Hokkaido > Asahiwaka > Asahiyama > Zoo

 

Took a 2 hour train ride from Sapporo to Asahikawa to visit the zoo… which was quite an experience for us! I’ve only visited zoos in summer.

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We didn’t have a lot of time at the zoo because we wanted to visit another museum later that closed early, so we took a quick tour. It’s like being enclosed in a snow globe with a menagerie of animals. A lot of the enclosures were closed, but we got to see what we wanted to see! Mainly:

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Penguins

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Fat fat seals swimming up and down a tube

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Random sea creatures

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A very very restless polar bear which kept repeating a routine of pacing up and down the same path. Google can’t give me a good reason why this happens. It was rather bewildering.

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Some more random animals. The deer looked like they were freezing while the sheep looked really warm :3

The chimpanzee enclosure was rather sad looking… most of the chimps were balding for some reason?

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That’s about it before we left. Was a really quick look-see; the zoo’s not very English-speaker-friendly, most of the info’s presented in Japanese.

Getting to the zoo wasn’t very easy for us – we were there during a period where the tour bus and train didn’t operate, so we took a public bus, which took about 40 mins from the train station and cost us 400Yen each.

Entrance to the zoo costs 800Yen.

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Hokkaido > Sapporo > Otaru

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I took a train… I took a train for you… from Sapporo to Otaru…

lol? The trip was about 35 minutes, and we did our usual – onigiri (tomato rice wrapped in omelette pictured above) and a hot tea from 7-11 (or some equivalent).

We were a little flabbergasted when we arrived at Otaru because it was mercilessly pelting snow. Think of those horror shows where there’s a huge swarm of flies flying everywhere. Now turn those flies into fat snowflakes.

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But of course I was ever ready. This is Otaru’s town mascot, I suppose. I shall call him duck-san. Here I am pictured wearing a pillow of a coat and my trusty uggs. Not the least bit glamorous, but it really helped to keep me warm. Janice however, was not so well prepared. More of that later.

With less than half a day to go (we arrived at 3, the sun sets at about 5), we aimed to

  1. Walk down the Otaru canal
  2. Look at some glassware
  3. Visit the music box museum

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Quite calm, serene and pretty! I think it was really too snowy – very few people were in sight. Fortunately alpaca and I had enough to keep us warm but poor Janice was clad in a wool-blend coat that left her miserable.

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:< janjan is cold.

So after a bit more trudging in the snow, we stopped by an eatery to thaw and get some comfort food.

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fried stuff and hokkaido milk! best comfort food ever.

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Alpaca refuels too.

Pic from sapporo-tourguides.com

Trudged some more to find the Otaru Music Box Museum. It’s set in one of the many historical red brick buildings and houses 3 storeys of music boxes in any shape and size! I particularly liked the carousel on the left – when wound up, the horses went up and down and round and round like a real carousel. And on the right is a peek into a music box with a kaleidoscope attached. Beautiful.

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Another Christmas themed one, which had the reindeer, santa and snowman swaying from side to side as the music played.

After this we trudged even further and got lost BUT chanced upon a magical… UNIQLO! Where Janice decided it was high time she invested in a similar Michelin-Manesque coat. So she did.

The moral of the story guys, is that if you are a Singaporean and you are going to a country with snow, -5deg to 10deg might not sound like much, but it is good to invest in the following:

  1. A down-feather coat
  2. Waterproof boots.

Okay moving ON!!

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Look at all these precious tiny glass things!! They have them super TINY!

So we did all we wanted to do at Otaru… and was still snowing buckets. We explored the historical area (around the music box museum) a bit more.

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Totoro and I, Janice & New Coat & Random Igloo.

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And on our way back to the train station, we spotted a few frozen critters.

That’s about it for Otaru! I can’t seem to find the exact addresses of the places we visited, but they’re all at the end of the canal. If you’re planning to go in winter, remember to bring a good coat and/or an umbrella to shield yourself from the snow!

Hokkaido > Sapporo > Ishiya Chocolate Factory

Another day at Sapporo!

We were off bright and early to the Chocolate Factory.

Ishiya Chocolate Factory
2-2-11-36 Miyanosawa Nishi-ku, Sapporo, Hokkaido 063-0059, Japan
Hours: 9:00 to 18:00 (entry until 17:00)
Closed: No closing days
Admission: 600 yen

To get there, take  the Subway – Tozai Line (orange line) to Miyanosawa Station and it’s a 5-10 minute walk away.

It’s a really beautiful red brick building set against a mountainous backdrop! Would imagine it’s just as beautiful in summer and spring. In case the logo on the van doesn’t ring a bell, Ishiya Chocolate Factory produces one of Hokkaido’s most well known souvenirs – some people call it the “white lover’s chocolate”. Essentially it’s a thin piece of chocolate (dark or white) sandwiched between two crispy, crumbly biscuits. BLISS.

The entrance seemed somewhat like a souvenir shop. You pay 600 yen at the cashier to get a “passport” (pictured below) and of course, a biscuit to nom while you’re viewing the exhibitions. Then you take a lift up to the exhibits and viewing gallery.

