9 May 2015
We had breakfast in the hotel, included in the package.
It was a very generous buffet breakfast. Why? We saw lunch boxes were provided to parents to pack food for their kids for outings. It was a cloudy day today but lucky we didn’t have too many things planned. Because it was early spring, so flower fields were out of the agenda list. Our first stop was a blue pond near Biei.
The pond is named Aoiike, literally means the pond in blue, located outside the hot spring town of Shirogane Onsen. In Japanese, Onsen means hot spring. The pond originally is not promoted as a tourist spot. It is part of an erosion control system that was built to prevent damage to the town of Biei in case of an eruption by nearby Mount Tokachidake. After leaving your car in the free parking zone, you can walk up to the pond for 5 to 10 minutes through the bushes. Nearby there is a shooting range, you can hear the noise of the firearm. The pond is beautiful but there is nothing else you can do in this region besides taking pictures and enjoying the lights and shadows.
We then made a brief stop at Biei for lunch in a small and cosy European style café.
Our next stop was an unusual place for most overseas tourists. It was the Kitoushi Forest Park near Asahikawa. It was not really a tourist hot spot but according to their website a very interesting photo exhibition was held currently at the time – “With the 225 photos mounted on hand-made, raw-wood frames, some suspended in trees and some almost hidden in the dense forest foliage, the Kitoushi hike will be one of the most interesting walks in the forest you’ve ever engaged in.”
To our greatest disappointment, we were told in the information the exhibition was over and gone already! Why didn’t they update their website?
With nothing else planned for the day, we decided to head to our hotel in Sounkyo early. The drive today was very relaxing with beautiful mountain sceneries all the way through. Although it was spring time, the mountains were still decorated by trees of different colours. We drove for about an hour to the hotel. It was freezing there.
Tonight we stayed at the Choyo Resort Hotel. Some large coaches were already parked in the car park. The lady who came out from the hotel to greet us was a Chinese girl and she spoke to us in Mandarin. Indeed, nearly all of the customers we saw in the hotel were Taiwanese. There was hardly a Japanese tourist.
It was still early, our friends decided to take a private onsen bath at 3000 yen for 50 minutes. They said it was a wonderful experience.
Dinner was once again in buffet style with hot pot too, served in two large canteen. While they offered a large variety of food, the quality and service were not as good as our first buffet dinner at Noboribetsu. At some stage, we had to stop and wait for further supply of food. There were simply too many customers and not enough staff.
There was no WiFi provided in the room and the WiFi reception in the reception lounge had limited coverage. The only thing to do for tonight was to watch the television or go early to bed.