Saturday, March 31, 2018

Cavalock and The Double Hokkaido Market Encounter

Nijo Market near Tanukikoji shopping arcade in Sapporo is the place to be! Actually, it's the only place I could be since the other places I wanna go were rendered inaccessible by the snow. Snacked on oysters and scallops, then washed that all down with some fresh hot Hokkaido milk. It was pretty cold and rainy that morning with just a handful of Asian tourists doing what they do best at the market. Think if the weather was better there would be throngs of them. One of the few times when I was somewhat grateful for sucky weather.

Well, it was finally time to leave Hokkaido and head to Tokyo. But Hokkaido's New Chitose Airport (below) still had some surprises for us. As we were on our way to Tokyo, we wandered round the domestic terminal and stepped right into a huge produce market! Seriously, how cool is that? A final chance to grab some fresh Hokkaido produce before leaving the city. Unfortunately we already checked in our luggage so we couldn't buy some of the stuff like cheese. Bought more dried stuff instead like tea and biscuits. Next time, if we are ever back here, I guess we'll know what to do first.

Next post: Tokyo ... again?!?

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Cavalock and The Fried Chicken Quest

The tracks were cleared, the sun was up and we finally made it to Otaru in Hokkaido. A well-deserved lunch at the popular fried chicken joint Wakadori Jidai Naruto Honten. It was quite ... memorable getting there, to say the least. The ICE, the ICE, everywhere the ICE! It's like that new TV series The Terror, all that ice killing a ship's crew. Gingerly, we Googlemapped our way to the fried chicken place after surviving falling icicles, slippery ice traps and fighting frost giants. Well, it felt like we did!

Almost everyone we saw had the signature naruto half-chicken. We had the deep fried tori karaage which is pretty much bite-size fried chicken pieces. They were all right, wasn't really wowed by them. Maybe we should have the naruto half-chicken instead cos that sure looked popular. But the local Otaru beer was refreshingly good. Reminded me of some dry German beer.

Once a geek, always a geek. The Marvel poster at the train station caught my eye. Steller Place mall next to the JR Tower Hotel had a little Marvel coffee event at one of the coffee joints. The mall had a little Avengers: Infinity War exhibition on one of the upper floors. There were movie stills and life size statues of the Marvel characters. The usual promo thing. One of the coffee joints there was given a Marvel makeover and ... er... well, seemed a wee bit too gimmicky for me so I never did try it. 

I really wish I took a better pix of this or at least close-ups of the shoes. Saw this lady at the mall painting them shoes. Really gorgeous work. In Japan, there are often such craft works at malls and major retail shops like Tokyu Hands. The cute little rubber stamp I bought last year was after seeing the lady making them at Tokyu Hands. It's wonderful that talented craftsmen and women are allowed to showcased their talents and cash in on them at retail outlets like this. I know here in Singapore, they are kinda regulated to event places or fairs. Don't think I have ever seen them in departmental stores selling their wares.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Cavalock and The Sapporo Top View Attraction

If the words are too small for ya, it says "Buns of Hokkaido Ezo deer meat". Hah, what's a better hotel breakfast treat than that? Awwww, there's even a cute little bear holding the banner up for ya. Well, the train ride earlier that week through Hokkaido did see some bloodied deers lying by the side of the train tracks, in the snow. They had this helpless dazed look as the train zoomed past them, their blood drizzled across the snowscape. Damn it! Did I just ruined my chances of being an blogger influencer again!?!

Anyway, the hotel breakfast buffet at JR Tower Hotel was absolutely satisfying and who could say 'no' to a big yummy bowl of all-you-can-eat ikura first thing in the morning? The view from the 35th floor buffet hall was equally spectacular. On a clear day, you can even see a couple of the ski resorts along the mountain range. I can imagine the view being even more amazing at night cos the place turns into a bar at night and all that.

So this happened mere minutes after we bought our train tickets. Yah, the Baker-at-Home got us our refund immediately. Another reason why snow and me don't exactly get along. Plus it's another reason to return in the summer and visit Otaru.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Cavalock and The First Sapporo Board Game Sighting

Not everything this trip was planned. Yah, there were several places that we wanted to check out but there were more than a few spontaneous gems that we discovered while exploring Sapporo and Tokyo this trip. We stumbled upon this coffee and soft cream stand along the Sitatte Sapporo underground mall walk. After walking and window shopping for ages at the underground mall, this small Marumi Coffee stand was a welcome sight.

Now you can't go all the way to Sapporo without trying some of their wonderful dairy products especially their soft cream. The Baker-at-Home loved the coffee so much, the aroma, the roast and all that, that she bought the beans back. We bought coffee beans/powder from a whole buncha other places too. Which kinda got me worried cos everyone knows that's how the Cartels get their shipments through customs! Y'know, trying to fool the sniffer dogs with the strong coffee blend aroma? I was like, am I gonna get stopped just cos my luggage smells like a Starbucks warehouse? By the way, we didn't step into a single Starbucks this entire trip.

Well, another wonderful joint we discovered by accident was Tokachi Butadon Ippin Sapporo at Stellar Place, the mall that's near where we were staying at JR Tower Hotel. Absolutely famished after all that walking and window-shopping again, saw this long queue and figured its gotta be good. It's a rice and grilled pork resturant that is apparently very popular here in Sapporo. And you'll even get a full view of the strips of pork being grilled on an open fire too as you wait in the queue.

Interesting menu they got here too. You get to choose how much rice, pork, sauce you want per serving and it says it's a specialty of Obihiro in Tokachi, Hokkaido. The meat was beautifully seasoned although I would have liked mine with more sauce, I should have picked 'more sauce' when ordering but we learn. It still tastes great and in this cold weather, definitely welcomed.

