ultramarinus – beyond the sea

Posts tagged “Japanese

MOUNT MOIWA (藻岩山) & RAMEN HARUKA (ラーメン悠), Sapporo (札幌), Hokkaido (北海道), Japan, 2019.06.24

Day 10 (6/6).

To end our Sapporo foodie day, we decided to get up Mount Moiwa (藻岩山, Moiwa-yama) for the famous night view of the city.

IMG_0923From Susukino, we hopped onto Sapporo’s only streetcar towards “Ropeway Iriguchi” station.

IMG_8005Sapporo’s only streetcar line has trains running clockwise and counterclockwise in a loop.

IMG_0925After getting off the streetcar, we didn’t bother to wait for the connection bus, but instead, we took 10 minutes to walk up to the Mount Moiwa Ropeway station.

IMG_0926Nagasaki, Kitayushu and Sapporo are considered the three new greatest urban night views in Japan.

IMG_0928The cable car slowly left the Mount Moiwa Ropeway station.

IMG_0939Our cable car passed by a white Buddhist stupa halfway up.  Built in 1959 to commemorate peace after World War II, the Sapporo Peace Pagoda supposedly housed some ashes of the Buddha, a gift given by India to the Emperor of Japan in 1954.

IMG_0943Another cable car passed by in the opposite direction.

DSC_6554We arrived at the observation deck on Mount Moiwa right at the magic hour just before dusk.

DSC_6574At 531m above sea level, Downtown Sapporo was right below us.

IMG_8021The Koibito Sanctuary (Lover’s Sanctuary) atop Mount Moiwa is a popular photo spot.

IMG_0980After Mount Moiwa, we returned to the vibrant Susukino.

IMG_0982Known as one of the most famous entertainment districts in Japan, we came to search for a late night meal.

IMG_0990In an alleyway, we picked Haruka Ramen (ラーメン悠) for our late night meal.

IMG_0983The owner must be a fan of hard rock and metal music.  The small ramen shop is decorated with t-shirts, badges and album covers of rock bands.

IMG_0987We knew it was unhealthy to have late night meal, but we just couldn’t leave Sapporo without having a bowl of Sapporo ramen.

SATURDAYS CHOCOLATE, Sapporo (札幌), Hokkaido (北海道), Japan, 2019.06.24

Day 10 (4/6).

Just a stone throw north of Nijo Market (二条市場), a local artisan chocolate maker has become very popular in recent years .  Claimed to be “from bean to bar”, the shop of Saturdays Chocolate includes a small workshop display area where chocolate bars are made.  Wrapped in beautiful papers that represent the origin of the cacao beans used,  all chocolate bars are made with cacao beans of single origin and cane sugar.  Chocolate snacks and drinks are also available at the cafe in the shop.

DSC_6539Most shops in Nijo Market (二条市場) were already closed in the late afternoon as we headed to Saturdays Chocolate.

DSC_6538Warm lighting, wooden porch, pot plants and a chocolate bar sculpture make up the shopfront of Saturdays Chocolate.

IMG_7994The shop interior is filled with a relaxing ambience.

IMG_0869A feature table right by the entrance showcases the shop’s variety of chocolate bars.

IMG_0874A fake monkey and cacao bean form the centrepiece on the feature table.

IMG_7985The wrapping paper of each bar is inspired by designs from the origin country of the cacao beans.

IMG_0884There is also a cafe in the shop offering chocolate drinks and snacks.

IMG_0870Display at the seating area introduces the origin countries of the cacao beans.

IMG_0880After purchasing a few chocolate bars, we ordered a chocolate drink and sat at the seating area to take a relaxing break.

KITAKARO SAPPORO HONKAN (北菓楼札幌本館), Sapporo (札幌), Hokkaido (北海道), Japan, 2019.06.24

Day 10 (3/6).

During our Hokkaido trip, we visited three works by Japanese architect Tadao Ando (安藤 忠雄): the Chapel on the Water in Tomamu, the Hill of the Buddha in Makomanai Takino Cemetery, and in Sapporo, the Kitakaro Sapporo Honkan (北菓楼札幌本館).  The Japanese confectionery store is housed in the two-storey brick masonry building that was once the first library (北海道庁立図書館) and the first ever art museum in Hokkaido.  Then, after being used as an archive of public records, the most recent renewal by Tadao Ando opened the building to the public once again.  Ando’s team has done a great job in preserving the masonry structure and interior features of the original building such as the elegant stair at the building corner.  They also created an airy atrium space with white cross vault ceiling and large bookcases on the upper level to remind visitors the building’s history as a library.  Today, the lower level serves as a flagship store selling Kitakaro’s confectionery while the upper level is a popular cafe.

IMG_0853The historical library building (北海道庁立図書館) is a beautiful piece of architecture dated to 1920’s.

IMG_0842The original masonry facades are well preserved.

IMG_0845Little contemporary touches give new life to the former library building.

IMG_0794The main entrance of the confectionery shop, a glazed box attached to the side of the history building, presents a visual contrast to the original structure and suggests a sense of respect to the heritage building by not mingling a “fake antique” with the old.

IMG_0810The original stone stair is well kept.  It leads visitors up to the cafe on the upper level.

IMG_0835This stone stair has become a popular photo shooting spot for visitors.

IMG_0837The ground level is occupied by the confectionery store.  Here visitors can appreciate the white vaulted ceiling overhead and the airy atrium.

IMG_0809The red brick walls are well preserved, while the new vaulted structure is completely detached from the old masonry facade.

IMG_0831From the upper level visitors can appreciate the variety of the colourful boxes of sweets available.

IMG_0808The interior design of the cafe is inspired by the building’s former use as a library.  Bookcases are used as feature walls that stand out from the white surroundings.

IMG_0830The cafe is popular with both locals and tourists .

IMG_0822It is pleasant to dine in such an airy environment with super high ceiling.

IMG_0824Spaghetti with scallop in cream sauce.  The cream sauce is surprisingly light but rich in scallop flavour.  The cream sauce has the subtle sweetness of the fresh scallops.

IMG_7943This is Kitakaro’s Special Omelet Rice. What lies underneath the layer of fresh and soft omelet is a combination of rice and Hokkaido beef.  It is served with a rich sweet sauce. This dish might look simple but the combined aromatic flavor from the fresh Hokkaido ingredients is really remarkable.

IMG_7944The famous cream puff with smooth and silky cream that melts in the mouth, leaving behind a milky aftertaste that lingers.

IMG_7968Hokkaido is famous for its lavender fields in the summer.  Just like Ando’s Hill of the Buddha, lavender is used at the Kitakaro Sapporo Honkan (北菓楼札幌本館) to give some pleasant colours to the historical structure.


MORIHICO COFFEE (森彦珈琲本店), Sapporo (札幌), Hokkaido (北海道), Japan, 2019.06.24

Day 10 (2/6).

Not far from the Maruyama Park, we arrived at an old wooden house with white sidings and red shingles.  This is the original Morihico Coffee established in 1996.  Now, Morihico has become one of the most successful coffee shop brand in Sapporo.  Despite all the new and sleek shops in other areas of the city, we preferred to visit the original Morihico Coffee: home made pastries and home roasted coffee in a mellow timber house covered with lush green ivy in the old Maruyama neighborhood.

DSC_6530Timber signage of Morihico Coffee mingles with the lush green ivy.

DSC_6531Located in an old timber house in Maruyama, the origin shop of Morihico Coffee has been around since 1996.

IMG_0758The coffee shop seems like a small barn house in the countryside somewhere in the North America.

DSC_6534The signage, ivy and fire wood go well together.

IMG_0789The shop is two storey high with most seating on the upper floor.

IMG_0785The lower floor is dominated by the cafe counter.

IMG_0763Though small, the upper floor is well lit with natural light through the lush green ivy.

IMG_0767Everything in the cafe look vintage.

IMG_0781Interesting artwork on the wall.

IMG_0780Interior decorations at Cafe Morihico.

IMG_7921Signs on the wall remind tourists of the cafe etiquette.

IMG_7922The homemade pastries were delicious and fresh.

IMG_7920The coffee was good as expected.

IMG_0770We had an enjoyable breakfast at Cafe Morihico.  We were quite impressed and purchased a pack of coffee when we left.

