Hokkaido Trip 2006 Day 1: Tokyo Haneda to Sapporo

(Updated: October 27, 2013 with high resolution photos and updated descriptions)

On February 20, 2006, I started my Hokkaido trip. I had bought a flight and hotel package from Tokyo University of Foreign Studies' co-op travel shop which only included 2 nights at a hotel but I extended my stay by 4 days and booked a hotel on the other days by myself.

JR Sapporo station in Sapporo.

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Hokkaido and Sapporo in relation to the rest of Japan.


View 2006-02-20 Tokyo Haneda to Sapporo in a larger map

Although you could take a train to Hokkaido, the fastest and cheapest way is by plane.

All domestic flights within Japan use Tokyo’s Haneda airport which is only about 30-40 mins away from Tokyo station, compared to 75 mins on expensive Limited Express train (~3000 yen) to Narita (international flights) airport and 1 hour 30 mins on cheaper rapid trains (~1000 yen).

In going to Haneda airport, I used the Tokyo Monorail to get there. It was a very bumpy ride on a cramped train, this may be one of the reasons why monorail isn’t widely used as public transportation?

The Tokyo Monorail at Haneda Airport Station.

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I flight was on ANA All Nippon Airways (the 2nd international airline of Japan, doesn’t fly to Vancouver) and they use the new Terminal 2 at Haneda. It was a new terminal and everything about it is better than Narita, more shops, better buildings, less grey (if you live in Tokyo long enough, grey (concrete) is all you see!).

Although there were check in counters, most were expected to use the automatic check in machines. You just hold the paper with the QR code on the reader and it prints your boarding pass and tickets. You can load your luggage at a separate place.

Tokyo Haneda Terminal 2 which is only used by All Nippon Airways.

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Nothing but All Nippon Airways aircraft!

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The good thing about airports in Japan is that all of them have outdoor observation decks.

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In the secure area of the terminal.

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The flight was on a Boeing 777-300, a plane normally used by airlines for international flights. The flight felt like a low cost carrier flight, all you got on board was a small cup of beverage which you put into the hole on the fold down table, Since the flight was 1 hour 30 mins, it didn’t really matter. Lots of people brought bento (cold lunch boxes) from the airport onto the flight just like they do when they ride trains.

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A Pokemon plane on the tarmac.

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I left Tokyo at 12 pm and arrived in Sapporo at 1:35 pm. Approaching the airport, I was surprised at how much snow was in Hokkaido, the view from the airplane was all white fields.

After I arrived in Sapporo I went to the JR Hokkaido information centre to buy the Hokkaido Free Pass, since I didn't have a temporary visitor’s visa, I could not buy the cheaper Hokkaido Rail Pass, the Free pass cost 23,500 yen for 7 days.

On the airport train to Sapporo, notice the amount of snow outside.

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It took 1 hour to get from the airport to the city. Compared to the rest of Japan, Hokkaido felt very North American, the streets of Sapporo were arranged in a grid unlike the mess of alleys and winding streets of Tokyo. Also Sapporo felt more wide open.

In front of the JR Sapporo train station. Luckily the weather had cleared up by the time I arrived.

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I am also surprised how all cities other than Tokyo has a very well planned central railway stations with many shops and underground shopping arcades. By very well planned, I mean the subway connections are just a escalator ride down another level, not like the confusing way of changing to subway in Tokyo were you have to walk down many floors and walk through long underground tunnels just to connect.

[Start rant]
All of Tokyo’s railway stations are crap, especially Shinjuku station, which I think is the busiest in the world. I myself don’t think going to Shinjuku, especially East Shinjuku, its dirty, full of people (questionable ones too) and stinky. Overall I think Shinjuku is the “hole” of Tokyo.
[End rant]

In Sapporo I walked from the central train station area to the Susukino entertainment area where the famous Sapporo “ramen alley” was. In Sapporo ramen with miso soup is supposed to be popular. In that alley, all the shops had famous people’s pictures and autographs. I tried the miso soup ramen, it was ok, nothing spectacular, but I don’t think it was worth my 1000 yen. I myself don’t really like the texture of ramen noodles that much, I prefer the thin wonton noodles more.

The Sapporo TV Tower, looks kind of like Tokyo's...

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Walking towards the Susukino entertainment area.

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The Susukino area.

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Sapporo's ramen alley.

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After eating the ramen, I walked back to my hotel.

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Another look at the Sapporo TV Tower, notice the ruins of the snow sculptures from the Snow Festival.

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I also walked by the famous Sapporo Clock Tower at night.

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3 comments:

Nobu said...

I'm surprised to see Sapporo looking like such a cool place. Well, except for the snow, which I'm already fed up with from living in a country covered in snow 1/3 of the year. Why did you go? Did you just have some time off, or was it in association with school?

en said...

Its spring break, which is more than 1 month here!

kinkinsoba said...

a 1 month spring break is too long. Wouldn't you get bored from being out of school? I guess not since you're travelling everywhere. Nice pictures! I can't believe just a few more months and you'll be back home.