Hokkaido Winter Drive – Jozankei to Otaru

Jozankei to Otaru.png

Day 2 of our road trip was an incredibly scenic drive through the hills to the port town of Otaru. This leg was a truly magical experience, passing by dams, lakes, and ski resorts, taking us through all sorts of snowy roads and tunnels. We took our time here, as we wanted to soak in the breathtaking sights around us. A good place to take a first stop is at the Jozankei dam. We found a nice parking spot on the right side of the road just after the tunnel that leads to the dam. This was a great place to take photos, on both sides of the road:

Sapporo Lake @ Jozankei

After we got back in the car, the weather suddenly took a turn for the worse. It was snowing heavily, to the point where we could not even see the road. This is where I would advise all drivers to slow down and to keep a safe distance from the car in front. Navigating these driving conditions can be tricky, especially for those of us who have never driven in snow before. Make sure that your rented car comes with snow tyres, and remember that if you brake too hard and start skidding, you need to release the brake until the tyres regain their traction with the road. This can be rather counter-intuitive, as when the car starts skidding, our reflex response is normally to press harder on the brakes. This would be a mistake, as it would cause the car to skid even more and we will find ourselves in a nasty accident. Do be extra careful when going down a windy slope, make sure your car does not pick up excessive speed as it might make it very tricky to navigate the sharp turns.

Heavy snowfall as we enter a tunnel at Jozankei

When the roads are completely covered in snow, it can also be quite hard to figure out where the the sides of the road are. Do look out for the red and white striped arrows at the top left corner. These arrows will guide tell you where the side of the road is, and will help you get your bearings right. These arrows will also sometimes flicker with green or orange lights, and I believe that these give you an indication that the the road is bending to the left and right respectively. (someone correct me if I am wrong here!).

Do also look out for the roadside grit salt boxes. The salt helps to lower the melting point of water to help melt the snow on the road. These are only to be used in the most extreme of conditions.

Remember to give oncoming cars enough space to pass!

After passing the lake and before getting back into civilisation, you will pass by another dam – Asari Dam – which is less scenic, but interesting nonetheless as you will experience a very interesting 360 degree loop in the road, which I presume was the most efficient and safe way to quickly drop the altitude of the road.

Sun rising at Asari Dam
360 degrees road ramp a la Hot Wheels play set

From here, it is a short drive to Otaru, using the Sasson Highway where we had to pay a 240 yen toll. You will have the interesting experience of driving under people’s residences:

The road to the leads to the basement??

Very soon, we arrived at our hotel for the night – Hotel Authent Otaru.

This is part 3 of my Hokkaido Winter Drive blog series, please click HERE for part 4 where I share about our walk down the popular Otaru Sakaimachi shopping street!

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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