Rainy Otaru – maybe rainy is an understatement for what I experienced on my last Saturday in Hokkaido. It was a downpour. We had always planned to visit Otaru because of the Ushio Festival that happens every summer. The festival is one of the events we had planned on visiting even before coming to Japan. However, we did not anticipate the heavy summer rains that would last almost all day in Otaru.
Here’s number 4 in my posts on Eating my way around Hokkaido. This time, I’m focusing on the food places that I went to with my shared house mates.
Butadon Ippin [十勝豚丼いっぴん]
One of the great things about staying at our shared house was meeting all the different people. Luckily, most of us got along really well. So a big group of us went out for dinner one night at this pork rice bowl restaurant called Kotachi Butadon Ippin, or 十勝豚丼いっぴん in Japanese. It’s a chain of restaurants in Hokkaido specializing in just pork rice bowls.
Apart from our first night at Chitose Airport, we hadn’t been to an onsen during the month in Hokkaido. We had discovered that there was a nearby onsen resort town called Jozankei (定山渓). The first time we heard about this place was through the lovely green mascot below.
That cute green mascot, my friends, is a kappa. Kappas are supernatural frogs of Japanese folklore. This particular kappa is using her powers of cuteness to reel in customers to the Jozankei onsen area. Just look at the wooden tub that she has to carry around with her to protect her modesty.
Time for the third installment of Eating my way around Hokkaido.
Afternoon dessert at the Sapporo Sweets Cafe
I heard about this wonderful underground dessert cafe on YouTube just before I left for Sapporo. Somebody had posted an entire episode of Journeys in Japan featuring Sapporo. The Sapporo guide for this episode is a fellow Canadian, Isis, who moved to Sapporo many years ago and is now a DJ and a TV show host.
My wife and I ended up going one afternoon after classes with one of our classmates. We had a free afternoon and I had wanted to visit the Sapporo Sweets Cafe. I had a little trouble finding the place. The underground city in Sapporo is quite large and all the shops seem to look the same. When I could finally find a WiFi hotspot, we were able to locate exactly where the Sweets Cafe was.
After being awed by the lavender fields of Farm Tomita, we were on our way again. However, I had no idea what our next stop was. I don’t remember ever receiving a travel itinerary. We were in the hands and at the whims of our two accompanying teachers from Hokkaido Japanese Language School. It turns out that our next stop on our highway coach field trip was to the Blue Pond, or Aoiike (青い池).
Hokkaido is famous for a few things. Hokkaido is the bread basket of Japan with farms covering much of this northernmost island in the archipelago. So Hokkaido beef and dairy are all famous products. Hokkaido is also well known for its cold and snowy winters. However, Hokkaido is also famous for its beautiful fields in the summer. In Furano, the area is famous for its colourful lavender fields that cover several farms’ fields. These lavender fields are also partly the reason we chose to spend a month in Sapporo. We were only a one-day trip away from the beautiful fields of purple.
Bicycles are pretty ubiquitous in Japan and a part of the everyday fabric. Kids, salarymen, sales ladies, and seniors all seem to ride bikes everywhere in Japan. Bikes are on sidewalks and on the street and nobody thinks anything of them. There isn’t the hyped up car versus bicycle antagonism that exists here in Vancouver. So I really wanted to experience what riding a bike was like in Japan.
Disclaimer: I hate cooking and I’m really bad at cooking. Perhaps I was emotionally scarred as a child against cooking or maybe I’m lazy or maybe I’m incompetent. I don’t know. Cooking is one of the most stressful things in my life. It makes me extremely anxious and grumpy whenever I cook.
Given my disclaimer, it’s amazing that I actually enjoyed our afternoon workshop on making Japanese sweets, or wagashi. This was yet another cultural experience workshop put on by the Hokkaido Japanese Language School, or JaLS. A whole gaggle of us students walked over to the Susukino area and to the Chuo Ward Office all the way at one end of Tanukikoji.
Here’s more food from around Hokkaido. I just put all of my smartphone food photos from our month in Hokkaido into one single folder. It came out to 141 photos and 1.4 GB worth of foodiness. Here’s a smattering in this second installment of Eating my way around Hokkaido.
Lunch at Matsuya
Apart from the buses and subway system in Sapporo. There is also the Sapporo Streetcar. The Sapporo Streetcar runs in what almost looks like an L-shaped loop, but the loop is incomplete at one end. So the two termini of the line are literally two blocks apart from each other.
These two end stops both start in the busy Susukino district of Sapporo. Susukino is Sapporo’s entertainment district. It’s home to a whole whack of restaurants, host/hostess clubs, and other businesses of the night. Susukino is where you will also find the largest collection of neon billboards and adverts in town. This area really shines through at night.