Monday, July 29, 2013

Japan 2013 - Day 7: Lake Toya to Hakodate

Before we headed for the long drive to Hakodate (163kms / about 2.5hrs drive), another onsen bath for the family. We checked out around 10am, went to the convenience shop for packed lunch and snacks for our road trip, and consulted our map for our Lake Toya exploration day.
the stars denote the places we've been to so far (except for those on top of A, which will be on the way back). Our drive down to Hakodate, the down at the tip of Hokkaido Island, would traverse the coast of Uchira Bay.

here's the map of Toyako onsen which we used to walk around the area of Lake Toya
final shot of Lake Toya and Nakajima Island from our hotel room
before checking out

and of course, our family photos before checking out

There were several parking spaces just down the road from the hotel. These were free (yoohoo!) since the location was at the park. We decided to walk around and let the kids play while we soaked in the view.
a foot bath just in front of the hotel, facing Lake Toya
It's not free though.

great sunny weather, perfect for strolling

hubby, who couldn't get enough of the view

Ira found his "ride"

a large stone sculpture turned into a playground by the boys

unfortunately, Mt Yotei was a bit shy that morning

the boys saw this pedal-powered swan/duck boat. Ira said he wanted to try one. Kelvin and I approached the place where several "ducks" were parked and asked for the rate. The sign there stated something like 4600 yen for 30mins. We thought that was a bit expensive. But Ira really wanted to go duck boating so we verified the price with the person-in-charge and the rate was actually not that expensive after all (1500 for the 4 of us for 30mins). 
we chose our duck and pedaled our way along Lake Toya
Ira was so excited about being the driver. At first, the two of them were sharing
the steering wheel to maneuver the boat.

Kelvin teaching Ira how to steer properly and slowly.

enjoying the ride so far

happy sailors

from this photo the duck boat seemed quite spaceous

we laughed, pedaled and steered and enjoyed this whole new experience as a family. 
Then we observed the wind blew harder as the minutes passed

and we sailed farther and farther away from the shore

we looked back and we could see how far we were from the duck station.
We tried to steer back towards the direction of the pier and pedaled faster, but it seemed the wind had another thing in mind. A few more minutes and we (well, just Ira and I) were in a panic. Ira started shouting and telling everyone to pedal faster and steer harder. Then he saw a telephone number at the boat, to call in case of emergency. But we thought we may still have a chance at this on our own. But then no matter how hard we steered towards the shore, the wind kept blowing our duck boat away. I was thinking of the worst things that could possibly happen (the boat capsizing, our legs cramping from exhaustion and the inability to pedal back to shore, and other negative thoughts). Hubby then said we should just follow the direction of the wind first then pedal slowly, to be able to at least go closer to the shore, then steer towards our pier once our boat was in the right direction. Something he learned about boating when he was younger. So we followed his instructions, alternating between hands and feet to pedal. Kelvin was a big help as his legs were strong enough to pedal faster and harder. Ira kept control of the steering wheel.
still facing the islands which was the opposite direction of where we wanted to go,
but there was hope as we slowly geared towards the shore after a few minutes
Kelvin telling Ira to steer towards the right as we tried to follow the wind direction.
We started to feel confident again, and became calmer as we slowly pedaled our way back to the pier. Exhausted, almost cramping, but definitely relieved that we were safely back on land.

It was quite an experience. An adrenalin rush.

we pedaled, we sailed, we panicked as the winds blew us farther away
 but we conquered Lake Toya. That's what I call teamwork. Thank goodness for the biking trips we did back home. It prepared Kelvin's and hubby's legs for the power needed to pedal us back to the pier. Look at their happy faces. What a relief it was.
But then Ira was still in it for another ride!

but for those of us who really pedaled, one boat ride adventure for the day was enough.

we sat for a few minutes, resting tired legs 
as Ira walked about looking for something to drink from the vending machines

Then we drove to the Flower Garden with the Fountain Square for a picnic lunch.
sausages, fried rice, Japanese food, pasta and sodas galore

