Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Getting from Singapore to Hokkaido (Japan)

Hokkaido in northern Japan holds a special place in our hearts - this is where DaDi and I visited for our honeymoon trip! N years later, we are going to visit Hokkaido again, together with our children.

How to get from Singapore to Hokkaido? 

1. Direct flight from Singapore to Sapporo
Singapore Airlines has seasonal direct flight from Singapore to Sapporo (New Chitose Airport), usually in the end of the year. Out of curiosity, I checked the fare for Singapore Airline's direct flight, and my eyes popped out when I saw SGD 1k+ per person!!! Did I miss out any sale?

Scoot also offers seasonal direct flight from Singapore to Sapporo, as I checked in November 2018, the direct flight is available in November 2018 and January 2019. The FlyBag fare can be as low as SGD600+! 

2. Transit in countries other than Japan
Some of my friends shared with me that they went to Hokkaido by Thai Airways (transit at Bangkok), and the fare can be as low as SGD400! I didn't have the luck to get such a good rate! During a promotion in November 2018, we managed to book our flight for June 2019 at SGD2k for 2 adults and 2 children. Please take note that the fare reflected on Thai Airways official website is subjected to currency conversion fee, the amount depends on the bank that your credit card is issued. We paid 1% of currency conversion fee for our air tickets.

Alternatively, you can fly by Scoot with transit at Taipei, or by Air China with transit at Beijing, or by China Eastern Airlines with transit at Shanghai, or by Philippines Airlines with transit at Manila, and so on.

3. Domestic flight in Japan
During our honeymoon trip, we took All Nippon Airways to Tokyo, and changed domestic flight to Sapporo. You can travel using this route by flying with Japan Airlines too. 

When you are booking such route, please open your eyes big big to check that the airport that you arrive at Tokyo, and departing from Tokyo to Sapporo are the same! Because there are two airports in Tokyo - Narita Airport and Haneda Airport! As we followed group tour for our honeymoon trip, we landed at Narita Airport, and then took a one-hour coach to Haneda Airport! It can be very troublesome!

Please also note that you have to collect your luggage when you reach Tokyo and proceed to clear the immigration, then you have to deposit your luggage with the domestic flight.

Other than Tokyo, you can choose to fly from Singapore to different parts of Japan like Osaka and then change domestic flight to Hokkaido. 

Other than All Nippon Airways and Japan Airlines, there are other domestic airlines in Japan like Air Do, Jetstar Japan, Skymark Airlines, Spring Japan and Vanilla Air.

One more thing, if you fly by domestic flight, you can have the flexibility to land at airports in Hokkaido other than New Chitose Airport, for example. Hakodate Airport (southern part of Hokkaido), Asahikawa Airport or Wakkanai Airport (northern part of Hokkaido), Kushiro Airport (eastern part of Hokkaido) and so on. 

4. Shinkansen from Tokyo to Hokkaido
If you have the time to spare, or you are also visiting Tohoku region (northeast part) of Japan, then you can consider taking Shinkansen (bullet train) from Tokyo to Hakodate at the southern part of Hokkaido. This takes about 4 hours. To get from from Hakodate to Sapporo by train, then you need another 3.5 hours to travel! And the total fare can be more expensive as compared to taking domestic flight! This would not be an option for us, as we are travelling with children.

Stay tuned for our Hokkaido travelogue in 2019!

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Saturday, December 1, 2018

Building Character through Reading

[Sponsored Review]

"He was scared of many things, but eventually, he saved the day." The children shared with me after they read Geronimo Stilton Heromice #10 Sweet Dreams, Sewer Rats!

"How did he save the day when he was scared?" I asked.

"He did not give up easily."They explained.

When the children read the books, they identify with the characters and situations in the story. After they finish reading, I would engage them in a conversation to talk about what the story is about, and ask them how they feel about the characters. From there, we discuss the positive characteristics and values, and how we can apply in our daily life.

Currently, they are reading the following titles from Scholastic. Through the adventures of the characters, the children learn about the importance of perseverance and responsibility.

Geronimo Stilton Heromice #10: Sweet Dreams, Sewer Rats!

Author: Geronimo Stilton
Age: 7 - 9
About the story:
Sludge and the Sewer Rats have turned day into night, and they want the sun to stay away forever! Now it's up to the Heromice and the mysterious new crime fighter Super E to stop them. But can Superstilton and his friends bring daylight back to Muskrat City before it's too late?

Possible conversation with the children:
How did Geronimo Stilton save the day when he was scared of many things?

Boys vs Beast Battle of the Worlds #1: Aquatan

Author: Mac Park
Age: 7 - 9
About the story:
A young boy, Kai, must use various technological weapons at his disposal to defeat the Beasts of Beastium. With every battle that Kai wins, he unlocks more gear to help him defend Earth. In this installment, when dead fish covered in glowing moss wash up on the beach, Kai knows it's time for battle. 

Possible conversation with the children:
Why did Kai win the battle against the water beast?

