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Hokkaido travel guidance, recommendations and tips in one handy place. 

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Nature Series: Murata Orchard

With Sapporo being the fifth largest city in Japan, you can easily get swept up in the hustle and bustle of city life. Thus we are here to present a place near Sapporo in which you can escape the rushed atmosphere and feel the calming effects of nature in a secluded environment. This half day trip to Murata Orchard will leave you with a sense of serenity you can’t find inside the concrete jungle! Murata Orchard Trip Located near the town of Yoichi, this quaint and charming orchard is only an hour drive away from Sapporo. Going from the big city to a small rural fruit farm in the blink…

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Get Inspired: A Hokkaido Summer Sample Itinerary

We know that planning a trip can be a bit daunting, especially when considering all the time and effort involved even just to figure out where you would like to go. But Social Bus is here to help give you some ideas and inspiration for your summer trip to Hokkaido! Here is a sample of a tour that you can plan and execute with Social Bus this season to optimize the warm weather and the seasonal spectacles that come with it! Looking out onto the landscape of Biei! Our Destinations The two main areas that we ambled through on this excursion was Biei and Furano, which are two cities located…

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Hoshino Resort Tomamu Adventures

If you are planning a trip to Hokkaido, you more than likely have heard about a couple of the ‘must see' hot spots. One of those places on your list might be Unkai Terrace or ‘The Sea of Clouds’, but what most people don’t realize is that this phenomenon is a part of the Hoshino Resort Tomamu, in which offer’s many other exciting attractions as well! We were fortunate enough this weekend to take a trip to Hoshino Resort and check out all the fun things the resort provides. Here's some insight of what we did during our time at Hoshino Resort Tomamu. Hoshino Resort Tomamu's Risonare Hotel The Trip…

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Social Bus Turns Otaku

On an average day, Toyako tends to be a sleepy town where you can take in the beautiful views of Lake Toya and even see Mount Yotei peaking out from the clouds. But if you arrived in this quiet town between June 23rd and 24th this year, you may have been surprised to see Pikachu or Totoro greeting you when you got off the bus. Here is our experience and a little bit more about Toyako's Manga and Anime Festa! And may the Festa begin! So What is Toyako Manga and Anime Festa Exactly? Every year Toyako Onsen, located just 2 hours outside of Sapporo, hosts an event that welcomes…

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Howdy From Kara, Eh

As you may have seen, we have brought on a couple new members to the Social Bus team this summer. We have already introduced two of our amazing recruits, but here is the third newest member to the Social Bus family. Coming all the way from Canada, we would like to introduce Kara! Kara enjoying the Ghibli Museum in Tokyo. Fact File Full Name: Kara Dowhaniuk Age: 23 (turning 24 this summer!) Home Town: Calgary, Canada. Schooling: Bachelor’s Degree in Ecotourism and Outdoor Leadership. Work Experience: Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary Tour Guide. Practicum at the Vancouver Aquarium in the Education Department. Mount Royal University Backcountry Trip Leader. Kara hiking back home…

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Konnichiwa From Will

The second person who we are going to introduce isn’t necessarily a new summer addition, but a volunteer who has been with us for a couple of months already! A little bit different than the interns, he has been volunteering with us, dedicating his time due to similar passions and out of kindness. We are happy to introduce Will, coming from the far reaches of the USA! Will helping on a trip with Social Bus in Hokkaido. Fact File Full name: Will Roach Age: 20 years Home Town: San Francisco, California, USA Schooling: 5 months learning Japanese in Sapporo In the near future he will be attending Kyushu University for Tourism…

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Bonjour From Camille

With summer right at our doorstep, the growth of the company, and new projects, we have become increasingly busy at Social Bus! That with the idea to offer a bilingual service, globalize the company and to work with people from various cultures and backgrounds, we have decided to expand the Social Bus team! Here is a fun introduction to our newest team members and a little bit of insight as to who will be behind Social Bus this summer. Camille hanging out with her Japanese boyfriend, aka. Totoro. Fact File Full name: Camille Cinquin Age: 25 (which she turned in Japan!) Home Town: Clermont-Ferrand, France. A small city that is…

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A guide to using credit cards in Japan.