Kelvin wanted to have a more comfortable meal so he chose to sit at the picnic table, 
under the hot sun!

we joined him for a quick family photo

Ira took this photo

there were no flowers at this garden though

it was a chilly, hot lunch time (if that even makes sense)
our mini photographer in action

We finished our lunch and drove to Toyako Visitor Museum and Volcano Science Museum. It has various displays on the history of the area - with maps, photos, exhibits of the lake and volcanic activities (eruptions in the past) which led to the destruction of several properties and formation of the current landscape of the area.

our nature boy posing with the different species of birds around Lake Toya.
There were buttons that when pressed would project the sound of the birds.

various samples of trees growing around Lake Toya town

the visitor center provided minutes of entertainment and education
There was also the ruins area just behind the visitor center, but we didn't go there anymore.

foggy area on the way to Hakodate around 3pm

fog, fog and more fog. We hoped for a better whether when we got to Hakodate.

We arrived in our hotel, New Ohte, conveniently located within the city center just across the morning market. We booked 2 rooms as they didn't have any available family rooms.

Hotel New Ohte
Wakamatsu-cho 8-8 Hakodate 040-0063
Phone: +81-13-823-4651
Triple room. Free under 12 yrs old sharing bed. = 18,900 yen (2nights)
*** the cheapest accommodation we booked in our trip. But close to morning market and other attractions
Parking = 500 yen (for the whole duration of our stay)
Booked thru
(+) great location, in front of morning market, within walking distance to other attractions, shops
(+) child under 12yrs old free using existing bed

our agenda for the night - - - drive up to Mt Hakodate Ropeway.
This was one of the sloping streets in Hakodate. Reminded us of San Francisco.

When we arrived at the supposed parking lot for the ropeway station, the parking official stopped us and said the parking was full (and something like there was a long queue for the ropeway). We turned back, hoping to get a parking space somewhere. We didn't want to waste this night without riding the famous Mt Hakodate Ropeway. We turned into another parking lot and we saw the parking official earlier signalling us that we could park on the side of the building. It wasn't really a proper parking space but since he allowed us to park there, we took the opportunity and thanked him for assisting us.

040-0054, JAPAN
Tel#: (0138) 23-3105
Ropeway operating hours: 
first ride up 10am / last ride up 10pm (april to oct) / last ride up 9pm (oct to april)
last ride down: 10 minutes after last ride down
we walked towards the ropeway station and was surprised to see these many people.

There were ushers who instructed visitors to buy tickets from the ticketing office in front of the building before queuing up. So while the boys stayed in our line, I went to buy our tickets. Oneway fare for was 640yen for adults and 320 yen for kids. Roundtrip fare was 1160 yen for adults and 590 yen for kids. Kelvin was already considered as an adult, so that's 4070 yen for us. But the hotel gave us discount coupons of 100 yen per person (yipeee!).

our commemorative Mt Hakodate Ropeway tickets

The wait on the queue was not that long as the big cable car can hold a bus load of visitors (standing room only). We positioned ourselves by the windows so we had the view of the mountain as we were hauled up. When we got to the top, we walked towards the outdoor viewing deck.

this was what all the fuzz was about
the dramatic night view of Hakodate which was (according to publicity) one of the best night views in the world
tourists scrambling for the best positions to take the shot
it was cold up there
we walked to the upper level for different angle
and there we were!

we lingered at the rooftop for a few more minutes. Too bad for those who came in later than we did. The view was not as spectacular as earlier in the night. It became foggy.

stopped by the souvenir shop

making our way back to the ropeway cable car at around 930pm 
(one and a half hours of soaking in the view was enough for us)

visitors waiting for the cable car

our ride down to town

at the main entrance and exit of the building (which we didn't notice on our way up)

welcome and goodbye in different languages
What a way to greet tourists.

ending our day in Hakodate with the ropeway at the palm of my hands :)

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