OK I’d have to admit I wondered why they called it a chocolate factory instead of a biscuit factory. I guess it’s more interesting to delve into the details on how chocolate is processed. Anyways it’s pretty educational! There are like 3 highlights, one about the history of chocolate, one about processing chocolate, another, on how the ishiya biscuit is made. If you can see from the last photo above, we were given an aerial view of the entire process. they are REALLY strict on QC!! we saw so many biscuits being thrown out for being the wrong colour. at the end of it after it’s packaged into the plastic wrappers they’re weighed and if they’re not satisfactory, they’re thrown out as well!

What a waste of biscuits, but I guess it’s necessary…

At the top floor is a workshop space where people can decorate their own ishiya biscuits, a cafe and… a gramophone exhibition. rather out of point.

Check out the intricately designed sugar sculptures and some of the yummy pastries they had!

Too enticed by the view, we decided to sit down and enjoy some snacks.

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The best hot chocolate I’ve ever had! It’s not overly thick and you can tell by the taste that good quality cocoa was used. They provide a little bottle of orange liquor for you to add in to enhance the taste but it was rather bland and really wasn’t necessary. Good enough on its own. The cake was heavenly by itself as well. Softttt and creaaaamy.

Oh yes there’s also a lolly place (which reminds me of Sticky) and an antique toy exhibition on the 2nd floor. but we breezed through those since we wanted to spend some time at Otaru, which I’ll save for another post.

It was snowing realllly heavily by the time we got out! But i really miss the feeling of seeing snow fall and engulfing the roads right now.

Till next time!

Hokkaido > Sapporo > Sapporo Beer Museum

Most recently made a trip to Hokkaido for a break and some snow! Blew quite a bit but it was well worth it. Will be blogging by cities and what we did there.

Quick overview:

  • Sapporo > Otaru > Asahikawa > Noboribetsu & Toya-cho > Hakodate > Niseko > Sapporo
  • Free and easy, travelled mostly by JR train (there’s a 1 week unlimited pass that allows you to travel around Hokkaido for Y22,000 / SGD$316)
  • Travelled with one other female friend, Janice – and neither of us speak Japanese, but we managed to get by! People working at the train stations are super helpful and will usually be able to supply you with all the information you need as a tourist in that city.
  • Ordered a pocket mifi (cheaper than paying for wifi in hotels; we opted for the cheaper one with slower speed – totally regretted it. it’s good enough for whatsapp but not stuff like facebook / instagram.)

So here goes! Day 1. Arrived via ANA, transit at Tokyo.

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My first Y270 meal. Breakkie that consists of an onigiri and warm citrus tea, purchased at Narita to accompany me on the local flight to Hokkaido.

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Felt surreal looking down from a plane and looking at blocks of white!

After purchasing our JR passes, we took a train to JR Sapporo Station from Shin Chitose. The JR airport express train is available between 8 a.m. and 10 p.m. from New Chitose Airport to JR Sapporo Station, and between 6 a.m. and 8 p.m. from JR Sapporo Station to New Chitose Airport. The train runs every 15 min, the entire trip takes 36-40 minutes and costs Y1,040 (one way).

Tips for riding the JR?

  • Invest in the JR pass – it saves you a lot
  • Get a copy of the JR map and time tables – their trains are usually on time, so plan trips around it
  • If in doubt, ask the staff at the ticketing counters
  • Try to plan early and book seats. It’s not fun standing if you have to travel for more than an hour… scratch that, it’s not even fun standing for half an hour lol! Go for comfort! Reserve your seats early!

So after arriving at Sapporo and taking a few wrong turns, we arrived at our hotel – Hotel New Otani, threw down our stuff and walked to Sapporo Beer Museum. It was 4ish and already dark!

The museum was really not as close as we thought it would be. According to Google Maps it’s about 2km and a 25 min walk from our hotel. Bought oden from 7-11 to munch on the way. Eating piping hot oden in the snow? Bliss!

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FINALLY arrived at Sapporo Beer Museum. The Museum’s open from 9am – 6pm. It’s set in what they call a beer garden – rather, an area with 4-5 old-style buildings and plenty of dining choices.

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To be frank, the museum was pretty boring. Coupled with the fact that it was all in Japanese, we totally sped through it. Entry is free, thank goodness.

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Token tourist shots

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Here’s the best part – we paid Y500 for 3 kinds of beer and a snack of choice! There was a dark, the sapporo classic (which is only available in sapporo) and … a light? I think. I don’t remember. They were served by really cute waitresses too.

The funny thing is we were sitting there enjoying our drinks and the earth started shaking. No joke. Janice thought it was the after effects of alcohol but it turns out that an earthquake did hit Hokkaido (and actually triggered some tsunami warnings which really sucked for us). Anyways we were moved to another table (which wasn’t under a wobbling chandelier) and everyone was pretty calm. No biggie.

Except I guess the local media blew it out of proportion; when we went back to the hotel with wifi everyone was asking Janice if she was okay (I don’t think my friends read the news much :'()

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This was dinner! We wandered into a 7-11 within a shopping center near the beer garden. I wish our local 7-11s had such good food – I could eat this every day! (I bet only a tourist would say this). It wasn’t exactly dirt-cheap; the entire meal cost us about 30 SGD. Still, it was good and there was too much food.

Also had a first taste of Hokkaido milk! It came in a really cute glass bottle and was so good that we drank it almost every day. But none were as good as what we had on the first day. Super creamy and sweet. Both of us are lactose intolerant so trust us when we say it’s good. :9

Okay stay tuned for our 2nd stop at Sapporo… Ishiya Chocolate Factory! Home of the famous White Lover’s Chocolate 🙂