Still not a foody. And yet, have so much to tell about food in Hokkaido.
02.08.2013 - 16.08.2013
I went solo traveling. Yes, again!
starting from Asahikawa towards East, and then North, until the Northernmost point of Japan.
Every time we hear "ramen", our mind automatically relates to Japan. Nevertheless, it's in Asahikawa where ramen becomes an icon. Look! What a giant bowl of ramen. Take a look on the right! There's a door. So... this is not a real bowl of ramen. It's kind of a stage. Those round slices of fish around the bowl are cushions where you can sit on. Have you sat on a bowl of ramen? Only in Asahakiwa that's possible.
Only in Asahikawa, ramen has her own village: Ramen Village or Ramen Mura. Well, it's actually not really a village. It's a block of ramen shops located on the outskirts of Asahikawa town.
As informed by a travel agent at Asahikawa Zoo, most of the shops in Ramen Village opens also in downtown. There's no need to purposely visit Ramen Village just for tasting Asahikawa Ramen, he said. But I say, if you'd like to browse on Uniqlo, this place can be worth a visit, as Uniqlo is located just across Ramen Village.
I got to know about this number-one ramen in Asahikawa from the tourist information center at Asahikawa Railway Station.
That night was a betrayal to myself. Usually I would be at the least willing to queue merely for food. No, thanks. If I ever happen to do so, it must be for the sake of my companion at that time. Now, I'm alone, and yet...? I laughed at myself.
I wasn't the only foreigner. I heard Korean-speaking guests, Mandarin, and maybe Thai. Neither was I the only guest who came alone. Maybe those were the salarymen who wanted to begin his weekend with the number-one ramen of Asahikawa. But, there was also a lady dining alone! Queuing in front of me were a family consisting of three generations: grandparent, child, grandchild. The conclusion, everyone from everywhere are here.
While standing in line, you can start browsing on the menu. When your turn is coming, you can place your order.
And not long after you are seated, your order would be ready. Yummy!! It really, really, was worth the waiting. After this ramen, I ate other ramen in Hokkaido, but never had any like this. The gravy and meat was excellent. Plus, the volume was abundant. Luckily I ordered the small portion. And... it's only 500 yen!! I can't believe this.
The atmosphere of the restaurant itself can be called a Japanese experience. Very interesting.
The wall, from end to end, was covered with these notes of compliment.
I told you, ramen is the icon of Asahikawa. Here's the 16th Asahikawa Ramen Festival.
Another way of experiencing authentic Japanese dining is by having microwave-warmed-up meal. On the left is instant rice which you 'cook' just by putting it into a microwave for 3 minutes the most. As written on the package: Seicomart, I bought it there. According to my brief examination in Hokkaido for instant rice, Seicomart sells the cheapest instant rice among Seven Eleven and Lawson.
Speaking of Seicomart, I just learned from a new-found Japanese friend that Seicomart exists only in Hokkaido. Even so, only on the Northern part. Well, I've seen Seicomart everywhere in Hokkaido, but not in Sapporo and Otaru. Furthermore my Japanese friend said, when one brings a plastic bag with Seicomart's brand, it means that person has been to Hokkaido. Having heard that, I kept one plastic bag from Seicomart and brought it home as souvenir. I've been to Hokkaido, you know...
Furano and further beyond.
To me, Japan is obsessed with ice cream which they call ソフト sofuto, derived from the English word "soft". At my very early introduction with sofuto, I was confused. Soft? What's soft?
When I mentioned that I was heading to Furano, my taxi driver in Asahikawa made a bold reminder: "Don't forget to try sofuto in Furano. You must. Zehi."
"Sofuto? There are a lot of sofutos, too, here. I had one yesterday."
"Here? No, no, in Furano I mean."
"What's the difference?"
"Yes, lavender sofuto. You must try! Zehi!"
I obeyed her. The one on the left is that lavender sofuto, or lavender ice cream. I never knew that ice cream and melon together turns excellent.
The one on top right is matcha (green tea) sofuto in waffle-cone. The process of making was interesting actually. But due to some misluck, I failed to capture the process. It was at Furano Railway Station.
The one on top bottom is cheese sofuto. Wonderful. Definitely 'sofuto' as in 'soft'. It was at Furano Cheese Factory.
Homemade jam. Quoting from Furano Jam Garden's website:
After patiently skimming the jam, we carefully draw out the sugar from the condensed flavor of the raw ingredients to make our product. We never use any additives such as preservatives, artificial flavoring, or food coloring. We hope that you will enjoy the authentic flavors shaped by our high quality ingredients grown in the great outdoors and seasoned by the extreme daytime/nighttime temperature differences unique to this valley terrain.
My own verdict: pure and wonderful.
Says the website again:
Customers are free to taste test any one of our 35 kinds of hand-made Furano Jam before deciding which ones to purchase.
My own experience: true.
Hokkaido is an island of milk. However, the milk from each region slightly tastes different. The one on picture left was from Wakkanai. At first I hesitated buying, because I thought I had had enough milk all the way through my trip. I thought, milk anywhere tastes milk. But when I felt I needed something to drink, I reconsidered. Since my stomach wasn't feeling quite good at that time, coffee was not an option, while soda has never been in the list. So, milk it is.
I sat on a bench in front of a souvenir shop drinking milk while organizing my camera stuffs. Then came an elder couple. "Where did you buy that?"
