Day 1, I’m finally in Sapporo, 29 June 2014. Childhood dream was to visit Hokkaido in May and catch the pink moss, but my dreams were dashed this year when L cancelled our trip. But Hokkaido has different surprises in store for its visitors throughout the year. Most international tourists may find some difficulty getting around because the tourist information is written in Japanese unlike in Tokyo and Kyoto, attesting to the possibility that local tourism is vibrant. Hence, public transportation should be quite accessible given than most Japanese do not drive unlike in Europe and the US.
Transit in Haneda International airport. Take the free shuttle bus to Domestic Terminal 2 (ANA). The same shuttle bus loops the route from two domestic terminals and the international terminal. Allow for 1hr to collect your luggage and make your way to the domestic terminal (if the queue is short). At your departure terminal, ask to be checked through to the final destination so that you collect the boarding pass for the domestic route too. [Note: this is the convenience of taking the same airline for both sectors, ANA in my case. If I’m only going to Tokyo, I’ll probably take SQ. The seats at ANA are smaller. ] So all you need is to pick the luggage at the international terminal, and deposit it at the domestic terminal “Baggage terminal” 20 mins before departure.
Due to a prevalent gift-exchange culture, there’re many shops selling cute petite snacks at the domestic terminal. I grabbed a coffee after checking in and something to snack in the plane: Nenrinya Baumkuchen. Still hot, moist and delicious, served with whipped cream. Lovely packaging. No regrets as only water is served during the 1hr 35min flight.
Upon arrival at New Chitose Airport, take the JR line to Sapporo Station (about 30 mins).
I chose to stay 3 blocks from the Sapporo Station, Mitsui Gardens Hotel (7 mins walking). No regrets because the hotel is so conveniently located and we save travelling time. Shopped around the department malls, such as Daimaru (definitely visit the food hall in the basement), Paseo, Esta etc. There’s a huge Kinokuniya bookstore around the corner.
Had lunch, and before we knew it, time to check into our hotel. Highly recommend this hotel, where the staff speak good English. Especially those on night shift. Quaint little bar on ground floor where guests can help themselves with free-flowing coffee from 3pm-6pm. Chill out with a good book and jazz in the background.
Dinner at Kani-Honke. Very convenient, opposite Esta department store at the Sapporo Station ( a second outlet in Susukino). Another tourist trap? Wondered L aloud. [Besides the huge crab mascot hanging outside, there’s a sign in English and Thai.] But his concerns were assuaged when we saw Japanese guests around. Our table came after waiting for 10 mins. [Possibly this is not tourist season?] We had to remove our shoes (customary or so you can’t run away without paying the bill) before taking the lift to a Japanese style room, quaint albeit in need of renovation by Japanese standards. Restaurant occupies a 7 storey building.
Food was served very fast and furiously. When we saw the pictures of the Kaiseki, L thought we night need to grab some Japanese curry after dinner. But we struggled through the meal, because the portions although very delicious were sizeable by my standards. Japanese pine-legged crab served in different styles: raw, steamed, hot-pot/nabe, porridge, deep fried in shell, crab roe, in a maki-sushi. Very fresh quality crab and good service, but not Japanese fine dining. L got his kani-nabe hot pot. My personal favourite was the porridge, served at the end of the meal. Unknowingly, we helped ourselves to soup from the hot-pot, not realising that the broth was meant to cook the porridge (the young Japanese server had left us with the boiling pot with no instructions). Luckily, she added some more broth (from sea kelp and boiling the crab meat). Hand-roll was very good too. Soft and yet each grain of rice is distinct and flavourful. Take-out of the maki cost around 1450 Yen.