Day 4, Mon 5 Dec 16 – Kushiro

After yesterday’s disappointing onsen experience at Tsuruga Wings, we woke up at 6 am to visit the rooftop onsen at Yuku No Sato. It was totally worth waking up early for. We first warmed ourselves in the indoor pools then braved the cold up the stairs to the rooftop pool. tsuruga-outdoor-onsen1

taken from the hotel photo gallery
It was just turning bright when we went up. Everywhere was foggy due to the steam rising from the hot spring bath. The temperature of the outdoor pool was just right, and coupled with the crisp fresh morning air, made it a great onsen experience.

Breakfast was back at HAPO. I had waffles again. This time with maple syrup accompanied with fresh juices. All 4 flavours – banana, tomato, spinach and carrot were refreshingly good. 20161204_231243987_iosBefore leaving Lake Akan, we topped up the petrol for the long drive ahead. There’s only one petrol kiosk right when we entered the town from Aioi yesterday.

Travel Tip:

Petrol kiosk is known as gas station in Japan. I tried asking for directions at the hotel reception but the staff couldn’t understand the word petrol. I had to act as though I was driving and pumping petrol before he uttered the word gasoline and asked if I meant a gas station.

The road out of Lake Akan went pass Pan de Pan so we made a stop hoping they have the cream puffs and they did! I bought 3 Mt Oakan (custard cream), 3 Mt Meakan (bitter caramel custard cream) and 2 pots of miso pudding. Now I know why they were sold out at 4 pm yesterday. They were really good, especially the pudding with its ultra smooth texture. I didn’t taste any miso though, more like caramel. 20161205_073940159_ios20161205_092312211_ios20161205_091957925_iosJust before entering Mashu town, we stopped for toilet break at the Michi-no-Eki, Mashu Onsen. Aside from the usual tourist information, there’s a pavilion with a foot bath that’s free for public use. There’s also a soup curry restaurant, Tsujiyashokudou, within the compound. 20161205_013710973_iosAlong the way to Lake Mashu’s 1st Observatory, we made a stop at Sweets Plaza owned by Hokkaido HASE Confectionery company. While researching for this leg of the journey, I came across this shop and was instantly attracted by pictures of their Russian doll packaging. Unfortunately, it was closed when we arrived so we drove on to Lake Mashu. But I got to buy it when my aunt found it on sale at the Lake Mashu souvenir shop. The chocolate coated sponge cake with strawberry jam wasn’t exceptional. Lesson learnt: Cute packaging doesn’t mean great taste. More often than not, it’s the plain looking ones that are good.      

The clouds and mist were rolling in when we got to the observation deck. We managed to catch a glimpse of the lake before it started to drizzle and we quickly took shelter at the souvenir store.20161205_020727986_ios20161205_020734857_iosThe store was pretty big. We bought some hot snacks and walked around the store trying tidbit samples. It was here that we discovered LeTAO’s Premier Maalu, a combination of wheat, chocolate, almond, raspberry and strawberry. The ingredients may sound ordinary and the packaging look boring but it’s one of our top 3 favourite Hokkaido snacks. My dad loved it so much that he bought 3 boxes. I told him to buy later from Otaru or at the airport but he was worried it wouldn’t be on sale.                                       まああるメインAnother yummy snack was Kinotoya Sapporo Agricultural College Milk Cookies made of 100% Hokkaido milk, butter and wheat flour. If you fancy butter shortbread, then this is the one. Sapporo Agricultural CollegeIt was still raining when we finished our shopping. The mist had gotten so thick that the pass leading to Lake Mashu 3rd Observatory was closed. We had no choice but to back track and go by another road to Mt Iozan. akan-to-kushiro-mapimg_2171It was too cold to trek up to the sulphur pits so we all hid in the Iozan Rest House and ate hard boiled eggs. Great trick peeling eggs using masking tape. No burnt fingers and no mess.20161205_032206272_iosA short drive from Mt Iozan was Cream Dowa (くりーむ童話). The homemade ice-cream had great reviews and one of its flavours, sakura mochi won a gold award. We chatted with the owner and discovered he was in Singapore recently for the Isetan Hokkaido Fair.20161205_041345082_iosThe selection was limited but we still chose the 5 scoops special because we wanted to try as many flavours as possible. Clockwise from the top – strawberry, matcha, milk, pumpkin and sakura mochi. Turned out the award winning flavour was the least nice.   20161205_125440Driving in winter wasn’t easy as I wrote in my winter travel post so we gave Lake Kussharo a miss and headed to Kumaushi Butadon Restaurant for lunch instead. I chose it over soup curry at Mashu Onsen roadside rest stop since Kumaushi was more on the way.20161205_043639805_iOS.jpgThe restaurant was in the middle of nowhere along the Pilot Highway. The place seemed to be run by a husband and wife team and we were the only customers. This was our second butadon meal. Instead of stir fry, the meat here was grilled over charcoal. Very nice bbq taste and the sauce wasn’t too sweet. You could choose to have a butadon and soba combo.20161205_050643710_ios