Travelers coming to Japan tend to fall into two groups. The first think of using payment cards in Japan as they would many other countries and expect to be able to use their debit or credit everywhere. This means they get tripped up by not having cash. The second group have done their research and know cards can be difficult. They go to the other extreme and don’t try to use credit card at all. In fact, the reality is somewhere in the middle. So, just to make things a little easier, we thought we’d make a little guide to using your debit or credit card in Japan. First things…

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Introducing: Mount Moiwa

So, the information in today's blog post is brought to you by Will (the current Social Bus intern). But the pictures and some of the commentary and brought to you my Peta and Ayumi - who are sharing some of their personal fun times sightseeing Mount Moiwa with friends from overseas! We definitely recommend a visit, either by hike or ropeway, when you come to Sapporo! At 531 meters, rising peacefully above south-west Sapporo, Mt.Moiwa is the tallest mountain in the Sapporo area. While there are many things to see on Mt.Moiwa (it's home to a forest boasting over 160 different species of vegetation) the most famous is of course…

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A rundown of Hokkaido’s best summer events!

The great thing about summer events in Japan is that admission is usually free! You can soak up the summer atmosphere as much as you want! (However, be sure to bring plenty of extra money for food and drinks as with the increased festival prices, things can add up pretty quickly.) June Oni Fireworks Festival Throughout the summer season, Noboribetsu Hell Valley lights up with fireworks every night. It's a great way to make the most of an overnight stay at some of the best hot springs Hokkaido has to offer. The fireworks take place from June 1st to August 7th every Thursday and Friday starting at 20:30. Shiraoi Beef…

5 of the best places to see Hokkaido flowers this summer.

5 of the best places to see Hokkaido flowers this summer.

Today's blog post is brough to you by our Social Bus intern, ウィル ( Will ). He's going to be introducing his own blog series over the next few months, so keep watching for more of his Hokkaido adventures! Today we're recommending the top 5 places to see some stunning Hokkaido flowers this summer! Come and travel with Social Bus this summer! Shikisai-No-Oka Located at Oka-no Machi in the town of Biei, and covering 15 hectares, Shikisai-No-Oka is a farm offering the view of dozens of different species of flower. During the summer viewing period of July-August amongst many other species, you can get a breathtaking view of Peony, Marigold,…

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12 MUST-try extreme sports in Hokkaido this summer!

Hokkaido’s winters and snow sports are world-famous. Thrill-seekers from all over the globe come here between December and March to ski, snowboard, and take part in snow activities in some of the BEST conditions (and relax in a hot spring at the end of it all). But what about the rest of the year? If you’re an extreme sports lover, then what awaits you in Hokkaido between April and November? Well, I have good, GOOD news! Hokkaido is a total HIDDEN-GEM when it comes to outdoor activities – from the calm, to moderate to downright crazy. It’s also still relatively unknown and can take a bit of searching out –…

10 surprises that await you in Japan

10 surprises that await you in Japan… and how to be prepared!

Japan. Beautiful country of surprises, cultural differences and a whole-lot-of-fun!   Now, I live in Hokkaido, and am writing from a coming-from-the-UK-to-Hokkaido perspective – but after traveling around Japan, I think these are, pretty-universally, some things that surprise tourists or visitors on their first trip to the country. There are all kinds of surprises – some good, some inconvenient, some just plain funny. But, hopefully this helps you to be a little more prepared. Welcome to Sapporo. City of amazing adventures... and a few surprises along the way! 1. Convenience stores are awesome. Okay, I know the name should sum up that convenience stores are, well, convenient. But, my experience…

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Traveling in Hokkaido… with kids! 16 places to check out!

