Monday, October 27, 2008

DAY 7 - 4th Day in Sapporo, Hokkaido

(Above ) Sapporo in the early winter morning

We rise at 6am on our final day in Sapporo before we leave for Tokyo on the 12pm JAL domestic flight from New Chitose Airport. We will head out of the hotel at 7.00am, looking for some breakfast. We will then return back to our hotel for a good rest.
(Above)Have a 'rich' Japanese breakfast of salmon roe and sea urchin slices

(Above ) JR Sapporo station

We will checkout of our hotel at 8.45am so that we have ample time to reach JR Sapporo Station to to catch the rapid Airport train which departs from Sapporo station at 9.25am and will reach the airport by 10.01am. Cost is ¥1,040 (SGD$16.98) one way for each person.
(Above) JR Sapporo - New Chitose Airport Rapid Train

This is far cheaper than travelling by taxi which will cost ¥12,000(SGD$196.25) per trip to the airport. One can buy the tickets at the west exit of the JR Sapporo station information desk which is opened from 8.30am -7.00pm and the staff there are fluent in English, Mandarin and Korean. When buying the tickets, we have read that it would be helpful to provide the station staff with the following information: - Departure station, destination (station) / Date and time of boarding / Type of train (Limited Express/Local) / Number of persons (adult, child (ages 6 to 11)) / Preferences (unreserved seat /reserved seat / preference for First-class Car [Green Car]).
(Above) Seeing Sapporo as we whizz by on the way to the airport from the train

(Above ) Facade of New Chitose Airport , Sapporo , Hokkaido

On arrival at JR New Chitose airport station, located on basement 1F, we can exit from either the left or right passage as there is an escalator on either side to reach the upper main levels of the airport. We will head for the JAL ticketing counters on level 2 to check in our tickets and luggage for our domestic JAL flight to Haneda Airport, Tokyo.
(Above and Below) New Chitose airport interior

As our flight departs at 12.00pm, we should have adequate time for any hiccups and if there aren’t any, we can always stroll around New Chitose airport. Like our own Changi International airport, there are plenty of shops and cafĂ© on Levels 1 and 2 to stroll about. Level 3 is a Gourmet paradise with many restaurants located there.
(Above) Wide array of food at Level 3 at New Chitose airport
(Above) One of the many eateries on Level 3 of the airport.

(Above)Viewing a plane as it taxis down the runway from the observation deck

There is an observation skydeck at Level 4. New Chitose airport also features exhibits on humankind’s aeronautical progress through the ages located around Levels 1 and 2.
(Above) One of the many ancient flying machine replicas on display
( Above ) Another replica of an ancient helicopter prototype

Collect stamps from the aircraft replicas you visit and you can exchange them for a souvenir. We will hang around there until it is time for boarding our flight and off we go to Tokyo!

(Above ) Leaving Sapporo

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Day 6 - 3rd Day in Sapporo


Waking up early at 6am, we will leave the hotel by 7am as we plan to catch a light breakfast at JR Sapporo station before we take the 8.42am train to JR Otaru. We will probably be able to share a breakfast bento set from the eateries at the train station so that there will be space for our stomach for any interesting meals on board the train or at our destination - Otaru. We are planning to spend slightly over half a day at Otaru today on our last day in Sapporo as we will be leaving for Tokyo tomorrow.
Otaru is a port city of 150 000 people located in Western Hokkaido facing Ishikariwan Bay leading out to the Sea of Japan. It is 35 minutes by train away from Sapporo . It is known for being one of the most picturesque place in Japan with it’s Victorian styled architecture, romantic walkways, snow capped mountains and beautiful beaches. At some beaches, such as Ranshima and Sunset Beach at Zenibako, the sea water is said to be extremely clear.
According to the train schedule, we should arrive at Otaru by 9.30am. We plan to take a walking route on our own through Otaru as we won’t be spending a whole day there. Those who are spending a full day in Otaru can buy a ¥750(SGD$9.75) 1-day pass for the Sansaku bus that goes around Otaru town stopping at the varioys tourist spot with announcements in Japanese and English. The ticket can be purchased from the Hokkaido Chio Bus Otaru station, located just outside the JR Otaru Station. Actually Otaru is a town that is easily navigated by foot. In line with the Japanese ethos on organized efficiency, the town is divided into 4 main areas – Central

