ultramarinus – beyond the sea

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HOKKAIDO ROAD TRIP, Hokkaido (北海道), Japan, June 15-25, 2019

Tsuyu (梅雨), the rain season, begins to hit Okinawa in May and gradually makes its way north to the rest of Japan until the end of June.  During the wet season, rainy and cloudy weather affects the entire country except Hokkaido, Japan’s second largest island north of the main Honshu Island.  The seismic active island is 3.6% smaller than Ireland, with a climate significantly cooler than the rest of Japan.  Seeking for a pleasant getaway from Hong Kong’s humid and hot summer, we picked Hokkaido as the destination for our 11-day vacation from 15th to 25th of June.  Traveling in the remote national parks and rural countryside of Hokkaido, hiring a car was a necessity.  The Hokkaido journey was our first road trip in Japan.

Known as Japan’s last true wilderness, Shiretoko National Park (知床国立公園) is the natural haven where Brown Bears and Blakiston Fish Owls ruled the primeval forests and Orcas, Minke and Sperm Whales roamed the waters of Nemuro Strait.  With fantastic natural scenery, wildlife and seafood to offer, this easternmost part of Hokkaido topped our priority list in the travel itinerary.  Next in the journey took us to the spectacular volcanoes of Akan Mashu National Park (阿寒摩周国立公園), where we came close to Japan’s clearest water at caldera Lake Mashu (摩周湖) and the fantastic onsen and fly fishing hot spot of Lake Akan (阿寒湖).  While the lavender fields of Furano (富良野) and Biei (美瑛) had yet reached the peak bloom moment, the ultra fertile soil below the Tokachi Volcanic Group (十勝火山群) treated us with some of the best bread, corn, potatoes, asparagus, melons and milk that we ever had in our lives.  Despite far away from Tokyo and Osaka, the architectural magic of Tadao Ando (安藤忠雄) in Hokkaido satisfied our thirst of contemporary design and aesthetics.  Back in Obihiro (帯広), Otaru (小樽) and Sapporo (札幌), historic traces of early pioneers and contemporary dessert shops and local eateries brought us back to delightful charm of urban Japan.  What’s more?  Day after day of mouthwatering seafood, fresh produces, good coffee, and lovely patisseries reminded us how wonderful our world could be, when the water is clean, soil is rich, forests are healthy and people are friendly.  Thank you Hokkaido.  You have truly touched our hearts.

maps 2Located north of Honshu Island, Hokkaido is the second largest island in Japan.

maps 1Flying in from Tokyo Haneda, our Hokkaido journey began from Memanbetsu (女満別空港) near the Shiretoko Peninsula.  After more than 1,181km of driving, we arrived at Otaru and Sapporo at the western side of the island.

DSC_4258This black hatchback hybrid Toyota Prius c (Toyota Aqua in Japan) provided us the means of transport from east to west across Hokkaido.

DSC_4490After 2 days of rain and wind, we finally had a glimpse of the active volcano of Mount Rausu (羅臼岳), the tallest peak in Shiretoko Peninsula.

DSC_5154The greatest experience we took away from Shiretoko was the close encounter with a pod of orcas in the Nemuro Strait.

DSC_5307The Mashu Lake (摩周湖) offered us a peaceful sunrise at 3:30am.

DSC_5666Under the shadow of Mount Oakan (雄阿寒岳), dozens of fly fishermen stepped into the crystal water of Lake Akan (阿寒湖) to test their luck.

DSC_5751Farms and greenhouses were washed with heavy rain as we entered into Furano (富良野).

DSC_5893Still at least half a month to go before the peak season of lavender blossom, visitors were enjoying themselves at a relatively less crowded Farm Tomita in Nakafurano.

DSC_6040Compared with rainbow flower fields, we loved the wheat fields at Biei the most.

DSC_6183Tadao Ando’s Chapel on the Water has been famous in the designer’s world since the 1980s.

DSC_6282The Hill of Buddha is the latest addition in Hokkaido by Tadao Ando.

DSC_6466At Yoichi Distillery (余市蒸溜所), whiskey has been produced since 1934.

DSC_6538Saturdays Chocolate in Sapporo is one of the many excellent local eateries and cafes that we visited in the journey.

IMG_9267Last but not least, Hokkaido offered us the best seafood and dessert that we ever had as far as we could remember.  Let’s begin to tell the story of our journey!



We took a morning flight back to Lima, stored our big backpacks at the airport and took a taxi to Museo de la Nacion.  We came here specifically to see the Yuyanapaq exhibition on the 6th floor. Yuyanapaq means “to remember” in Quechua.  It was an exhibition of black and white photographs documenting the Peruvian internal conflict from 1980 to 2000, in which thousands were killed in attacks by Shining Path rebels, government military, and other guerrilla groups.  It was a touching experience to learn the recent history of Peru.  It was hard to believe that the terror of bombings could happen pretty much anywhere in this country only a decade ago.

