Have your very own “Kita Kita” adventure in scenic Hokkaido

By Inquirer.net, PAR, Pauline Reyes |December 08,2017 - 10:14 PM

Shikisai-no-oka (Panoramic Flower Garden) in Biei
INQUIRER.net/Pauline Reyes

If you’re a fan of “Alempoy,” consider taking a “Kita Kita”-inspired tour of Japan’s idyllic, northernmost island on your next vacation.

“Kita Kita” (I See You), a film written and directed by Sigrid Andrea Bernardo, has become the country’s highest-grossing independent film of all time, surpassing the 2015 biopic “Heneral Luna”.

The film, which was fully shot in Hokkaido, Japan on a P10 million budget, earned a whopping P300 million just three weeks after its release.

The movie stars Alessandra de Rossi as Lea, a Filipina tourist guide living and working in Sapporo who suffers temporary blindness, and Empoy Marquez as Tonyo, a man who came to Japan as a brokenhearted drunkard but eventually sobers up and becomes enamored with Lea.

The unlikely pairing has won the hearts of many Filipinos with their undeniable chemistry, and is now fondly called “Alempoy” by fans.

What some fans might not know, however, is the reason behind the film’s location. Hokkaido is Japan’s northernmost, coldest, and second largest island.

It is home to a number of beautiful locales, many of which were featured in “Kita Kita”. Bernardo chose the island as the setting for her film after visiting Sapporo, its capital city, to participate ina workshop organized by the Sapporo Film Commission.

During the workshop, the participants were toured around Hokkaido before proceeding to write and present a story idea based on the places they visited.

Five years after being a participant in that workshop, Bernardo became a film director and decided to shoot a film in the island.

She stated that more than its beautiful locations, her main reason for choosing Hokkaido is the locals.

“Kita Kita” is her way of showing her gratitude to those she met during the workshop and returning the kindness and hospitality that she received during her stay.

For many fans of the hit film, its charm lies not only in the chemistry between Lea and Tonyo, but also in the incredible views and
locations in the movie.

We’re sure that we’re not the only ones who gasped and whispered to ourselves “Where is that place?” while watching the pair’s romantic
and hilarious antics.

Hokkaido is home to so many scenic locations that it’s worth visiting the island whether you’re a fan of the movie or not.

Stunning forests, parks

One such romantic location featured in the film is the Shikisai-no-oka (Panoramic Flower Garden) located in Biei, Hokkaido.

The flower garden provides the spectacular view of thousands and thousands of flowers spread over fifteen hectares of land.

The neatly arranged rows of bright reds, yellows, pinks, and purples contrasting against the clear sky and the mountains hidden by mist in the background is truly a sight to behold.

The flowers are seasonal blooms, which means visitors will see different species based on what season they come to visit.

Late April to late October is considered as the green season for the garden, during which visitors can either explore the garden by foot or by tractor bus.

Biei has wide expanses of cultivated lands and farms, and the area is known for wheat and dairy products.

Small stores near the entrance to the Flower Garden sell food items made with local produce, and the ice cream being sold there
is very popular among tourists.

Having a creamy, sweet ice cream cone makes walking around the garden even more enjoyable.

There are also side attractions like buggies and carts for rent and a small alpaca farm. During winter, Shikisai-no-oka becomes a “Snowland”, where tourists can try out snow rafts, sleds, and snowmobiles.

Entrance to the Panoramic Flower Garden is free, but the caretakers ask for a ¥200 donation per visitor to help with the maintenance and upkeep of the flowers.

For the more adventurous bunch, there are also a number of forests and nature reserves that have trails you can explore. In “Kita Kita”, Lea andTonyo embrace in front of the beautiful Asahi-dake, the tallest mountain in Hokkaido located in the northern part of the Daisetsuzan National Park.

To get to the trails, visitors first need to ride the Daisetsuzan Ropeway—a cable car that will give you a spectacular view of the surrounding forest.

While the National Park is no doubt beautiful all year round, autumn might be the best time to visit if you’re a Filipino.

You wonder, why?

Looking down on the forest from the cable car and seeing the leaves on trees in varying shades of red and orange is something that you won’t be able to experience in our tropical country.

Plus, the chilly-but-not-yet-winter cold weather will make the steep climb easier than when you climb it during summer or winter.

The indigenous Ainu people of Hokkaido referred to Daisetsuzan as Kamui Mintara, or “Playground of the Gods”, and visitors are sure to understand how it earned that name even at first glance.

A round-trip ticket on the ropeway costs about ¥2,900 during peak season (June 1–October 20) and ¥1,800 during regular season (October 21–May 31).

Another park worth visiting is Moerenuma in Sapporo, which features an expansive land filled with trees, sculptures, and an impressive glass pyramid similar to the structure at the Louvre in Paris.

An early morning visit is almost a guarantee that you can have the park mostly to yourself (or share it with a handful of other tourists, at most), and it is a perfect spot for picnics, biking, or jogging.

Moerenuma Park used to be a waste disposal site in the early 1970s, but it is now a place where visitors can enjoy a fusion of nature and art.

The glass pyramid in front of the park is home to the Isamu Noguchi Gallery, and there is a wading pool and a fountain open to tourists to refresh them in the summer.

Actors Empoy Marquez and Alessandra de Rossi in Shikisai Hill, a scene from the indie romantic comedy “Kita Kita”

Admission and parking fees are both free, and the park is open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. throughout the year.

Tourists should also make sure to visit the 531-meter-high Mt. Moiwa-yama, where you can get a bird’s-eye view of Sapporo.

The view is especially enchanting at night when the city lights glimmer and illuminate the sky. Among locals, it is a popular place for romantic dates or even just for enjoying the scenery.

To get to the summit, you need to take the Moiwa-yama Ropeway from the foot of the mountain.

After a five-minute ascent, you need to get on a lift that will take you to the peak in around three minutes.

A round-trip ticket for both costs around ¥1700.

Aside from the striking city lights of Sapporo, you can also see the Ishikari Plain, the Yubari Mountain Range, and Mt. Eniwa-dake
near Lake Shikotsu-ko from the summit.

There is also a place there, where you can leave love locks—a famous practice among sweethearts.

Another romantic attraction you can try with your special someone is the Otaru Canal Cruise, which is a leisurely 40-minute tour along the historic canal.

The port city once prospered as the gateway to Hokkaido, and tourists on the cruise will get to see the old buildings from those years.

The Otaru Canal is open for both day and night cruises for ¥1,500 and ¥1,800, respectively.

If you’re travelling with a large group, you can arrange for a private charter with prices ranging from ¥25,000 to ¥65,000.

Private charters can also be used for other purposes like holding birthday parties, making marriage proposals, taking wedding photos, and taping a
film or a TV program.

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