So the previous leg of our Hokkaido trip didn’t go so well, with crappy weather and all. But things started to change for the better once we reached Sapporo. And by things, I really meant the weather.
It seemed as if the sky cleared up because it knew that the Yosakoi Soran Festival was taking place. I couldn’t help feeling like it was the festival that chased away the rain. Because right after the festival ended, the rain came back the very next day.
Anyway, Yosakoi Soran Festival was THE main highlight of the trip for me. I had actually visited Hokkaido in June two years earlier, and was not all that keen to visit in June again. Because if you read my travel journal from the last trip, I already said June was a bad time to visit Hokkaido as it rained every single day during that trip.
But during that trip, I missed the Yosakoi Soran Festival. And I LOVE Japanese festivals. So you can say that I was back in Hokkaido this June specially for the Yosakoi Soran Festival.
We arrived in Sapporo from Niseko in the late afternoon. After we checked into Mercure Hotel Sapporo and let the kids play in the bath tub for a bit, we wanted to head out for ‘Soran Night’ at Odori Park. But as we were making our way there, we realised there were performances at Susukino itself, not far from the hotel.
So we just planted ourselves along the road and watched the teams of dancers put up their performances at Susukino.
It was AWESOME!! I loved the performances so much!! It was so full of energy and happiness. The performers all put on their widest smiles when they came on – the joy was infectious!
The energy and joy that the dancers at Yosakoi Soran Festival exuberate is contagious! #bumblebeemumtravels #bumblebeemuminjapan #yosakoi #yosakoisoran #yosakoiソーラン祭り #odoripark #大通公園 #Sapporo #japantrip #japantravel #japanfestival #summerfestival #hokkaido #hokkaidotravel #changirecommends #changiwifi #mondayescapes #traveltuesday #wednesdaywanderlust #travelthursday #citytripping #myfavouritetrip #familytravelhq #wanderlust #instatravel #instapassport #traveltheworld #travelblog #travelblogger
I forgot all about the crappy weather previously and the fact that I was sick. It was very hard to feel crappy when there was so much joy and energy in the air!
We didn’t stay for the entire event, which was scheduled till 10pm, because we needed to go for dinner. I had made reservation for dinner at Sapporo Bier Garten.
Sapporo Bier Garten is famous for their jingisukan at Kessel Hall. I tried it the first time I visited Hokkaido and frankly, I wasn’t a fan of the jingisukan here. Though I admit the atmosphere was great.
This time, we decided to try the jingisukan + crab buffet at Trommel Hall instead. Since most of the people in the group generally preferred seafood to jingisukan. What I loved about the buffet at Trommel Hall was that it also included prawns and hotate! Plus all the kids (6 years and below) could dine for free. #CHEAPO
Day 6: Sapporo
In the morning, we headed to the Maruyama Koen district and had breakfast at a lovely cafe called Cafe Anniversary.
It was soooo pretty!! This was like totally my kind of cafe.
You just cannot resist ordering their beautiful cakes and having coffee served in a pretty cup.
Right after that, we went on for lunch at Sushi Zen.
Sushi Zen Honten at Maruyama Koen actually stated in their website that they did not allow children under 7 years old. But my friend helped to call them to enquire and they said they could accommodate us in their private room.
When we arrived at the private room, it was all set up with two sets of children’s utensils and high chairs! I was pleasantly surprised. So I guess they do allow children after all?
But of course, they didn’t have kids meals, so we ordered ala-carte tamago (egg) sushi for the kids.
On the whole, dining at Sushi Zen was a great experience. Their service was excellent – from waiting for us at the road in front of the restaurant to greet us as we arrived, to sending us off to our car as we left. And they had a super value-for-money lunch set which cost ￥3,564++.
After lunch, the kids had some fun at ARIO (near Sapporo Beer Museum) where there was a mini festival going on. MF had a lot of fun playing traditional Japanese festival games and winning a lot of prizes!
For the rest of the day, we hung out at Odori Park to catch the Yosakoi Soran Festival.