"Oh. Over there." I pointed to the shop across the street.
"Ah... it's sold out."
"It is? There were still few of them just now."
"None anymore. Do you know whether this shop sells it?" Grandma pointed to the shop next to us.
"Hmmm.... I went inside just now. It seems that they don't sell milk."
"Yeah... this milk is very popular."
What? Popular? I grabbed my camera immediately and took a picture of it. I must admit that the taste is, different. Such as the one I bought in Furano on picture right. Can you see the bottle in the cow's right hand? It was also good, but it was not the same as the one from Wakkanai. This one in Furano I bought for the sake of the bottle which is made of glass. I already had one milk bottle from Hakodate. So I wanted to make this one from Furnao a souvenir as well. Although milk like this is available in almost every region in Hokkaido, ones in a glass bottle seem few. This milk bottle reminds me of my storybook when I was a kid. Every morning a milkman comes and puts a bottle of milk on the doorstep ... ah, that bottle looked like this.
This is Mongolian lunch at ひつじの丘 Hitsuji no Oka. Naturally, I enjoy lamb meat. But, I have never had lamb meat this tender. The ones I had in Xinjiang (China) don't compete with this. And, outstanding is, the sauce!! Batchiri!!
I ordered a glass of cappuccino, and it was great.
Just a few steps away from Furano Railway Station, there's a small but famed coffee shop: 我夢舎楽. The place is not huge, but the portion is. And that small place made a cozy place. Sitting cross legged on a cushion with a broad window on my back from which I can watch the world down there go by, was exactly my thing. The owner, already in his 70s but looked 60 was a friendly guy. He gave me as souvenir a hundred yen banknote which is more than 20 years old. That's what he usually do to appreciate foreign guests, he said.
I also ordered a glass of matcha juice, because it was the first time I knew matcha as juice. Unfortunately, I don't have a sweet tooth.
This is an example of the home-cooked dinner I savored for three nights at my hostel in Naka Furano. Despite the hectic of serving so many guests in this high-season, as it's costumed in Japanese culture, food presentation has always to be number one.
You have to believe that Japanese people plays as hard as they work. Here's a barbeque festival held by the riverside, 岸壁炉ばた ganpekirobata.
Guess what this is! Rice burger! I admire Japanese people's creativity. I never thought rice could be turned into a burger. To be noted, this must be consumed while it's hot, immediately. Otherwise, the rice would get sticky and linger between your teeth. In that red glass is just mocha. But let me put an emphasize for the fragrance was extraordinary. This cafe was located near Akan Lake.
This typical Japanese dining style I enjoyed as room service in Mashu Hotel.
Kawayu Onsen is just a little bit further North from Mashu. Near the railway station was a homemade bakery. I bought one pie and one bread, went to the vending machine, bought a can of coffee, and seated myself in front of the station while waiting for my train to come. I really love Japan for its vending machines. As long as you have a few coins in your pocket, the vending machines will sustain you all the way -- anywhere.
Speaking of vending machines in Japan means speaking of beverages as well. I am not very much into food, but quite a lot into beverages. And among those, coffee alone has a broad variant in Japan.
What attracted me to this was the name: Ice Candy. This one is matcha ice candy, sold at a souvenir shop in front of Oshinkoshin Fall.
Here's another kind of summer festival held in Wakkanai. On that tall podium (with red and white stripes) in the center there some people play music instruments while one man and one woman on the ground sings. Some people dance around the podium, some watch while enjoying some snack bought from the food stalls which you can see on the right. Do you see the benches on the left?
Hmmm, this one I took with one hand holding the package and another holding my cellphone. Anyway, may you get the feeling. On the left is written "Potato Fried". Actually it's yakitori. Yummy, it was! The saltiness suited the chilly summer night. Potato fries is on the right. The potatoes were to me sliced thinker that what I generally consume. But it turned out good. The potato was kind of juicy.
Mister Donut is the other reason why I love Japan. I can't stop regretting why Mister Donut in Jakarta had go into extinction. Whenever I see Mister Donut in Japan, my heart rejoices. This one was in Takikawa. I opted for the original matcha flavor one.
Okay, I have the least interest in beer. But when you say "Sapporo" , there are two things only that will pop up in mind: snow and beer. Hence, while being in Sapporo in summer, a visit to this beer garden is a must. I was transfixed at first sight, because this was the place where the international snow festival was held last February. How different it looks now! How thrilling it is actually to be in a place of four seasons.
Odori Park, the name of the place, is a long park about 1 km long. Like during the snow festival, this time also the park was divided into several areas based on the beer maker e.g. Suntory, Asahi, Kirin.
The most interesting part for me was the beer containers. Each maker had its own characteristic. Look! You can shower with that!
Each beer maker had their own uniform. The waitresses were made running on their feet and most toilsome when it came to refilling the beer containers. You can imagine that.
In each section of the beer maker, food stalls were available as well. Even if you don't drink alcohol, you still have a reason to be merry...
... together with those who get drunk ... and turn blurry :P
Traveling Hokkaido for two weeks might make me look rich beyond fact. I was actually lucky to purchase a promotion flight by Thai Airways for Jakarta - Sapporo return via Bangkok for 698.9 USD nett. The flight back from Bangkok to Jakarta wasn't as pleasant as expected, but when you pay less, expect less. Right? As a proof of my flight with Thai Airways, here's a photo of the snack package on the way from Sapporo to Bangkok.