2017 Hokkaido Winter Drive – Blog Series

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In this blog series, I share the experience of my first winter drive in Hokkaido. Many of you are fans of my Singapore-Thailand road trips. This road trip, however, is a completely different animal, especially for many of us who have never driven in the snow and icy conditions before.

This was also the first time in 17 years I’ve rented a car for a holiday drive. I booked a car from the excellent website Rentalcars.com , a zippy Mazda 2 which is sufficient for two adults and one child. After doing a bit of research, I realised that an International Driving Permit would be required for driving in Japan. This is easily available at the Automobile Association of Singapore.  The application procedure was super easy and convenient- I did a walk-in application at the Ang Mo Kio office and it took me only 10 minutes, all you need is your Singapore driving license, NRIC and $20, they will take your photograph on the spot. The IDP is valid for 1 year.

For this trip, we were travelling with my brother-in-law’s family and it was really nice to have great company for this winter drive, we were extremely excited and were all hoping for snowfall, especially as they had not experienced snow before.

This would be my third trip to Hokkaido, and our first one in 9 years. For our previous trips, we did not drive and hence were limited to wandering around Sapporo and Asahikawa on foot and using public transport. Driving definitely adds a different dimension to the experience. Renting a car in Japan is not cheap though, and because of this, we decided to spend the first few days exploring Sapporo on our own, before renting the car for the last 5 days of our trip.

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We took the JR Airport Express from New Chitose Airport to Sapporo, tickets cost just over JPY1000 for adults and JPY500 for children. From there we took the Sapporo Subway a few stops to our Ibis Styles hotel.

My wife and I really love Sapporo, as it offers all the convenience we need, great food, good shopping, wonderful hotels, in a more chill (both literally and figuratively) and less crowded environment than the other big cities of Japan. I vividly remember our first trip here in December 2008, which was such a magical experience as we landed at Chitose Airport in a sea of white. The people here are so warm and courteous. We always remember the time a cyclist passed us as we were walking on the streets in the snow in Sapporo, and as he passed, he turned around to apologise to us. Simply incredible, and something we certainly did not expect.

This time round, looking at the weather forecast, it didn’t seem quite cold enough for snow in November, but we were quietly hopeful.

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This is part 1 of my Hokkaido Winter Drive blog series,  please click HERE for part 2 where I share about the drive from Sapporo to Jozankei Onsen.

My wife and I enjoy having guests over at our place for fellowship over a nice home-cooked meal. If you would like to drop by to try some of my wife’s wonderful cooking and to talk more about travel and life, do drop me a mail at lenniechua@gmail.com to arrange a dinner date! Everyone welcome!


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