ultramarinus – beyond the sea

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HOW WE USED TO CELEBRATE CHRISTMAS

2020.12.24.

We got off work early for Christmas Eve. Some restaurants were about to close as we picked up our takeout from a small Japanese restaurant in Tai Hang. In Hong Kong, no restaurant is allowed to serve customers (except takeouts) after 6pm. No countdown events, Christmas parties or family gatherings. Just a simple dinner at home for the two of us seemed to be the most appropriate Christmas Eve celebration for this unusual year. 2020 is an extraordinary year. I can hardly recall another incident in my lifetime that has simultaneously affected virtually every single human being in the world. The terrible pandemic is forcing all of us to face the same fear, frustration and isolation. Most planes have been grounded, borders shut, and international tourism has almost come to a complete halt. This abrupt disruption to our lives lead us to realize that celebrating a festive moment with families and friends or spending the holiday season at a foreign land shouldn’t be taken for granted.

Memory is interesting when it works with time. At this bizarre moment of frustrating lock downs and social distancing, a recollection of how we had spent Christmas and New Year in the past two decades remind us how we used to freely experience the world and appreciate every little things around us. Looking beyond the vivid fireworks and lavish parties, it was our curiosity, freedom and gratefulness that allowed these joyful moments to simply make us happy in different stages of our lives. At this time of physical restrictions and emotional stress, looking back at these little moments of ours have become more precious than ever. Everyone deserves memories of celebrations that worth cherishing. Hope our little sharing would remind you some of your own best moments of Christmas.

We wish you Merry Christmas and good health for the upcoming 2021.

Separately we both had a school term in Rome. In the eternal city, both our studio and apartment were located in the lively neighbourhood of Trastevere.
Rome, December 2002
Wooden decorations for Christmas tree, festive balloons, magic shows, and many others. The Christmas market at Piazza Navona was our first experience of an European Christmas.
Rome, December 2002
I used to go to Vatican for evening walks during my stay in Rome. Vatican was relatively quiet and peaceful throughout much of December. A large Christmas tree was put up at St. Peter’s Square.
Vatican, December 2002
Another big Christmas tree was set up at the Victor Emmanuel II Monument.
Rome, December 2002
After graduation, we moved to London in 2007. At Christmas, we made a short trip to the Belgian capital for Christmas break. Like many locals and tourists, we spent the night at the Grand Place for light shows and Christmas countdown.
Brussels, Christmas Eve, 2007
Back in London, the Covent Garden was particularly festive during Christmas. The Apple Market was full of delightful vendor stalls and dining patios.
London, December 2007
Elegant, sparkling, and eye catching. One thing we loved about Christmas in London were the amazing shop windows.
London, England, January 2008
Cinema became a big part of our lives in London. We often went to the BFI and Leicester Square after work. At Leicester Square, a carousel and small fair would be set up during the holiday season.
London, December 2008
We decided to stay in England at our second Christmas in London. We made a short trip to the area of Liverpool and Manchester. During that trip, we were particularly fond of the Christmas lights in Leeds.
Leeds, England, December 2008
In 2009, we returned to Toronto to do our professional licensing. In Toronto, Christmas is always cozy and homey, and so does its lights.
Toronto, December 2010
In 2011, we made a trip to Cambodia and Hong Kong. With two of our friends, we experienced one of the most noisy countdown at the bustling Pub Street in Siem Reap.
Siem Reap, New Year’s Eve 2011
On our way to New Year’s countdown in Downtown Toronto, we stopped by the atmospheric Distillery District to test out my new DSLR. From then on, film camera has eventually faded out from my travel packing list.
Toronto, New Year’s Eve 2012
Before relocating to Hong Kong, we made our 90-day trip to South America. We spent the entire month of December in Patagonia and made it to Ushuaia (world’s southernmost city) in Argentina. Reaching the “End of the World” definitely deserved an early Christmas dinner at the beautiful Kaupe restaurant.
Ushuaia, December 2013
Ushuaia is the main port going to Antarctica. We didn’t take the chance to do an Antarctica Christmas trip. Perhaps we would regret it, who knows.
Ushuaia, December 2013
For almost a week we based ourselves at Argentina’s El Chalten to do day hikes near Mount Fitz Roy. At Christmas Eve, we did the longest day hike of the week to the glacier lake right below the magnificent mountain.
Mount Fitz Roy, Christmas Eve 2013
We booked the best room at Yellow House Hotel well in advance just to take in the panoramic harbour view of Chile’s Valparaiso, and enjoy the world famous New Year fireworks from the comfort of our room.
Valparaiso, New Year’s Day 2014
Getting off work at 2:30pm on Christmas Eve, talked about a short getaway trip during dinner, bought the plane ticket right away, then packed a small carryon bag and get a bit of sleep before heading off to Hong Kong International Airport at around 2:30am on Christmas Day. At 7 in the morning, we finally arrived in Taiwan. That trip remains as our quickest travel decision so far.
Main Station, Taipei, Christmas Day 2014
Thanks to the convenient public transportation network, we have been to many neighbourhoods across the city of Hong Kong. Because of Cinematheque movie centre, we often find ourselves in Yau Ma Tei, home to a wide spectrum of people from new immigrants to elderly. Christmas Carol in Yau Ma Tei has to be catered for all.
Hong Kong, Christmas Eve 2015
New Year, Chinese New Year, HKSAR Anniversary, and Chinese National Day. There were once numerous firework displays each year over the iconic Victoria Harbour in Hong Kong. All shows have been scrapped for 2020.
Hong Kong, New Year’s Eve 2015
Most Hong Kongers love to visit Japan, and so do we. Their fine sense of beauty and comfortable balance between traditions and technologies go beyond just commercialized eye candy for festival decorations and celebrations.
Railway Station, Kyoto, December 2016
Famous for their lighting technologies, Christmas lights in Japan often create a coherent ambience reflecting their pursuit of romantic fantasy for the holiday season.
Kyoto, December 2016
Under the dreamy lights, the sense of community remains strong during Christmas in Japan.
Kyoto, December 2016
We didn’t expect to see Christmas celebrations in Myanmar (Burma), a Buddhist nation in Southeast Asia. Seeing such a large crowd and festive decorations in Yangon was a pleasant surprise.
Yangon, December 2017
Christmas celebration, Southeast Asian style. Street food is definitely a must.
Yangon, December 2017
I took my parents to Shanghai for a short trip. At the Bund, we passed by the historical Peace Hotel and its Christmas tree.
Shanghai, December 2018
After two trips to India, our third journeys to South Asia was a winter getaway to Sri Lanka. The trip was full of history, spices and fine tea. In a Buddhist country, we were surprised to see so many churches in Negombo, a coastal town near Colombo. A heritage since the arrival of the Portuguese in the 16th century, Christmas is celebrated in a number of coastal towns in Sri Lanka.
Negombo, December 2019
After visiting and staying at a number of cities around the world, Hong Kong remains as our top destination to experience the festive energy and Christmas decorations in an urban setting. Political and social unrest in 2019 have taken a toll in the financial hub. Tai Kwun, a cultural and commercial complex at the former colonial police headquarters in Central, remained as the place to go for expats and the younger generation.
Tai Kwun, Hong Kong, December 2019
Due to the pandemic, most Christmas celebrations have been cancelled across the city. Christmas trees have been downsized, and lighting decorations have been scaled down. In Central District of Hong Kong, the high-end commercial complex Landmark Atrium remains as one of the few venues still maintain a relatively large Christmas installation.
Landmark, Hong Kong, December 2020
But perhaps the most representational thing for this year’s festival season is the Christmas face mask. Social distancing with a bit of festive joy, why not?
Hong Kong, December 2020

EPILOQUE, Middle East 2006

2006.06.07.

That night in Athens, we almost overslept and missed the prearranged taxi that was supposed to pick us up at 4am. We miraculously woke up five minutes before the taxi arrived. On the way to the airport, the highway was completely deserted and we ended up arriving earlier than expected. In Zurich, we had about 4 hours of layover time. Instead of staying at the airport, we took the 15-minute train ride out to downtown Zurich for a quick visit. We wandered in the commercial area, and stopped by a sport store. To mentally prepare myself for the upcoming 2006 FIFA World Cup in two days’ time, I picked up a Brazilian golden jersey. Perhaps we lose track of time while happy shopping, time was super tight when we returned to the airport. From security checkpoint, we ran all the way to the gate in order to avoid seeing our plane flew off without us.  After all the sweat and stress in the Zurich Airport, I brought the Brazil jersey home along with 60 rolls of camera films, a simple diary, and loads of amazing memories. Brazil didn’t win the World Cup that year and I only wore that jersey once before it ended up in the back of my closet. The world continued to move on and so did we.

Four months after we returned to Canada, one of the travel buddies moved to the United States to start a new chapter in his life.  In a few years’ time, another one would also left the country to pursue her future.  Some of us did, however, continued to travel together every now and then: Morocco, Peru, California, Cambodia, Western China, Tibet, etc.  A bit over a year after we returned from the Middle East, I also hopped on a plane crossing the Atlantic to London to turn a new page in my life. Then the 2008 Financial Crisis came, and later the Arab Spring and Syrian Civil War.  Suddenly I realized that the Middle East we briefly encountered in 2006 was forever lost.  For almost a decade, images of human suffering in Syria saddened my heart every now and then.  I would find some release for the unbearable sadness whenever I read about an encouraging story of survival, or watched a documentary depicting the humanistic courage against the brutal authority, or listened to the exile’s confession of love for their ruined homes and persistent will to rebuild them out from the debris when the chance comes.  All these personal stories made me believe that perhaps not all hope is lost, and one day a future of reconciliation would arrive upon the Middle East, where people with distinct cultures, religions, traditions and values may overcome aggressive competitions for resources and violent clashes for political control, and peacefully coexist under the same blue sky. 

