Hello friends! We just returned from Hokkaido and we definitely wish we were still there. I think it’s really one of the best holidays that we’ve had in ages – and self drive at that (yes, I drove! I will try to cover the driving stuff in a separate post). Hokkaido is truly one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been, but I gotta admit I did crave being back in the bright lights of a city after some days out in suburban areas.
Sapporo Day 1: Odori Park – Nijo Fish Market – JR Sapporo Station
First day in Sapporo and we are off!!! The Ibis provides a decent Japanese – Western breakfast buffet so we had that for breakfast. Really loving the salad bar as it has free flow avocado and fresh thinly sliced octopus sashimi. Truly a breakfast for champions. The Ibis is located at Nakajima-koen so it’s not exactly in the centre of Sapporo but it’s certainly close enough to walk to Susukino without being hounded by the flashing lights and the noise at night. Our room was massive (objectively, not even Japanese standards, mind you), and I never felt too claustrophobic.
& AND INITIAL
Having slept in and lazed around until 11, our first stop was to explore Tanuki-koji. My friends, it is deader than dead in the morning (we realised after, that it is bustling at night). So we went off to find a soft serve I found on Instagram – & AND INITIAL.
I’m pleased to report it’s as good as it looks! The milk soft serve is creamy, as one expects from Hokkaido milk soft serve. The chocolate is rich, and while the taste is certainly good (Closest comparison would be Awfully Chocolate / the Dark Gallery’s chocolate ice creams), it was the soft serve texture that I really enjoyed, which I don’t think I’ve ever had in Singapore. I generally like soft serve textures more than ice creams but unfortunately Singapore’s weather doesn’t take kindly to soft serve as it melts crazy fast. Fortunately, I can get my fill in Japan!!
NIJO FISH MARKET
After our soft serve, we took a walk around Nijo Fish Market which I found quite a disappointment. While Tsukiji has plenty of small stalls on the outer rim of the market where you can try new snacks, it’s not the same for Nijo – there isn’t much atmosphere. That said, we grabbed lunch at a super touristy kaisendon shop and had a maguro, ikura and uni don for about 2,300yen. It was good value and we both really enjoyed the uni (we ain’t big fans of uni). I mean, did you really go to Hokkaido if you didn’t have uni?!
After lunch we took a walk around the Odori Park area – an area with plenty of shopping malls that offer air-conditioned sanctuary away from the heat that assaults Sapporo in summer. We saw the TV tower (which is a sadder version of a Tokyo Tower) and hung around in Odori Park for a bit. Then we decided to take a further 15 minutes walk overground to JR Sapporo, as a way to check out the city (the underground walkway is actually supremely well done, would encourage doing both) and to in search for iced coffee at Streamer Coffee Company. The rest of the afternoon was spent shopping at the JR station as it was sale season!!
SOUP CURRY GARAKU
Teddy really wanted to try soup curry, a Hokkaido specialty. So he googled and found a place (Soup Curry Garaku) which opens at 5, and “often sells out”. So being typical Singaporeans, we arrived at 4.50pm in order to be first few in line. And guess what, the restaurant was filled within 10 minutes of opening. I really wanted to try the vegetable soup curry but the pork belly was apparently the popular dish. So I got the pork belly while Teddy got the chicken leg.
If you think that soup curry is a diluted version of Japanese curry, you couldn’t be more wrong. It’s thin, like a soup, but the curry flavour is unmistakable. The best part is that you can choose your spice level – levels 1 to 5 are free, from level 6 to 40, you’ll have to a pay a small fee. We both chose 5 and it definitely had a spicy kick. We also got a side of yellow rice (I swear there has to be butter in it because how can it be so fragrant???
The soup is completely addictive. Soup curry is literally curry-flavoured soup, made with a rich soup stock. It was freaking amazing and such an umami bomb. We both agree it would be such a great winter-warmer. And I had absolutely no regrets picking pork belly because it wasn’t fatty (yassss) and it was super tender. If we had gone back again I would have gotten the vegetable soup because Japanese veggies > all other veggies.
MOUNT MOIWA ROPEWAY
This is one of the must-do things in Sapporo, taking a cable car on the ropeway to the top of Mount Moiwa. We went just in time for sunset, and it seemed we had the same idea as every other tourist in Sapporo. It would have been infintely more enjoyable if (a) we were not squished into each cable car (I could barely see anything), and (b) the top wasn’t so populated with tourists chattering away loudly. The sunset was truly beautiful and the top of Mount Moiwa is also the coolest place in Sapporo – everywhere was scorching hot. I liked it but wish it was less crowded so I could enjoy it more.
Pro-tip: pick up a Mount Moiwa flyer on the street car for a discount on tickets! Also, we couldn’t fit on the free shuttle bus to the Mount Moiwa ropeway so we made the 600m trek to the start of the ropeway – it’s very doable.
We took a 30 minute streetcar ride back to Susukino and walked back to the Ibis thereafter. Btw, Sapporo accepts Suica and Pasmo IC cards (leftovers from past holidays to Tokyo) so we simply topped up our cards and used them for the trip. So definitely bring them along! Another observation: public transport in Sapporo is more expensive than Tokyo.
Here’s a picture of Susukino at night (it really looks so much better than in the day) to round off this first post.
Hokkaido Road Trip (July 2018)
Hokkaido Day 0: Introduction to Sapporo + Driving in Sapporo
Hokkaido Day 1: Sapporo (this post!)
Hokkaido Day 2: Sapporo – Furano – Asahikawa
Hokkaido Day 3: Asahikawa – Lake Saroma
Hokkaido Day 4: Lake Saroma – Lake Akan
Hokkaido Day 5: Lake Akan – Kushiro
Hokkaido Days 6 and 7: Kushiro – Obihiro, Obihiro – Sapporo
Hokkaido Days 8 and 9: Sapporo