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Hakodate (might be wishful thinking!)

Hakodate (might be wishful thinking!)

Old Aug 17, 20, 1:28 pm
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Hakodate (might be wishful thinking!)

Next summer, provided the world is some state of normal, I plan to attend a week of Olympics in Tokyo and now find myself wondering what to do with a few days at the end of my trip (originally I was going to go elsewhere in Asia, but I have decided to remain in Japan to minimize any visa /testing issues that might exist). I have been to Japan before, and seen sights in Hakone, Koya-san, Kyoto, Osaka, and the Tokyo area. So I was contemplating somewhere quite different. Originally I had looked at Sapporo, but realized that my dates coincide with the marathon / race walks, so the city is likely to be busier than usual, and I am looking for quieter and calm after the hecticness of the Olympics! So through nothing more than looking at a map I stumbled on Hakodate, which seems to be a nice city. A quick search here sees a few fans of the city as well. I am thinking of 4 nights (3 full days of sightseeing) and wondered if anyone had suggestions of what to do / see (I have looked at the usual tripadvisor recommendations, but it is nice to hear a personal viewpoint). I think I'd like to go to the Cape T (sorry, I forget the full name) as I love wild coastal scenery and up the ropeway to the top of the mountain. I would like to visit an onsen too, ideally one that is outdoor and has sea views as that would be very different to my other onsen experiences. I don't plan to hire a car, so am also looking for someone central / with good transit options to stay - a nice 4/5 * would be good, ideally with larger rooms, non smoking, and sea views. I'll fly in/out of the city, and am comfortable (ish!) taking public transport in Japan. Not adverse to taking a taxi if necessary. I am also thinking of TAQ-I-BANing one suitcase from my Tokyo hotel to the Hakodate hotel, and am getting confused as to how long that might take - I see an express next day delivery, but is that only packages (rather than suitcases?) I recall it took 2 days from Tokyo to Kyoto last time I did it, but not sure if a next day is an option, or if it is even longer to Hokkaido. Many thanks! Let's hope this trip can actually happen!
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Old Aug 17, 20, 3:00 pm
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Originally Posted by emma69 View Post
...Hakodate,... I would like to visit an onsen too, ideally one that is outdoor and has sea views as that would be very different to my other onsen experiences.
Recommend Yunokawa Onsen for onsen around Hakodate. Can reach from central area of Hakodate to Yunokawa by city tram, from JR Hakodate station to Yunokawa by a tram is about 30 min. ride.

There are four hotels/ryokan right by the ocean at Yunokawa Onsen, some websites are in Japanese only but pictures on the website will give some idea about onsen with ocean view.

Imagine Hotel and Resorts Hakodate
Yunokawa Prince Hotel Nagisatei
Yunohama Hotel
Wakamatsu Ryokann
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Old Aug 17, 20, 8:24 pm
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Hakodate has aesthetic cityscape as you'll recognize from various vantage points up along the slopes of Hakodate Mtn (one that ropeway goes to), offers unique visuals with trolley cars and some interesting architecture, and of course has the morning seafood market which is its number 1 attraction. Onuma is a picturesque national park area worth checking out and that's nearby.
Having said all of this, there's not a whole lot to see/do there and it is not a big town like Sapporo with tons of shopping and food. So I think you might find 4 nights in Hakodate to be a bit much. If you're more about sightseeing, then I think a couple days would be sufficient for Hakodate. But if you're content to just chill out and enjoy a much cooler weather than Tokyo or Osaka, Hakodate would be good.

The seafood market mostly closes down in early afternoon, I believe, and then the area around Hakodate Station really would not have much going on. There at least used to be a department store a couple blocks away, but that one went out of business. The area near Goryokaku where the trolley takes a turn is more happening.
Nonetheless I would recommend you still stay near Hakodate Station, as it's close to the station, market, walkable to the bay area complex, and many bus lines depart from there.
Yunokawa Onsen would be Hakodate's onsen, and there are some onsen hotels that face the ocean. But I will tell you that the whole area is sort of a non-descript residential area and the seaside lodging would likely be sitting on a busy highway. It is not like Hakone or Kusatsu. Nonetheless, if it's me, give me any onsen with a view and I know I would enjoy it.

With the virus in the mix, I don't know how the morning market is like. It probably is nothing like what it's always been.

