Tag Archives: japan

Hokkaido 2019 – 03 Yoichi & Otaru

Next day with waking up quite early was very tough (especially after night of drinking) but we had plans to visit another place we had tour booked. This time it was whisky distillery in Yoichi on the coast West of Sapporo. I can’t really call myself a whisky snob at all, but I do enjoy the taste, and our Japanese friend, who has been there on the tour before, told us it’s worth giving it a visit. The city itself doesn’t really have anything more to offer though, as it is very small town, with even the train station being quite a surprise when we got off. The area of the distillery was beautiful though, looking like some kind of European castle, even more strengthening the feeling Hokkaido felt a lot like Europe. There were lot of barrels with the Nikka Whisky logo all over the place. We didn’t have a lot of time to wonder around though, as our tour was to start in few minutes.
Unfortunately compared to the Sapporo brewery tour we did just the day before that, the Nikka distillery tour was much more crowded, which didn’t leave many opportunities for photos. Especially not for one when there are o other tourists around. So instead of taking tons of mediocre shots we enjoyed the explanations of the guide and figured we can take pictures once it’s over. It was nice to see the process the whisky is made and the tools used for that, but same as with the brewery tour, what we were looking forward the most was the tasting at the end. There were three typed of drinks again, one of which being some weird apple liquor, on which I gave up and went only with two whiskies instead. As it was incredibly hot that time in Hokkaido, the alcohol got quickly to our heads and we needed to cool off a bit.
After short break, decent lunch at the restaurant inside the distillery (lot of delicious lamb shabushabu – type of meal you boil your meat in some kind of broth of your choice, I went with whisky and wine one) and after a quick look in the souvenir shop, where I wanted to get some whisky for myself, but unfortunately all of the good ones were sold out, so instead I god whisky filled chocolates, we went out to explore the premises on our own, as most of it can be viewed without any tour guide. We went to the barrel storage place and other buildings, and finished it off with bar inside, where you can try some whiskies which are either too expensive or just straight impossible to drink elsewhere. The bar itself had very nice atmosphere to it as well, so we stayed there for a bit and took few photos.
When we got fed up with the distillery we went to take a walk around the city and check out the sea as well, since it would be waste not to. If I went there by myself I might have had even play in the sea as well, but unfortunately others weren’t that into it, so we moved on. We wanted to visit city of Otaru that day as well, so we went to catch a bus and took off for long-ish ride during which some of us (excluding me) took a short nap. There were two things we wanted to see in Otaru, one was the famous canal, and the other was the Otaru beer. After arriving we went straight for the canal and took a short walk around it, but we soon wanted to go for a drink, so we decided to take some photos after and went to the restaurant. The selection of beer was incredible, so as I wasn’t too hungry I just spent time tasting various beers.
I even managed to get some photos of the canal, I didn’t have tripod with me unfortunately, so I tried few long exposure shots just by placing the camera on a stone wall, which with it uneven surface has proven to be quite a challenge. It was getting dark and we drank what we wanted to drink and saw what we wanted to see, so we went to catch a train going back to Sapporo, to have a good sleep for out last day.
We didn’t have any plans for out last day there, and as each of us was leaving at a different time, we couldn’t even plan much. So after having some amazing pancakes for a breakfast we went to stroll around the city for a bit again and do some light sight seeing. Last time I was in Sapporo I do remember taking photos of the red-bricked old town hall, but I didn’t go inside that time, so we went to see what’s inside. There was some interesting exhibition regarding history of Japanese (and now Russian) northern islands, bit nothing worth taking photos of.
Around noon our Japanese friend had to go for and airport, so we went to the train station with him to say goodbye. But we didn’t have much time either as my flight and my friends train weren’t that far apart either. As my friend wanted to get some souvenirs, we parted our ways and after taking few photos of the station I ended up going to one last place I was curious about. A Sapporo Ramen Republic (札幌ラーメン共和国), place located inside the Sapporo train station with many various Ramen restaurants. Since it was gonna be my last meal of the trip, I got the most posh one I could find and enjoyed it with a beer obviously. Then I went to catch a train to the airport back to Tokyo. As most of southern Japan was very cloudy I was lucky enough to have some amazing views from the plane as well/

Hokkaido 2019 – 02 Sapporo

Next day of our trip we had registered for Sapporo beer brewery tour in the morning, and since Sapporo city is around 3hours of train ride from Hakodate, we had to get up very early and catch first train that went in that direction. Travelling in Hokkaido reminds me a lot of Czech republic as there are vast fields of pretty much nothing at all between the cities. As we soon realised even the earliest train didn’t leave us with any spare time, and we had to catch a taxi to get to the brewery on time. We were meeting our beer-loving Japanese friend at a station near the brewery, as he was telling us we have to go by the visitor bus to the brewery entrance. The bus design was nothing special, but the grab thingys for standing passengers were beer-glass shaped, which was nice touch.
After the tour there came the obligatory tasting, which was something we were looking for the most. And we obviously weren’t disappointed as we got 3 beers to try with some nuts as well. Also as my friend told me, only well served Sapporo glass has the beer level aligned with the star of the Sapporo beer logo. If any of you ever have around half a day to spare around Sapporo area I do recommend the tour a lot. As a beer loving people the tasting wasn’t enough for us, so we headed to restaurant which was part of the brewery, as our Japanese friend told us there’s a meal we have to try. The meal was Hokkaido-styled BBQ with huge variety of meats including mainly lamb with some port for good measure. And with that lot of beers that hare hard to come by in other places than Sapporo.
When we got decently stuffed and very satisfied, we decided to head out to the city centre to leave our baggages at the hotel and go explore the city a bit. With all the meat and beer we got slight cravings for something sweet instead, and as Hokkaido is very famous for it’s dairy products as well, we ended up with incredibly tasty ice cream. Places like that are especially popular with younger girls in Japan, so seeing three well aged guys stuffing their mouths with ice cream must have been quite a view. Speaking of views, after strolling a bit around city we headed up the TV tower at the edge of Oodori park. I’ve been up there last time I was visiting the city, but the view was super nice, so I didn’t mind going there again at all. I love how it overlooks whole park with a slight hint of Ski-jump ramp in the mountains behind the cityscape.
Since our main goal was to basically have a lot of beers and have some great time, we ended up going for few beers after that again, during which I took next to no photos, as we were just chatting about random topics all the time. We killed almost whole afternoon in a pub, and not eating much at all we went to explore some of the famous Sapporo ramen places. For some reason in Japan there’s a culture of shime ramen (〆ラーメン) which basically means to stuff oneself with oily ramen after night of drinking. Most of the places run late until night, ant it’s not rare to see drunk people slurping some noodles. It’s surely not the healthiest thing available, but it sure is delicious. We strolled through alley filled with various ramen shops and ended up in one our Japanese friend got suggested by someone. I got some crab and whatnot ramen, which was properly delicious. That put an end to day two of our trip, and we went back to the hotel to prepare for next day.