Southern Hokkaido Trip from 4 Nov to 12 Nov 2016

My long awaited trip to Hokkaido has finally arrived. I will be covering Sapporo, Hakodate and Otaru for this trip.

I took a red-eyed flight on Singapore Airlines and arrived into Tokyo Narita Airport in the morning for my connecting flight to Sapporo.

Upon landing at Narita International Terminal, I had to take a shuttle bus to the Domestic Terminal to catch my connecting flight to Sapporo via Vanilla Air. There are a couple of budget airlines to Sapporo from Narita Airport, namely, Vanilla Air, Peach Airlines and Jetstar Japan. All you need is to find one that suits your timing.

While waiting for my flight, I embarked on my first food trail at the airport food court. Had their Takoyaki and beef steak rice to warm up my engine after an uneventful flight.

Finally, landed at New Chitose Airport after a 2 hour flight. The exciting journey officially begins from here. This is my first time visiting Sapporo and definitely I am super excited about the trip.

After landing and retrieving my luggages, I headed off to the JR East office to make booking for my unlimited JR rail travel passes for this trip and took a train down to Sapporo Station where my hotel is located.

I stayed at the Grand Sapporo Hotel which is about 10 mins walk via the underground tunnel walkway from the Sapporo Station. The weather was great as it was the start of winter.

Immediately after checking in to the hotel, I eagerly went to explore the Sapporo Station and check out all the food outlets.

My mind is clouded with so many options flashing past me and am spoilt for choices as everything that I see looks tempting and inviting. In the end, I settled for a Yakitori meal in one of the station restaurant before continuing with the rest of the night exploring the station mall.

Noticed another version of the baked cheese tart at the station and without much thinking, I bought one and executed it right away. Taste is great and best part of it is I do not have to queue to eat it. 👍

That pretty much wrap up Day 1.

I woke up to a city in white on Day 2. This is so unbelievable for Sapporo to be snowing early Nov which is the start of winter. This is my first experience with snow. The view was magnificently stunning when the city was covered with snow. I looked out of my hotel window and quickly make a dash down to the street outside of my hotel to get myself up close and personal with the snow ice.

My spirit just lifted up after the snow encounter and I knew the rest of the trip will be fun and exciting.

After much excitement, tummy is growling and I headed to the nearby Doutor cafe for my usual dosage.

This cafe is a must visit on every Japan trip of mine, whenever possible. Love their sandwiches and latte. After a hearty breakfast, I went on exploring the surrounding area near Sapporo Station to get familiar for better orientation.

Not before long, it was near lunch time and I stopped by this nice dainty Ramen restaurant to have my fix on Ramen.

After a satisfying lunch, I continued strolling in the cold and wandered to Sapporo TV Tower and the nearby Odori Park. Only difference during winter, everything is covered with snow and what you see is just plain white background wherever you go.

Ended the day with a sumptious dinner comprises of chirashi set, slice pork with ginger, wagyu beef steak & yakitori before retiring for the night to prepare to travel down to Hakodate (the southern tip of Hokkaido) the next day.

Started Day 3 early in the morning by travelling down to JR Hakodate Station from JR Sapporo Station.

After 3.5 hours of travelling, I arrived at Hakodate. The scenery along the rail journey was so beautiful, peaceful and calming. The rail ride was comfortable. The train was well equipped with food and restroom on board in case you are wondering……😜

I stayed at the Smile Hotel Hakodate which is conveniently located right across the Hakodate Station. Weather was great and clear upon arrival as seen from the view of my hotel room.

Likewise, I spend the rest of the afternoon exploring the surrounding area and enjoying the beautiful scenery of this city. Right at the corner street to where my hotel is, there is this food street alley operated by various food peddlers specializes in their own specialty like; udon, oden, yakitori, ramen, gyoza, sushi, etc….

Interestingly, the stall owners operate out from a small shop front and seating capacity is limited with probably not more than 6 pax and patrons have to squeeze literally with each other shoulder to shoulder. Kind of cozy to do so during winter but I have my reservation during summer time though. 😱

As the weather was so cold, I headed straight to the first stall on the food street alley and settle for a bowl of Tonkatsu ramen with a plate of gyoza to keep myself warm.

One of the key attraction is to visit Mount Hakodate as the night view of the Mount Hakodate ranks with those of Hong Kong and Naples as one of the most stunning in the world. This is a definite “must-see” when sightseeing in Hakodate. The night view is simply spectacular.

How to go to Mount Hakodate?