Travel Tip:

Check out Tabelog for full details of any food establishments. Photos, directions, opening hours and reviews (in Japanese) are all listed there.

It was non-stop driving from Kumaushi to Kushiro. I was hoping to catch the sunset over the marshland at Hosooka Viewpoint but it was a rather big detour and everyone was tired after a long day of traveling. Well, we didn’t get to see the marshland but we drove into a gorgeous sunset. And it was still in the horizon when we checked into Crown Plaza ANA Kushiro.20161205_064108188_ios 20161205_073018241_iOS.jpgThe twin room at ANA was spacious. It came with bottled water, free phone chargers, air humidifier and a set of Shiseido samples. img_2252I chose the hotel for its proximity to Fisherman’s Wharf MOO that has something like a food court which could easily accommodate 10 people for dinner. The shopping complex was just across the road from ANA. We went early to check out the shops on level 1. Sadly, there were only a few shops selling the usual Hokkaido food products, a bakery and a few fresh seafood stalls. What caught my attention was the Japan Post outlet and the limited edition rooster KitKat displayed on the counter. I read about it on rocketnews24 and wanted to get as gifts. Despite the lack of shopping options at MOO, I was glad it had a post office.20161205_133718517_iosThe food court was on the second floor. I was looking forward to eating fried chicken, whale sashimi and sanmanma recommended by kimi and bumblebeemum.  To our great disappointment, the whole place was deserted except for a table of high school students. Only 1 stall was open, I think it was selling sashimi. We concluded that it may be a winter practice to close shop early or not to open at all. So where to get dinner?img_2259img_2260

Travel Tips:

  1. Convenience stores are one of my favourite places in Japan. They have tasty and affordable food (my family’s favourite is oden), tempting desserts, a great selection of hot and cold drinks (Lawson’s cafe latte is comparable to those sold at coffee houses), emergency supplies (bought a packet of 7-11 plasters for blisters as a result of too much walking), exclusive merchandise like Ippudo instant noodles and magazines. 20161206_235709256_ios20161207_000013645_ios
  2. Talking about magazines, I got to know through travel requests on Airfrov that many of them come with free gifts. So for this trip, I specially looked out for them in convenience stores and book shops, and bought a total of 9.I can’t read Japanese but it was still interesting to see the fashion styles and products featured. I left a trail of magazines in the hotel rooms and only took the gifts. They make great Christmas presents. So check them out when you visit Japan. Oh, in case you’re wondering about the cost, the price ranges from 800 to 900 yen. You can get them at Kinokuniya Singapore but they cost around $20.

    Kinokuniya @ JEM, Singapore

5 Comments Add yours

  1. Thank you for linking up. Would love to try that butadon restaurant the next time I’m in the region! I miss Hokkaido’s buta don. And Pan de Pan’s confectionery. Didn’t know Cream Douwa was here in Singapore! How funny that the award-winning ice-cream was the least yummy.. I guess it’s like how I can’t appreciate award-winning movies and rather watch brainless thrillers.


    1. cinleehan says:

      Hokkaido is becoming a very popular destination for Singaporeans. We now have a tourist office here and frequent food fairs. I hope more establishments will open their outlets here but quality and taste somehow can’t compare. Like the BAKE cheese tarts and Butahage. Although LeTAO double fromage taste alike. I guess the best bet is when they set up stall at food fair. Most probably the food products will be made in Hokkaido and shipped in.


  2. David says:

    As an alternative to Airfrov, check out PiggyBee (, crowdsourced delivery pioneer since 2012.


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