Plan for the day
We planned to drive back to Chitose which was about 350 km from west of Kushiro.
The driving route would be long and tedious as there were not many nice places to stop and sightsee. The 350 km would need a driving duration of around 5 to 6 hours. We planned to made two stops at Obihiro City, the first stop for morning tea break and second stop at an outlet market. Then it would be driving non stop from Obihiro City to Chitose. By the end of the day we planned to reached Matsui Outlet Park for shopping and dinner. The final driving stretch would be to get to our hotel in Tomakomai Town.
The first stretch of driving was 120km west of Kushiro city. It took about 2.5 hour to reach Obihiro City. Our destination was Rokkatei Bakery (六花亭), a very famous Hokkaido bakery.
Obihiro is also called the Kingdom of sweets and that is because the headquarters of several of Japan’s leading sweet and dairy product producers are located in this city.
Rokkatei was well known for its desserts, especially its butter cream sandwich. They had a few branches around Hokkaido, including in Sapporo and Otaru. Since I was planning to drive though Obihiro on my return trip to Chitose, I felt that I must stop at Rokkatei main headquarter and enjoyed its famous confectionery.
The mapcode of Rokkatei that I had entered into my car GPS system brought me to a small carpark. Looking to the back of the car park I saw an entrance with Rokkatei signboard which told me I had arrived at the right location. The bakery entrance was set in from the road which make it easy to miss if one was not attentive on the look up. I had a great deal of confidence in mapcode as from experience it always brought me to the exact location. Even when I reached the location and my target was not in plain sight, I just needed to stay put and searched around and without fail I would find my target.
We walked through the door and saw that the store was selling a huge varieties of pastries. They all looked so wonderfully delicious. There were so many different types of cakes, chocolates, rice cakes, scones and etc. They looked so pretty and best of all their prices were reasonable. When I saw a few tall round tables standing at one corner with free coffee, I mentally started to identify the pastries that I would like to buy and eat standing at the table.
We paid specially attention to several products that were labelled as ‘not available’ in the Rokkatei shop at the airport. So if we like them, we would have to buy them at this store.
When we reached the other end of the store, we found a staircase leading to a cafe on the second level. The cafe had just opened for business and was serving the same stuffs as those sold on the ground level. Great! We could eat in comfort.
All the items on the menu looked so creamy and delicious. We wanted to try everything but knowing our limited tummy spaces and the long drive ahead, we had to make our selection very carefully so as to get the best out of them. We had ice-creams, chocolate cake and a cheece cake and cafe latte. They were very nice.
It was a week end morning and many families were coming into the cafe with their little children. Soon all the tables was filled.
I like the store except for one thing. Everywhere in the store we could hear the company theme song playing in the background. It was a short song and it was played repeatedly over and over. At first the song sound so chirpy and delightful to my ears but after a while the song made me felt tired. It was difficult to be so chirpy for too long.
Obihiro Wholesale Market
The cherry was lovely and its pricing was reasonable though not ultra cheap but still cheaper than if I would to buy them at home. The dried foods were very cheap. I bought soba noodles, sesame seeds and a few packs of dried mixtures (sesame, sea weed and salmon bits) that could be sprinkled onto rice. I bought Calbee potato chips and prawn chips. The cost of these dried foods and chips were just half of the amount that I would have to pay if I bought them in Singapore.
Unfortunately we would be travelling back to Narita by Vanilla (budge) airlines near the our trip and I had only paid for a 20kg luggage per person. This would not allow much free space to pack in more stuffs. It was not worth it to buy more luggage volume just to pack in these dried food.
Mitsui Outlet Park
After Obihiro City we drove straight to Mitsui Outlet park. This outlet was 172 km east of Obihiro and our journey took close to two and a half hour. We drove on a tolled express way and the toll fee came up to ¥2290. This long drive was very boring as there was not much scenery to see. To reduce the boredom we drove in to two Express Stops for some Hokkaido ice cream and some leg stretching.
It was about 5pm when we reached the Mitsui Outlet park and it was raining! It was a weekend and the nearest carpark to the outlet was full. We had to park at the next carpark and walked about 200 metres in the rain to the outlet.
There were 175 stores in the outlet. Besides the usual branded good retail shores there was a Hokkaido Local Farm Village selling a wide variety of local specialties and agricultural products.
The place was packed with people. Every stores seemed to be offering high discounts but the discounted prices were still not cheap. The price was nothing like that of the Factory Outlets in USA.After walking around, my husband bought a pair of leather shoes and we both each bought a pair of rainproof pants. The prices were just reasonable, a price that I would pay for if I was to buy them in Singapore.
In the outlet there was a very huge food court and we ended up eating ramen again. Whenever the weather is cold I will have the urge to eat some hot soupy food, so ramen was the natural choice for me. When I was paying for my food the cashier asked me if I had a food voucher which I could exchange for some free “Japanese Dumplings”. She told me that I could pick up a voucher which was only given out to tourist at level 1 information counter. Too bad we did not have any.
We both ate a bowl of ramen each and it costed ¥900 per bowl. Yummy!!!
After dinner we were both ready to leave for our hotel. Thankfully the rain had stopped and we could make our way to our car without getting wet.
Accommodation for the Night
From Mitsui Outlet Park we drove about 52 km to Tomakomai City where I had booked a twin room at Toyoko Inn Tomakomai for ¥8748 ($98 SGD) a night. The room came with ensuite bathroom.
Toyoko Inn Tomakomai is part of the Toyoko Inn chain that has more than 200 budget hotels all over Japan. I had stayed in other Toyoko Inn hotels before and I was happy with their services.
My booking document stated that breakfast was not part of the package so we were pleasantly surprised when we were told by the hotel receptionist that breakfast would be available at no charges the next morning. The twin room was smaller than our expectation, quite tight for two person, the ensuite bathroom was small too. Both were smaller than that of Comfort Hotel.
The room came with wifi. For car park, it was ¥500 a day. Sound proofing in the room was not very good, noises from the corridor such as walking, talking and door closing could be heard from inside our room.
It was at this Toyoko Inn that I finally picked up my Toyoko Inn membership card at a fee of ¥1500. With this card I could book Toyoko Inn hotel six months ahead and with membership discount. This would be very useful especially when planning trip during popular season like spring and autumn when rooms were sold out months ahead. Those rooms that were left were either those very sub-standard or those that were outrageously expensive. With the card one could picked room months ahead before the hotels were opened up to non member for booking.
I was pretty half-hearted if I should picked up the membership card since this trip was already my second trip to Japan and I wondered if I would come back for a third time considering that there were so many other countries that I had yet to visit. Toyoko Inn card could also be used for the Toyoko Inn hotel outlets in Korea and I had also traveled extensive in Korea too. Would I have opportunity to use the card again or would it be a “white elephant” card as this card was not transferable and discount was only available to car owner. In the end after some encouragement from my hubby I picked up the card. Toyoko Inn planned to expand internationally so the usefulness of this card had potential to grow.