Given that Hokkaido’s main city is nearly 50km away from New Chitose Airport we didn’t actually visit Sapporo on arrival like most people presumably do. It wasn’t till our third night, following our Lavender Farm trip, that we arrived in the city for a night out as we thought Saturday (27th June) evening would be a bit more interesting there rather than further south in the countryside!
Susukino is the centre of Sapporo nightlife and where we headed for on that night with Ethan in charge of which places we went and it wasn’t too long before we came across Curious Fox; an English pub just begging for a Tokyo Fox crossover of sorts. Other than a photo though we didn’t enter that place as food was our first priority and immediately across the road was Ramen Alley.
We’d already sampled local speciality miso ramen in Obihiro on our first night but that didn’t stop us from having some more. As the name suggests, Ramen Alley is a narrow lane full of restaurants serving up the Japanese noodle soup dish. We walked the length of the alley and couldnt really decide which one to go in so I just decided to go in the end one as there were a few customers in there meaning that it must be ok.
As it was, I struck lucky as by complete chance we had stumbled upon Aji no Karyu; the restaurant visited by the witty, sarcastic and profanity-using American chef/TV personality Anthony Bourdain in 2011 for his ‘No Reservations‘ TV show (S08E07) on the Discovery Channel. As a fan of his TV shows I was very happy to have ended up in this place and an autograph and message from him donned the wall along with countless other Japanese celebrities.
Anyone who has ever watched ‘The Ramen Girl‘ (2008) starring the late Brittany Murphy would probably have been surprised to see her include sweetcorn in her ramen but it seems that in Hokkaido this is a reality and corn miso ramen is a very popular dish. However, I don’t really like sweetcorn so plumped for the butter miso ramen which in effect saw me pay ¥100 more than Ethan just for a nob of butter to be added! Now, I know there is supposed to be a butter shortage in Japan at the moment but that is ridiculous!
Ethan’s goal was a pub called Rad Brothers, and with a window seat overlooking the street, we had a good view of what was happening out on the streets and we ended up spending most of the night supping on our cold beers in there. We eventually headed off to another bar or two after that (passing the R2D2 in the window of one cafe bar along the way) before walking back to our hotel. We took the underground walkway which leads to a smooth stroll without traffic lights halting you and is essential for the locals in the Winter when the streets are covered in snow and ice.
We moved on the following morning and headed down to Mount Tarumae and Lake Toya for a couple of days before returning to Sapporo by train at the end of the trip having returned our rental car near the airport. It was my desire to go to Sapporo Dome but after that we were back in the city centre and before a few drinks I needed some food. By chance I saw a nearby place called Yellow Soup Curry on the map in the station so we went there and sampled this local delicacy. Thereafter, we returned to Rad Brothers bar for a couple followed by a ¥500 bar but that closed early and we realised that Sapporo was pretty dead on a Monday night as we had expected, so returned to our hotel.
The sights of Sapporo were never really too appealing to us but we ticked off a few the following morning to kill time in between our check out and meeting an ex-student of mine. First up was the Clock Tower (below) which was constructed in 1878 and pleasant enough to view from the outside but we didn’t bother going inside to investigate.
The 147.2 metre high Sapporo TV Tower was next not that we had any real interest in it. Far more impressive was the former Hokkaido Government Office Building; a neo-baroque brick building constructed in 1888.
On our first night in Sapporo we’d gone to Nemuro Hanamaru sushi restaurant which is located within the station concourse but I felt the waiting line was way too long but here we were on our last day and we still hadn’t sampled any kind of seafood in a part of Japan that is famed for and specialises in such delicacies.
Thankfully that changed when we met up with my ex-student Rina at Hokkaido University and wandered on up to the aforementioned restaurant for some sushi at a price that is a little higher than I usually pay with the plates ranging between ¥180 – ¥500. The set-lunch options are reasonably good value and start from about ¥1250 and naturally the taste was of a very good, high standard.
That wasn’t the end of our lunch as directly across from the kaiten-zushi (conveyor belt sushi) restaurant was a place serving up desserts. Ethan and I had fairly simple ice-cream parfaits but Rina went for the very elaborate Yubari melon parfait seen below.
Ethan and I headed off to the airport at around 2pm but there was one final stop before we parted ways. That was Royce Chocolate World where I picked up a couple of souvenirs for my wife and then it was time to return the real world back in Tokyo.
For other reports from our Hokkaido trip click on the following links: