A peaceful city called Chitose (1/6)

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Greetings. This is Nazrul from the Hokkaido Government Representative Office.

For my fourth business trip, I was assigned to travel at the end of October this year. The first city on my itinerary is Chitose, a city about 44 kilometers south of the capital city Sapporo. Most people recognize Chitose mostly for the New Chitose Airport, Hokkaido’s main international airport, but there’s more to the city than just being the gateway to Hokkaido for foreign visitors. I paid a visit there to see what the city has to offer.

Map route (map source: Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism)

Upon arrival at New Chitose Airport, I made my way to my first accommodation of the trip: Marukoma Hot Spring Hotel. The hotel is highly popular among the locals for its breathtaking view of Lake Shikotsu, a pristine caldera lake that is also one of the most popular lake-side hot spring areas in Hokkaido. The hotel rooms are spacious, and they all offer a panoramic view of the lake. The hotel even offers private in-room dining, and its amazingly generous menu includes Hokkaido rice, premium Hokkaido beef and melon pudding.

My hotel room (Japanese-Western)
Private in-room dining
View of Lake Shikotsu at dawn

The next morning, I made my way to the Shikotsuko Visitor Center, just a short drive from the hotel. Here visitors can get all the tourist brochures and recommendations on what activities are available in the area. Plus, it has a museum that that explains the geological history of Lake Shikotsu as well as a gallery showcasing the flora and fauna of the area.

Lake Shikotsu Tourism Center (website: http://shikotsukovc.sakura.ne.jp/, JPN only)
Fun fact: Lake Shikotsu is the cleanest lake in Japan

Shortly afterwards, it began pouring so my guide brought me to a nearby golf course called The North Country Golf Club. Most foreign visitors do not know about this place, and if they do, they simply think it’s just another golf course. However, during winter, it transforms into a winter resort where visitors can experience and play with snow. Many foreign visitors have asked me if it’s necessary to travel all the way to Niseko just to experience snow, and now I can say that that’s not necessary, since there’s already a much nearer place to do so.

The North Country Golf Club (free entry)

When it stopped raining, we continued our way to the Chitose Salmon Aquarium. Hokkaido is home to wild salmon, and they swim from the ocean to the river that runs into Sapporo. Here visitors can see salmon swimming in the Chitose River from September to November in the aquarium’s underwater observation room, a first in Japan. Furthermore, visitors can see a wide variety of fish other than salmon that lives in Hokkaido.

It’s fascinating to see so many variety of wild salmon in one place, and it’s definitely something that foreign visitors would definitely enjoy. For a Singaporean like myself, it’s a novel experience to witness the fish up close.

Chitose Salmon Aquarium (adults: JPY 800, high school students: JPY 500, primary/junior high school: JPY 300, pre-school: free entry)
Wild salmon I
Wild salmon II
Wild salmon III
Salamander

Tortoise

Piranha
Fish wheel for catching salmon

Next up is a visit to the Hokkaido Hakone Ranch. Farmers here rear Holstein cows, which provide premium quality beef which is highly popular among visitors both local and foreign. It’s also popular among travel agencies organizing group tours, and I heard that some visitors even bought a lot of beef to bring back home.

The quality of beef here is unlike any I’ve tasted back home, and it’s a must for foreign visitors to dine here, especially for barbecues during the summer. Furthermore, there are also activities that people can take part in such as cheese making, butter churning and cow milking sessions.

Salisbury steak
Cheese making session (JPY 1,050 per person)

My final destination brought me to RERA Chitose Outlet Mall, a place that many foreign visitors are familiar with. The open-air shopping mall houses many boutique stores, and it’s conveniently located just one train station away from the New Chitose Airport. The place is very crowded especially during summer and winter, and the vast parking space is good for visitors travelling by rental car.

RERA Chitose Outlet Mall

It’s unfortunate to hear that most foreign visitors simply know Chitose for its international airport, since the city has interesting things to offer. It’s a lot less crowded than Sapporo, and during peak travel seasons such as February or July, it can offer plenty of accommodation choices especially when hotel rooms are scarce in the capital city.

Chitose Station Plaza

Visiting Chitose is a pleasant change of pace, and I really enjoyed the peaceful atmosphere. I hope that people will give Chitose a chance and witness for themselves how charming the city really is.

My next stop is the capital city Sapporo and the neighboring Jozankei, which I will cover in the next post. Stay tuned!

P.S. Public service announcement: a new camping site named Hokkaido Tourist Station is slated to open very soon in 2019, operated by the Chitose Tourist Association. The site will offer a wide range of services for guests, including:

  1. Rental car services
  2. Complimentary wifi
  3. Free airport shuttle bus service
  4. Rental bicycle services
  5. Rental camping car services
  6. Camp sites for rent
  7. Rental outdoor gear services

More information will be announced soon, so stay tuned!

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