Tag Archives: Hokkaido

kelseydo Otaru

Otaru is an adorable port city in Hokkaido. The Otaru Snow Light Path Festival (小樽雪あかりの路, Otaru Yuki Akari no Michi) is held there every February and we were lucky to catch a glimpse of it. These pictures don’t really do it justice. A variety of groups get together to build thousands of themed snow candles on a few very long streets in Otaru. My favorite candlelights were the owls, but there were some pretty amazing castles as well. It was really cold but we managed to warm up at an ice bar with some mulled wine!

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kelseydo Asahikawa & Furano

After five glorious days in Sapporo I was ready for a new environment and luckily the plan was to head to Asahikawa. Unfortunately I managed to get pretty sick when I was in Sapporo with the flu but I tried to be a champ and sported the ‘sick mask’ everyone wears in Japan. No one wears these masks in Canada, except for if there is a SARS/H1N1/Super-flu-of-choice outbreak and even then its only people in doctors offices and hospitals. I don’t know if it actually makes a difference to the rate of spreading/catching the flu but I felt peer pressured into wearing one because I didn’t want people staring at me while I was coughing like an old smoker hag on the train. To remind me of how stupid I looked, Nick decided to sport the mask too. Even though he was 100% healthy, not even a sniffle. He told me it was a sympathy mask. Nice.

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Asahikawa is the second largest city in Hokkaido, and they also had a Snow Festival going on in February but we missed it by a couple of days which was a bit of a shame. The other big happening in Asahikawa is the Asahiyama Zoo! I was a bit torn about the zoo considering it’s like prison for animals but I decided to go anyways for my own personal enjoyment of seeing cute furry things. Sorry animals.

All the animals had these weird tics: one of the seals swam in the same pattern over and over again, one of the polar bears paced the same walking pattern and then swung his head up and down every time he turned, and one of the red pandas licked himself for about half an hour. Maybe that last one wasn’t a weird tic. The wolves just stared out at me like they were drooling over dinner. The only animals that looked like they were having a good time were the penguins. It seemed like they enjoyed the attention they were getting from onlookers.

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I’ve never been to the Vancouver Aquarium but I like to watch the penguin cam from time to time because I think penguins look absolutely ridiculous when they walk. Clearly everyone at the Asahiyama Zoo thinks so too because there was a whole spectacle where the penguins walk about half a kilometer around the zoo. Those birds should stick to swimming.

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Sapporo, Asahi and Kirin are literally the only beers sold everywhere in Japan so it was great to find the Taisetsu Craft Brewery in Asahikawa. I literally enjoyed every single one of the beers they had for tasting. We also managed to find the famed shoyu (soy sauce) ramen that Asahikawa is known for at cheap and semi-hard to find Sugawara. Nick tried curry ramen, which turned out to be the best thing to beat the cold weather.

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We hopped on the cutest smallest one car train to Furano, a quaint town just south of Asahikawa. Travelling by train is a real novelty for me, I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of it!

In Furano we stayed in a super luxurious hotel called the Natalux just across from the train station. It was Valentine’s Day. Nick surprised me with an indoor picnic of local treats and goodies from made in the Furano area. Everything was very unique and delicious. I especially loved the squid ink brie and the wormwood Daifuku (rice flour ball). The wine wasn’t too bad either!

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We went to visit the local wine kojo the next day to sample a few more blends. I’d imagine Furano has a similar climate to the Okanagan and thats why they have good crop weather. The wine could be better to be honest.

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We had to try the local specialty while we were in town: オムカレ Omlette curry– an omlette on top of rice with curry sauce and homemade sausages. Arteries clogged!

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Furano was so adorable I didn’t want to leave but there also wasn’t much to do there other than R&R so it was time to move on!

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kelseydo Sapporo Snow Festival

Reunited and it feels so good! Nick and I stayed in Sapporo for four glorious days with enough time to see the sights, enjoy the snow festival and even go on a bit of a bender! Sapporo is the most happening town north of Tokyo, especially during the Snow Festival (雪祭り) when thousands gather to gawk at ice sculptures bigger than an apartment complex ( get this: apartments are called mansions in Japan…lost in translation much?) , eat amazing seafood, drink hot wine and generally freeze their asses off.

Our hotel room in Sapporo was a bit of a smoker stenched 80’s closet so we went out as much as possible and took advantage of the sedative properties of red wine to fall asleep in that hole. Nick was a bit jet lagged and my sleep schedule was all out of whack from maintaining a cycle of waking up at 3:00pm, eating ramen, drinking until 5am, rinse, repeat. Needless to say we were in a bit of a funk but we managed to pull it together and have a grand ol’ time.

The Sapporo Beer Museum

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Took us about a half hour to get here but we made it!

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These old barrels have been out front of the brewery since it started in 1876…wood is good, right?

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Nick and I posing in front of a giant beer kettle. Say BEE-RU!

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A wee sampling! The Classic was my favourite.

The Sapporo Snow Festival
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Nick in front of the Sapporo TV Tower at Odori Park

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Welcome to my ice castle.

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A very J-Pop performance in front of an illuminated ice sculpture

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かわいい! Cute!

The Eats

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Nick having sashimi for breakfast at a stall in the fish market

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The famous ジンギスカン Ghengis Khan (marinated lamb), street meat style at the festival

 

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スンドブ Soon Tofu, a korean spicy soup with tofu from a food stall at the festival

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Giant LIVE King Crab at the fish market! We ate one just after, much smaller though.

One Night in Sapporo

 

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The city lights

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At 500 bar, all cocktails ¥500. Gin Gimlet, yes please.

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St. John’s Wood, an international/irish bar wasn’t really doing it for me other than the name.

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A nightcap at Blues Alley never hurt anybody…

The nightlife in Sapporo is great, we weren’t into clubbing but there are a few I heard might be good like alife or Booty that might be worth checking out. There are A LOT of hostess bars, a disproportionate amount really, and sometimes they are hard to tell apart from the regular ole in the wall bar. Nick decided we could find a bar just by walking around and taking our pick but that had us ended up at a a small bar on the second floor of what looked like a house, where all the patrons were men dressed in school girl uniforms. Awkward. Needless to say the bartender took one look at Nick and said “No.”We were on our way and looking for something a little more couple and casual drink friendly. Might have been an interesting/completely fucked up night if we had followed Nick’s bar finding method but we stuck to the regular watering holes and had a blast!

Nick and I are travelling through Hokkaido and Northern Honshu until the end of February! Check out our trip on the daily with Instagram.

Click here for: Kelsey’s Instagram and here for: Nick’s Instagram

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