a VirtualTourist member from Toronto
Hi, my friend and I are going to be in Sapporo(ish) for a few days in May. I saw that it is the season for the Shibazakura and would really like to visit Takinoue Park and the tulip park. However, it looks extremely difficult to reach Takinoue by public transport. (Or it could be easy but I cannot get decent translations of the Japanese webpages online.) If anyone can give me some idea of how to get to Takinoue from Asahikawa or Sapporo, that'll be much appreciated.
Anyway, I'm wondering if anyone know of any day tours originating from Sapporo to both parks. Alternatively, we may go to Asahikawa the night before and try to join a tour from there. I've emailed Asahikawa Tourism and they said the 2012 tour schedule is not available yet. I know last year they only have these tours on the weekends, so they may not be a viable option depending on our schedule.
We also considered renting a car, but my friend and I only know how to drive automatic. Would this be a problem? Also, is it difficult to drive in Hokkaido? (road conditions, straight forward directions, etc)
While we're at it, do you know if there is a reasonably priced ryokan with a private bath in the area? We are a bit shy about using a public onsen and my friend said one option is to book a room with a private bath.
Comments in general -
Renting a car to see rural Japan is an excellent idea. Japan is an easy country to drive in, the only caveat to that is figuring out parking rules in urban locations. There is now a program in place where you can buy a one price, all you can drive, highway toll pass. I believe this is purchased at a point of entry or maybe through a travel agent.
Cars are always auto unless they are from Italy, red, and very fast.
Ryokans are always reasonably priced in rural areas, but a private bath - called a rotenburo - is always expensive.
To translate Japanese webpages try using Chrome. It translates fairly well I find, without losing formatting.
> Anyway, I'm wondering if anyone know of any day tours originating from Sapporo to both parks.
I don't know about these particular parks but there were plenty of day tours to choose from when I was in Sapporo in September..
Reaching Takinoue doesn't seem to be that difficult. It appears as if there is a bus that goes directly from both Sapporo and Asahikawa. I'm not too sure as they mention that there is a bus from both, but they don't give any bus numbers or links to them either. However, I did take a stab at it and found this:
That seems to be the schedule of the bus. From Sapporo Station, the Dohoku Bus makes a stop in Asahikawa before heading out to Monbetsu, via Takinoue. Takes about 4.5 hours from Sapporo and over 2 hours from Asahikawa. It's 5 stops from Sapporo, and 4 stops from Monbetsu. Really hard to read the brochure as they did a very poor job at scanning it.
Also note that the brochure does have information on where to hop on and off the bus, but it isn't clear due to the scan quality.
If you need information, there is a very good travel information centre at Sapporo Station. Hopefully they have someone who speaks English and they can help you. It can be a bit confusing at first but once you know what to do, it is very simple.
In terms of driving, doesn't look to be a problem. The expressway is pretty good and very fast. You can easily get there from Sapporo. From Asahikawa, you probably don't need to take the expressway as it is just 1 exit away till you have to travel on regular roads to Takinoue. They all have navigation and they are all automatic but the navigation is probably useless due to it being almost exclusively in Japanese. I couldn't find the Roman lettering until the last day of a 5 day trip once. :D
Going to the Tulip Park in Kamiyubetsu is a different problem. Here is the info:
Instead of going to Monbetsu, you take the bus going to Engaru/Naka-Yubetsu. It takes a slightly different route so you can't really do it in one day. You definitely need 2 to do both parks. The fun part is that I don't see a stop for Kimiyubetsu, but there is one for Yubetsu just after Engaru. The only problem is that the bus leaves Sapporo around noon and arrives there in the early evening. The return trip is in the early morning. Probably a very bad time for you to go there. Hokkaido Kitami Bus also does the same route at almost the exact same time. 1 bus a day in each direction. You are better off driving this part if you do decide to do it.
One thing to note, the signs in Japan can be a little confusing at first. I highly recommend mapping it out on Google Maps first and making sure you know the highway numbers and letters (English and Japanese) before going, unless you are adventurous. I usually recommend people buy a map called "Touring Mapple" that is designed for motorcycle riders. It often highlights nice scenic roads, where you can stop, and information on gas stations and such. If you are just going to Takinoue, I wouldn't bother buying it. If you plan to do other trips, you might want to consider it. There is a good online resource into translating the information yourself but unless you have the time to study it, I wouldn't bother. Just an FYI.
Not sure on the onsen up there, but I was also shy about using a public bath before. I still am, but it isn't that bad. When you enter, you just take off your clothes and enter the bathing area. Really simple. It's like jumping into a pool the first time. It feels really cold but once you get in, you feel alright. :D
Hope you have a great trip up there.
Thanks all for the great info. I found a site (onthestreet.jp) that said there is a bus to Takinoue and Monbetsu but every website I tried was in Japanese and I cannot figure out where to find a schedule. We might still do the day tour if It is easier logistically seeing as it cost around Y5,500 including lunch.
I will have a chat with my friend about renting a car. Since we will have a JR Pass, we want to see how much we have to spend on non-JR transportation. Just curious, do the GPS units show Kanji? We know Chinese so if the gps map shows the Kanji name, we might be able to work it.
Again, thanks very much for the info.
GPS systems are programmed with several regional languages, usually English, Korean, and Chinese.
I have personally never been able to find any English setting on the GPS in Japan. You might have to check with the rental company and if they can, get them to set it up for you. I'd also worry that even with a different language setting, it might not be able to help you search for some things that are programmed as Japanese. For example, finding Takinoue City might be okay, but going directly to the park might not. However, I really don't know what it may entail.
In terms of kanji, if you can read traditional Chinese, not the simplified version that mainland China uses, you might be okay. However, you still have to look into inputting the info using hiragana and katakana. If you just want to look at the map itself, shouldn't be a problem though, but you still have to match characters.