The 2006 trip was my graduation trip, and that unique experience has become a part of me forever after.  This concludes the recollection of my 40-day Middle East journey in time of the pandemic.

Boarding the plane from Zurich to Toronto officially concluded our 40-day journey.
Bosra, Syria. 2006.05.15.

CLASSICAL FINALE, Athens, Greece

2006.06.06.

After reunited with my two travel buddies in Cairo, our homeward odyssey official began. From Cairo, we flew to Athens, then to Zurich, before crossing the Atlantic back to Canada. In Greece, our plan was to spend a few hours to visit the Acropolis, had supper, and took a bit of rest before heading out to the airport. We expected to see some crowds at the world famous Acropolis, but watching hundreds if not thousands of cruise ship tourists wearing the same cap marching up the citadel hill right below us was still a shock. Despite the crowds, seeing one of the most recognizable icons of Western civilization was definitely an impressive experience.

The Acropolis is home to some of the most recognizable Classical Greek structures: the Parthenon, Propylaea, Erechtheion, Temple of Athena Nike, etc. Most of the Acropolis was constructed under Pericles during the golden age of Athens in the 5th century BC, the century that saw Athen’s victory against the Persians. The Acropolis was a magnificent collaborative work by architects including Iktinos, Kallikrates, and Mnesikles, and sculptors such as Pheidias, Alkamenes, and Agorakritos. This iconic hill was also the birthplace of democracy, philosophy, and theatre art of the Western world.

After seeing the Classical ruins, we headed down the northern slope to the Plaka quarter, a colourful and lovely neighbourhood full of lively restaurants, souvenir shops, and eye catching street art. In the evening, we picked a cosy restaurant for dinner. With English menus in hand, we ordered our dishes and I chose sirloin steak. The server tried his best to match our selections from his Greek menu. Somehow my sirloin steak was lost in translation and I ended up getting a whole grilled squid. It was a pleasant surprise and I had zero intention to swap it back to beef. The Mediterranean squid was fresh and delicious, and lived long in my memory. If it was a typical steak dinner, I would definitely not remember a single thing from that particular meal after all these years.

For 2500 years, the Acropolis has been the centrepiece of the Greek capital.
Monastiraki Square, the main shopping area in the old town of Athens, with Tzistarakis Mosque (left hand side) and the Acropolis hill (middle) at the background.
Excavation and restoration work of the archaeological sites on the Acropolis has been ongoing since 1933.
Aesthetic perfection, architectural genius, cultural icon, symbol of Western civilization, house of the Goddess of Wisdom, this is the legendary Parthenon, the building that is seen as the perfect Classical architecture .
The impressive Parthenon has gone through series of damages caused from earthquakes to explosives. Thanks to generations of conservationists, the remarkable building is still standing today.
Above the Doric columns, one of the biggest controversies of the building remains to be whether the frieze sculptures should be returned from the British Museum.
The most striking feature of the Erechtheion is definitely the Porch of the Maidens. The six caryatids (sculpted female supports) on site are actually modern replicas, while the originals are on display in the Acropolis Museum and British Museum.
Since independence, Greece has removed most of the additions dated from the Byzantine era and onwards, in attempt to return the Acropolis to its original form.
Below the Acropolis once stood the colossal Temple of Olympian Zeus. Construction of the temple took over 600 years after it was initiated in the 6th century BC, but was abandoned just a century after completion due to barbarian invasion.
One of the six original caryatids of Erechtheion’s Porch of the Maidens has long been on display in the British Museum, and the rest of the group are displayed in the Acropolis Museum in Athens.
Below the Acropolis, the quarter of Plaka maintains a village ambience that attracts tourists from around the world.
There are many Greek Orthodox churches in Plaka worth visiting.
With the abundance of 10th to 11th century churches, a stroll in Plaka reminded us the Medieval history of Athens.
Vivid street art, on the other hand, showed us some contemporary touches to the historical neighborhood.
The relatively clear walls in Plaka seemed to become the perfect canvas for street art.
Some may find the street art as a kind of freedom of expression, while some may find them eyesore in a relatively pictuesque community.
Most of the street art we saw were delightful and relative cute.
No matter one likes the art or not, they did attract our attention and many frames of my film camera.