Odori Park is a huge park, stretching 13 blocks from 1-chome to 13-chome. We camped at 9-chome, where there were playgrounds for the kids and also where there was free public viewing area for the parade. So it was kind of killing two birds with one stone. The kids got to play, I got to watch the festival.
For dinner, we just grabbed some food at the festival’s food park.
Day 7: Sapporo
We started the morning with a visit to Sapporo Central Wholesale Market. I was actually a bit lazy to drive to the market and wanted to go to Nijo Market in town.
But somehow, the debate of which market to visit ended up with the group deciding the central wholesale market was better, so there we went.
Kaisen Don for #breakfast! Only in #Japan. And I just realised I've been here for a week and hasn't posted a single food photo… How can?? #bumblebeemumtravels #bumblebeemuminjapan #kaisendon #chirashi #chirashidon #海鮮丼 #sapporo #北のグルメ #kitanogourmet #japantrip #japantravel #hokkaido #hokkaidotrip #hokkaidotravel #japanfood #japanesefood #japanfoodgopan #sonya6000 #sonyimages #sonyalpha #sonyalphasclub #changirecommends #changiwifi #travelblog #travelblogger #iamtb
As usual, we ended up having breakfast at Kita No Gourmet.
After breakfast, we shopped around the market. Usually I would buy a slice of Hokkaido melon when I visit markets. But since we had so many people this time, it was more cost-effective for us to buy a whole melon – which the staff helped to slice up for us! When we couldn’t finish, he even put the leftover in a styrofoam plate and wrapped it up with cling wrap for us to bring back. A+ service!!
Next, we.. or rather I wanted to have desserts. So we drove to Chocolate Masale Cafe.
But I had a feeling nobody else in the family wanted to be there having desserts except me. I reckoned my in-laws would rather be sightseeing or shopping instead of sitting in a cafe since this was their first trip to Hokkaido. There was nothing in Sapporo that I really wanted to see that i haven’t seen, or any souvenir that I wanted to buy that I haven’t bought at least twice before. But there were lots of things I wanted to eat but haven’t eaten. So we ended up splitting up.
I joined my friend who was sort of a coffee connoisseur and had done some research on where to find good coffee in Sapporo. I am no coffee connoisseur. To me, there are only two types of coffee: The ones that can keep me awake and the ones that can’t. So I just tagged along with him. I was actually very glad to be following brainlessly rather than leading the way for once.
We first arrived at Ritaru Coffee. Since I knew nothing about choosing coffee, I always just order house blend. I had a slice of their signature cake to go with my Ritaru Blend coffee.
Imo, cafes in Japan can be divided into two categories: Those that serve good coffee, and those that serve good cakes. Usually those cafes that serve good coffee only have so-so cakes, while those that serve good cakes only have so-so coffee. So I wasn’t expecting much from the cake at Ritaru. It was better than I expected. Not WOW but okay, not bad.
Next, my friend brought us to Morihico coffee. There was a looooong waiting time to get a table on a Sunday afternoon.
At least it was quite entertaining to watch the lady prepare the coffee while waiting. The way she did it was like an art.
According to my friend, the ice drip coffee at Morihico was awesome. In his words, he said the aftertaste was like wine. I had ordered boring house blend again. And yes, that’s an old-school sewing machine on the table.
But I tell you what, imo, was awesome at Morihico. THE TOAST. It was not just any toast. Morihico gets their bread from Marumugi, a super popular bakery in the vicinity. I super loved the toast!!
I had maxed out the amount of coffee I could take in a day, and headed back to spend the rest of the day checking out Yosakoi Soran Festival at Odori Park.
My friend continued his food hunt and found the ramen joint which Anthony Bourdain visited – Aji no Karyu (味の華龍)!
Like OMG!!! In my previous post, I raved about how we followed Anthony Bourdain’s recommendation and ended up at Torimatsu in Niseko – which was awesome. And here is a video of Anthony Bourdain’s ramen hunt in Sapporo:
And my friend just had to send us a photo of the ramen, ala Anthony Bourdain style.
We later met up at my favourite hole-in-wall joint, Go Tsubo, for grilled oysters, grilled hotate and grilled hokki! Considering each grilled oyster here only cost 105yen, we somehow managed to chalk up a bill of about 8000yen. Just imagine how much we ate! Okay, we ordered beer too – so maybe we didn’t eat THAT much. I hope.
