Day 4 afternoon: Otaru Canal

Otaru’s famous attraction, other than the beautiful view from the top of Tengu Mountain, is the Otaru Canal. The city of Otaru faces the Ishikari Bay; historically, Otaru was served as a port and the canal carried many goods. Later on there was talk of destroying the canal, but the villagers thought it helped them a lot so they saved part of it that we still see today. The Victorian style lamps by the canal have become a symbol of the canal itself now, and it’s a very romantic place for couples to visit!

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They also sell delicious soft serve ice cream nearby… Shiroi Koibito flavour! Hokkaido’s famous cookies. Creamy and just sweet enough, it was much better than the milk flavoured one!

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Shiroi Koibito for those who don’t know what it is:

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Hokkaido has many souvenirs to buy, mostly food. There’s also a famous rum raisin butter cookie sandwich from 六花亭, Yubari melon candies, Hokkaido milk candies, and unique caramel flavours such as corn and potato!

Otaru also has many cute shops, most notably their glass workshop and their music box museum, shown below:

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There is a steam clock right outside the museum, and MilkTea noticed that there was an engraving of Vancouver, Canada near the bottom of the clock! Upon closer inspection, we saw the plaque that explained why! Turned out that the clock was made by a horologist from Vancouver, and it was cast from the original wood casting of the Gastown steam clock in Vancouver, Canada! It felt nice to see a little piece of home in a foreign place. :) I have two homes: Vancouver and Taipei. Sometimes I feel like I don’t belong in either place!

Inside the music box museum:

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Delicious cheesecake place in Otaru called LeTAO:

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I got to try a sample of their most famous cheesecake, the double fromage. Delicious and creamy. There were two layers, so two different textures, and double the cheese! MilkTea found a place in Taipei that serves LeTAO! We plan to go there someday.

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Otaru is quite a cute city, and it was too bad that we couldn’t stay there for longer! I think I could’ve spent the whole day there. There was so much I wanted to see, but not enough time!

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Day 4 morning: Mount Tengu

So I’ve been procrastinating on updating my Hokkaido trip, but I promise you… I’m almost done!!!

So on Day 4, we headed to Mount Tengu in Otaru. Apparently this place is a must-visit if you go to Hokkaido, because on a clear day, you can see the whole city from the top of the mountain! So, we took the gondola up to the top of the mountain on this fine Sunday, and what did we see… yep, you guessed it, we couldn’t see a thing. The fog covered everything. It was really unfortunate how the weather had to be so horrible on our trip.

I’ll just show you guys pictures from our ride up because at the top, there really was nothing to see.

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I visited Taipei’s maokong gondola this past weekend and I must say that the ride was a lot more fun than Mount Tengu’s gondola. I’ll blog about that in a later post as well!

Day 3 afternoon: Nixe Marine Park

On the afternoon of our third day in Hokkaido, we travelled to the Nixe Marine Park. This park features a European styled castle as its main attraction, complete with a bridge and moat.

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Inside the castle was their aquarium, and I thought the most interesting part about this aquarium was their touch pools. In addition to having the usual animals (sea stars, urchins, cucumbers, etc.), this aquarium also had a stingray and dogfish touch pool, and a horseshoe crab touch pool. I thought horseshoe crabs were supposed to be a protected species?! It was quite neat to get the chance to touch a living fossil though, even though I think those animals probably get quite stressed out.

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The park offers sea lion shows, penguin marches, and dolphin shows. We didn’t feel like watching the sea lion one so we wandered around the aquarium until it was time for the penguin one. We all gathered around outside the aquarium while a trainer walked 5 penguins down the street. There was 1 male, and 4 females following closely behind. The male was so proud and held his head really high! What an adorable sight to see. The penguins walked around waddling and shaking their fat bottoms. Grandma loves penguins and that was her favourite part of the whole day!

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After the penguin march, we watched the dolphin show. The dolphins were really smart and performed numerous tricks like swimming around the tank really fast, hitting a big beach ball with their flippers, and waving “bye bye” with their flippers and fins.

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I think it’s cute when these animals perform, but at the same time it’s also quite sad. They are performing for our pleasure, and they’re kept captive for our entertainment. After taking an animal welfare course back in university, I have mixed feelings about zoos and aquariums. On one hand, it’s more than entertainment now, as there is now educational outreach involved as well. On the other hand, certain animals are captured from the wild, which leads to diminishing populations and a concern in terms of conservation. I just hope that most places have good regulations in place to avoid or minimize the impact of these concerns!

Day 3 morning: Northern Horse Park

Sorry for the slow updates, but I did so much in Hokkaido that I have to break everything down, otherwise I won’t feel like writing, and nobody will feel like reading.

