On our third day in Hokkaido we saw lots of snow, again! We weren’t able to see the two main shrines in Asahikawa on our second day because of an incoming snow storm (we didn’t want to drive back to Furano in the snow storm), so we moved the visit to the temples to our third day in Hokkaido. We also changed hotels, so we went all the way to a hotel in Otaru.
The first temple that we visited was the Kamikawa Shrine. It was still very early in the morning and some new snow fell down in the snowstorm of the previous day. This meant that there was a nice and fresh pack of snow around the shrine. Some spots around the shrine, the spots where the people didn’t walk or where they shouldn’t walk, weren’t ‘cleaned’. Well not exactly completely removing the snow, but just the top layer so that you won’t have to walk in a big layer of snow. We on the other hand loved to walk around in the snow some more, so we walked in those areas fully packed with snow as well (snow was up to 20-30cm).
Since we arrived at the temple very early in the morning and since it was pretty cold outside, we only saw two other local visitors visiting the shrine. The rest of the time that we spent here, we had the shrine to ourselves, which creates the perfect opportunity to make lots of photos!
Next up was the Hokkaido Gokoku Shrine. This shrine was a 10-minute drive away from the other shrine and was located in a more populated area. So we started with a visit to the local Family Mart to get some hot chocolate! Yummy in the cold weather!
Nonetheless, there were no people to be seen around this shrine either! This was a red-orange colored shrine in contrast to the Kamikawa Shrine. And that was even more spectectular to see: the colors in comparison with the white colors of the fresh snow. Just beautiful!
There were two big red gates that you had to pass before you actually arrived at the shrine complex. The complex was completely covered with snow as well and because of the lack of people around, it was very easy to make photos all around the shrine. There was some sort of ceremony happening on the inside of the shrine, but we didn’t see any people outside.
Snow crystal museum
After the visits to the two shrines, we stayed in Asahikawa for some more time to visit the snow crystal museum. The museum was located on a small hill/ mountain and was covered in snow as well. After paying the entrance fees, we had to walk down a couple of stairs to go into a very cold room. This walls of the room were completely made out of glass and behind the glass you could see lots of ice stalactites and stalagmites.
If you went down even further, you would arrive at another part of the museum. I would describe it as a wedding hall, since there was a shop next to it where you could buy all sorts of wedding products, like wedding dresses. There were lots of rows of chairs and a beautiful ceiling with clouds painted on it. There were chandeliers and other delicate lamps hanging around the ceiling and the walls.
We had a lovely lunch (with hot chocolate!) next to the wedding hall before leaving the museum.
Nikka Whiskey Brewery
After Asahikawa we drove all the way to Otaru to drop off our luggage at the hotel. We stayed there for a short while to rest a little bit and then we were off to see the Nikka Brewery in Yoichi. The drive to Yoichi took us along the coastline, so we were able to see the sea for almost the entire drive. Very funny to see the combination of mountain, snow, sand and see in one glance.
When we arrived at the brewery, it was already getting dark. They would close around 5pm, so we only had an hour to see the brewery. We started with a tour around the storage facilities of the brewery. In every storage room, you could see or listen to information about the whiskey making process and the storage process.
After the tour around the brewery we went to the special whiskey-tasting bar. Here you could try 3 different kinds of alcohol (malt whiskey, apple wine and blended whiskey). For me the two whiskeys were too strong, but the apple wine was really tasty! We ended our visit to the brewery in their souvenir shop, where you could buy all sorts of drinks, food and other small products.
When we drove back from Yoichi, it was already dark, so we weren’t able to see a lot of the area along the coastline. We parked the car at the hotel and decided that we would walk around Otaru for a while and find something to eat. Right in front of our hotel was the Otaru Canal. This long canal was covered with blue lights and some snow, which created a stunning view over the water.
We walked next to the canal for as long as the canal went on. After that we walked towards the city center for some food. After some searching we arrived at a small but wonderful Japanese restaurant where you could grill your own meat! There was a lot of smoke inside because of all the grilling that was done, but the meat was very tasty! Definitely worth it to eat that again I would say!
Visited on the 25th of November, 2016