I was packing my bags to check out when I remembered my aunt talking about a Chinese notice on the coffee table. If I may translate, the heading says be careful, pay attention. Then it goes on to say that if you feel unwell and want to vomit while in the hotel, don’t worry. Please call to get in touch with the receptionist. Staff who cleans the room will show you to the hospital. Please do not leave the room until the staff comes. We beg you. Thank you.
Isn’t it unusual to have such notices? Perhaps soaking too long in the onsen can make you unwell? Anyhow, I didn’t really like the onsen in Choyo Onsen Resort. The rooftop onsen at the sister hotel, Choyotei, may have been better. Too bad the rooms were fully booked.We decided to set off early to beat the crowd of tourists who were also checking out. I figured everyone should be heading out to see the twin waterfalls. And I was right. By the time we arrived, there were already several tour buses. But they didn’t stay for long. Just a group photo in front of the waterfalls. That’s the reason why I don’t go for tour packages. It’s mostly touch and go with little time to explore.
It was absolutely freezing standing there admiring the waterfalls. It wasn’t long before my iphone battery went dead from the cold. Fortunately we brought along a camera to take all the lovely shots.
There were a few instances during our trip when our iphones suddenly shut down in the cold, even when there’s sufficient battery. It was very frustrating especially when we were in the middle of taking photos. If photo taking is important to you, best to use a camera. Another alternative is a Samsung phone because my husband’s Galaxy 5 worked perfectly fine throughout the trip.
From the waterfalls we drove to visit Taisetsu Dam. I first read about it on Good!Hokkaido! and followed the link to the main website. Thought it would be an eye opener to see a frozen lake. Watch out for the turning into the small car park area. It was rather sharp and inconspicuous. We missed it the first time and had to U-turn back. The sun rays shining through the gloomy clouds onto the frozen lake made a beautiful picture. It was still freezing cold so we quickly took a couple of shots, and continued our drive on National Highway 39 to Fujiya confectionery shop that specialises in white bean (白花豆) products. As we entered the town, we saw the Michi-no-Eki (rest stop) sign and stopped for a toilet break. Onneyu Onsen was a rather large roadside rest stop. It was only when I was writing this blog post that I researched about the place and realised it was an attraction in itself. There’s the Kamurin, apparently the world’s largest mechanical tower cuckoo clock. Behind the clock is a building that houses a playground made of wood, a wood craft studio and a shop retailing wooden products.Then there’s the 北の大地の水族館, literally translated as Mountain Aquarium and finally some shops and restaurants.Just a minute drive away from Onneyu Onsen was Fujiya Confectionery. The outside didn’t look appealing and inside, well maybe because it was a Sunday, the products on the shelves and in the chiller didn’t look appetising also, so I simply took a quick look and left.
My original lunch venue was Okhotsk Brewery at Kitami. But after sensing from last night’s dinner that not many in my group fancied beer, I decided on Seiyoken at Tsubetsu. It was a fluke find. I was scouting around on Google Map for an eating place on route to Lake Akan and found this place that had a 4 rating on tabelog. The restaurant’s famous for butadon (pork slices on rice). Everyone tried and loved it except for me and my aunt. We found the meat too fatty. You can read more details about it here. We also ordered the curry pork rice and the katsudon. Both were good although I think the curry in Furano was nicer. We were pleasantly surprised when the restaurant owner came out to send us off. He even warned us of frequent patrol cars catching drivers who speed. True enough, we saw a car and a police car stopped along the road. So do keep to the speed limit especially on the road between Tsubetsu and Lake Akan.
Just before reaching Lake Akan was another Michi-no-Eki, Aioi. Nobody needed a break so we drove on. While planning for this trip, I initially followed bumblebeemum’s itinerary and booked an overnight stay at Hanayuuka. You can find the hotel on the right side of the map, away from the Ainu village. After reading up on more blogs, I decided to change to Lake Akan Tsuruga Wings. One, it’s a short walk to the village, two, it has shops just across, three, the hotel is famous for its buffet spread and four, guests staying can access the very nice onsen at Yuku No Sato, its higher end sister hotel just beside it. Both hotels are connected via a walkway through the lobby.
Tsuruga Wings lobby was like an exhibition of sculptures. I didn’t take much notice but my younger girl took pictures of every single one. At one corner of the lobby was a room with drink vending machines, and beside it was the laundry room. I recalled 3 washers and 3 dryers. Packets of washing detergent can be bought from the front desk.
As you walk from Tsuruga Wings towards Yuku No Sato, you’ll come across a stamp station. Get a card from the basket and stamp away. The words and symbols are in Ainu language. You can choose your favourites or like me, stamp everything.You’ll find along the link-way between the two hotels free flow of onsen eggs, soup and steam potatoes. We gave them a miss as we wanted to save room for the buffet dinner. Over at Yuku No Sato was a short souvenir alley selling mainly food products. I bought a box of financiers produced for the Tsuruga group of hotels. Super rich and buttery.For beautiful shots of Lake Akan, walk out to the back of the hotel. There you’ll find a photo spot overlooking the lake. Walking along the lake towards the jetty you’ll see a pretty big Sapporo Drug Store outlet.
If you’re interested in a Japanese beauty product, test it out in Japan because it’s cheaper. That’s what I did with this Curel brand of facial products recently launched in Singapore by Kao. I bought the trial kit from Sapporo Drug Store. Cost about $10 cheaper than NTUC. I tried it for the next 10 days and since it was good, I bought the full set back.
My group wasn’t very into Ainu crafts and cultural performances so we gave the village a miss and just window shopped the souvenir stores along the road outside our hotel. The hotel staff gave us Marimo Family Coins that apparently could be used to redeem small gifts at participating shops and restaurants. But I only found out when I was writing this post. I did try asking about the coins then but the counter staff could not explain to me in English so I gave up.It took us about 15 mins to walk from the hotel to Pan de Pan, a bakery known for its cream puffs. Along the way, I spotted 3 different drain cover designs.
It was only 4 pm but sadly, everything in the bakery was sold out except for some pieces of buns. The pastries here must really be as good as what I’ve read in the reviews. It was still too early for dinner so we checked out the onsen at Tsuruga Wings.There’s only 1 indoor hot spring bath area with several pools of differing water temperatures. It was ok for the first half hour. Then it got too claustrophobic for me so we changed into our onsen outfit and went straight for dinner at HAPO which means mother in Ainu language. The buffet spread was so extensive that the restaurant provided a map.Although I only took small portions, it’s impossible to try everything. Then again, I might have overindulged in too much gratin and chirashi. Thank goodness there’s always a separate compartment in my tummy for dessert. A final shot of my family room with the tatami beds all laid out properly by housekeeping while we were having our dinner.