(Above ) Selling Japanese beef and lamb at a stall in the gourmet zone

Zone comprising of hotels, banks and shopping malls ; Gourmet Zone comprising of restaurants bars, cafes ; Canal Zone comprising of traditional sightseeing spots like the Main canal, historical buildings, souvenir shops ; Romantic Zone comprising of sightseeing spots, good for photography.
( Above ) JR Otaru Station
(Above) Christmas mood at JR Otaru station
On arrival at Otaru, We will pickup an English map at the tourist information office inside the station (opened daily 9am–6pm). Out of the station, we will head for the Sansaku market nearby for some seafood breakfast like sea urchin sashimi(below ) and buy some fruits there.
(Above) Sansaku market
Like most markets in Hokkaido, there is a wide array of fresh fish like salmon and the famous Hokkaido king crabs.
Otaru also has an abundance of fresh fruits(above) on sale there in the market. The market is opened from 8am to 6pm. (Above) OTARU CANAL ONCE AGAIN
After the visit to the market, we will proceed down Chuo Dori Street which is their main street en-route to the symbol of Otaru – The Otaru Unga(Canal). This much photographed canal runs through Otaru and is adorned with Victorian style street lamps and historical 12 century Taisho era stone bricked houses. It is best viewed at dusk, when the canal is lighted by gas lamps lining one side and the historic brick warehouses are reflected in the waters.
During the day it is a hive of activity, and buskers play on the boulevards that run alongside, although it comes into its own at night with lively bars and cafes. There are also ramen and sushi stalls and restaurants along the canal so deciding on what to eat would be often a difficult choice, considering that everything would look so tempting to us. There is a rickshaw tour(below) of the canal available at ¥8000(SGD$103) for two persons but i think for Gayle and myself, we would rather spend that kind of money on food or shopping.
(Above) Rickshaw rides along Otaru Canal available

Facing the canal, to the left of Chuo-dori, we will see the Otaru Museum (daily 9.30am–5pm; ¥150(SGD$1.95), that features a collection of historical and nature displays in a converted 1893 warehouse. In one of the warehouses to the right of the main road , we will find the jibiiru (microbrewery) Otaru Biiru, where gleaming copper stills dominate the wooden beer hall. The brewery serves three regular German-style beers (a crisp Alt, the darker Dunkel and the cloudy, "banana-flavoured" Weissbier), at ¥500(SGD$6.50) a glass, as well as special seasonal beers and snacks. If they're around, we can ask the German masterbrewer or his assistant to give us a tour of the brewery and Gayle can try some beer at the same time. (ABOVE) STREET SIDE HOT CRAB SOUP STALL

We will then proceed to take some picturesque shots there as we stroll along the canal and do some window shopping and checking out of the cafes there. We will also have some Takoyaki squid balls and hot crab soup for morning tea from the streetside stalls along the way. Our next stop would be at the Kitaichi Glass Emporium and Museum of Venetian Art(below) to take a look at Otaru’s famed exquisite glass crafts and lamps.

We will look for some souvenirs and trinkets to buy back, in particular, the cute bookmarks in the shape of gas lamps or beautiful pendants that display a spectrum of colors with the light shining through.

Second stop would be the Otaru Music Box Museum(Main building) and the No 2 Otaru Music Box Antique museum which we heard can be located by following the tinkling sounds from the music boxes in these two buildings. Both buildings are located diagonally from each other. The buildings themselves are of historical significance, dating back to the 1900s, when Otaru was in its heyday. The red-brick main building houses hundreds of music boxes for sale, while most of the antique music boxes can be found in the No 2 Otaru Music Box museum.

(Above) Unique Music boxes on sale

Visitors are free to even create their own "one-of-the-kind" music box at the third level of the main building. Admission is free. The Music box museums are opened from 9am to 6pm. Interspersed among these buildings are old warehouses that have been converted into shops selling soft toys, souvenirs, ice cream, confectionary, and seafood. There, we will look for this confectionary cafe called Le Tao which is at the corner across the No 2 Otaru Music Box Museum. It is famed for it’s beautiful looking and mouth watering desserts, pastries and cakes. We will probably take a rest there while munching on these delectable pastries and cakes.

