I joined a tour to Hokkido led by Rita and Paul during Oct 14 - 22, 2010. I have rather mixed feeling about the trip, mixed with pain and pleasure. But such is life, never a perfect time 100% of the time. It took me a while before I feel like make a record of the trip.
We arrived Sapporo (a word derived from the Ainu - the indigenous residence of Hokkido meaning "a river running along a reed-filled plain") the evening of Oct 15 via connection in Narita Airport in Tokyo. Following is a picture of the hotel we stayed.
Otaru is a city and port northwest of Sapporo. (within 25 minutes of drive). It has some shopping malls along the canal that were converted from originally stone or brick built warehouses. An old time charm is provided by the gas lamps along the canal.