The easiest way to access is by Ropeway. The Hakodateyama Ropeway departs from the Motomatchi District. The ropeway’s lower station can be reached in a 10 mins walk from the Jujigai tram stop (5 mins ride from Hakodate Station, costs 210 yen) or by direct Hakodate Bus from Hakodate Station (10 mins ride, costs 240 yen, 2 buses/hour in the evenings). The ropeway costs 1,200 yen for a round trip. It operates every 5 to 10 mins from 10:00 to 2200 (until 21:00 from mid Oct to late Apr) and it takes 3 mins to reach the summit of Mount Hakodate.

After scaling down from Mount Hakodate, I took a leisure stroll around Motomatchi District. Motomatchi is a very interesting area with well-preserved old buildings, nicely maintained park offering nice view of Hakodate. The walk around Motomatchi was breathtaking and every spot is worthwhile for photo shoot.

This is Motomatchi Roman Catholic Church, a unique architectural Gothic-style building. The altar was gifted to Japan by Pope Benedict XV and there is no other like it in the whole of Japan.

After a fun-filled day, it is always rewarding to end the day with a great meal. This restaurant, Hakodate Dining Gaya, just opposite the Hakodate Morning Market serves great and fresh seafood. Only one word to describe “Oishi!” 😍

Day 4 was another pleasant encounter for me. I woke up to a city in white again, yes… yes… yes… It started snowing again. Looks like I am in luck as Christmas came early for me this year.

Look at the contrast between yesterday and today. Just a night of work and is so beautiful. Now, I truly understand the meaning 天有不测风云。

Next, I stormed through the snow to go to the Hakodate Morning Market. You will find the best and freshest seafood in this market as it is located near the seaside. You will get to have fresh snow crabs, fishes, scallops, sea urchins, and many more. In fact, you can even buy the seafood on the very spot and they will cook it based on how you want to eat it.

I passed by this small standing sushi stall inside the market, looking at the food freshness, I couldn’t resist and had to succumb to it naturally. It has never tasted so good 👍👍 👍

Haven’t had enough of it, I walked towards another stall, ordered a barbeque snow crab leg and a bowl of scallops & sea urchins chirashi to satisfy my desire cravings. This is one place I swear to be back again someday.

Not only fresh seafood, the market sells fresh vegetables and fresh fruits. Know something? Back in Singapore, I always have this thought of trying their Japanese grapes and melon but the high price tag keeps me away from it. A bunch of grapes can easily cost up to $60 and a whole melon can cost up to $80.

I decided to bite the bullet, go ahead to buy a bunch of grapes that cost about $30 and a slice of melon that cost about $4. The grapes are so naturally sweet and crunchy and the melon is equally fragrant and sweet. With this episode, I can safely proceed to close my chapter on the story of Japanese grapes and melon.

After a hearty meal, I make my way to Goryokaku. Goryokaku is a star-shaped fort that has been designated as a special historic site and it is one of Hakodate’s major sightseeing spots.

The Goryokaku Tower Observatory commands a panoramic view of the fort.

How to go to Goryokaku?

You can take a 20 mins tram ride from Hakodate Station to alight at “Goryokaku Koen-Mae” tram stop. From there, you may follow the street sign with a 15 mins on foot.

I chanced upon this special theme eatery outlet near Goryokaku Tower with interesting decoratives inside the shop. They serve burgers and fried food and I was totally bought over.

The Karaage (Deep Fried Chicken) is crispy on the outside and tender on the inside.

Their Tonkatsu Curry is equally tasty and delicious.

Last but not least, the croquette is also mind blowing.

That pretty sums up my Day 4.

Decided to have a quick meal back at Hakodate Dining Gaya restaurant as food were great and it is near to hotel.

Well, it is time to bid farewell to Hakodate to travel to Otaru. All good things must come to an end.

Started Day 5 morning breakfast at one of the small eatery shop near Hakodate Morning Market. Ordered their egg omelette, ebi tempura, kani shoyu ramen & the hotate, uni and salmon roe chirashi.

I want to have the freshness imprinted and savoured in my mind before I leave this beautiful city.

Right after I finished my meal, it started snowing heavily and I had to brave through the heavy snow storm back to hotel for my checkout.

Visibility is affected because of the heavy snow fall and it appears as if the city is begging me to stay. 😃

Well, I responded to the city with my homemade snowball ice kachang.

Thereafter, I had to drag my luggages through the snow to board the train to Otaru. 再见了函館。(Bye Hakodate) 😭

Arrived Otaru from Hakodate after a long comfortable ride. I stayed at the Hotel Nord Otaru which is near to Otaru Canal and within walking distance from JR Otaru Station.

