20 Nov 2010

Hokkaido, Japan: Mainly eating, interspliced with snowboarding


I ate a a lot while I was in Hokkaido. I'm a big fan of seafood, so this was essentially heaven to me.

Hakodate (函館)

This place was our first stop in Hokkaido after training it for 6 hours from Tokyo. It's a big port town on the southern part of Hokkaido. We arrived on the last train to get there that night (around 10pm). After checking in to our hotel, we tried to seek out the closest seafood bonanza. Unfortunately, it was pretty late by then and most places were shutting, but we did find this one place only two blocks away from where we were staying.

The meal was a bit underwhelming, but because I was super excited about being in Japan it didn't really register till after I saw the photos. I had some crab sushi which may have been leftovers from the start of the day :(

Crab Sushi

The next day was much better. we stayed at the Toyoko Inn (東横イン函館駅前朝市) which is conveniently located right next to the Hakodate Morning Market (朝市). Heaps of fresh seafood here, even a game where you can fish your own live squid to eat:

Fishing for Squids

It was snowing pretty hard, so we took shelter in a nearby restaurant (函館朝市浜一食堂). We later found out that just around the corner near the side closest to the station in the market was a complex of nice cheap noodle and rice restaurants. But we settled into this cute little place that was inside the market.

Tatami Section

I ordered scallop and salmon roe sashimi rice (ホタテいくら丼). This was as sweet and delicious as it looks. I just love scallop, especially when it is fresh. There were heaps of stalls selling live scallop so I had no doubt that this was pretty fresh.

ホタテいくら丼 (Scallop and Salmon Roe Sashimi Rice)

and pp had some ramen with a crab rice. They seemed to be famous for crabs in this part of the world, crab was always an option.

Ramen and Crab Meat on Rice

Hirafu/Niseko

We set of to niseko the next day in the afternoon, having had some lunch inside a department store with some japanese-styled western food. The train ride was long but pleasant, but we made it into Niseko/Hirafu by 6pm. One of the lines we took only had four trains a day, a one hour trip from a place called Oshamambe (長万部) all the way up to Otaru. It was a tiny single carriage train:

長万部駅 (Oshamambe Station) - Local Train

You'd imagine up on the mountain there's not much food. In fact, there was a lot of really nice places. Of course, we had to have some shabu shabu:

Shabu Shabu

We went to this fabulous place called Yo (aka, Hurry Slowly).

Hurry Slowly (aka. Yo Restaurant)

I'm not sure why the two different names, but maybe one is the hotel that is attached to it and the other is the restaurant name. It was very dark there, but we had some hotpot again - this time with paper:

Paper Hotpot

and some grilled prawns -- and sashimi:

Seafood Hotpot

Sashimi

The best thing about boarding in Japan is that on the slopes you get really good ramen, rice, etc. I didn't bother taking pictures of those, but there was one that really stood out. Up on the Hirafu mountain, there was a hut call the 1000m hut. We had boarded past there for three days, and only fourth day did we go in because we needed to find a toilet. And it was an amazingly cute little rest stop:

Inside the 1000m Hut

and it did food too, japanese anime style. This was a meat bun (not sure what meat, maybe a cut of pikachu meat):

Niku-pan 肉パン Profile

Our friends found out there's this fine dining place called Kamimura, which we went to for a 8 or 9 course meal. By the end of it I had butt cramps because it took so long. I gotta say that I wasn't very impressed (mainly because I'm not a fan of fine dining), but these were some pics that were acceptable:

Ikura at Kamimura

Dessert at Kamimura

And finally, to round off the snow boarding on the last day, we had diy okonomiyaki at Kabuki, which was incredibly fun and smelly. I've seen this done in front of me by professionals at Abeno Too in London, but we had to do it ourselves, so of course I couldn't wait to try:

Kabuki Restaurant Menu

Making our own Okonomiyaki Mix

Making the Okonomiyaki

All I can say was no one got food poisoning.

Otaru

We stopped over in Otaru for a day, a kind of impromptu stop because I planned it at literally the very last minute. I think I found only two hotels on expedia in that area, so I ended up having to use my Japanese skills and Rakuten to book an awesome spa hotel called Otaru Furukawa (street view) right in the middle of town with a open air onsen on the top floor overlooking the town. This hotel has one of the most awesome looking lobbies for a multi-story hotel.

Otaru is one of the other major port towns, and yet again, excellent seafood. As soon as we checked in a dumped our bags we headed for a seafood store right around the corner from our hotel. You had to buy/select what you wanted downstairs in the market and then go upstairs where they prepare it for you for "free". I thought the deal was nearly too good to be true, but it was exactly like that.

We chose to get some scallops, octopus, prawns and crab. The crab was cooked, but the others were prepared with half sashimi and half grilled.

Scallop, Octopus and Prawn Sashimi

The portions were so big, we embarrassingly asked the waitress whether she forgot that half was going to be grilled. We watched her go into the kitchen to talk to the chefs and they were laughing, and she came out to confirm that it was indeed only half grilled and this was really only half the food we ordered!

Not long after we had our meal and did our fair share of walking down the road, we stumbled across a soft serve place that was advertising a three flavoured soft serve, which I could only guess was taro, milk and melon.

Color Soft Serve Bonanza

The guy behind the counter was a skilled soft serve machine operator, and the fancy machine was operated by foot. Too bad I didn't take a video, but his style was top notch as you can deduce from this pose.

Foot operated soft serve machine.

Another short walk and we stumbled into a baked rice cracker store with another set of colorful flavours! We couldn't resist.

Baked Rice Cakes

もち焼せんべい

And then not far from there sat a Otaru Burger stand! I was bursting at the seams, really wanted to try it but I just couldn't. So I took a picture to remember this failure by.

Otaru Burger

Finally, our last proper meal in Hokkaido was at a kaiten sushi place that I wrote about. I was too busy eating that I didn't take many photos of the food, but here's two to demonstrate.

Todays Special

Tobiko with Crab Meat Sushi

All in all, a really delicious holiday in Hokkaido. And as I said, interspersed with some snow boarding.


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