If the Olympics do indeed occur, I would expect the takuhai service (luggage forwarding) to be even slower than usual. You should not count on 2-day delivery from Tokyo to Hokkaido. I feel like the service is becoming slower with less and less guarantees during peak periods. I think it's because of more tourists (pre-Covid) and Amazon Prime and all that. 10 years ago, the expectation was same-day delivery from Narita to greater Tokyo as long as it was like early afternoon or earlier. These days during peak periods they won't guarantee anything, not even next-day delivery from NRT to Tokyo. Shipping from Saitama to NRT, they advise shipping at least 3 days in advance during peak period. So who knows about Hokkaido. And Olympics would definitely be a peak period.
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Old Aug 17, 20, 8:32 pm
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I agree with [@evergrn] that 4 nights in Hakodate only would be a bit long. Perhaps a night (or two) up at Noboribetsu / Lake Toya (~2.5 hr trip one way so not too far away) would be interesting.
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Old Aug 18, 20, 7:36 am
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I hired a car and so only spent and afternoon/evening in Hakodate before moving on around lunchtime. Charming little place, but I agree with the above that four days is going to be too much if you wish to be actively sightseeing. If you want to just chill out with a little sightseeing spread across four days, then it would be grand.
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Old Aug 18, 20, 7:45 am
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Thank you all for your advice, I will start looking at some of your suggestions. I think I will be able to entertain myself for 4 nights, the current plan is at least 2 sports events a day in Tokyo, so I am probably going to be exhausted, so not doing very much works. I did look at Noboribetsu, but decided just one location (especially given I will have two suitcases) would be more relaxing. Are there any beaches in the area where one can sit with a book (I don't need facilities)? An afternoon doing that, with a bit of a paddle definitely appeals (but that could also be the COVID talking, I haven't been in the sea for nearly a year!)
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Old Aug 18, 20, 1:34 pm
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Originally Posted by emma69 View Post
I did look at Noboribetsu, but decided just one location (especially given I will have two suitcases) would be more relaxing. Are there any beaches in the area where one can sit with a book (I don't need facilities)? An afternoon doing that, with a bit of a paddle definitely appeals (but that could also be the COVID talking, I haven't been in the sea for nearly a year!)
I think Onuma will be good for that, although there may not be a beach per se along the lake.
It's a nice area, and you should be able to rent canoes/kayaks there.

As far as beaches, though, Hakodate has a beach area called Nanaehama (had to look it up). It doesn't look that great to me, though.

I too love Noboribetsu, so much so that I first went in 2015 and have already been close to 10x since. But I do understand the hassle of changing hotels.
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Old Aug 18, 20, 8:23 pm
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Look at flights in lieu of trains. A dummy booking (June 7-12 Haneda to Hakodate and return) on the ANA website shows a roundtrip cost of $212. That would make luggage handling much easier.
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Old Aug 19, 20, 8:00 am
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Originally Posted by Kalakala View Post
Look at flights in lieu of trains. A dummy booking (June 7-12 Haneda to Hakodate and return) on the ANA website shows a roundtrip cost of $212. That would make luggage handling much easier.
Definitely plan to fly. The problem is that even business class (they didn't seem to operate first class on this route with the two airlines I looked at) only allows 20kg of luggage and charge quite a bit more for excess (I will have two suitcases, and allowed 32kg each on my international legs, although it probably won't be quite that much).
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Old Aug 19, 20, 8:01 am
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Originally Posted by evergrn View Post
I think Onuma will be good for that, although there may not be a beach per se along the lake.
It's a nice area, and you should be able to rent canoes/kayaks there.

As far as beaches, though, Hakodate has a beach area called Nanaehama (had to look it up). It doesn't look that great to me, though.

I too love Noboribetsu, so much so that I first went in 2015 and have already been close to 10x since. But I do understand the hassle of changing hotels.
Thank you, I will take a look!
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Old Aug 19, 20, 8:36 pm
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Originally Posted by emma69 View Post
Definitely plan to fly. The problem is that even business class (they didn't seem to operate first class on this route with the two airlines I looked at) only allows 20kg of luggage and charge quite a bit more for excess (I will have two suitcases, and allowed 32kg each on my international legs, although it probably won't be quite that much).
There are special domestic fares for tourists that are retroactively tagged to their international ticket, and follow international baggage allowance. For JAL, it's called the Japan Explorer Pass, with the T&Cs here: https://www.jal.co.jp/world/en/world...lorer_pass/lp/

It says 2x23kg baggage allowance, but since I travel in business class on the international legs (with business class not offered on the domestic legs; note that JAL's Class J is not business class per se, it's more like premium economy) and hence have 3x32kg allowance, I would explain this at the counter and didn't have to pay for excess baggage.

I believe ANA has a similar offer called the Experience Japan Fare, but I haven't used it before.
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Old Aug 19, 20, 11:24 pm
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Originally Posted by emma69 View Post
Definitely plan to fly. ... (I will have two suitcases, and allowed 32kg each on my international legs, although it probably won't be quite that much).
You can store a bag at the airport for up to two weeks and the Tokyo hotel can also takkyubin a bag to the airport (takes a few days notice) to a luggage storage facility. Offload a bag or even two before you fly or take the train up north.
Haneda: https://tokyo-haneda.com/en/service/...checkroom.html
Narita: https://www.narita-airport.jp/en/service/svc_06
Airport TA-Q-BIN | Living in Japan | YAMATO TRANSPORT and List of Pickup / Shipping Counters | Living in Japan | YAMATO TRANSPORT