Hmm, it seems that we will be munching non-stop in Otaru but well, that’s what simple pleasures in life are for right? From here, we will make our return journey back to JR Otaru station by walking down Sakaimachi Street which is just entire rows of what Otaru is famous for – shops selling glass pieces and decorative items, music boxes and of course, mind blowing food from barbecued seafood(below) like crabs and scallops to pastries besides the usual sushi and sashimi.
Free food tasting is the order of the day as the shops there offer samples of their pastries and cakes. We will probably buy some snacks there for supper. We will make a left turn as we come across the Otaru post office which will bring us onto Nichigin Street, past the Otaru City Museum and finally to our next destination –Sun Mall Arcade which will again tempt me and Gayle into more shopping. Walking till the end of Sun Mall Arcade, we will enter the famed Sushiya Street which offers some of the freshest sushi and seafood in Otaru. We have been advised to avoid the restaurants lining the main road and instead go for to the alleys for the hidden gems.
One of which is Otaru Masasushi(Above). I plan to try the the Special Set/”Moriawase”.It comes first with ika somen or thin strips of raw cuttle fish you eat with a sauce you prepare yourself with soy sauce, one raw egg yolk and raw urchin. The second set is a plate of sushi, miso soup and pickles. It is located at Otaru City, Hanaen 1-1-1 Sushiya street. Typical sushi assortment(moriawase) for one person costs around ¥2500–3000(SGD$32.50 to $38.90).
We may also drop by Ou Maru, a famous barbecued seafood restaurant o try out their recommended barbecued selections. (ABOVE) MIYAKO SHOPPING ARCADE
Our belly full of good food and legs rested, we will then proceed onto some more shopping at Miyako Arcade(Above), another shopping alley further down Nichigin Street. After completing the Miyako Arcade, we will then head for the JR Otaru station which is nearby and take the 4.30pm train back.
Reaching JR Sapporo station by 5.05pm, we will head back to our hotel for unloading of our shopping spree and catch a rest before heading out for our last night in Sapporo. Rested and ready for more shopping, we will head off an hour later towards JR Sapporo subway station and take a ride down to the next stop at JR Odori subway en-route to Odori Park.
(Above) Odori Park (Odori meaning "large street") is the 105 meter wide park in the center of Sapporo running east to west, and separating the city into North and South. It was original built to operate as a fire break, but is now one of the best parks in the city. Odori Koen stretches over twelve blocks and offers a large pleasant green space during the non-winter months, replete with trees, flowers and fountains.

Odori Park is also the site of the city's major annual events, including, of course, the Sapporo Snow Festival in February. In mid-July to mid-August, Odori Park is the setting of the Sapporo Summer Festival, celebrated with beer gardens set up by various beer companies over the length of the park alongside stalls selling fried noodles, corn on the cob, and other foods. There are live bands providing entertainment, and some great people watching. (Above) Street along Odori Park lighted up for Christmas (Above) Sapporo TV Tower
At the eastern end of Odori Park is where we will start our walk down the park with a visit to the (Above) Sapporo TV Tower and go up it’s 90 metres high observation deck that offers a great view of Odori Park and panoramic views of the city. This will be a good time to warm up the camera. Oh yes, we will be bringing our own camera tripod so that it will not be a hassle asking other people to take photos for us. We will then walk towards intersection of W2 E1 for our dinner. We plan to try a recommended Crab buffet there at this restaurant called Kani Tabehoudai which features an all you can eat crab buffet. It costs about ¥4200(SGD$54.60) per person if you choose the buffet menu. So maybe one of us will purchase the buffet menu while the other buys a ala carte meal since we can share the buffet items between us. They present an assortment of different crabs and other seafood on a platter. For those into drinking alcohol, they have what is known as Nomihoudai where you can drink all you can for an additional ¥1050(SGD$13.65) which lets you have access to the assorted beer, wine, sake available there, free flow. We heard the staff there are zealous about showing you all the proper technique of getting the meat out of the crab and will admonish you if you fail to scrap it all out and waste the meat!
After this shiok! meal, we will take a stroll down Odori park and do more photography and if it gets too cold, we will just head back to JR Sapporo station and try to catch some last minute shopping before the shops close at 9pm. We may head to the Apia underground shopping arcade area with more than 115 stores of differing varieties. The area is divided into “streets” each with a different name to help you with your directions. There is Joyful Walk, Fashion Walk and Harvest Avenue. Stores range from fashion boutiques, accessory shops, souvenir shops to restaurants and cafes. We may also head to the adjoining Daimaru,built squarely on top of the station area. It is a huge department store housing specialty shops and the Dimaru shopping center with 6 levels of shopping. It also contains many great restaurants and a huge book store. Shops range from make-up and beauty counters, high end brand name stores (Louis Vitton, Bvlgari, Prada etc.) to shoe stores and casual wear. After the shops close, we will walk back to our hotel and take a good rest as we will be heading to Chitose airport to catch a flight leaving for Haneda airport at Tokyo the next day.