COTTON CASTLE, Pamukkale, Denizli, Turkey

2006.05.06

Three hours of bus ride took us from Selcuk to Pamukkale.  Like everyone else, we came to Pamukkale for the spectacular travertine terraces.  As we hopped off the bus, we were immediately approached by bus companies selling us tickets onward from Pamukkale.  Along the path to the pools, we stopped by a small shop for a bowl of spicy Korean noodles.  The first glance of the white travertine pools cascading up the slope under the blue sky was a truly spectacular sight.  Pamukkale in Turkish literally means “cotton castle”.  To many, the otherworldly scenery of the white and reflective travertine pools is one of the two most iconic natural wonders of Turkey (the other being the rock formations of Cappadocia).  The travertine terraces at Pamukkale is made from continuous mineral deposit of hot spring accumulated for thousands of years.  Calcium carbonate from the hot spring is deposited as a soft gel and gradually crystallizes into travertine.  Pamukkale has been a popular tourist attraction for over two thousand years.  Hieropolis, the spa resort town at Pamukkale, was founded in the 2nd century BC and flourished for centuries as a hot spring and healing resort in the Roman and Byzantine Empire.  Today, Pamukkale continues to see large number of visitors from all over the world.

We entered the gate and soon found ourselves arriving at the remarkable travertine area.  Shoes were not allowed, and visitor circulation was restricted to a designated path going uphill to the top.  The only way to truly experience the pools up close was to take off our shoes and hiked up the travertine path in barefoot.  Covered with layers of calcium deposit, walking uphill on the travertine was quite a torture for our feet.  Along the way, we were disappointed to see that most pools had been dried up.  Moreover, this site was just full of visitors jammed one after another on the path.  Unless visiting at 8am during low season, it was next to impossible to enjoy the natural beauty without getting frustrated from overcrowding and misbehaving tourists.  According to the UNESCO, this world heritage is threatened by over-tourism, hotel constructions near the pools, water pollution by bathers, illegal diversion of thermal water, etc.  In recent years, hotels near the pools were removed, vehicular access banned, and pool access for tourists has been restricted, but overcrowding remains as an issue for the management to tackle.

travertine pools 1The sheer scale of the white travertine terraces is quite spectacular.

travertine pools 3We were lucky to have perfect blue sky during our visit.

travertine pools 2The travertine terraces are as white as snow, but as hard as rocks.

travertine pools 4The lower section of the terraces look fairy-tale like from a distance.

travertine pools 5We were disappointed to see many terraces were dried up.

travertine pools 6The scene would be quite different if the hot spring remained flowing down the terraces.

travertine pools 7Other than Pamukkale, similar terraces and pools can be found elsewhere in the world, such as Hierve el Agua in Mexico and Huanglong in China.  Each site has its own unique qualities.

travertine pools 9The weather didn’t look too promising when we reached the top of the terraces.

06ME15-06Before the weather get any worse, we headed over to Hieropolis for a brief visit of the Roman ruins.


SOUP CURRY NIGHT, Sapporo (札幌), Hokkaido (北海道), Japan, 2019.06.23

Day 9 (2/2).

After Yoichi and Otaru, it was time for us to head towards Sapporo (札幌), the capital city of Hokkaido.  With a population of close to 2 million, Sapporo is the largest city in Hokkaido.  Like much of Hokkaido, Sapporo was occupied by indigenous Ainu tribes until the latter half of the 19th century, when migrants from Mainland Honshu settled in the area to cultivate the land and establish early settlements under the order of Emperor Meiji.  In 1876, American professor William Clark was hired to establish the Sapporo Agricultural College (now Hokkaido University).  During his short spell in Sapporo, Clark made a significant impact on the academic and economic development of Hokkaido.  Clark’s motto to his students, “boys, be ambitious!” could best describe the adventurous cultural identity of Sapporo citizens.  Compared to other regions in Japan, Sapporo is relatively new.  The city has emerged into a bustling urban centre in just a few generations and has become the fifth largest city in Japan.  Hosted Asia’s first Winter Olympics in 1972 and the annual snow festival that draws thousands of outside visitors, Sapporo has gained significant international popularity in recent decades.  As the official gateway and transportation hub of Hokkaido, Sapporo is also well known as a foodie destination, due to the fact that all of Hokkaido’s agricultural produce and seafood would eventually end up in this city at some point.

The adventurous spirit of the city coupled with the abundant natural resources of Hokkaido form the basis of Sapporo’s culinary culture.  The popular soup curry originated from Sapporo in the 1970s is one of the best examples.  This innovative fusion of East Asian broth, Southeast Asian curry and fresh Hokkaido vegetables and meat turned out to be a great success story.  By 2000s, soup curry has become a signature dish of the city.  There are many restaurants in Sapporo offering soup curry.  We chose Suage, a very busy curry restaurant popular with both tourists and locals alike.

