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Melbourne, VIC


Les Petites Choses


Kelven Ng

It is no secret that we are a bit enamored with Japan but one place that we have not been previously was Hokkaido. Of course we had heard about this place; a place we had read would have flufflier snow and fresher seafood than anywhere else in this area of the world. We came to this part of Japan with hopes of eating (surprise surprise) a variety of foods including hairy crab, uni, ice cream, and ramen. What we left with, were memories of experiences that exceeded even our expectations. We had scheduled about 6 days in Hokkaido where we spent 3 in Sapporo, 2 in Noboribetsu, and 1 in Otaru. We thought that was ample time considering our to do list. Here are some memories from the trip.


Sapporo is the largest city in Hokkaido and while many people were flying into the city this time of year to partake in the fluffy snow nearby, we were here to eat, explore and eat. The City had its fair share of corporate buildings and shopping centers but it was also only a short bus ride to a few places that we wanted to visit including Otaru and Noboribetsu.
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Where we stayed in Sapporo

Sapporo is one of the biggest cities in Japan so without any familiarity of the city, we decided to stay close to the station. 40 minute’s by train from the airport (New Chitose), we arrived at Sapporo Station. Attached to the Station are a number department malls as well as the JR Nikko Hotel, where we stayed. The hotel stands tall above the city and provides some spectacular views of the urban landscape. Together, with the convenience that the hotel’s proximity provides to the train station, we could not imagine staying anywhere else in Sapporo. The city was not really in a state for us to walk around in anyway as there was lots of ice and snow so we were happy to have stayed in this hotel. JR Nikko Hotel also has a spa on the 22nd floor which was very nice and relaxing. Keep in mind that this is meant to be modeled after a traditional onsen so you do need to be naked (you get used to it pretty quickly!).
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What we ate in Sapporo

Sushisei Wakichi - While we expected Hokkaido to be a source of great seafood, we did not expect our favorite sushi meal to come from Sapporo. Sushisei Wakichi is ranked 2nd in sushi restaurants for Sapporo by Tabelog (Japan’s restaurant review website) so we went into this meal with a lot of anticipation. Coming from the sub freezing, snowy weather, we were very happy to come into a cozy and welcoming, 8-9 seater restaurant. The sushi was very well proportioned in the neta to shari ratio and most importantly, each course came together so nicely. Anyone coming to Sapporo with an interest in Sushi should look at coming here.

Sapporo Beer Garden (Mongolian Grill) - We did not expect Mongolian grill to be a big thing in Hokkaido but we were told it was a must do. Since it was attached to the Sapporo Beer Museum, we thought, why not? The best part about this experience wasn’t the food though - it was the beer. They have different versions of the popular Sapporo beer that you can’t find anywhere else - even in Japan. That alone is a good reason to visit.


Otaru was only a 35-40 minute train ride from Sapporo so it made for a great day trip. Closer to the ocean, with its very own fish market, we knew we could make full use of our time here. The fish market was open early and while it was small, it made for a much more personal experience than one you could have at the Tsukiji Market in Tokyo. This little coastal town is also the home of Le Tao, a very well known bakery in Hokkaido (they are famous for their double baked cheese cake). While we were in Otaru, there was heavy snowfall and it was glorious. It truly felt like a winter wonderland and if you can't tell from the pictures below, we had a ton of fun in the snow.
J likely got a bit tired of me asking her to pose for pictures but I couldn't give up the opportunity given the gigantic snowflakes that were falling around us. It was a moment to really cherish. I think I got a few good snaps of J, what do you think? ;)
While in Otaru, we had to go into the fish market by the station and try out some of their very fresh seafood. If only we could find something this good back at home. Not only are they not shy about giving you an abundance of ingredients, the quality was about as good as you could get.
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Noboribetsu was only a 1.5 hour bus ride from Sapporo city center but it felt as if we had been transported to a completely different universe. Our trip in Japan entailed a lot of walking. We often walked well over 15k steps a day but during our short stay in this little town of hot springs, we walked a grand total of 500 steps. I think that adequately describes how we spent our time here.

Where we stayed in Noboribetsu

Going to a part of Japan that was known for its natural hot springs, we knew we wanted to stay in a Ryokan. A Ryokan is a traditional accommodation in Japan that goes way back. When I think of a Ryokan, I think of tatami mats, woven sliding doors, beds on the floor and that is exactly what we looked for when we planned our trip out here. We ended up staying at Ryotei Hanayura in Noboribetsu. To get here, we took a chartered bus from downtown Sapporo and they ended up dropping us off directly at the hotel.

The accommodation was clean and beautiful. Our room was massive and it came with our own private onsen bath that was outdoors in our balcony. Anyone who hasn’t tried dipping into a hot pool, in the winter, surrounded by snow hearing nothing but the water around you really has to find a way to do it at least once. Trust me, it will be one of those memories that you won’t forget. Like a lingering feeling of nostalgia that you wish you could relive. Peaceful and content - that is the best way that I can describe that feeling.
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What we ate in Noboribetsu

Noboribetsu isn’t known for its restaurants so we happily stayed in our Ryokan and dined in for all of our meals. Our Kaiseki dinners were beautiful and so satisfying with some sake after a long day of doing nothing but lounging about and dipping in the onsen. Breakfast was buffet style where we could load up on fruits, congee, and other traditional items such as ikura.
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There is something truly peaceful about being in Japan during winter. We ended up with some amazing memories during our short stay here and while we did not ski/snowboard as many would come out this way for, we had a blast and would come back in a heart beat. If you are a food or beer lover, enjoy onsens and just enjoy being in Japan, Hokkaido is a place that will not disappoint.