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Hokkaido – Day 1 and 2 July 16, 2007

Posted by ash in about Friends, about Taking random pictures.
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I am back from Hokkaido! The 3-day trip has been really eventful. It’s my second trip to Hokkaido but many things were different because I wasn’t alone this time and the season’s different! Spent a bomb, ate a lot, shopped like crazy and experienced the unexpected. Some disappointments along the way but in all, it was a memorable trip.

Day 1

13th July, Friday morning. Kaori and I were supposed to meet at the station and board the monorail to the airport. I was feeling really sleepy (slept at 3 a.m) and nauseous from alcohol and food overload the previous night at my farewell party organised by the school. Kaori was stuck in a traffic jam and was late but we made it to the airport in time. Because we checked in late, we didn’t get to sit together on the plane. It wouldn’t have mattered if not for the fact that it was Kaori’s first flight experience and she had wanted to grab hold of my hand when the plane took off. Both of us found ourselves sandwiched (in different rows) by ojisaan salarymen who smelt of grease from their hairwax. I sympathised with Kaori as it wasn’t a very pleasant flight experience. Not having a window seat also made flying really boring for a first-timer. Several times, Kaori turned and muttered something about being scared when the plane shook.

After 1 hour, we arrived safely at Shin Chitose airport (Hokkaido). Navigation was no problem since I had been to Hokkaido in March and knew how to get to Sapporo and use the subway. We checked into the Sheraton Sapporo Hotel, dumped our bags and rushed out to explore the city. Kaori wanted to see the Sapporo TV Tower, I didnt go there the other time so we went. It was more expensive than I thought, admission was 700 yen (est. SGD 9.00). There was this elevator which took you up to the top and you could see the city view from there. It wasn’t too bad.

   

We were hungry and decided to go have some ramen. Hokkaido is famous for ramen. That’s the first of our “must-eat” item in Hokkaido. (We will eat the rest later during the trip) Both of us had delicious miso ramen (700 yen) and were really satisfied.

Next we went to the old city hall. It’s known as “赤レンガ”, which means red-bricked building. Nothing much except for taking cheesy touristy pictures. Next up was Sapporo Clock Tower. Built in 1878 and now considered as a historical monument, it’s said to be one of the symbols of Sapporo. (apart from Sapporo Beer LOL) I think some ang moh was responsible for the architecture which was part of the reason why there was a big hoo-ha back then. We enjoyed taking touristy photos though.

 

It doesn’t seem like a lot but we actually walked quite a bit to get to these places. Coffee break was necessary. As we sipped on our Javachip frapp, we pored over the guidebooks and thought about where we wanted to have our dinner at.

The second “must-eat” item in Hokkaido is Genghis Khan. It’s actually Monogolian barbeque but is known in Japan as Jingisu-kan. I think various meats are used in Mongolian BBQ but in Hokkaido it’s just lamb and mutton. You dump lots of fresh onions, bean sprouts, green pepper, eggplant and pumpkin on the hot plate and lay the meat on top to grill. Sizzlingly delicious ~ 

The eatery we decided on was what you will call a 老字号 shop in Mandarin. It was a small squeezy smoky place filled with middle aged men but the uneasiness I felt was soon replaced by immense satisfaction from tasting the tender and juicy lamb. What was different / good about this shop was that they only used fresh meat instead of frozen ones. That explained the price tag: 800 yen for a small plate of meat. Kaori and I had 2 plates each and of course, Sapporo Beer! It was a most satisfying meal 🙂

   

Day 2

On this day we were to join a bus tour and go to the Asahiyama Zoo. Asahiyama Zoo is the most famous zoo in Japan because of the special enclosement areas for the zoo’s polar bears, seals and penguins. You can also see the animals upclose (supposedly), which is something rare in most Japanese zoos.

The weather was unexpectedly hot and there were loads of people. It was difficult to get a good view of the animals. Most of them were asleep or hiding in some corner. Many Japanese are excited about the Orang-utans and chimpanzees, I guess it’s just not very common in this part of the world. The seal aquarium (?) is something I always see advertised on TV. There is this water tank and the seals swim up and down. It’s one of the main attractions. Sadly, there were so many people that I had to fight my way to go near the water tank. Even then, the seals swim by so fast it was hard to capture them on camera.

 Look at the crowd near the water tank!  Swimming down the water tank  swimming up again 

The penguins were kinda cute too. Because it’s Hokkaido, I keep thinking that they don’t look as pitiful as the ones in Singapore. The penguins back home look like they are having serious dehydration.

Look here little one!