At the time of sitting down to write this post, we are about 2 weeks away from the due date of our first baby. Although lots of our friends have kids, and I’ve worked with children and young people for a long time – this season is getting me thinking about the practical logistics of traveling with our own. A totally different mind-set, right?!? This year we will still be doing some trips – we have some weddings to attend, and some events and travel that we’re going to do as a family. But, it’s going to take some planning! I’ve heard stories from my mama-friends for a while now,…

Introducing Mezamashi Sandwich

Introducing: Mezamashi Sandwich

So today I want to introduce another of our businesses, and a place that we definitely recommend checking out if you are in Sapporo: Mezamashi Sandwich. Located about 5 minutes walk from Odori Park (the TV Tower end!) it's super-convenient to call in and say hello! Welcome to Mezamashi Sandwich. Now, Mezamashi literally means 'to wake up' in Japanese, and this place is a perfect mixture of a sandwich cafe that opens from 8am in the morning, and a great guesthouse attached on the side. The perfect spot to take a break and relax on your Sapporo travel. It's a concept that was completely thought up by Soichi, my husband's…

ways to make local friends in japan

5 ways to make local friends when traveling in Japan.

Before I came to Japan for the first time, some *optimistic* people warned me about how lonely it would be. (Super encouraging, right? Haha!) Even other foreigners who were living in Japan warned me strongly about the difficulties of making local Japanese friends, the feeling of being an outsider, and other general difficulties that they faced. And don’t get me wrong, there obviously have been tough or lonely times over the last 4 years or so.... BUT, really? Despite the difficulties of learning Japanese, the challenges of fitting in with a different culture, and the general stuff that daily-life throws your way in any country, I’ve always found that friends…

Traveling in Hokkaido off-peak season: March - May events

Traveling in Hokkaido off-peak season: a rundown of March-May events!

After a few years of running guesthouses, we really understand first-hand that visitors to Hokkaido tend to be seasonal. Winter and summer are jam-packed with tourists. The in-between months are quieter. If you look on the regular travel blogs, most of them focus on the December – February period, followed by June – early September. I get it, I do. These are the famous months. These are the months that Hokkaido is renowned for. The snow festival. The winter conditions. In summer, the lavender fields. The cooler-weather. They are wonderful times of year. But, I also have a special place in my heart for Spring and Autumn in Hokkaido. You…

interview with Ochan

5 things you should know about Social Bus: an interview with Ochan

The following is an interview with the Social Bus Director, Shunsuke Ohata. (Known as Ochan to everyone). We wanted to give you the chance to get an insight into our company set-up, vision and the process of following your dreams. If you have any other questions, feel free to get in touch. So, meet Shunsuke Ohata, known widely as Ochan. Fact File Full name: Shunsuke Ohata Nick name: Ochan (because Ohata gets shortened to O + chan, the friendly name-ender in Japan!) Age: 30 (31 this year) Loves: Peta (wife), Soichi (business partner/best friend), scotch whisky and good pizza. Visiting Lake Toya - one of our favourite spots in Hokkaido!…

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Introducing: IGLOO

I've mentioned a few times that as well as our latest adventures with Social Bus, we also run some guesthouses in Sapporo. The two ideas work together. Our dream for the future of Social Bus is that we could create the friendly, community atmosphere of a traveling guesthouse. A mode of transport where people can make new friends, relax with old friends, and explore Hokkaido together. So over the next few months, I thought I'd sometimes introduce some of our other projects and the story behind them - just so you can get to know a little bit more about us and our wider vision. There will be some interesting…

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5 foods you HAVE to try in Hokkaido.

Hokkaido. A.k.a. Beautiful land of delicious treats, food so fresh it makes your mouth-water, and an abundance of A-MAZING cafes, restaurants, food-stalls, markets, you-name-it-we-got-it-food-providers.  A foodie's living, walking, dream. Now, I could talk about Hokkaido food all day... Because, you know? I live here, I love it, and I'm pretty much always hungry. BUT, I want to imagine that you only have a select period of time in which to come, eat, travel and experience the highlights. It's difficult, but I guarantee that if you eat right, you'll want to come back to visit again and again. I actually guarantee it. Now, today I don't have the space to get…

5 reasons with friends

5 reasons to travel Hokkaido with friends.