The Word Eater

Author: Mary Amato
Age: 7 - 9
About the story:
Life is miserable for sixth-grader Lerner Chanse at her new school, where the MPOOE (Most Powerful Ones on Earth) Club ruthlessly rules over the SLUGs (Sorry Losers Under Ground). Then Lerner accidentally discovers that her pet worm Fip eats paper - with startling results...When he eats a label with the words "Mack's Thumbtacks", all Mack's thumbtacks instantly vanish and papers slip from bulletin boards everywhere! It seems that if Fip eats a word, that item simply disappears from the world - forever. Now that Lerner knows about Fip's magic, she has some extraordinary powers of her own - and some big decisions to make.

Possible conversation with the children:
Is Lerner a responsible person? Why do you think so?

Melowy- The Song of the Moon

Author: Danielle Star
Age: 7 - 9
About the story:
The Melowies are required to perform a musical in front of all of Destino. Selene does not want to participate because she made a fool of herself the last time she performed publicly. With a little encouragement from her friends she auditions and wins the role of the moon! A rival Melowy sabotages her performance, throwing green pain all over Selene's costume before the performance. Nevertheless, she closes her eyes and sings. The school is amazed by her voice and both teacher and peers praise her performance.

Possible conversation with the children:
How did Selene overcome her fear?

Scholastic Asia
Website: http://scholastic.asia/en and http://www.readershouse.com.sg
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ScholasticAsia

Disclaimer: We received the books for review purpose. No monetary compensation was received. All opinions and photos are mine. 

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Sunday, November 4, 2018

Japan Travel: Money-Saving Tips

When I first set my foot on Japan N years ago, my impression about Japan was that many things are more expensive as compared to Singapore. For example, taking subway to one stop away costs 200 yen (~SGD2.50), which is more expensive than taking MRT from Pasir Ris to Tuas in Singapore! Anyway, this does not deter me from visiting Japan again and again, and after visiting Japan a few times, I figure out some ways to save some money during Japan travel.

How to Save Money on Transportation

Using Japan Rail Pass
If you are travelling long distance, so it was more worthwhile to get JR Pass as compared to buying tickets separately.

There are 2 steps in obtaining JR Pass.
Step 1: Purchase the exchange order (MCO) from local travel agency.
Step 2: Upon arriving Japan, go to JR Ticket Office with MCO purchased in step 1 and your passport, redeem the actual JR Pass

We used JR Pass in our Kyushu trip and Central Japan trip. Read our blog post on Central Japan Itinerary for the amount of saving we had for our Central Japan trip using Takayama-Hokuriku Area Tourist Pass!

Using Discounted Ticket and Day Pass
Check out the transport passes at different regions too! For example, Fukuoka Tourist City Pass, Kumamoto City Tram One Day Pass, Hokutetsu Bus One Day Pass (Kanazawa), and many different discount tickets and passes in Kansai area (Osaka, Kyoto, Kobe, Nara).

Taking Bus
Alternatively, you can take bus which is usually cheaper, but may take more time.

How to Save Money on Accommodation

Toyoko Inn is a chain of business hotel in Japan. We stayed at different branches before, and had generally pleasant experience with this hotel chain. Read more about our experience with Toyoko Inn in our blog post Japan Travel: Budget Family Accommodation Toyoko Inn.

If you can understand some Japanese, you can book your accommodation via Japanese portal called Jalan.net. We used this platform once to book a hot spring ryokan at Kyushu. Usually, the rate from this platform is slightly cheaper than some other hotel booking websites. By the way, you can also use this platform to book activities, we used it to book raman and gyoza cooking class in Kyushu.

How to Save Money on Food

When we travel, we would spend slightly more on some meals, and so we would spend less on other meals. While we can't get economic rice at SGD3 in Japan, we can have a decent meal by visiting the following places.

Convenience stores
7-11, Lawson and Family Mart can be found almost everywhere, and the variety of food is amazing, from bread, beverages, dessert, rice ball to bento, some stores even have oden and fried food.

In the evening, some of the food like sushi, sashimi and bento at supermarket would be on sale. So it is a great place to get dinner and supper!

Fast food chains and family restaurants
In Japan, eateries like Matsuya, Yoshinoya, Sukiya and Cafe Gusto offer reasonable price meal.

Before I had children, I liked to visit Matsyua and Yoshinoya in Japan, a bowl of rice with beef slices can cost as low as around 300+ yen. But when we visit Japan with children, as the layout of the eatery is counter seating, it is quite difficult for us to sit together, so these eateries are not so ideal for family with children.


During our trip to Kanazawa, we visited Cafe Gusto near our hotel. Slightly more expensive, but there are tables for our family. This cafe serves western food like hamburg and pasta.

We also visited McDonald's in Japan, because it offers some food and Happy Meal toys that are not available in Singapore. By the way, the food at McDonald's Japan is more expensive than that in Singapore.

How to Save Money on Shopping

Our family trips focus on experiential learning, but at times, we would do some shopping! One of our favourite shopping places in Japan are 100 yen shops. The main 100 yen shops include Daiso, Can Do and Seria. Please note that the price of each item is 108 yen including tax.

Currently, the consumption tax in Japan is 8%, and the tax-free purchase amount at the same store in a single day is more than 5000 yen. Check Japan Tax-free Shop for the details of tax-free shopping! If possible, consolidate your purchases from a particular store to enjoy the savings.

Take note that in order to enjoy tax-free for purchases that include consumable items, you cannot consume them before you leave Japan. The purchased items are packed in a transparent sealed bag like this:

Do you have any money saving tips for Japan travel? Please share with us!

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