Hokkaido [The island of everything good in the north]

In the summer of 2018 we finally got to visit Hokkaido in the summer for the ultimate escape-from-the reality-of-a-Tokyo-Summer escape!

We traveled with my parents and took a tent and a trusty camper van around the island. We were on the road for a total of 7 days and loved every single one! We also managed to squeeze in a trip to a wind chime festival in Tokyo (at Nishiarai Daishi, 1-15-1 Nishiarai, Adachi-ku, Tokyo) before we took off on the adventure.

Apologies for all the photos in one hit, they are in vague chronological order! Details of our itinerary follow for those who are thinking (and should definitely go) of making their own trip.

Day One: We flew into Sapporo from Tokyo, and took the limousine bus to Fuji Care Rental. We also visited a nearby camping store to pick up some fuel for our hiking stoves we packed to take along on the trip. We had delicious gingery ramen at Menya Saimi in the outskirts of Sapporo before making our way to Koyama Reservoir Nature Park Auto Camping Area. This is a paid campsite for which I would recommend making a booking.

For those following on the map below, we started at Sapparo and largely went anti-clockwise around the island.

Day Two: We planned on visiting the  nearby Yunichofushimidai Park but it was a raining, so we stopped in at the town of the Obihiro which was en route to our next campsite for a spot of ten pin bowling and arcade game fun. We slept at the most perfect free campsite – Kitoshi Camping Ground. It was touch and go as to whether we brave the elements given the rain and the exposed campsite, but I am so glad we made it work! The morning of day three was magical!

Day Three: Waking up the fog and misty rains had gone, so we had an explore along a few walking tracks that followed the coastline. We then packed up camp and headed to the Lake Mashuu Observatory where we also ate some lunch. We then drove on and took the Shiretoko Pass to the paid Shiretoko Campground. We onsened (the benefits of a public bathing system) and had dinner at a local izakaya before calling it a night!

Day Four: Shiretoko was properly cold, given the sweltering conditions in Tokyo! The down jackets and vests we thought we wouldn’t need definitely made an appearance here! We went for an explore along the board walk near Shiretoko Five Lakes. Sadly for us, the misty fogs had once again descended so we snapped a picture of us pretending to be mountains and drove onto the delightful free (and bear-free) campsite at the Chimikeppuko Camping Ground.

Day Five: We packed up camp reluctantly and made our way for the Daisetsuzan Sonkyo Kurodake ropeway for an explore of the national park. Afterwards we headed to Asahikawa in the North of Hokkaido. We negotiated the technicalities of using a free municipal campsite at Kamuinomori Park Campsite (the difficulty was we had a campervan and a tent and the two could not be located together). We decided to take the opportunity to visit Takasago Onsen Hotel to use their laundromat and bathing facilities. We can not recommend this highly enough – multiple indoor and rooftop bathing options at different temperatures, and in the men’s onsen their is a waterslide for the kids and big men to use! We also test out the locally famous Aoba Ramen shop for our fill of hot noodly goodness!

Day Six: We decided to give Shirogane Blue Pond a miss as we had too much fun playing at the awesome free playground at our campsite. Instead, once we packed up we headed straight to Farm Tomita and Tomita Melon House – two places so full of lavender and melon you will not want either again for at least six months! We managed to squeeze in some delicious Ghengis Khan for lunch at Hitsujinooka and convince the owner we could squeeze into his campsite next door for the night. Our backup campsite was Sato at the Shinzen Yamaba Park sun, a little south of Furano. In the afternoon we explored the Furano Glass Factory and the nearby Jam Factory (both were okay but I would not highly recommend). We also visited the Furano Cheese Factory which was great! It also had hot pizza, delicious soft serve (which we ate nearly one of each day of the trip) and local wine. Disclaimer: try the wine for the novelty, but don’t expect anything great!

Day Seven: We made our way back to Sapporo and of course couldn’t pass up the opportunity to have Sumire Ramen before returning to Tokyo!

If you are thinking of going camping, see the map below for the details of campsites in Hokkaido. For most of these, some level of Japanese is best so you can call up in advance and check they are open and if there’s room.

Google translate on some of the websites does help. In addition to all the normal camping gear, the one specific piece of gear we recommend for Japan is a fire pit like this one – as you are not allowed direct fire most of the time.

Once again, I fully recommend the Wild Camping Japan Facebook group! The map built by members is a great starting point – although it should be noted that not ALL those campsites are legitimate places you can get away with camping unless you are erecting your tent in the dark and packing up early.

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