Japan 2020 – Winter adventures in Hokkaido

Once again we were back in Japan! This time, for a long awaited (and long dreamt of) winter holiday that would take us through a jaunt across Hokkaido on our way back down towards Tokyo (and the Nostalgic 2 Days event).

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Our journey in Japan started off in Nagoya Centrair Airport where we disembarked from our flight from Singapore to catch a connecting flight to New Chitose Hokkaido. With just an hour or so to spare, we managed to get some light bites and I got myself one of those limited-time Starbucks Sakura specials. Tasted like strawberry milk.

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Although we planned to settle down for the night in Sapporo, we didn’t stay in the city for long as it was the final day/night of the Otaru Snow Light Path Festival and we didn’t want to miss it. So with our luggages dropped off, we headed straight back out.

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With our 6-day JR passes stamped, it was off to Otaru for an unexpectedly freezing evening.

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Not before grabbing a quick snack of course.

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With the sea behind blasting freezing winter air in our direction, to say that Otaru was cold is a huge understatement.

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We were both freezing our butts off. But the light path was pretty. Some friendly local folks were also handing out grilled potatoes to warm us up. Really nice.

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With the cold not letting up, we quickly shuffled ourselves into Kaisenshokudou Sawazakisuisan. What a long name. I know this phrase has been used way too many times but trust me, the Kaisendon here, is the best I’ve ever had in my life. Just looking at the pictures now makes me hungry.

The quantity and quality of the seafood were sublime, the chef was friendly and best of all? (Or worst of all depending on how you look at it) There wasn’t a line to be seen. If you’ve read the tripadvisor reviews, this place is known for its long line of customers waiting out in the cold just for a bite. But due to the unfortunate corona-virus situation, we were able to get a table without any waiting. This might seem like a good thing for us visitors, but I do hope it doesn’t affect the owners too much in terms of revenue, it would be sad to see businesses close because of it.

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Back to the food, we had the house special don with a side serving of Botan Prawns. There are not many ways to describe fresh and tasty but if you can think of a better word, insert it here. Everything about the Kaisendon was perfection.

If I ever find myself back in Otaru in the future, you can bet I’ll be here again. The only regret? Not ordering up an additional bowl. I shall live with that folly for the rest of my life, until I return of course.

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With our tummies and souls filled with warm JDM seafood, we continued exploring the Otaru light path on our way back to the station to catch our train back to Sapporo for some needed rest.

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Our next day would be another one filled with travelling. On hindsight, perhaps we should have made our base for the night in Otaru instead to save on the travelling.

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Day 2 in Japan started off with some lovely crisp winter morning air as we headed off to Sapporo Nijo Market for breakfast. If you’ve been to Tsukiji, Nijo market will seem rather small in comparison, you can pretty much finish exploring within an hour and perhaps just slightly more if you stay for some food. We popped into Donburi Chaya for some brekkie.

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How was it? There’s not denying the fact that the seafood bowl here is most likely better than anything that can be bought outside of Japan but perhaps, it would have been better if we hadn’t had our super amazing (yes, really) Kaisendon experience the night before. But because of that life-affirming seafood bowl just a night ago, Chaya just couldn’t stack up.

The seafood wasn’t quite as fresh and it felt a little expensive for what we got. I also felt a little bad after eating a slice of whale bacon. It tasted pretty much like regular sweet fatty ham, just crunchy. Sorry whale.

My advise? Skip Nijo market and head towards Otaru if you can, Nijo is a little too touristy for our taste. Otaru also has a morning market right next to the train station which is even smaller than Nijo, so that might be worth checking out too. Unfortunately for us, we had a train to catch.

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With our breakfast settled we grabbed a cab back to our hotel, The Cross Hotel Sapporo (an excellent hotel choice if I might add), for a quick check-out and to continue onto the next leg of our journey, after a visit to the nearby Daimaru departo of course. Told you we didn’t stay in the city for long.

Next stop, Niseko.

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