle. As I don’t drink alcohol (don’t like the taste!), I was more interested in the “well” that dispensed pure spring water for free!

The “well” was more like a tap with a really fancy roof over it

We went to fill up our water bottles despite the heavy rain and even took some photos. Crazy tourists I know! Anyway, the water tasted heavenly! Sometimes the best things in life are often found naturally in nature, just the way God intended it =)

The sky was turning dark at around 3pm (it gets dark really early here in Hokkaido) so we began our 3-hour bus journey to Sounkyo, a town located in the center of Hokkaido.It was a long ride but it felt quite short to me as I spent half the time sleeping and the other half blogging (yes, hard core I know! Had a sudden burst of inspiration that I needed to pen down fast! *laughs*).

We finally arrived at Choyo Resort Hotel, which was also a hot springs hotel.

Choyo Resort Hotel, photo taken the next morning
Our hotel room

The room was furnished with beds unlike the night before but the smell of the tatami floors still gave an authentic Japanese feel to it. The room was very small though; there was hardly any space to lay out our luggage. Nevertheless, the buffet dinner served was much better than the night before, with a greater variety to choose from.

Our dinner buffet, which comes with the hotel stay

We ended the night as usual with a bath at the hot spring, which has the highest sulphur content of all the hot springs we will be visiting/had visited. You could immediately smell the sulphur (similar to the smell of rotting eggs) in the air as you approached the spa, which was a little off-putting to me. But since it was supposedly very good for the skin, I endured the stench and dipped right in!

As the resort was surrounded by a forest, the view from the hot springs spa was breath-taking! The snow adorned the branches of the trees exactly like tinsels on a Christmas tree. It was beautiful =)

However my peaceful admiration of the forest was cut short by the loud and incessant chattering of some middle aged Chinese women, who decided to join me in the outdoor pool not long after I had entered. One even felt the need to sit directly in front of me with all her "womanly glory" displayed! Not a pretty sight at all.. -_-“

I had no choice but to return to the indoor pool (the outdoor pool was simply too small for me to find another corner away from the obasans), which thankfully still allowed us to view the outside through the transparent glass that separated the indoor and outdoor areas. It was not the ideal situation but it will do.

We were so exhausted, I think it was the earliest I ever went to bed ever - at around 9pm, Singapore time! *laughs*

Continue to >> Day 4: Daisetsu, Abashiri, Lake Mashu & Lake Akan
<< Back to Day 1-2: Arrival at Chitose & Jozankei


Visit MADPSYCHMUM TRAVELS for the rest of my posts on Hokkaido, Japan 
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