Day 8: Otaru
After visiting Otaru so many times, my husband suggested that we go out of Central Otaru this time round. I wanted to protest about not being able to eat my favourite ice-cream from Kita on Ice Cream Ya San and favourite chou cream from Kitakaro. But I had to agree with him that it was time to go explore somewhere off the beaten track.
I asked my friend (an Otaru resident) for restaurant recommendations and he asked us to go to Minshuku Aotsuka Shokudou at Shukutsu Peninsular and Shokudou Misaki at Shakotan. Always listen to the locals yo!
So we started with breakfast at Minshuku Aotsuka Shokudou. Which was fabulous!
Minshuku Aotsuka Shokudou is something that deserves a post of its own. So keeping it short here. Go for their signature grilled Nishin or Nishin sashimi when you’re here – I liked them both ways!
After our meal, we drove up to the hill beside the restaurant for a view of the peninsular.
Our next destination was Nikka Whisky Distillery at the neighbouring town of Yoichi. You can have a tour of the facilities to understand how whisky is made here.
It was raining quite heavily when we were there, so we did not complete the whole tour – which required us to walk between various facilities in their expansive grounds.
Instead, we enjoyed whisky tasting at the tasting hall. The tasting hall was awesome. Not only can you enjoy whisky neat, you can help yourself to ice if you prefer on the rocks, or you can even add soda water to make ‘highball’!
And you absolutely cannot leave the souvenir shop without buying some whisky or whisky flavoured snacks! I loved how they sold their whisky in tiny souvenir-sized bottles.
Before we got drunk, we drove on to Shakotan to have lunch at Shokudou Misaki. That was when I realised I made a huge mistake in planning. We should have gone to Shokudou Misaki for breakfast and Minshuku Aotsuka Shokudou for lunch!
By the time we got to Shokudou Misaki for lunch, many of the items on their menu were sold out!! Including the aka bafun uni (red sea urchin) and their grilled fish. I drove all the way here for bafun uni can? *sob sob* Not just did I have no bafun uni to eat, those in the group who did not eat raw food had NOTHING to eat. (Even worse.)
Anyway since we had driven all the way here, we just ordered a few bowls of their normal uni don – which was still very nice and value-for-money compared to other restaurants in Hokkaido.
Read more: Hokkaido’s Best Food (By Region)
And believe it or not, the boys actually enjoyed eating the uni don here! Usually I would have ordered some grilled fish for them but since uni don was the only item available here at that hour, I just let them have some (desperate times call for desperate measures – figured it was better than letting them skip lunch). Surprisingly they liked it a lot!
Uni season at Shakotan is very short. You can only get them here from June to August. Knowing that, I guess it was not that wasted a trip to Shakotan, even though we had to settle for second best. Let me just insert a photo of the bafun uni from our previous visit here to make myself feel better.
After lunch, I was hoping we could take at least take a nice photo at Shakotan Peninsular after lunch. You know, to make the drive all the way to Shakotan more worthwhile. But it was raining heavily so we gave that up as well. So back to central Otaru we went.
At Otaru, we checked in to Zen Otaru Hostel, which was ran by my friend Sano and his wife.
We had planned to visit Mount Tenguyama in Otaru, but scrapped the plan as it was raining. So we decided to go for a walk at Otaru canal and Sakaimachi instead, especially since this was my in-laws’ first visit to Otaru.
MY was not feeling well and kept wanting to be carried. The walk from Otaru station, where Zen Otaru Hostel was, to Sakaimachi was not exactly near when you have to carry a 16kg kid. Plus it was drizzling and I needed one hand to hold an umbrella and only had one hand to support the 16kg.
So I decided to only walk as far as Otaru Canal. Actually no. I did not even walk until Otaru Canal. I only walked until Kita No Ice Cream Ya San. And discovered to my horror that it was closed!!!
