Japan Travel Diary Part 10
Sapporo and Otaru
I had decided that during our stay in Sapporo, we were going to eat some more of the local specialties, which of course included crab and uni (sea urchin). And what better way to consume this than in the form of sushi? With that in mind we set out to Nijo market in the morning for a refreshing seafood breakfast. Nijo market is a small, mainly seafood based market located close to Odori station. Most of the stores seemed to be selling pretty similar things, so we just popped into one of the largest and made my luxurious seafood breakfast dreams a reality.
Before this trip I had always erred on the side of dislike for uni because I just found the flavour a bit strange. However, the uni in Hokkaido is on a completely different level. It’s incredibly sweet and creamy. Now I can finally understand how people have a bowl of rice with just uni on top!
We had already checked out of the hotel and weren’t too sure what to do after eating breakfast so we decided to take a short break at a cute café and plan out the rest of our day. Of course, more food was had.
Initially we had planned to give Shiroi Koibiti Park a miss, but we felt that we had done most of what we wanted in central Sapporo. So we decided to head a bit further out and see what the park had to offer.
As an Australian who rarely ever sees snow, I thought that the snow in Odori was already pretty intense, but it was just a prelude for what was to come. I almost slipped several times just walking to the park. There are several sections in the park and we took our time exploring them all.
There is a general introduction to chocolate and chocolate packaging at the start, before moving onto more Ishiya factory specific things. On one of the upper levels there is a lovely café with windows that look out onto the park gardens. Being the gluttons that we are, naturally we decided to have another snack.
We had a parfait, roll cake and hot chocolate. Interestingly, you were meant to mix some jam into the white hot chocolate to make it berry flavoured. It was sweet and comforting either way and I preferred it with the jam whereas Ryan liked it more without. While we were relaxing, right on the hour, suddenly music started playing. Turns out that it was a cute little display out in the gardens. Bubbles came out of some of the buildings and some of the plastic figures started to move!
After being treated to that little scene, we continued to explore the museum. The rest of the park was mostly not related to chocolate. There was a gramophone exhibition and an impressive collection of old toys. In spite of the cold we also frolicked around in the gardens and probably had a bit too much fun playing in the tiny houses. Somehow, we managed to amuse ourselves for hours and were finally ready to leave, but not without first picking up some tasty souvenirs
Then we were on our way to Otaru! Otaru is a quant town about 40 minutes away from Sapporo by train. It was snowing heavily by the time we arrived and I wanted nothing more than to get into the hotel and rest for a little while. Luckily, the hotel was just across from the station.
Ryan was keen to get exploring so we went off into the cold not that long after checking in. I grabbed a walking map but it was a bit hard to read in the dark, so we just went downhill and followed other people. We got a little excited upon seeing the beginning of the snow light path and snow sculptures and even decided to make our own little snowman! Before too long we reached the canal area.
It was simply stunning. The photos do not do it justice. Lights were tied up across the water and all along the walk way there were delicate and cute snow sculptures. There was also quite the crowd, but most people were happy to shuffle along slowly and enjoy the sights.
Initially we thought that the canal was the entire lights festival, but how wrong we were! As we were walking back towards the hotel we noticed some more small ice sculptures and an inviting looking path. There were so many sculptures and lights along this path. It went through multiple blocks and there was always something surprising. There weren’t as many people and because the path was so long it wasn’t crowded either. As a result it felt a lot more intimate and private than the canal before and also the Sapporo snow festival. It was nice to point at all the small things and look at them together.
Some more photos, because it was just stunning.
Another day, another luxurious seafood breakfast! Next to Otaru station there is a small seafood market called sankaku market which offered many breakfast rice bowls with fresh sashimi on top. We went for rice bowls and then grilled sea food at a different restaurant! As to be expected of Hokkaido the uni was once again spectacular and the grilled scallops were also juicy and sweet. My only regret was not getting a bowl with more uni!
After that, it was time to get exploring again. We returned to the canal to see it at a different time of day. We were thrilled to see that our little snowman friend had survived the night! Although the lights weren’t lit up it was nice to see a different side to the canal. Although not as romantic, you could really appreciate the tiny little details in the ice and snow sculptures that were difficult to see in the dark. There were also street artists and performers on the pathway complaining about how it was difficult to do business in the cold season!
This time we also headed further out from the canal towards other major tourists spots around Sakaimachi Street. We chose to follow the high way instead of the more scenic routes so there aren’t many photos. On the plus side, we stopped for some famous multi layer soft serve. This was just as delicious as it looked. It was fun eating all the different layers and trying to guess the flavours!
We spent the rest of the day exploring Oraru landmarks around Sakaimachi street such as the glassworks museum and music box maker. Although to be honest my favourite part was probably walking into the omiyage stores and trying all the delicious snacks that they were offering. We also ate a cream puff the size of my head for lunch but unfortunately the photos weren’t all that great!
Before we left Otaru to go to a hotel closer to New Chitose airport, we decided to check out the snow lights one more time and grab a light seafood dinner.
I was extremely reluctant to leave Otaru but alas we had an early flight the next morning, so we picked up our luggage and took the train to another hotel located much closer to New Chitose airport. If I had the opportunity I would love to revisit Otaru and see more of the sights and just enjoy the ambience of this charming town.
Shiroi Koibiti park is accessable by Miyanosawa station. It’s about 20 minutes away from Odori station and trains come fairly often. You can reserve ahead of time to make and decorate cookies. If you want to do this there is an additional fee on top of the entrance fee. The gift store is open for a little longer than the actual museum, but it is usually rather packed. During Summer there is a rose garden, instead of snow all over the exterior and the Soft ice cream house in the garden is open for business. More info on the website: http://www.shiroikoibitopark.jp/english/
We stayed at dormy inn premium in Otaru. (http://www.hotespa.net/hotels/otaru/) It is located just across from Otaru train station, which is great for tired and cold travellers looking to quickly offload their luggage. However, getting to the main sites such as the canal was a little bit of a treck in the blistering cold. The actual room was Japanese styled with sliding doors and there were additional amenities such as a relaxing onsen and free tea in the lobby. This is one of the hotels that I’m pretty keen on staying at again for even longer next time!
The Otaru Snow Lights festival happens at roughly the same time as the Sapporo snow festival. The dates don’t coincide exactly, so be sure to check the site to see what the best time to visit is. The festival is held in two sites, and the lights are lit by tireless volunteers! For more information about the otaru snow lights festival http://www.welcome.city.sapporo.jp/event/winter/otaru-snow-light-path/?lang=en
Phew, thanks for getting through all of that! The next entry will be the last one for my this Japan trip! I hope you’re looking forward to it!