IMG_0642From Otaru to Sapporo, the train passed by the turquoise Ishikari Bay (石狩湾) to the northeast.

IMG_0649The lovely scenery of Ishikari Bay (石狩湾) was our last open views to the sea for this trip.

IMG_0656We soon arrived at the railway station of Sapporo.

IMG_0659Crab meal is a big attraction for many tourists coming to Hokkaido.

IMG_0661On our way to our hotel, we passed by the Clock Tower (時計台), a historical landmark built in 1878.

IMG_0665At Odori Park (大通公園), the Sapporo TV Tower was lit up in a romantic way.

IMG_0680We picked Suage for a soup curry dinner.

IMG_0669We had to wait for about half an hour in order to get a table.

IMG_0677The restaurant was causal and most visitors were pretty young.

IMG_0675The soup curry was very delicious.

IMG_7826All ingredients in the soup curry came from local farms

IMG_0683On our way back to the hotel, we passed by the Norbesa and its eye catching Ferris wheel on its roof.

IMG_0686We walked a bit of the covered arcade and called it a day.

* * *

Introduction
HOKKAIDO ROAD TRIP, Hokkaido (北海道)

Day 1 – from Tokyo to Shiretoko Peninsula
Day 1.1 TSUKIJI OUTER MARKET (築地場外市場)
Day 1.2 ARRIVAL IN SHIRETOKO, Utoro (ウトロ)

Day 2 – Utoro
Day 2.1 SHIRETOKO FIVE LAKES (知床五湖)
Day 2.2 UTORO FISHERMAN’S WIVES CO-OPERATIVE DINER (ウトロ漁協婦人部食堂)
Day 2.3 FUREPE FALLS (フレペの滝)

Day 3 – Rausu
Day 3.1 RUSA FIELD HOUSE (ルサフィールドハウス)
Day 3.2 JUN NO BANYA (純の番屋)

Day 4 – Rausu
Day 4.1 MOUNT RAUSU (羅臼岳)
Day 4.2 FANTASTIC ORCAS, Nemuro Strait (根室海峡)

Day 5 – Lake Mashu & Lake Akan
Day 5.1 SUNRISE AT LAKE MASHU (摩周湖)
Day 5.2 MOUNT MASHU TRAIL (摩周岳) , Teshikaga (弟子屈)
Day 5.3 SILENT NIGHT AT LAKE AKAN (阿寒湖)

Day 6 – On the road from Lake Akan to Furano
Day 6.1 FISHERMEN BELOW MISTY OAKAN (雄阿寒岳), Lake Akan (阿寒湖)
Day 6.2 TREATS OF OBIHIRO (帯広), Tokachi (十勝)
Day 6.3 ARRIVING IN FURANO (富良野)

Day 7 Furano & Biei
Day 7.1 LAVENDER BUDS, Nakafurano (中富良野)
Day 7.2 FARM TOMITA (ファーム富田), Nakafurano (中富良野)
Day 7.3 BI.BLE, Biei (美瑛)
Day 7.4 PATCHWORK ROAD & PANORAMA ROAD, Biei (美瑛)
Day 7.5 NINGLE TERRACE (ニングルテラス)

Day 8 – from Furano to Otaru
Day 8.1 CHURCH ON THE WATER (水の教会), Hoshino Resorts Tomamu (星野リゾート トマム)
Day 8.2 HILL OF THE BUDDHA (頭大仏), Makomanai Takino Cemetery (真駒内滝野霊園)
Day 8.3 SEAFOOD, CANAL, & HISTORY, Otaru (小樽)
Day 8.4 RAINY NIGHT IN OTARU, Otaru (小樽)

Day 9 – Yochi & Sapporo
Day 9.1 NIKKA YOICHI DISTILLERY (余市蒸溜所), Yoichi (余市)
Day 9.2 SOUP CURRY NIGHT

Day 10 – Sapporo
10.1 OKKAIDO SHRINE (北海道神宮 )
10.2 MORIHICO COFFEE (森彦珈琲本店)
10.3 KITAKARO SAPPORO HONKAN (北菓楼札幌本館)
10.4 SATURDAYS CHOCOLATE
10.5 GOTSUBO OYSTER BAR(五坪)
10.6 MOUNT MOIWA (藻岩山) & RAMEN HARUKA (ラーメン悠)

Day 11 – Sapporo
11.1 FORMER HOKKAIDO GOVERNMENT OFFICE (北海道庁旧本庁舎)
11.2 RED STAR & GENGKIS KHAN, Sapporo Beer Museum (サッポロビール株式会社)


TREATS OF OBIHIRO (帯広), Tokachi (十勝), Hokkaido (北海道), Japan, 2019.06.20

Day 6 (2/3).

