After 3 years in limbo from International travel we finally got our start with a trip to Japan. We had to jump though many hoops to get there, with intinerary approvals and Visas but we persevered and on the 7th October we boarded our flight to Tokyo. After a few hours in Haneda, where there was hardly anyone around we got a domestic flight to Chitose near Sapporo on Hokkaido Island and enjoyed a sound sleep. We headed off early to pick up our rent-a-car near the airport and then a few hours up the freeway past Sapporo and we arrived at Zaborin Resort near Kutchan.
Talk about next level luxury, this place was seriously up there and with service to match…maybe a bit OTT but this is Japan afterall and service “OMOTENASHI”is taken very seriously and needs to be respected no matter how frustrating it can be…as i found out many times. We are used to doing things in our “Laissez-faire” Australian relaxed manner but there are rules to follow in hospitality especially around dining, footware and traditions, so its just go with the flow and get full to the brim.
The local mini Mount Fuji called Yotei-Zan had its first drop of snow the day we arrived and it dusted the peak which we could see from the Onsen.
The rustic yet dramatic conflicting design elements worked a treat at Zaborin with the burnt pine and concrete looking great together and miminced the bark on the trees outside.
The surrounding area had some beautiful vistas and as you climbed further up mount Iwaoto behind us the foliage changed dramatically at the snow line and there were hikers taking advantage of the sunny conditions. We had a nice tea at Samoza Gallery and then snaked our way back down via North Niseko and stopped in at an interesting spot along the way.
We met a guy called Julian at this facinating “not a cafe” that was sitting in a small park at North Niseko which had been an old open six sided cabana that Julian leases from the local government and has the mandate to do as he likes with it so long as he does not live there. So Julian made us a coffee even though his “cafe” does not sell anything and in fact its just a place that he hangs out in and has parties with friends who love his acid jazz and house music mixing!!! facinating guy and there is no explanation as to why…but he is happy.
The 41deg onsen bath on our deack was a delight and with e temp at 1deg one morning it was an amazing experience morning and night to enjoy. And did i mention the food…next level, every meal especially the BBQ eperience was exceptional.
Our next stop was the Sapporo Art park where the Norwegan sculptor Gustav Vigeland has replecated his marble works from Oslo into bronze sculptures in japan along with a great variety of other artists in a forest setting
Next stop Lake Shikotsu near the southern shores on Hokkaido which is surrounded by three volcanos and the lake fills in trhe Caldera to create a very impressive environment
Duck paddle boats are all the rage here and the shores are covered in them
The Onsen Village has about 5 resorts and we were staying in the #1 Tsuruga Resort Sui Zan and wow it was pretty impressive and again the food was nuts, this time served in our room ..all 13 courses every night. The surrounding region was stunning and we went sightseeing over the mountains to Eniwa Gorge area and explored the parks around Shikotsu as well.
The view of Mount Eniwa from the Shikotsu Kyukamura park.
Sunsets were spectacular over the lake and mountains
Inside the Onsen resort at lake Shikotsu
Eniwa Gorge was were we saw our first extensive autumn forests and the mouyntain drive to reach there also revealed a good sample of what was coming with water falls, streams and rock faces covered in colour