NIKKA YOICHI DISTILLERY (余市蒸溜所), Yoichi (余市), Hokkaido (北海道), Japan, 2019.06.23

Day 9 (1/2).

In recent years, the demand for Japanese whisky has skyrocketed worldwide, as many believe they have become the best in the world.  The hype originated from 2001, when Whisky Magazine honored Nikka’s 10-Year Yoichi as its “Best of the Best.  Global interest continues to grow as Japanese whisky continued to pick up international awards, including the world’s best whisky award given to Suntory’s Yamazaki Sherry Cask 2013 by Whisky Bible in 2015.   The story of Nikka whisky began in 1934 when Masataka Taketsuru (竹鶴 政孝) established his distillery in Yoichi, a location in Hokkaido that Taketsuru believed would best resemble the conditions of Scotland, the home of the famous scotch whisky.  For the locals, Nikka Distillery in Yoichi is better known for the story of Masataka Taketsuru and his Scottish wife Rita, which has been retold in 2014 by a popular TV drama Massan made by the national broadcasting company NHK.

Born in 1894 in Takehara Hiroshima to a sake brewing family, Taketsuru traveled to Scotland in December 1918 and enrolled in University of Glasgow to study organic chemistry, and also took apprenticeship at various distillery facilities.  In January 1920, he married Jessie Roberta Cowan (Rita) despite opposition from both families.  In November 1920, they moved back to Japan and was hired by Kotobukiya (now Suntory) to set up Japan’s first malt whisky distillery known as Yamazaki Distillery (山崎蒸溜所) in Shimamoto, Osaka.  Suntory refused to move the facility to Hokkaido, where Taketsuru believed was more similar to Scotland.  As a result, Taketsuru left Suntory and established his own distillery in Yoichi with Rita in 1934.  Nowhere is better than Nikka Yoichi Distillery to learn more about the story of Taketsuru and Rita, where their house and office were preserved and put on display at the distillery museum.  The self guided tour of the facility allowed us to check out the buildings for various processes of whisky distillery, houses and offices of Taketsuru and Rita, a museum housing historical artefacts of the facility, and a tasting house and souvenir shop.

DSC_6395It was just a short walk from Yoichi JR Station to the distillery.  The facility main gate was already full of visitors when we arrived at 9:15am.

DSC_6397A sign of “Nikka Whisky” was erected for photo backdrop for visitors.

DSC_6436The facility is consisted of a number of historical buildings.

DSC_6424Coal fire is still used to heat up the old copper stills at the distillery.

DSC_6416Staff keeps on adding coal into the furnace.

DSC_6418Yoichi Distillery is claimed to be the last remaining facility still using coal fire for their whisky stills.

DSC_6427Old buildings at the facility have been converted into exhibition areas to tell the story of whisky making.

DSC_6429Display of oak for making of traditional wood barrels.

DSC_6432A few wood barrels are put on display for visitors to take photos.

DSC_6438The former residence and office of Taketsuru and Rita were well preserved.

DSC_6484Former residence of the Taketsuru couple.

DSC_6445Former residence of the Taketsuru couple.

DSC_6466Barrel warehouse

DSC_6471Entrance into the museum building.

DSC_6479One of the two tasting areas in the museum.

DSC_6480The story of Masataka and Rita Taketsuru was told in the museum with artefacts and photos.

DSC_6482At the end, we had a chance for a free tasting with three glasses of alcohol: single malt Yoichi, Super Nikka, and Apple Wine.  We could choose to add ice, water or apple juice to the alcohol.

IMG_0535After a delightful visit of Yoichi Distillery, we returned to Otaru to pick up our backpacks and moved on to our final destination, Sapporo.

RAINY NIGHT IN OTARU, Otaru (小樽), Hokkaido (北海道), Japan, 2019.06.22

Day 8 (4/4).

After a brief rest at the hotel, it was time for us to find a place for dinner.  We wanted to go for somewhere causal and take a break from seafood meals.  We picked Wakadori Jidai Naruto Honten (若鶏時代なると本店), a famous fried chicken restaurant popular with both tourists and locals alike.  Started in 1957 as an okonomiyaki (Japanese pancakes) shop, Wakadori Jidai Naruto Honten (若鶏時代なると本店) has evolved into a causal restaurant specialized in Hanshinage fried chicken.  The golden fried chicken is what most visitors would opt for, but the restaurant also offers local snacks and sashimi.  After a tasty meal, we took a stroll around the city before returning to the hotel.