From Lake Akan (阿寒湖) to Nakafurano (中富良野) where we would stay two nights to explore the rolling hills and farmlands of Furano (富良野) and Biei (美瑛), we drove by Tokachi (十勝), a subprefecture in Central Hokkaido best known for its dairy and agricultural products such as wheat and red beans.  Also known as the land of cheese, some say Tokachi produces about 60% of Japanese cheese.  We didn’t plan to stay in Tokachi, but did make a stop in the subprefecture’s only city, Obihiro (帯広).  There was only one reason: to sample the delicious food of the region.  We weren’t after any fancy kaiseki ryori or seafood feast, but simple local dishes that make use of the best local ingredients of Tokachi.

IMG_0034There is nothing simpler to experience the best of Tokachi (十勝) than have a cup of fresh local milk.

IMG_9711In Obihiro, we made a first stop to Amamuekie, a simple pastry shop housed in a cool container.  Originally worked in the music industry, the husband and wife of Iwamoto family (岩本夫妻) turned their interest in nature and healthy food and opened Amamuekie.

IMG_7127At Amamuekie, healthy pastry made with plant based ingredients without the use of white sugar and animal ingredients such as dairy and eggs are sold, including this cocoa pound cake made with rice flour.

IMG_7836We picked up several items from Amamuekie, including this hojicha (green tea) biscotti, a tasty fusion of east meets west.

IMG_9713On our way to Obihiro, we made our second stop at Sweet Factory Green, a delightful sweets shop in the small town of Otofuke (音更町).

IMG_9715The cakes, chocolate and ice-cream were all so tempting.

IMG_9721Causal seating were provided on the lawn next to the sweets shop.

IMG_9717_01Sun was high and sky was blue, what a perfect moment to enjoy local ice-cream, a piece of fruit cake and a cup of good coffee.

IMG_9722Finally we arrived in downtown Obihiro (帯広), and parked our car in one of the outdoor parking lot near the main train station.

IMG_7105It took us a little while to figure out the correct procedure to activate the parking sensor for our stall.

IMG_9728Our destination, Butadon Pancho (元祖豚丼), situates right across the street from Obihiro Railway Station.

IMG_9726Butadon Pancho (元祖豚丼) offers just one thing in the menu: Butadon (豚丼) or pork bowl.  After about 20 minutes in the queue, we finally got a small table in the small restaurant.  Founded in 1933, Butadon Pancho claims to be the pioneer restaurant that offered butadon.

IMG_9725Originated from Obihiro, butadon is basically a bowl of rice served with several pieces of local pork, topped with sweet soy sauce and green peas.  The bowl also comes with takuan (沢庵) or pickled daikon radish and miso soup.  Nothing fancy, just a simple local dish but made a perfect lunch for us.

IMG_9732After a little over an hour on the road, we arrived at Hoshino Resorts Tomamu, a vast resort compound that offers a variety of activities for visitors, from skiing in winter to hiking in summer.

IMG_7115The main reason coming to Tomamu was to check out the famous Chapel on the Water by architect Tadao Ando.

IMG_9730Unfortunately, the opening times of the chapel was quite limited.  Quite often, the chapel is occupied for private wedding ceremonies.  We had to leave it for another time, and moved on on our journey to Furano, where we would stay for the night.

* * *

Introduction
HOKKAIDO ROAD TRIP, Hokkaido (北海道)

Day 1 – from Tokyo to Shiretoko Peninsula
Day 1.1 TSUKIJI OUTER MARKET (築地場外市場)
Day 1.2 ARRIVAL IN SHIRETOKO, Utoro (ウトロ)

Day 2 – Utoro
Day 2.1 SHIRETOKO FIVE LAKES (知床五湖)
Day 2.2 UTORO FISHERMAN’S WIVES CO-OPERATIVE DINER (ウトロ漁協婦人部食堂)
Day 2.3 FUREPE FALLS (フレペの滝)

Day 3 – Rausu
Day 3.1 RUSA FIELD HOUSE (ルサフィールドハウス)
Day 3.2 JUN NO BANYA (純の番屋)

Day 4 – Rausu
Day 4.1 MOUNT RAUSU (羅臼岳)
Day 4.2 FANTASTIC ORCAS, Nemuro Strait (根室海峡)

Day 5 – Lake Mashu & Lake Akan
Day 5.1 SUNRISE AT LAKE MASHU (摩周湖)
Day 5.2 MOUNT MASHU TRAIL (摩周岳) , Teshikaga (弟子屈)
Day 5.3 SILENT NIGHT AT LAKE AKAN (阿寒湖)

