Hokkaido: The Long Westernized Japan
– Part 2
Sapporo Beer Museum
Entrance to the museum is free and it’s around 20 minutes on foot from JR Sapporo Station. Visitors will be welcomed with stacks of beer kegs outside the premises. And on the adjacent side is a display of a real brewing kettle used from the factory. From 3rd floor to ground floor, we toured the museum. Inside the museum are exhibits about how the history of the Sapporo beer museum and its development. Old pictures of the factory, from past to present and the people behind the success of Sapporo Beer are displayed in the 3rd floor. Before going up, an English guide is provided for foreigners, which translates some of the items on display. The real highlight of the tour was the beer tasting section on the 2nd floor. We sampled three types of beer which they brew, namely, Black label, Yebisu black beer, and the Kaitakushi beer, in which all have 5% alcohol content. The three glasses of beer was worth 400 yen. Along with it were complimentary plain and onion cheese and Sapporo beer crackers to match our early morning drinking session. While gulping the beer, old pictures of Showa Era print ads are posted on the walls beside the bar. The museum also houses all the shapes and sizes of bottles of the beer they used to sell before. Also, promotional materials such as toys and other fancy kawaii things are displayed in the museum. Recommended omiyage for you to buy are the chocolate coated Sapporo corn and the Sapporo Beer Crackers. By lunch time, we finished our beer and we were drunk. The downside of having that tour at the first thing in the morning was that our progres has somewhat slowed down a bit. We felt lazy to move and we slept in the bus.
Hitsujigaoka Observation Hill (Hitsujigaoka Temboudai / 羊が丘展望台)
On our way to Hitsujigaoka Park, we were lost but finally made our way by flagging down a taxi. The Hill was quite far. In this park, you can see the famous statue of Dr. William Smith Clark who immortalized the tag line “Boys, Be Ambitious!!” Hitsuji (羊) means sheep while oka (丘) means hill. Collectively the place means a hill with sheep. But we only saw few sheep on the rear side of the facility. The hill was developed as a former national cattle breeding station in 1906 and then later in 1919 as a breeding facility for sheep. From there, it got its present name. The hill offers a panoramic view of Sapporo and Ishikari plain. From the hill, the Sapporo Dome can be seen which seemed like a humongous silver spacecraft of a UFO. The hill was still snow-capped and everything was pitch-white. Taking in turns, we took a lot of pictures on the hill and on the statue of Dr. Clark.
Sapporo Winter Festival Museum
Right next to the hill is the Sapporo Winter Festival Museum. The museum houses hundreds of pictures of the Sapporo Winter Festival. Sapporo’s Winter Festival kicked off in February 18, 1950. After their defeat in the World War II, the citizens of Sapporo wanted to have fun and do some uplifting activities which would enable them to break free from the long winters they experience, and thus, the birth of the annual Sapporo Winter Festival.
* Genghis Khan Meal is a preparation of pan frying the mutton with bean sprouts, cabbages, carrots and potatoes and then dipping it to a special sauce with grated radish. The meal was expensive. Around 1,700 yen per head but it surely made our Hokkaido experience complete.
Sapporo Dome was our last stop. This is the home court of Hokkaido’s two famous teams. Have you ever heard of the Consadole and Nippon Ham Fighters? The Consadole is their soccer team while the Nippon Ham Fighters is their baseball team. This dome was of a grand scale. Entrance to the dome is around 500 yen. The dome boasts itself as the first of its kind to have the first movable and retractable soccer stage. The facility also houses outdoor fields, and two artificial outdoor soccer fields. Aside from the panoramic view of the dome, the mini observatory above the dome has more spectacular view. From the observatory above, you can get a glimpse of the city and the towering mountains surrounding Sapporo City. Accessible from Toho Subway Line Fukuzumi Station and a 10-minute walk towards the facility.
Otaru is just a few minutes away from Sapporo. A majestic view of the southern Sea of Japan with numerous jagged rocks and lively cranes flock the area has captivated our excitement. The tracks which lead to Otaru are constructed very close to the shore. Otaru is a historic old town from being an old settlement of the Ainu people who once inhabited the area. Today, the traces of their culture can be viewed in their museums. This town is probably the first place I have been to in Japan where Russian language can be read in most pamphlets and museum signage. Otaru is also a famous place for sushi. Too bad, we weren’t able to find the nearest one when we went there. I can say that Otaru looks like an old American town in the 1800s because of its architecture. Many of these structures erected during the early settlement of the 1800s by the Americans are still visible and well-preserved in Otaru.
Otaru Canal and Otaru Museum (小樽運河・小樽博物館の周辺)
The Otaru Canal was just too overrated by most travel magazines in Japan. It was a bit boring and it felt like we just went to a typical nearby dock in the Philippines. The canal should be best viewed during the night as the illumination gives the rocks of the old canal more life. The old canal served as the main harbor of the town during the age of early settlement in the late 1800s.
