A last shot of the mountains and snow from our room at Tower Tomamu before we checked out. For our final breakfast, we tried the other buffet restaurant, HAL. Go early to get window seats overlooking beautiful snow covered pine trees.The spread here was good. There’s an egg station for freshly cooked omelettes, a wide variety of delicious breads and pancakes with unique toppings like matcha cream. My family was so engrossed in trying the different breads that we forgot to take photos.There was still time to explore so we took a walk outside. My husband was hoping we could catch a glimpse of the Ice Village which would only open tomorrow. Alas, it was still under construction but we had a lovely walk in the snow.It was time to bid farewell to Tomamu. And after two days of parking in the open, we were greeted with this…It took a while to clear off the snow before we could set off. It’s a long drive from Tomamu to our next rest stop, Noboribetsu. Along the way, we took a lunch and shopping break at Chitose RERA Outlet Mall.It started snowing heavily when we were reaching the mall. The roads and pavements were totally covered in white and we couldn’t make out the turning into the car park. As RERA was an open mall, much like Johor Premier Outlets, the parking was outdoors and there were several entrances into the mall. We circled around before we found a car park nearest to a mall entrance.
Where possible, avoid outdoor places during winter. The other outlet mall, Mitsui Outlet Park Sapporo Kitahiroshima, was indoors but it was not along the way from Tomamu to Noboribetsu. I could have changed my itinerary and just stopped for lunch at Log House Waygu Bibi Restaurant or Ajidokoro Teppei （味処 てっ平. Then on my way from Noboribetsu to Sapporo, shop at Mitsui.
We braved the cold and hurried into the mall. It was sheltered but the cold winds still blew in from the sides. Thank goodness it was warm inside the shops.
I spent most of my time at GAP. The rest of the shops were mostly Japanese fashion brands which I wasn’t familiar with. We tried the Adidas outlet but the selection was limited and the designs weren’t great. We found nicer ones at ABC Mart and bought a pair.
The other shop worth visiting, especially if you’re into food, is Kuze Fuku. We were initially drawn to it because of the gelato and the tofu doughnut. The gelato was good but the doughnut was especially yummy. These 2 items were just their counter products. Inside the store was a whole array of food stuff – rice crackers, sauces, jams, wines, dried noodles. There were so many stuff we wanted to buy. In the end, I bought 2 bottles of jam. Red tea, my favourite and strawberry yuzu for a dear friend.Lunch was at Food Forest, a typical Japanese food court. Most of my group members ordered from Steak Mountain but my husband spotted…Roast beef rice topped with a raw egg and smothered with sauce. It looked so appetising that we ordered 2 bowls to share and polished off everything.The stall name was ローストビーフ星. I did some research and they have branches all over Japan but I just couldn’t find the holding company website to put a link.
My younger girl wanted green tea so we went to Family Mart, our favourite chain of convenience stores when we visited Tokyo and Osaka last year. We didn’t spot it this trip. It was mostly 7-Eleven, Lawsons and Seico Mart. I thought I had tried almost all the flavours of red tea, so imagine my delight when I found a maple syrup one at Family Mart. It was hot and sweet. Super good on a cold day.It started snowing again while we were just finishing our lunch. The scene looked so Christmasy.Little did we realise that while we were admiring the snowfall, a snowstorm was taking place close by that would cause a major upset to our traveling plan.The drive from RERA to Hotel Mahoroba in Noboribetsu was simple. Just get onto the Hokkaido Expressway and we’ll reach within an hour. Unfortunately, the snowstorm caused a huge part of the expressway to be closed so everyone was forced to travel by the coastal road.It wasn’t that much of a detour actually but with the sheer number of cars and lots of traffic lights, the 2 hour car ride turned out to almost 5 hours. One of the worse things that could happen during a traffic jam is when nature calls. Thank God we were near the Lake Utonai Michi-no-Eki, so we pulled over to use the toilets.One good thing about the GPS unit in our car was its ability to match real time traffic conditions with which roads to take. As we moved bumper to bumper, I kept checking the GPS to see if the expressway was opened. Finally, after Shiraoi, I noticed the green light on the GPS indicating that the expressway was cleared for use. My husband quickly navigated from route 36 to route 86 and got up the ramp onto Hokkaido Expressway. From there it was pretty fast. The only downside was driving in pitch darkness. There were no street lamps. The only light was our headlights and the few brightly lit tunnels that we had to drive through. We really thanked God for journey mercy when we finally reached our hotel. We only had an hour left before the buffet dinner closed, so we left our luggage in the lobby and hurried to the dining hall. Hotel Mahoroba is famous for its crab buffet. Those in my group who love crabs had a great feast. I was too tired to eat much but I did try as many desserts as I could.Everyone was wiped out so no onsen but straight to bed for a good night rest. My family took a traditional Japanese room that can sleep 4 on futons. The rest took Western twin rooms.