Day 6 – On the road from Lake Akan to Furano
Day 6.1 FISHERMEN BELOW MISTY OAKAN (雄阿寒岳), Lake Akan (阿寒湖)
Day 6.2 TREATS OF OBIHIRO (帯広), Tokachi (十勝)
Day 6.3 ARRIVING IN FURANO (富良野)

Day 7 Furano & Biei
Day 7.1 LAVENDER BUDS, Nakafurano (中富良野)
Day 7.2 FARM TOMITA (ファーム富田), Nakafurano (中富良野)
Day 7.3 BI.BLE, Biei (美瑛)
Day 7.4 PATCHWORK ROAD & PANORAMA ROAD, Biei (美瑛)
Day 7.5 NINGLE TERRACE (ニングルテラス)

Day 8 – from Furano to Otaru
Day 8.1 CHURCH ON THE WATER (水の教会), Hoshino Resorts Tomamu (星野リゾート トマム)
Day 8.2 HILL OF THE BUDDHA (頭大仏), Makomanai Takino Cemetery (真駒内滝野霊園)
Day 8.3 SEAFOOD, CANAL, & HISTORY, Otaru (小樽)
Day 8.4 RAINY NIGHT IN OTARU, Otaru (小樽)

Day 9 – Yochi & Sapporo
Day 9.1 NIKKA YOICHI DISTILLERY (余市蒸溜所), Yoichi (余市)
Day 9.2 SOUP CURRY NIGHT

Day 10 – Sapporo
10.1 OKKAIDO SHRINE (北海道神宮 )
10.2 MORIHICO COFFEE (森彦珈琲本店)
10.3 KITAKARO SAPPORO HONKAN (北菓楼札幌本館)
10.4 SATURDAYS CHOCOLATE
10.5 GOTSUBO OYSTER BAR(五坪)
10.6 MOUNT MOIWA (藻岩山) & RAMEN HARUKA (ラーメン悠)

Day 11 – Sapporo
11.1 FORMER HOKKAIDO GOVERNMENT OFFICE (北海道庁旧本庁舎)
11.2 RED STAR & GENGKIS KHAN, Sapporo Beer Museum (サッポロビール株式会社)

 


TSUKIJI OUTER MARKET (築地場外市場), Tokyo (東京), Japan, 2019.06.15

Day 1 (1/2).

Our flight landed in Tokyo Haneda at around 6am.  Before our next flight to Hokkaido’s Memanbetsu Airport at noontime, we had a few hours to spare in the Japanese capital.  Tsuyu (梅雨), the rainy season in Japan, was in full force in mid June.  Given the proximity to the city centre, we wouldn’t want to miss the chance of revisiting Tokyo.  We took the monorail and then transferred to the metro heading for Tsukiji Market.  40 minutes was all it took to reach Tsukiji.  It was pouring when we came out the metro at the Kabuki-za Theatre (歌舞伎座) exit.  We followed Google Map to make our way into the quiet lanes near the outer market.

Opened in 1935, the 83-year-old market has officially moved to the new Toyosu Market (豊洲市場) in October 2018.  With no intention to watched a tuna auction behind glass or checked out seafood and produce stores in a brand new shopping centre like setting, we preferred to revisit the old market at Tsukiji, where the Outer Market remained open for business.  At the market, generations of social interactions have developed a strong sense of community.  The chaotic turret traffic at the inner market, desperate tourists cramped in long lines for an early sashimi breakfast, cafes serving simple coffee on dark wood counters, street food stalls along busy lanes and covered alleyways, the spirit and ambience of the old market have drawn us back to Tsukiji again and again.  This time around, our Tsukiji experience took us to a craft coffee shop, a back lane sushi eatery and a historical Shinto shrine.

IMG_8560Miraitowa (future and eternity) and Someity (calm and powerful), the two official mascot of 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics, greeted all visitors at the arrival lobby of Haneda Airport.

IMG_8576Turret COFFEE, a popular hub for everyone in Tsukiji who love coffee, offered us a decent dose of caffeine to start the day.

IMG_E8579We came just in time to be the first few customers at Turret.

IMG_8586The cafe decor was simple and the coffee was aromatic and good.

IMG_8593Named after the 3-wheel cart that once roamed in the lanes of Tsukiji Market, a real “turret” was placed in the centre of the coffee shop as display and also seating.

IMG_8599Kitsuneya Beef Rice, one of the most popular eateries in the entire outer market, offers visitors a decent alternative to seafood.

IMG_8601For many, leaving Tsukiji Market without picking up several pieces of tuna toro sashimi would be a big regret.

IMG_8617We ended up sitting down at a small sushi eatery in a covered alleyway.

IMG_8621Despite relocation of the inner market, the sushi at Tsukiji Outer Market was equally fresh as before.