After some heavy realization of Peru’s recent past, we decided it was time for a good seafood lunch for this very last day of our trip.  We followed the guidebook’s recommendation and headed to El Veridico de Fidel, which according to the guidebook, was a place of pilgrimage in terms of Peruvian seafood. Though the book forewarned that the restaurant’s neighborhood could be a little chaotic and  rough.  As a result we decided to take a taxi.  El Veridico de Fidel was truly a seafood heaven. It was fully packed.  We spent a long time looking at the menu. At last, we ordered a full table of seafood and a jar of chicha, a type of fermented corn beverage.  The seafood dishes included leche de tigre (ceviche broth with shrimp, scallop, raw fish, octopus, and sea urchin), bi-colour tiradito (Japanese style ceviche without onions), ceviche platter (scallop, raw fish, whelks, octopus, and sea urchin), deep-fried seafood platter, baked scallops with cheese on top, and a red snapper sudado. The fish was fresh, and the soup very tasty.

After the heavenly meal, we taxied to the Plaza de Armas.  We causally strolled around the plaza to appreciate the surrounding architecture.  We headed to the main post office to send out some postcards.  There was only a tiny door from the arcade into the post office. We tried to buy some collection stamps but the staff refused to sell as they were closing.  After the post office, we walked around the area, stopped by a bakery for drinks, and then headed to Plaza San Martin.  At Plaza San Martin, we tried to visit El Bolivarcito for its legendary pisco sour but because of the regional election the next day, they were not allowed to sell alcohol.

We ended up stopping at a nearby KFC, before taking a taxi back to Lima’s airport.  One of our friends and us left Lima for New York and then Toronto that very night, while our other friend stayed at a hostel near the airport for another night before his flight back to Chicago the next morning.  That was it.  Uncounted fond memories of Peru: Andes Mountains, Inca history, colourful cultures, fantastic seafood, friendly people, funny llamas, mighty condors and sacred Titicaca.  After these magnificent Peruvian experiences, our interest on South America grew as time went on, until the day came when we were determined to explore this magical continent once again in 2013, from the Brazilian Pantanal to Bolivian Altiplano, and from the bustling Rio and Buenos Aires to windswept Patagonia.

01The Museo de la Nacion in Lima.

02The interior atrium at Museo de la Nacion, Lima.

03Back window of taxi, on our way to El Veridico de Fidel.

04Leche de tigre (ceviche broth) with shrimp, scallop, raw fish, octopus, and sea urchin.

5-6(Left) ceviche platter, which included a scallop, raw fish, whelks, octopus, and sea urchin.  (Right) baked scallops with cheese on top.

7(Left) deep-fried seafood platter.  (Right) red snapper sudado.

08After we finished, one of the staff came to pose for me to take a photo. His bowl of fish and crab soup seemed very tempting to us as well.

09The Plaza de Armas with buildings, cathedral, Archbishop’s Palace of Lima, etc.

10Plaza de Armas, with buildings, cathedral, Archbishop’s Palace of Lima, etc.

11President palace.

12Interesting balcony at President’s Palace.

13 Arcade at the main post office.

14Tourist horse carriage at Plaza de Armas, Lima.

15A ornamental church along our way to Plaza San Martin.

16Late afternoon at Plaza San Martin, Lima.

17KFC at Plaza San Martin where we spent the last hour in Lima, Peru.

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Read other posts on Peru Trip 2010

1. Peru Trip 2010
2.  Bumpy Arrival, Lima & Arequipa, Peru
3.  Monasterio de Santa Catalina, Arequipa, Peru
4.  Plaza de Armas, Arequipa, Peru
5.  Volcanoes and Vicuna, Pampa Canahuas Natural Reserve, Patahuasi, and Patapampa, Peru
6.  Yanque, Colca Canyon, Peru
7. Cruz del Condor, Colca Canyon, Peru
8. Farming Terraces, Colca Canyon, Peru
9. Road to Titicaca, Colca Canyon to Puno, Peru
10. Afternoon on Taquile Island, Titicaca, Peru
11. Morning on Taquile, Titicaca, Peru
12. Inka Express, Puno to Cusco, Peru
13. Pisac & Ollantaytambo, Sacred Valley, Peru
14. Salinas de Maras, & Moray, Sacred Valley, Peru
15. Lucuma Milkshake & Plaza de Armas, Cusco, Peru
16. Saksaywaman, Cusco, Peru
17. KM 82 to Wayllabamba, Inca Trail, Peru
18. Wayllabamba to Pacamayo, Inca Trail, Peru
19. Pacasmayo to Winay Wayna, Inca Trail, Peru
20. Winay Wayna to Machu Picchu, Inca Trail, Peru
21. Machu Piccu, Inca Trail, Peru
22. Machu Picchu in Black and White, Inca Trail, Peru
23. Afterthought, Inca Trail, Peru
24. Farewell to the Incas, Cusco, Peru
25. Last Day in Peru, Lima, Peru