At the station, I saw this small stall operating inside a convenience shop selling fried chicken and it proclaimed as one of the best in Otaru. I bought 2 pieces to try and indeed it does live to what it proclaimed. The fried chicken is damn champion. You really have to experience it for yourself in order for you to understand what I mean.

After settling myself down, I did my usual ritual to explore around Otaru city for orientation and for some shopping too.

Soon before long, night fall comes and my tummy started to growl. Obvious thing to do without much hesistation, all I need is to resolve the immediate concern. After browsing through some of the restaurant menu, it was decided quickly on which one to attack.

Had a good sashimi, fried sweet shrimp, deep fried octopus and their mixed fish fried rice. Happy belly = Happy man.

This is the Hotel Nord Otaru that I am staying. Isn’t it beautiful?

Day 6, a new morning, a new day, a new beginning (新的早晨,新的一天,新的开始).

I feel fortunate to be able to wake up to see such a beautiful view of the Otaru Canal first thing in the morning. 真的是不忘此生。

Otaru is one of the leading tourist spots in Hokkaido with high populariy, and its symbol is the Otaru Canal. Otaru’s charm is without a doubt the beautiful scenery and you get to see the different sides of the Otaru Canal at various seasons of the year. In winter, the stone warehouses and the promenade are buried in snow, looking even more like countries in the far north.

While enjoying the scenery along the canal, I saw this Sushizanmai chain outlet. I was strongly recommended to try if I happen to be in Japan. Needless to say, I would never allow to let such opportunity slip through.

The sushi served is really fresh and good. Oishi! Price is also reasonable. Value for money.

There is this dessert shop, a few shops down the street, happens to start operation and they are giving out discount coupon to attract patrons to try out their sorbet ice cream. The drink menu board was the first thing to catch my attention. Know what? Yes, for those who noticed. “Weak Coffee” 😅 for weaklings?

To give them the credit, their sorbet ice cream taste really nice. Worth a try.

Time really passes when you are having fun. Night falls started just before I knew it. Some of the identified eateries that I have in mind is packed with people and long waiting time needed. I decided to give it a miss and wandered to this restaurant inside Hotel Dormy Inn Otaru.

The food surprising taste awesomely good. The beef tataki, fried chicken, budaejigae, and amongst many other items. It was gratifying.

But one word of advice, if you happen to order their green tea (ocha) it does not come with free flow as I have assumed. I did not realise that until I saw the bill!

Painful lesson learnt here as the green tea charge amounts to almost half of my food bill. 😭

Anyway, it doesn’t dampen my mood. Just stay positive and be thankful that it helps to add on to another experience of mine. 👍

Day 7, left Otaru back to Sapporo. It was a short trip via local train which takes about 40 mins.

Before leaving, I went back to the JR Otaru Station to have my fried chicken again as I personally felt that the fried chicken is really out of this world.

I am really a 吃货。No choice. 宁可杀错不可放过。

At Sapporo, this time I stayed at the Hotel Monterey Sapporo which is also near to JR Sapporo Station.

So, I continued exploring the other parts of Sapporo which I did not cover when I reached here the first 2 days.

I had a late lunch at the Sapporo Ramen Republic, located on the 10th Floor of ESTA complex. They offers a selection of top Hokkaido ramen restaurants in one place. Hokkaido ramen specialties include Sapporo (Miso), Asahikawa (Shoyu) and Hakodate (Shio) style broth with various ingredients. I tried out the Sapporo Miso Ramen with Roasted Char Siew at the Sora Ramen outlet.

In the Sapporo Ramen Republic, you will find the following 8 restaurants;

  • Shirakaba Sansou specializes in rich miso ramen infused with sesame oil and garlic
  • Misono – Miso ramen with pork and grated ginger
  • Ajisai – Hakodate style ramen with clear soup
  • Yoshiyama Shouten – Flavourful sesame rich taste
  • Shodai – Otaru style soy sauce based ramen
  • Sora – Miso ramen Hokkaido Mochi pork soup
  • Jirochou – Hokkaido style miso ramen
  • Baikouken – Asahikawa style soy sauce ramen

Hope you have a better understanding of the different types of ramens.

The shopping journey continues until I did a pit stop for recharging at Chococro.

There is also one such outlet in Singapore at B1 of Raffles City.

Left Sapporo on Day 8 for home coming. Took a domestic flight via Peach Airlines to Narita Airport for my international flight home. I was fortunate that Peach Airlines landed at the Narita International Airport Terminal and that saves me the hassle of taking a shuttle bus from the Domestic Terminal.

Still have not had enough of Japanese food, I had my one for the road meal at one of the food court inside Narita Airport.

Bye Hokkaido for now. I will be back again next June to cover the northen part of Hokkaido. Till then, Sayonara!

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