IMG_8620Today’s uni (sea urchin): Hamanaka (浜中), Uchiura Bay (噴火湾), Akkeshi (厚岸), Nemuro (根室), Rebun (礼文), and Nemuro (根室).  Even looking at the names of the five fishing villages in Hokkaido would wet our appetite.

IMG_8607Before returning to the airport, we made a stop at Namiyoke Inari Jinja (波除稲荷神社), the unofficial guardian shrine of Tsukiji Market.

IMG_8609Built in 1659, the Shinto shrine dedicates to Inari (稲荷大神), the god of fertility, rice, tea, sake, agriculture.  The Namiyoke Inari Jinja (波除稲荷神社) was specifically aimed to ward off disasters and diminish incoming waves.

IMG_8612The 1-ton Yakuyoke Tenjo Dai-Shishi male lion is one of the main features of the shrine. During Tsukiji Lion Festival on June 10th, the lion head would parade across the Tsukiji along with the red female lion head.

IMG_8613The 0.7 ton female lion head is slightly lighter than the male, but equally impressive.  After coffee, sushi, and Shinto shrine, we took our time to return to Haneda Airport for the flight to Memanbetsu in Hokkaido.

* * *

Introduction
HOKKAIDO ROAD TRIP, Hokkaido (北海道)

Day 1 – from Tokyo to Shiretoko Peninsula
Day 1.1 TSUKIJI OUTER MARKET (築地場外市場)
Day 1.2 ARRIVAL IN SHIRETOKO, Utoro (ウトロ)

Day 2 – Utoro
Day 2.1 SHIRETOKO FIVE LAKES (知床五湖)
Day 2.2 UTORO FISHERMAN’S WIVES CO-OPERATIVE DINER (ウトロ漁協婦人部食堂)
Day 2.3 FUREPE FALLS (フレペの滝)

Day 3 – Rausu
Day 3.1 RUSA FIELD HOUSE (ルサフィールドハウス)
Day 3.2 JUN NO BANYA (純の番屋)

Day 4 – Rausu
Day 4.1 MOUNT RAUSU (羅臼岳)
Day 4.2 FANTASTIC ORCAS, Nemuro Strait (根室海峡)

Day 5 – Lake Mashu & Lake Akan
Day 5.1 SUNRISE AT LAKE MASHU (摩周湖)
Day 5.2 MOUNT MASHU TRAIL (摩周岳) , Teshikaga (弟子屈)
Day 5.3 SILENT NIGHT AT LAKE AKAN (阿寒湖)

Day 6 – On the road from Lake Akan to Furano
Day 6.1 FISHERMEN BELOW MISTY OAKAN (雄阿寒岳), Lake Akan (阿寒湖)
Day 6.2 TREATS OF OBIHIRO (帯広), Tokachi (十勝)
Day 6.3 ARRIVING IN FURANO (富良野)

Day 7 Furano & Biei
Day 7.1 LAVENDER BUDS, Nakafurano (中富良野)
Day 7.2 FARM TOMITA (ファーム富田), Nakafurano (中富良野)
Day 7.3 BI.BLE, Biei (美瑛)
Day 7.4 PATCHWORK ROAD & PANORAMA ROAD, Biei (美瑛)
Day 7.5 NINGLE TERRACE (ニングルテラス)

Day 8 – from Furano to Otaru
Day 8.1 CHURCH ON THE WATER (水の教会), Hoshino Resorts Tomamu (星野リゾート トマム)
Day 8.2 HILL OF THE BUDDHA (頭大仏), Makomanai Takino Cemetery (真駒内滝野霊園)
Day 8.3 SEAFOOD, CANAL, & HISTORY, Otaru (小樽)
Day 8.4 RAINY NIGHT IN OTARU, Otaru (小樽)

Day 9 – Yochi & Sapporo
Day 9.1 NIKKA YOICHI DISTILLERY (余市蒸溜所), Yoichi (余市)
Day 9.2 SOUP CURRY NIGHT

Day 10 – Sapporo
10.1 OKKAIDO SHRINE (北海道神宮 )
10.2 MORIHICO COFFEE (森彦珈琲本店)
10.3 KITAKARO SAPPORO HONKAN (北菓楼札幌本館)
10.4 SATURDAYS CHOCOLATE
10.5 GOTSUBO OYSTER BAR(五坪)
10.6 MOUNT MOIWA (藻岩山) & RAMEN HARUKA (ラーメン悠)

Day 11 – Sapporo
11.1 FORMER HOKKAIDO GOVERNMENT OFFICE (北海道庁旧本庁舎)
11.2 RED STAR & GENGKIS KHAN, Sapporo Beer Museum (サッポロビール株式会社)