Florian and I have been back just over a week from our final holiday of 2019. I’m really excited to leave some of this year behind and start 2020 on a high.
After our miscarriage, Florian and I decided that we would spend more quality time together. On the most part, I think we’ve managed to fulfil that. We also said that we’d travel together year-end. Since I’ve wanted to visit Japan for the longest time, and Florian wanted to bring me there, we naturally gravitated to making a trip there. Honestly though, while we were in the planning stages, I felt reluctant to go. I guess a part of me was still moping over what could have been. Our December was meant to be different. And I didn’t think that going to Japan was alluring enough to take my mind off what could have been a different reality.
But fly away we did. Only for 9 days – 8 if you take away travel time.
We left Singapore Friday night, transited in Bangkok an hour before we flew to Narita Airport. There, we switched to fly domestic to New Chitose Airport, Hokkaido.
30 November 2019 Saturday
When we reached Japan, I was filled with excitement to explore this wonderful country that I’d heard so much about; seen so many documentaries of; tasted their culinary delights at Japanese restaurants here but never having the real thing!
While in Narita, I had Lawson’s Spicy Pollack Roe Onigiri. After all, when in Japan, you have to eat at least once from a convenience store right?
It was okay. I would have preferred a higher filling to rice ratio. Much, much higher.
It was quite a journey to get to Furano – the first stop on our three point plan. From New Chitose Airport, we had to take the train to Sapporo station, where we then got the bus to take us to Furano bus station some 2.5-3 hours away.
It was 7pm by the time we arrived.
And it had snowed!
We quickly checked into our hotel just 50m away from the bus stop – Furano Natulux Hotel, threw our bags down, and quickly went off in search for dinner to quell the grumble of our stomachs.
But first, we played a bit along the almost-eerily silent streets.
And posed with icicles. Because hubsy couldn’t resist picking some off the cars.
We decided to dine at Kumagera, a restaurant in Furano known for its local cuisine.
We shared a serving of Pickled Mackerel.
And a bubbling seafood stew filled with the sweetest, freshest fish, clams, conches and vegetables. A perfect hot filler to satisfy our bellies before we headed back into the cold.
We wandered around the streets of Furano after dinner just to see what was around. We stumbled across this alley with brightly lit signboards, each with the English word ‘Snack’ on them. My curiosity piqued and I wanted to see what snacks they had. Only Florian was more apprehensive and thought ‘Snack’ meant something naughty.
We never got to discover what those shops really sold so you’ll have to tell me if you ever make a visit.
01 December 2019 Sunday
We started off with a hearty meal provided by the hotel. Florian and I opted to try the local breakfast encompassing some pickles, tofu, grilled salmon, an oden item, tamago, miso soup, Japanese rice, raw egg and natto. With fresh Hokkaido milk on the side. There was a counter where we could help ourselves to tea, coffee and cereal as well.
We ate the rice the Japanese way – stirring the raw egg with a dash of shoyu sauce into the grains so that each was coated by the rich flavour of the yolk.
We topped the rice off with natto – stirred with mustard 200 times according to Florian in order to make it light and fluffy. So love!
With such a power-packed breakfast, and meals like ramen and tonkatsu, omurice and soup curries, you wonder how the Japanese stay so slim!
Turns out, Sakura eggs from Hokkaido might be my favourite eggs so far. There is so much flavour packed into their yolks and I cannot get over how insanely fresh they are. It almost felt as though their eggs were laid the same morning we ate them.
Oh! And this was what we woke up to:
We had little planned for Furano to be honest. We thought we would try skiing or sledding but decided to leave those activities for the next day (Monday) in hopes that more snow would build up.
Instead, while it was daylight, we walked around Furano and popped by Furano Marche and Furano Marche 2. Both sit right next to each other and have food kiosks along with fresh produce.
My favourite section!! Would have bought the lot home but didn’t want to lug them over to Sapporo and Tokyo before returning home. I did wind up buying a small kabocha in Tokyo though. Just one.
We crossed the road and found ourselves in this little bakery/patisserie.
We bought a single packet of this cookie thinking it was a lavender cookie what with the lavender fields on the packaging. Turns out, it was more a thin, crisp, sugar cookie with some pumpkin seeds in. And it was sold at every other Hokkaido edible souvenir shop. Trust us to go into a patisserie selling the freshest local desserts straight from the oven, and come out with a factory made biscuit.
Florian was adamant about having ramen for lunch. And so, it was.
We went to Shinatora since it was rated very highly.
We almost walked past its entrance. Thankfully we didn’t. We managed to go right in and take the last two seats available in this small, traditional ramen eatery.
We ordered a bowl of Kogeshio (Black garlic shio) and a bowl of Shinasoba (Pork and fish based ramen), both with ramen egg added on.
The Shinasoba was their signature. The broth was robust, rich and fatty from the pork, with an underlying smoky saltiness of the fish. It was creamy, heavy, and hearty.
If you’re wondering how Shinasoba is actually a ramen dish rather than soba, it’s because soba is actually the generic term for all kinds of noodles in Japan. Whether you’re having ramen, udon or soba soba, they’re all under the umbrella ‘soba’. Shinasoba actually means ‘Chinese soba’. So it was really only when the Chinese brought ‘lamian’ to Japan, did the term ‘ramen’ come about.
Now, onto the Kogeshio. This was rich and deep with the sweet smoke of black garlic providing a lovely umami.
Both bowls contained noodles with a nice bite, lean tender pork slices, and two thick strips of crunchy bamboo shoots.
The star for me however, was the ramen egg. It was perfectly marinated with a flowy yolk that was oozing with sweet richness. Absolutely lip-smacking and mind-blowing. Hands down the best egg I have ever eaten in my life! Until today, I can still recall that burst of gloriousness dancing on my tongue. Who would have thought so much joy and pleasure could be captured within one egg?!
Still reminiscing about that life-changing egg, we made our way back to the Furano bus station to catch the 1.57pm bus to New Furano Prince Hotel.
This is where Furano’s ski slopes are, as well as Ningle Terrace which is like their little Christmas Market.
Ningle Terrace was quiet and not quite what we imagined. I suppose we being early didn’t help. We would have waited until dark when the lights came on but the last bus down was at 4.40pm which wouldn’t have given us much time to look around.
We stopped by the Coffee House where I had a hot tea.
Florian had Baked Milk. Both of us assumed it would make a perfect winter warmer but when I touched his cup, I commented on how cool it felt. Turns out, it was actually the baked milk was actually served cold. Think: Milk, Ice Cream, Caramelised Sugar.
It looked deceptively warm and toasty, but ended up adding to the cold. It would have been a much better option if it were summer.
After our tea break, we went back down to our hotel and rested a bit before we went around the corner (literally) for dinner. Sennari Shabu-Shabu was cosy and warm from the second we stepped in, all from the bubbling pots of broth.
We ordered a beef shabu-shabu set each that included a side of vegetables, rice balls, ramen and pickles.
I can never say no to the pickled daikon in Japan. We were happy diners feasting on the tender slices of beef and downing the delicious vegetables. The rice balls were interesting – tasty and nice, especially the bits of toasted sesame on top.
Florian couldn’t help but eye the Home-made Sakura Ice-Cream.
It was a little icy, more like a parfait, and we couldn’t really get the flavour of the cherry blossoms. The flecks in the ice-cream were more like sour plum? It didn’t tickle my fancy but for some reason, Florian found himself enjoying the icy creaminess of the dessert.
So our first full day in Furano was pretty much eating and walking to eat. One more full day and we were off to Sapporo. More in my next post! 🙂