DSC_6332There was a queue in the vestibule when we arrived at  Wakadori Jidai Naruto Honten (若鶏時代なると本店).  We were lucky to get a table less than an hour before it closed.

IMG_0507We ordered fresh clam sashimi as appetizer.

IMG_0510And of course the delicious half fried chicken.  The thin and crispy fried skin of the chicken was fried to perfection.

DSC_6334Outside of Wakadori Jidai Naruto Honten (若鶏時代なると本店), we were surprised to see a series of street stalls ranging from eateries to carnival games.

DSC_6335Despite the rain, many locals came out to have fun on the street.

DSC_6336The booths were all catered for the local community.

DSC_6353For adults, snacks are always popular.

DSC_6360We walked through the street of booths.

DSC_6363A booth of masks ranged from animation characters to traditional theatre figures caught our eyes.

DSC_6364We exited the pop up market street and made our way to our hotel.

DSC_6366The streets were decorated with traditional lanterns but somewhat quiet.

DSC_6375We walked past a few historical buildings dated from the heyday of Otaru.

DSC_6376The small city has a good mix of Western and local styled buildings.

DSC_6386Upon reaching our hotel, we decided to stroll along the canal for a bit.

DSC_6389All shops had been closed. The heritage buildings along the canal serve only as a pretty backdrop for tourists.

DSC_6394At last, we reached our hotel, a building with a dominant touch of Western architecture at the turn of century.

SEAFOOD, CANAL, & HISTORY, Otaru (小樽), Hokkaido (北海道), Japan, 2019.06.22

Day 8 (3/4).

It was raining with occasional thunderstorms all the way from the Hill of the Buddha to Otaru.  After a week on the road, we finally arrived at Otaru (小樽), the port city at Ishikari Bay roughly half an hour of train ride from Sapporo.  For many Japanese and East Asians, Otaru has become famous after the 1995 hit movie “Love Letter”.  Directed by Shunji Iwai (岩井 俊二) and starring Miho Nakayama (中山 美穂), “Love Letter” was filmed entirely in Hokkaido, particularly in Otaru.  After the film, The little port city Otaru has become a cultural destination.

We dropped off our bags at the hotel, returned the Toyota near the railway station, and found our way to Sankaku Market (三角市場) for a seafood lunch.

IMG_0223Situated near Otaru Station, Sankaku Market (三角市場) is very popular for tourists and locals for fresh seafood.

IMG_0211The market sells seafood from all over Hokkaido.

IMG_0213The market has only one narrow aisle and shops at both sides.

IMG_0222Some shops also offer seafood snacks or lunch.

IMG_0220We chose the most popular eatery in the market, Takinami Restaurant, where there was a long queue of visitors at the door.

IMG_0217Seafood appetizers

IMG_0218Sea urchin, crab meat and prawns with rice, and crab miso soup

IMG_0226Despite the rain, we made a brief visit to the canal area of Otaru.

IMG_0235We didn’t stay long at the canal because of poor weather.

IMG_0275Instead, we dropped by the Otaru Art Base: four historical buildings were preserved and converted into art exhibition spaces.

IMG_0255Built in 1923, Takahashi Warehouses was turned into the Stained Glass Museum.

IMG_0258Most of the stained glass windows on display were manufactured in England in the 19th and early 20th century.

IMG_0264These stained glass windows were preserved from churches that got torn down.

IMG_0244In the heydays, there were 25 banks supporting the economy of Hokkaido.  One of them was Mitsui Bank (三井住友銀行).  The Neo-Renaissance building symbolizes the prosperous years of Hokkaido.

IMG_0295The former lobby and reception counter are splendid.

IMG_0305Former conference room

IMG_0288Former vault.

IMG_0314Other than the history of the former bank building, there was also an art exhibition in the building.

IMG_0330After checking out the Art Base, we returned to the hotel and finished the slide of Yubari (夕張) cantaloupe purchased from the market.