I'm also a fan of Noboribetsu onsen. It also has several mega-ryokan so while it should be potentially less hectic than Tokyo, you'd probably want to look for a smaller property, a hotel-in-hotel renovated room booking, or in-room onsen to avoid crowding in the onsen after dinner (great onsen water, though. Onsen water quality and variety is the draw, here). Avoid non-renovated mega-ryokan tatami rooms as decades of cigarette smoke will have permeated the entire room. Renovated solely non-smoking rooms should be ok. I have taken the bus from the train station but also check if the ryokan runs a free shuttle from a major train station (some of the large ones do) or grab a taxi from the station. I like the taxi, especially if you're staying further from the town center bus stop the town goes slightly uphill. https://www.japan-guide.com/e/e6753....FROM=5350_6750

If you don't really need an onsen village feel and variety of onsen water:
A few newer resorts near Lake Toya with onsen overlooking the lake. They also have nightly summer fireworks https://goo.gl/maps/i6ahNc23pnRA7GGFA or https://goo.gl/maps/oxyenPuu9ghhcfa96
Slightly odd suggestion since I just suggested a smaller property for Noboribetsu - there's several Hoshino resorts in Aomori including Oirase Keiryuu which offer shuttle busses from major stations https://www.oirase-keiryuu.jp/en/access/ near Oirase Gorge if you like hiking.
The Sanriku coast might also be less crowded and has sea views. The area has a lot of small islands near the coast line https://www.japan-guide.com/e/e5025.html with onsen ryokan.
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Old Aug 20, 20, 12:34 am
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Originally Posted by emma69 View Post
Definitely plan to fly. The problem is that even business class (they didn't seem to operate first class on this route with the two airlines I looked at) only allows 20kg of luggage and charge quite a bit more for excess (I will have two suitcases, and allowed 32kg each on my international legs, although it probably won't be quite that much).
Hakodate Airport is really small and very manageable. I personally would fly, even with two suitcases. When you depart Japan are you overnighting in Tokyo? Would it be an option to leave a suitcase at the hotel?
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Old Aug 20, 20, 9:00 am
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Originally Posted by cowie View Post
There are special domestic fares for tourists that are retroactively tagged to their international ticket, and follow international baggage allowance. For JAL, it's called the Japan Explorer Pass, with the T&Cs here: https://www.jal.co.jp/world/en/world...lorer_pass/lp/

It says 2x23kg baggage allowance, but since I travel in business class on the international legs (with business class not offered on the domestic legs; note that JAL's Class J is not business class per se, it's more like premium economy) and hence have 3x32kg allowance, I would explain this at the counter and didn't have to pay for excess baggage.

I believe ANA has a similar offer called the Experience Japan Fare, but I haven't used it before.
Thanks for that information, I hadn't heard of that and will look into it!
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Old Aug 20, 20, 10:00 am
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Originally Posted by freecia View Post
You can store a bag at the airport for up to two weeks and the Tokyo hotel can also takkyubin a bag to the airport (takes a few days notice) to a luggage storage facility. Offload a bag or even two before you fly or take the train up north.
Haneda: https://tokyo-haneda.com/en/service/...checkroom.html
Narita: https://www.narita-airport.jp/en/service/svc_06
Airport TA-Q-BIN | Living in Japan | YAMATO TRANSPORT and List of Pickup / Shipping Counters | Living in Japan | YAMATO TRANSPORT

I'm also a fan of Noboribetsu onsen. It also has several mega-ryokan so while it should be potentially less hectic than Tokyo, you'd probably want to look for a smaller property, a hotel-in-hotel renovated room booking, or in-room onsen to avoid crowding in the onsen after dinner (great onsen water, though. Onsen water quality and variety is the draw, here). Avoid non-renovated mega-ryokan tatami rooms as decades of cigarette smoke will have permeated the entire room. Renovated solely non-smoking rooms should be ok. I have taken the bus from the train station but also check if the ryokan runs a free shuttle from a major train station (some of the large ones do) or grab a taxi from the station. I like the taxi, especially if you're staying further from the town center bus stop the town goes slightly uphill. https://www.japan-guide.com/e/e6753....FROM=5350_6750

If you don't really need an onsen village feel and variety of onsen water:
A few newer resorts near Lake Toya with onsen overlooking the lake. They also have nightly summer fireworks https://goo.gl/maps/i6ahNc23pnRA7GGFA or https://goo.gl/maps/oxyenPuu9ghhcfa96
Slightly odd suggestion since I just suggested a smaller property for Noboribetsu - there's several Hoshino resorts in Aomori including Oirase Keiryuu which offer shuttle busses from major stations https://www.oirase-keiryuu.jp/en/access/ near Oirase Gorge if you like hiking.
The Sanriku coast might also be less crowded and has sea views. The area has a lot of small islands near the coast line https://www.japan-guide.com/e/e5025.html with onsen ryokan.
Thank you. I will take a look!
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