The polar bear in Asahiyama zoo was so genki, everyone was entertained by its antics. One moment it was pouncing on the ball, and another moment it was splashing and swimming around in the water. It was big, healthy-looking and playful. (As opposed to the thin yellowish polar bear back in the SG zoo) Very cute. Frankly speaking, apart from the polar bears and seals, I didn’t think Asahiyama zoo was anything special. In fact, I think Singapore zoological gardens beat Asahiyama hands down anytime.

   

We left Asahiyama zoo at about 1.30 pm. As we made our way to the next destination, we passed by Biei. Biei is famous for its potato produce and it’s where Calbee’s (potato chips)main factory is located. I was really happy because me the ardent fan of calbee potato chips finally knew where those potato chips came from! Biei is also known for its patchwork fields. Big areas of lands are used for agricultural purposes, it is said that the different colored vegetations look like patchwork from an aerial view. Unfortunately the weather was really gloomy and touring Biei was not part of the itenerary so I could only snap a few shots during toilet break. Looking at the scenery in Biei, I was moved by the  vastness of the land, it was just land and sky, something which is impossible in Singapore.

 

The next destination was Farm Tomita in Furano, currently the most famous lavender farm and manufacturer of all things lavender in Japan. Every summer (July ~ August), thousands of tourists flock to Furano to see the blooming lavender. We were perhaps a tad early, as the lavenders were not in full bloom yet. The weather was also disappointing. Under the gloomy skies, the lavenders did not look as vibrant as they did in all those magazines and calenders that I have seen. However it was still a beautiful sight to see a sea of purple.

 The farm was really filled with the scent of lavender. You can smell it everywhere. It came from the fields and the refineries which processed and made lavender oils and perfumes. Another specialty was lavender softcream (which is like ice cream but softer and milkier). I wasn’t so sure about wanting to eat it but figured that since it was a once in a lifetime chance, I might as well take the plunge!

 

 My verdict: Tasted like the spray I used in my room LOL. 

 

 The softcream ended my tour of Farm Tomita. Kaori was cringing the entire time because she hated the smell of lavenders so she was happy to get out after 1 hour. By the way, Kaori had pumpkin softcream which was absolutely delicious. I regretted not choosing pumpkin instead! 😦   1 hour was really a little too short for touring the farm but I was still happy to see lavenders for the first time!

  Day 3 post coming soon!

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Comments»

1. topo - July 16, 2007

the lavenders not in full bloom yet? but they are already so pretty!!

2. ash - July 16, 2007

The photos I posted are the ones in full bloom, some other areas of the farm are not in full bloom yet so I didnt post those haha.

3. Suika - July 17, 2007

2 words babe: Beautiful & envious! hehehee!

4. ~y~ - July 20, 2007

where’s day 3, where?

5. jeannie - June 11, 2009

i am going to hokkaido soon…but in Nov..emm…any recommendation or advice? I am doing a backpack trip.

6. ash - June 11, 2009

Hi Jeannie! It’s not snowing in November (though cold) so you can still move ard easily. Are you staying in Sapporo only? In Sapporo, you can visit all the above I mentioned. If you like to eat the 白い恋人 (Shiroi Koibito) cookies, the factory would be interesting. Otaru is also a beautiful quaint town which you may like to visit. It can be a day trip from Sapporo (from early morning). The Otaru canal is a famous “postcard” scenery. To capture the dusk view, you sld go around 6 pm. In the day, you can visit the numerous glassware shops, musical box shops and eat super delicious sushi!

7. jj - July 25, 2009

what about end may? what flowers can we expect?

8. ash - July 25, 2009

End May? I don’t know. Hokkaido are most famous for the lavenders..so everyone takes note of that season. But since it is up in the north and Sakuras bloom much later there, during end May you can still see Sakuras.

9. Linus - April 30, 2010

Hi, I am planning a trip to Hokkaido this June and wonder whether you can help me. Just wondering is it worth the time to Asahiyama Zoo? How long do you take to tour the whole place?

Many thanks

Linus - April 30, 2010

oh sorry another question. Are you able to enter the Calbee factory? Able to buy snacks from there? Any idea on the actual address in Biei? Thanks again 🙂

10. ash - May 3, 2010

Hi Linus, thanks for dropping by. I personally think Singapore zoo beats Asahiyama, but I went on the account that it’s the most famous zoo in Japan. It is true however that you can to see more winter animals than in Singapore. If your schedule is very packed, I think you can drop Asahiyama.

Regarding Calbee, my coach only passed by so it wasn’t on my itinerary. I checked the Calbee official website, you can apply for a 1-hour tour of the factory. If you or a friend can read or write Japanese, you can apply online before you go:

http://www.calbee.co.jp/soudanshitsu/factory/index.php

I hope this helps!


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