We drove to Noboribetsu on the most boring stretch of highway for 4 hours. It would have taken 6-7 hours if we had followed the ridiculously slow speed limit of Japan highways of 70km/h. Almost no one follows this rule except the little 600cc bread vans. Amazingly there are no police in Hokkaido checking for speeding.
Noboribetsu is known for its hot springs and its Hell Valley which has sulfurous gas steaming from the rocks. Honestly incredibly underwhelming after the prior day hike to Mt. Io.
As the town is close to Sapporo there were tons of tourists ( mainly Japanese and Korean). While the Onsen hotel was nice and huge it was too busy.
The last full day, it was raining. We were in Otaru which is the number 1 tourist destination in Hokkaido. Honestly, it was extremely underwhelming.
Otaru is one of the first cities to develop in Hokkaido and has a canal lined with old warehouses. But in reality, there are 5-6 warehouses and a tiny canal. Also, the only shops in the shopping / tourist district are sashimi shops, music box stores, glass stores and ice cream shop. But they all close at 6pm so we had no ice cream and we were all so sick of sashimi at this point we all went and ate at 7-11. Most over hyped town ever.
We did however managed to drive to Yochi town to see the Anika Whiskey Factory which was quite interesting. I learned that Nikka is one of the most traditional operating whisky distilleries in the world as they still use coal to make whisky which even Scotland doesn’t do anymore creating a smoky taste. They also had free samples of whisky where they said you could only take one glass per person but in reality it was unlimited.
There was also a section where you could pay to try the nicer whisky. We tried a 15cc of 20 year old whisky for 700 yen (their most expensive selection). I really don’t know much about whisky but it did have a stronger taste and burned more, but in a pleasent way.
So that marks the end of the Hokkaido trip. I am glad I went but I think 5 days is enough. It is like Canada but the sites are smaller and less impressive and way more beauraucratic. I will just come for the skiing in the future.