5 Things You Must Try in Hokkaido
A popular place in Japan amongst tourists from all over the world, Hokkaido is the ideal place to experience a quaint getaway. From the subtle and peaceful way of life to its alluring and breath-taking sights and scenery, this paradise hidden at the northern-most part of Japan just one and a half hour flight from Tokyo oozes with charm and never fails to captivate.
Miso Ramen can’t get anymore authentic anywhere else than Sapporo, Hokkaido. As the birthplace of Ramen, Sapporo bustles with ramen stalls and restaurants all over the city. Two famous Ramen joints popular amongst tourists are Ramen Republic and Ramen Yokocho. A narrow lane tightly-lined with ramen shops serving the famous Sapporo ramen, Ramen Yokocho is 3-mins by foot from Susukino Subway Station.
The area is also a popular entertainment and red light district, coming alive with energy and zest as the sun sets. Two stations away from Susukino Station is a ramen theme park known as Ramen Republic located at the 10th floor of the Sapporo ESTA, a commercial complex just in front of the Sapporo Station. Unfortunately, these popular ramen havens have been much commercialized, targeting and pricing themselves mainly for tourists and visitors. But fret not, a good bowl of ramen is available anywhere in the city. All you need to do is look out for several important signs that spell a good ramen place – small, maybe a little bit run-down, but crowded with people queuing up even in the dead of winter.
One thing you can’t miss when experiencing Hokkaido – bottoms up! Other than sakes, Hokkaido is famed for their beers with numerous breweries all over the island. Be sure to hop into one and sample their beer freshly brewed. The top four breweries include Kirin, Sapporo, Suntory and Asahi. However, other microbreweries offer beers that are just as satisfying.
One recommendation is to try the Genghis-Khan dinner (BBQ lamb) with the special beer at Sapporo Beer Factory. A perfect blend of delicacy and booze – a sinful pleasure indeed!
Hokkaido’s range of seafood choices is a paradise for seafood-lovers. Crabmeat, salmon, scallop, sea-urchin, salmon roe, any of these underwater delicacies are fresh and supple for your enjoyment. Monstrously huge crabs are popular amongst locals and tourists alike. One place to catch seafood live in action is the morning market at Hakodate. Just a stone throw away from JR Hakodate Station, the Hakodate Asaichi (Hakodate Morning Fair) houses close to 360 shops, all of which are either vendors or restaurants selling seafood. Do get prepared to rise early and experience the market at its “freshest” between 6 to 7am.
One word – heavenly. You can never leave Hokkaido without bringing home a box of Shiroi Koibito or Royce products. These chocolates are set to sensationalize your palettes with its rich and tantalizing coco aroma, evoking every sinful desire in you for sheer chocolate indulgence.
Make a trip down to Shiroi Koibito Park – Ishiya’s chocolate factory where the Shiroi Koibito chocolates are made. Costing only 600 yen, entering the factory feels like walking into the world of “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” by Road Dahl (thanks Adam for pointing this out!). Besides watching the production process live, there is a gallery featuring chocolate packaging, tins, a display of hundreds of hot chocolate cups and tea cups, and even a galore of old toys played by kids all over the world. Certainly brings us down memory lane with much nostalgia.
Winter is when all the action begins. Despite harsh frosty conditions in February, Odori Park is all fired up with people geared up for the biggest snow event of the year. The world famous “Sapporo Snow Festival” lures 2 million visitors to Hokaiddo each year, attracting snow-builders from all over the world to congregate and compete.
Snow sculptures of all kinds are erected along the streets, crafting a magical kingdom out of snow. Ice structures as huge as three-story high buildings, life-size cartoon characters, famous monuments and icons, all of which, made out of sheer ice, are an absolute delight to marvel at. Night time would be the best time to enjoy these works of art as the street will be prettily decorated with lights, illuminating the whole vicinity and turning it into one bright, giant fairyland.
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