I checked my watch and it was what.. 5.05pm? Kita No Ice Cream Ya San closed ON THE DOT at 5pm! I missed it by 5 minutes!! Super upset as this was the second time in a row I came to Kita No Ice Cream Ya San to find it closed. Previously they were closed because of winter. So again, let me dig out an old photo to fill in the gap.
In case you are wondering why I have that photo of myself eating ice-cream at Kita No Ice Cream Ya San in winter when I said that they close during winter, let me explain. Kita No Ice Cream Ya San is closed during winter – BUT they open when there is a festival. I was there during the Otaru Snow Light Path festival, which was why they were open.
My husband and his parents went ahead to explore Otaru Canal and Sakaimachi while I decided to take a break at Otaru Denuki. Because without my ice-cream break, I didn’t have the energy to carry MY and walk all the way back to the hostel.
I decided to order the melon with soft-serve from Popura Farm to perk myself up before heading back. But I felt totally cheated when the melon that came was green and not orange?!
But it was okay. The green melon was sweet and juicy and it made me happy enough to pick MY up and walk back to the hostel.
After we got back to the hostel, Sano brought us to the pharmacy nearby to pick up some medication for MY. We also went to the supermarket to buy some groceries to prepare dinner in the hostel, because nobody wanted to go out in the crappy weather.
Day 9: Otaru – Asahikawa – Kitami
Since we were staying near Otaru station for this trip, we thought we would pay a visit to Sankaku Market in the morning. I have never visited Sankaku Market although I have been to Otaru many times. Sano warned me that Sankaku Market was a tourist trap – that the seafood there was overpriced and not fresh. Listen to the locals yo!
Even if it was a tourist trap, I decided I had to go and take a look for myself at least once. How stubborn can I get right? In my mind I was thinking, this is Hokkaido! How bad can it get??
It was bad. Don’t go there. Walk into any other restaurant in Otaru and you can probably get better food.
I had no idea ‘fresh’ seafood could be tasteless. I mean.. We ordered prawns that were swimming and served as sashimi once they were taken out from the tank. Figured we couldn’t go wrong with live prawns. But the prawns were icy and tasteless. I really didn’t get it. So far everywhere I went in Hokkaido, from the 100yen conveyer belt sushi bars to the eat-all-you-can-prawns served during buffets at ryokans, I got sweet prawns. This was the first time I had tasteless prawns in Hokkaido. I was very perturbed.
So yeah, I repeat: Sankaku Market IS a tourist trap. And yes, listen to the locals yo!!
Oh, I forgot to mention Sano bought us three packs of uni from a local supermarket the day before. So we went back to the hostel, cooked some rice to eat with the uni he bought – which tasted soooo heavenly compared to what we had at Sankaku Market.
If you are looking for a more decent breakfast spot near Otaru station, my coffee connoisseur friend recommended the coffee shop called Shalon (シャロン) just in front of Otaru station, very near to Zen Otaru Hostel. He said the coffee and toast there was pretty good!
After we checked out, I couldn’t leave Otaru without eating my favourite ice-cream! So we drove over to Kita No Ice Cream Ya San, which was open *hooray*, where I grabbed an ice-cream cone before we drove on to Asahikawa.
Official Websites & Map Codes
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- Sapporo Bier Garten (Map Code: 9 554 169)
- Cafe Anniversary (Map Code: 9 488 575)
- Sushi Zen Honten (Map Code: 9 488 640)
- ARIO Sapporo (Map Code: 9 554 296)
- Kita No Gourmet / Sapporo Central Wholesale Market (Map Code: 9 548 175)
- Chocolate Masale Cafe (Map Code: 9 460 061)
- Ritaru Coffee (Map Code: 9 518 012)
- Mirihico Coffee (Map Code: 9 488 110)
- Aji No Karyu (Map Code: 9 492 389)
- Go Tsubo (Map Code: 9 492 083)
- Minshuku Aotsuka Shokudou (Map Code: 493 842 096)
- Nikka Whisky Distillery (Map Code: 164 665 188)
- Shokudou Misaki (Map Code: 932 686 366
- Kita No Ice Cream Ya San (Map Code: 493 690 410)
- Popura Farm (Map Code: 493 690 353)
- Sankaku Market (Map Code: 164 719 530)