The museum is just across Otaru Canal. According to the data displayed in their museum, Otaru once had greater population than Sapporo. In the 1870s, they had 3,169 inhabitants compared to 13 people in Sapporo. The museum showed how lively the town was in the 1870s. People in Otaru predominantly depend on fishing. An exhibit of the old tools and craft the people, like sled, net for catching fish and even skis, used in the 1800s can be seen inside. Old pictures and daily things which are classified “foreign” are also displayed. From the classic dial-type telephones, sewing machines, phonograph, typewriter, piano, LPs, and all sorts of classic furniture can be seen inside the museum.
Inside the natural museum, displays of the old ways of the Ainu people are displayed. Also, various animals being hunted by the people and even prehistoric tools for creating fire can be tried on hand. Ancient jars, pikes, spears, and bows and arrows are also shown.
From Otaru Canal, a few minutes of walk will bring you to district known for Venetian glassworks. Otaru is also famous for glass making. And most of its influence comes from Italy. Numerous shops along this street which I have baptized “Venetian Road” sell beautiful but too expensive authentic Italian glassworks. Local produce are also being sold. Things from small to big like ink pens, perfume bottles, decorative ornaments up to chandeliers are sold. We weren’t able to buy anything as it was too expensive and too delicate to bring. The only thing we considered buying was this small and so fragile glass ink pen which was around 3,500 a piece. Some shops along this road also offer glass blowing experience for 5,000 to 10,000 yen where an expert glass technician teaches you how to mold different types of glassware. Also, within this vicinity is the Rokkatei Shop (六家亭店) which sells the famous Hokkaido butterscotch cookies and cream puffs. Several pieces of this luscious butterscotch and cream puffs and a few cups of coffee for free surely capped our whole day tour meaningful.
It was time for us to pack and go. But before that, we still have three places to go in our list.
Hokkaido’s so-called standard “omiyage” is the Shiroikoibito white chocolate. I actually tasted this since I first came to Japan several years ago. Though Shiroikoibito sweets can be bought anywhere around Sapporo, it’s still best to pay a visit the factory itself. The building resembled that of an old brick house while the clock tower on its entrance looks like that of Big Ben. Inside the factory is a museum where various items concerning chocolate, from its history abroad, different kinds of saucers and chocolate cups, to world historical data of producing and consuming countries, up to its containers used in different countries are displayed. A glimpse of how this famous and most-loved Hokkaido omigaye is being produced and packed can be seen from atop. Viewing the production line is as fun and interesting as the taste of the white chocolate. On the other side of the building is an area used by visitors who want to try making different kinds of pastries offered by Ishiya Factory. There is a daily schedule for visitors who want to try it. It looked interesting as children along with their parents made different kinds of cute and sumptuous chocolate-decorated pastries. The shop next to it sells different kinds of ornaments and chocolate-products sold by Ishiya. There is also a coffee shop next to it which offers visitors to taste their desserts while resting from a tiring trip around the museum.
Okurayama Ski Jump and Sapporo Winter Sports Museum
Going to Okurayama Ski Jump facility and the adjacent Sapporo Winter Sports Museum is a bit troublesome. There is no direct public mode of transportation that could bring you there. The only way aside from taking the taxi is to get off at Maruyamakoen Station then take a bus heading to the Ski Jump and from the bus stop is a 20-minute uphill trek awaits the visitors. The ski jump facility is very famous since this was the place used during the Sapporo Winter Olympics a few decades ago. Below the ski jump is the Sapporo Winter Sports Museum which houses the memorabilia of Sapporo Olympics and the history and progress of Japan’s quest in the world arena of winter Olympic competition. When we went there, the ski lift was closed for maintenance. So we were not able to see the whole ski jump course from above. Since it was still late March, the whole area was still blanketed with snow. It was a nice experience for us to see a real ski jump facility as there is no snow in the Philippines. The museum showcases the different feats of Japan in winter sports in the global arena. Old uniforms, old skis and sleds, and even recently developed high-tech smart suits to combat air drag and the like are also being displayed.
Before finally leaving Sapporo, we had our last sip of coffee in the station and final picture taking within the station. Then, we realized that the bus we were supposed to ride already left several hours ago as it was suppose to be our last trip. Our plan B was taking the train towards Tomakomai and taking a 2,000-yen taxi from the station to the port. Whew… We did it on time but it was costly on our part.
So how did we get back home? We took the overnight ferry from Tomakomai to Hachinohe in Aomori Prefecture. Upon arriving at Hachinohe Station, I accidentally found a 1,000 yen breakfast buffet! So we decided to eat and get fat further before embarking to an 8-hour local train ride. Then our 8-hour local train ride started. We managed to arrive at Kuki Station around 7PM and finally arrived in Hanyu around 930PM. What a trip!