"The original style of Buta Don was developed in the beginning of the Showa era (1926 - 1989), and was first served in many bistros in Tokachi about 50 years ago."

"As Tokachi is a cold place, the fat of the pork has been preferred to warm up the chilled body."

Well, I did managed to drop by some game shops or at least the board game section of major retail shops like Bic Camera and Yodabashi. Here's a shot of the single board game shelf at Bic Camera in Sapporo. I know, extremely limited selection but if you are a board game fan, you would notice a couple gems like Imaginarium and Carta Impera Victoria. Both new games are eagerly anticipated in the West but aren't widely available there yet but are already on sale in Japan. I would have bought Imaginarium but the possible lack of English rules and huge box set made me ditch the idea.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Cavalock and The Japanese Italian Connection

Ciao! Wasn't expecting to be digging into this much Italian food while in Japan but I did. And one was from a fast food joint too! I read good things online bout MOS Burger's "limited release" Pizza Burger and figured we'll give it a try. Was our first meal in Hokkaido at New Chitose Airport when we touched down around lunchtime and we really enjoyed it.

For starters, the chewy pizza dough buns are great and possess the texture you would expect from ... well, an actual pizza. If you close your eyes, the mozzarella cheese and fresh basil are good enough to make you believe you are actually eating a pizza. Hah! Fingers crossed if we'll ever see it here.

It was gently snowing one night in Sapporo as we were searching for dinner after shopping near our hotel at JR Sapporo station. One of us wanted Italian and I remembered spotting an Italian restaurant nearby on Google Maps, Salvatore Cuomo. We walked past the place and it was packed! Fortunately they got us the counter seats which we thought were like already the best seats around cos we got to see the kitchen at work.

We shared the grilled meat, all perfectly done. I believe that's 250g of glorious Japanese meat right there. We also had the small but delicious margherita pizza that was prepared and shoved into the oven right before our eyes.

Now we have hung out at crowded izakayas numerous times before but I think this is the first time we had dinner and drinks at a boisterous western restaurant in Japan. Having the corner counter seats allowed us to kinda observed the busy kitchen as well as some of the patrons. Heh, always fun to people watch.

Oh, we also made plans to check out the famous Savoy pizza joint when in Tokyo later (Spoiler alert!) but there just wasn't time this trip. Oh wait, but then we are talking bout the country that gave us gems like the Mario Brothers, of cos they know how to do a great Italian! Am I right?

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Cavalock and The Sleety Sapporo Stopover

You don't travel all the way to Hokkaido and don't stuff yourself silly with some fresh uni. So we left the resort, took the train to Sapporo and checked into the JR Tower Hotel that's right on top of the train station. It's bright lights, big city time! Sapporo doesn't possess yet the crazy busy streets like Tokyo but you will find a pretty steady hectic stream of human traffic underground. Kinda like the underground malls of Osaka, seems like all the major malls are connected underground like as well.

One of the first stops for lunch was the popular uni or sea urchin speciality restaurant Hakodate Uni Murakami at Nissay Sapporo Building. I believe they got several outlets and this is their main branch.  It took us awhile to find it but it turned out to be a somewhat interesting way to explore a city that's almost wrapped in a blanket of ice. Anyway, the Baker-at-Home found the joint and fortunately it wasn't crowded at all even though it was lunchtime and it is in a pretty big office building. It is simply unreal how good the uni and ikura were.

Well, in case anyone was wondering, yah, the sun did shine during our trip, it wasn't all cloudy and gloomy.

My favourite shot from the countryside before leaving for the city lights of Sapporo. No other soul in sight, eerie calm in the air and those are pretty huge blood stains in the snow. First thing that crossed my mind was 'how cool would this be for a DnD adventure?'. <^:^>

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Cavalock and The Onsen Breakfast Feast

What a glorious spread for breakfast! Woke up to a really amazing selection of fresh foods from Hokkaido back in the dining hall. Oh, and sleep was great too, probably thanks to climbing into bed early cos there's no TV in the room and it's too damn cold to stroll along the beach. Or maybe cos taking that little dip in the onsen earlier kinda relaxes ya and puts ya to sleep easier, know what I mean?

Just like dinner last night, when you are done with breakfast in the main dining hall, you get to mosey over to the lounge to enjoy some fruits and drinks. Same as last night, it was kinda cloudy that morning as well. Well, I could definitely get used to days like these so yah, a return visit to Noboribetsu in the summer would be nice. It'll be nice to be able to wander outdoors in just t-shirt and shorts without freezing your ass off.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Cavalock and The Lulling Onsen Getaway

Coastal resort time! So we braved through the frigid cold and finally planes, trains and automobiled our way to Kokoro No Resort Umi No Bettei Furukawa at Noboribetsu in Hokkaido. The weather was in a constant flux during our stay in Hokkaido as you can see from the a couple of the shots below taken from our room at the resort. I mean, it's always cold but the cloudy and sunny part was always changing.

What a sight! I could get used to chilling at either the cozy hotel lounge (above) or my own room (below) staring at the horizon all day long. Gorgeous views all the way. Hah! We did the whole onsen thing before dinner and that was soooo good. Better still, we have our very own full-fledged massage chair in our room. It really does wonders for your back. Oh, there's even a pair of binoculars in the room. ...The sea view!! To look at the sea view!! Not to peek into another guest's room!!

Dinner in the dining hall downstairs was exquisite. And I like how after such an excellent dinner, us guests would retire to the lounge for dessert, where there's a little centerpiece fireplace keeping the immerse room all toasty warm. Pity that it was rather cloudy that night and I couldn't see any stars.