Top Recommendations for December in Hokkaido vol. 2
A Hokkaido Curry that You Can Drink!
Not many people seem to know this but, Hokkaido, which is usually known for ramen, is actually known throughout Japan for a unique spin on curry.
As you can infer from its name, soup curry is famous for its soupiness and light texture. Japan’s great northern soul food is believed to have originated as Yakuzen Curry (literally: medicinal curry) in the 1970s at the Sapporo-based cafe Ajanta. But don’t let the word “medicine” scare you away! Soup curry is delicious and unlike any curry you’ve ever had. The soup broth is usually a combination of some medicinal spices and traditional Chinese medicine, topped with chopped vegetables like green peppers, eggplants and kabocha (Japanese pumpkin) mixed with ingredients that vary from restaurant to restaurant, such as chicken leg, beef, shrimp, scallops and more!
Sapporo City is said to be home to over 200 specialty shops, so it won’t be difficult to find your perfect match. Savour this signature cuisine by scooping up the white rice and dipping it into the fragrant soup, or directly pouring the broth directly onto your plate of rice. There are no rules with this one! Just be sure to give it a try and eat it your way!
A Shining Winter Star Lights up Hakodate
Goryokaku is a National Special Historic Site, as well as Japan’s first Western style fortress ever built. From December to February the site will turn into a shining star as a part of the seasonal event, “Hoshi no Yume Illumination.”
Goryokaku Park gets lit up approximately 2,000 lights, amazing visitors with a dream-like ambience. If you want to view the fort from a bird’s-eye-view, here’s a tip – head up to the observation deck of Goryokaku Tower. After indulging in the artistic collaboration of a the snow-white landscape and the glittering star-shaped landmark, don’t forget to write down your winter wishes on a tanzaku (a traditional strip of paper used to write wishes at Japanese festivals). It’s said that your wish will come true if the tanzaku is hung on the Christmas tree inside.
Hoshi no Yume Illumination
Address: 44 Goryokaku Town, Hakodate City, Hokkaido
Venue: Goryokaku Park, Goryokaku Tower
Period: 5:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. (from 1 December 2019 to 9 February 2020) and 5:30 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. (from 10 to 29 of February)
Access: about 15 minutes on foot from Hakodate City Tram Goryokaku Koen Mae Station
The Mysterious Frozen Blue Beauty
Lake Onneto is one of the most mysterious lakes in Hokkaido. In the Ainu language, Onneto means “age-old marsh” which some believe might have been named from the ancient colour of the lake as the Ainu saw it.
Onneto Lake is also known as the “Goshiki Numa” (Five-colour Pond). The water slowly evolves over the seasons from a light cobalt blue till it finally reaches a crisp emerald green totaling five colour variations depending on the season, climate and viewing angle. When the lake surface freezes over from late November to early December, the beautiful contrast of snow-capped mountain ranges in the background and the nearby evergreen forests earns it another yet another name (three names so far, if you’re keeping count) which is “piece of art frozen in blue.” Mount Akan and Mount Meakan-daké make the perfect frame for this picturesque piece of natural art.
If you drive to Lake Onneto, Prefectural Route 949 closes from early December to mid-April for the winter season. Visitors are required to drop off park their cars then walk for about 1km to the lake (snow shoes are highly recommended).
Address: Moashoro, Ashoro Town, Ashoro County, Hokkaido
Access: about 2 hours by car from JR Obihiro Station
NPO Ashoro Tourist Association: http://www.ashoro-kanko.jp/ (Japanese only so use a translation tool)
Gradating Sunset over the Pacific Ocean
Does watching the sun setting over the ocean a from a chic cliff-side café sound like a dream? The Tsubaki Salon Yuyake in Central Hokkaido has it all.
A drive down National Route 235 will bring you to this luxurious 2-storey on the waterfront. The name “Yuyake,” which means sunset in Japanese, specializes in offering front-row seats to the main event. In fact, it closes after the sun has set! The open-concept ceiling and large windows that face out to the ocean offer a panoramic experience of the nearby ocean. So take a window seat and pamper yourself with cakes and seasonal parfaits, or brave the cold and head out onto the terrace to enjoy drinks and desserts during peak hours – either way the beautiful landscape the beautiful landscape bathed in the orange-blue gradation is well worth the visit.
Tsubaki Salon Yuyake
Address: Okaribe 77-1, Niikappu Town, Niikappu County, Hokkaido
Hours: 11:00 a.m. – after the sun sets
Access: about 15 minutes on foot from JR Okaribe Station
Heavenly Flowers of Frost Blooming on Lake Akan
Every winter, on the surface of Lake Akan, a most mysterious flowers blooms.
Frost flowers are formed when water vapor crystallizes across the surface of the frozen lake. As these fragile, feather-like flowers melt easily when the temperature rises, this natural phenomenon can only be witnessed within the short window of time before 10 a.m. between December to March. Even then, these delicate flowers only bloom on days temperature is below -15°C, there is no wind, snow hasn’t accumulated on the surface of the lake. Sounds pretty tricky, right? Here’s a pro-tip: it’s easier to spot these crystalline beauties between February and March, so plan your trip accordingly.
The East Hokkaido Express Bus offers easy access to Lake Akan during the winter. Just make sure you get up early enough to catch this natural wonder!
Frost Flowers in Lake Akan
Address: 2-6-20 Akanko Onsen, Akan Town, Kushiro City, Hokkaido
Access: about 90 minutes by car from JR Kushiro Station
SUPER FANTASTIC Kushiro Lake Akan website: https://en.kushiro-lakeakan.com/
East Hokkaido Express Bus: https://easthokkaido.com/en/expressbus_winter/
Express bus operates everyday from 25th January 2020 to 8th March 2020 (except some bus routes), advance ticket reservation required
An Exquisite Ice Castle in Asahikawa
While this might look like a seen out of a movie about a princess finding love, it is in fact a museum! But the Snow Crystal Museum in Asahikawa is no ordinary museum.
With a goal of sharing the beauty of snow and ice all year round with as many people as possible, visitors to the Snow Crystal Museum are greeted with a massive spiral staircase leading down to an underground ice world. Start your adventure by immersing yourself in the Corridor of Ice surrounded by icicle-columns that are 6-metre-high, 62-metre-wide, and then feast your eyes on the mural paintings of the Music Hall and the Snow Crystal Museum’s stained-glass snow crystals. Anyone looking for that perfect social media shot can find it in the princess/prince dress-up experience. Experience your own royal fantasies by getting your perfect picture taken in the Middle Age-themed ambience.
Snow Crystal Museum
Address: 3-1-1 Minamigakiga, Asahikawa, Hokkaido
Hours: 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Access: about 15 minutes by bus from Asahikawashi Ichijo Nanachome Bus Stop in front of Premium Hotel CABIN, get off at the Takasagodai Bus Stop and then walk 10 minutes.
Tour guide: https://en.visit-hokkaido.jp/spot/detail.php?id=189