Okay, so as I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, my first experience/s of travel in Japan were going-solo. And this was great. I’m a bit of a solo-travel-fan, and Hokkaido is a particularly warm and welcoming place to meet new people and make friends. However. I am also pretty lucky. In my 4 years of living on this beautiful island, I’ve been visited many, many times by some of the most precious friends from back in the UK. So, I’ve also done a fair share of sightseeing, event-going, and Hokkaido-exploring with these beautiful people, and saved up holidays and days off to travel with them. Of course, there is…

Working Holiday Japan

Working Holiday Japan: a little guidebook

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Travel with us: East Hokkaido

If you would rather read the Arabic version of our blog, click HERE. We just got back from a 2 day tour of East Hokkaido with our team. Lake Akan. The Ainu Village. Akan hot springs. Lake Mashu. Kushiro. The fish market. Crane-spotting. Even a stop-off at Tomamu Ice Village on the way back home for some melted marshmallows and cocoa in an ice-bar (seriously). It was a jam-packed, laughter-filled, amazing time with some of our favourites. 16 people. 5 nationalities. Team. Family. And it’s honestly the kind of tour that we would recommend for you and your group. If you love stunning nature, great food, and hot springs… If…

5 reasons solo travel

5 reasons to solo-travel in Hokkaido.

In the summer of 2013, I took my first solo trip to Japan. I had a few friends from the UK or America who were living in the country, but I knew exactly 0 Japanese people, only a scattering of Japanese words and was very much throwing myself in at the deep-end. Some people thought it sounded pretty crazy, a 20-something-single-female roaming off to farflung place without a good grasp of the language, but it was an amazing experience that I honestly can't recommend enough. I came for about 7 weeks as part of my research project for my Masters, and loved it so much that I solo-moved back to…

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16 Hokkaido winter festivals in 2018: a rundown!

There are a whole bunch of reasons to visit Hokkaido in the winter: the skiing, snowboarding, snow activities, hot springs... to name more than a few. But Hokkaido is also renowned for it's winter festivals, and A LOT of the enquiries and bookings we have at Social Bus and our guesthouses at this time of year are asking about the best dates and times to come and see the famous and not-so-famous events that are due to take place over the region in the next few months. Dates vary, and depending on what you are wanting to see and do then this can really impact your travel plans, accommodation budget…

10 winter essentials

Hokkaido: 10 recommended winter essentials to pack/buy/bring.

After my last post, a few people got in touch and asked about the essentials for surviving a Sapporo winter. I can understand it. If you're like me and have had minimal real-winter-survival-skills-experience it can be a daunting task to pack for a trip into deep-snow-filled-travel and know that you're not over or under packing something vital. Before I give you my list, let me clarify a couple of things. Firstly, this is not specifically targeting people who are coming to ski or snowboard for the season. There's obviously a bunch more fundamental sports stuff you need, and that's probably another blog post. Secondly, I'm not being sponsored by anyone…

4 things about winter

4 things that surprised me about winter in Sapporo.

So, I moved to Sapporo in January 2014. That makes this coming year my almost-5th winter (I arrived half way through in 2014, so it's really like 4 1/2 I guess). Before I moved to Sapporo, I *knew* about the winters here, but I didn't really know about the winters; if you catch my drift. I mean, I knew there would be snow, and the annual Snow Festival is super-famous, but there were honestly also a bunch of surprises for me that first year. And if you're considering coming to Japan for travel this season, these are definitely good things to keep in mind. To put things into context, I…

meet our team

Meet our team!

So, if you’re anything like us, you believe that the people are one of the main things that makes travel great. Don’t get us wrong, we really love new places, adventures, beautiful sights and delicious food - but sharing that with old and new friends, contagious laughter ringing-out as you explore and toasting others to a day well spent at the end of it - that's what makes our memories come to life. At the very foundation of this company is it’s people, and we believe that a key reason to trust us with your travel hopes, is by getting to know us and sharing the journey together. Our team…

why charter

Why *in-the-world* would I hire a charter bus? 6 reasons why you should.

Honestly? Charter buses have got a bit of a *uncool*, *inconvenient*, *expensive* reputation... Especially amongst young people, families, backpackers, and generally travelers on a budget. When you think about fun, spontaneous, cheap travel, you have images of piling precariously into a rickshaw, luggage and all. When you think about needing a safe vehicle for your kids to travel in overseas, you pretty much come up with inconveniently lugging your own child seat half way across the world and then hiring a car. When you think about surfing, snowboarding or other outdoor activities, you imagine fights with a taxi driver in your non-native language as they hang your precious sporting equipment…

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