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So anyway, on the morning of Day 3 we travelled to Northern Horse Park, where they offer recreational activities for tourists such as horseback riding, horse drawn carriage rides, archery, and biking. We got to pick three activities out of the four. I already knew what I wanted to do: horseback riding, archery, and biking.

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Grandma, mom, and uncle wanted to go on the carriage ride. It took them for a 15 minute tour around the park.

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The horse I rode is named Gold Rush. It was basically a short two minute ride around a dirt track. It wasn’t too exciting, and there was someone holding onto the rope the entire time. MilkTea was a bit disappointed because she’s always wanted to try horseback riding, but this didn’t match up to her expectations.

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Next, we tried our hand at archery. The goal was to hit the balloons, but the arrows provided all had rubber tips, so even if they hit the balloons, the balloons don’t pop. It’s kid-friendly archery. Again, not too exciting.

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Archery is really good exercise though. I took an archery lesson once back in Canada with FanGirl, and learned that I was left eye dominant, so I should actually shoot like a lefty. I wanted to try shooting with a right-handed bow though because it felt more natural to me. It was awkward because it’s more natural for me to pull back the string with a right-handed bow, but then I end up having difficulty looking at the target because I naturally use my left eye.

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Last, we rented a bike to take in the view around the park. We decided on a tandem bike, but not the usual tandem bikes. I can’t balance properly on the regular tandem bikes, and they always turn out to be a disaster for me. The tandem bikes we rented were stable, but they were slow!! The park was beautiful though. We even witnessed a wasp attack and take down a dragonfly before flying the body somewhere to consume or lay eggs in it… Very fascinating!

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Day 2 evening: Yubari

On the evening of Day 2 we arrived at a hotel in Yubari, a city in Hokkaido famous for their melons. The city is surrounded by mountains. Yubari was founded as a coal mining city, and when all the coal ran out, the people left with it. Their population is roughly at 10,000 now. They then switched to growing melons, and it’s grown all year round, in greenhouses during the fall and winter.

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We had all-you-can-eat Yubari melons for dinner, then after dinner, we decided to go on a little adventure around our hotel to experience night life in Yubari.

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There was no night life to speak of. The place was dead, and it was only 8:30pm. We saw three people on our walk, and they were part of our tour. Otherwise, we didn’t see a living soul on the streets. There were a couple of people working overtime in an office. The whole scene was quite sad. Many staff in the hotel looked like they should have retired a long time ago, and because most of the lights were off in the houses, we guessed that it was mostly older people who lived in them. All the young blood are leaving Yubari for better job prospects in bigger cities. The town will cease to exist soon if things continue the way they do.

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This was an abandoned hospital that we passed by. It felt especially creepy at night.

Day 2 Afternoon: Hill of Four Colourful Seasons

In the afternoon of day 2, we visited another famous floral farm in Furano called “四季彩之丘”, which translates to “Hills of Four Colourful Seasons”.

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This is a privately owned farm, but they don’t collect an entrance fee to visit. It is a popular tourist spot in Furano for their beautiful patchwork flower fields, and if the weather was nice, we were going to rent bikes. Unfortunately for us though, it rained. Boo to bad weather! The yellow building contains an indoor market and a souvenir store. Some of the more interesting things that they sell include alpaca milk candy (I was tempted to try!), edible raw corn, deer antlers, and canned deer meat.

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A lot of people like to shoot wedding photos here in the summer, because the flowers are very beautiful here, especially their lavender! In the picture above, you can see the patchwork design of the floral fields. They also offer wagon tours of the farm if you pay a fee (~1000 yen I believe).

If the weather was nice, it’s possible to spend two hours here. All the pictures taken among the flowers would look like they came straight out of magazine. That’s how beautiful this place is. Alas, the sun wasn’t on our side. Next time, perhaps.

Day 2 morning: Farm Tomita

Hokkaido is such a wonderful place. It isn’t crowded at all, so it’s a nice escape for those who are looking to get away from the city for a bit. Even the capital Sapporo isn’t as overwhelming as Taipei.

On our second day in Hokkaido, we travelled to Farm Tomita, located in Furano, which some refers to as Japan’s Provence for their magnificent lavender fields. Unfortunately lavender bloom earlier in the summer, around May, so we were only able to see lavender in the greenhouse. The day that we visited was grey and cloudy. However, the rainbow fields at Farm Tomita was beautiful, even with the horrible weather.

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I have heard that the lavender soft serve was a must-try when visiting Furano, and I was not disappointed. I have always loved lavender food products such as lavender earl grey, lavender macarons, and now I can add lavender soft serve to that list as well!

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Hokkaido is famous for their milk products, so it’s no wonder that their soft serve ice cream is so good.