Japan: Furano to Sapporo!

02 December 2019 Monday
Day 3:

We woke up to a flurry of snow! But that soon turned into endless rain lasting the entire day. 😦

Again, our day began with a good breakfast. This time we opted for the Western meal. I requested two boiled eggs (I should have asked for half boiled!) while Florian had his sunny-side up. They came alongside two mini sausages, a fresh salad, potato salad, the creamiest non-sweet yoghurt ever with blueberry compote, a slice of orange and a slice of yuzu(?), onion soup, and bread with butter and jam. Now, say that in one breath!

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We didn’t manage to clear our plates but we sure did try. The eggs were delicious even fully boiled. And the yoghurt was amazing.

After breakfast, we rested again before we went in search for lunch. With the heavy rains and cold winds, we decided to go to the sushi restaurants right behind our hotel. It turned out to be closed since it was a Monday.

After consulting Google and our map, we braved the wet weather and went to Kaiten Sushi Topical – a conveyor belt sushi restaurant.

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The irony is that in Japan, even with a conveyor belt taking plates of sushi on a merry-go-round, most customers still order directly from the sushi chef. This ensures that the sushi is made and eaten fresh. As such, we did as the Japanese do. We ordered straight from the chef.

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The sushi were incredibly fresh and prepared with so much pride and love.

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On top of the nigiris, I also had a small bowl of crab miso soup. Small as it was supposed to be on paper, it came chockfull of vegetables that mingled with the sweetness of the crab. I thoroughly enjoyed every last drop of it.

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So I proceeded to order the fish miso soup in large.

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That came with generous chunks of salmon. It was hearty and bold, filling me to the brim. I lapped up the fish, leaving only the bones and some of the soup that I could no longer hold within.

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If we were staying in Furano any longer, I would have definitely wanted a return to Kaiten many times over. No joke.

After lunch, we Didi-ed to Furano Cheese Factory. Didi is like the Japanese version of Grab or Uber. And our decision to go to the factory was because the rain meant bad ski weather. I didn’t want to stay in our hotel room all day doing nothing so Florian gave in to my laments and to the cheese factory we went.

I imagined there to be a hive of activity with lots of people milling around the compounds. When we arrived, it was almost silent. We chanced upon some of their workers packing butter. That was it.

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The second level was their retail shop with some cheese samples available for tasting. The squid ink one, though visually tempting, was not to my taste.

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All the signs and information about cheese and its history in Japan were in Japanese so unfortunately, we managed to make little out of them.

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We did stop by their pizza restaurant, which was also completely void of people apart from the two pizza chefs. It was picturesque looking out, but after a mere half hour there, Florian and I found little else that we could do apart from twiddle our thumbs.

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I tried twiddling mine to get a Didi back to Furano town but had no success. There were no taxis passing by. We tried for a good 20 minutes until Florian suggested we go to the main entrance and wait there.

As luck would have it, just as we approached the entrance, we spied a taxi swerving into the carpark and a couple alighted. I assume they were like us, expecting a lot more from the cheese factory, but still oblivious to the situation they were about to face. Quickly, before they realised their predicament, Florian and I ran into the now passenger-less taxi and asked the driver if he could take us back to town. He happily obliged. Thus, we were saved from potentially being stranded or trekking the 3km back in the cold and snow. Ok, 3km isn’t very far but it feels further when it’s cold and nearing sunset. All this being said, I sincerely hope the couple managed to find their way back out.

We were dropped off at the Marche because Florian was hankering after crepes. We subsequently found ourselves seated at Cafe Petit Petit having a hot tea and hot chocolate instead.

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Because my dear hubsy was tempted by the slice of souffle cheesecake they had in their cake display.

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Dinner was at another local restaurant without an English name. It was still raining cats and dogs when we went out although thankfully, the chilly winds had subsided. The ground however, was ridden with lots of ice which made for lots of slipping and sliding. Just as we were along the final stretch of pavement leading to the restaurant, I excitedly pointed at it going, “There it is!”. A blink later, I slipped and fell smack on my bottom. All pain was forgotten as soon as we stepped into our dinner venue.

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They spoke only Japanese here and we nearly had a couple of things lost in translation. The grilled salmon I was after was apparently finished for the day. Initially, I thought to change my order to something else that looked interesting on the menu. Problem was, I couldn’t make out what it was properly from the picture and they were unable to translate it into English. In the end, I decided to stick to the salmon after chef drew the fish on a piece of paper and showed me they would give me the collar.

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Florian had a Hot Soba and Nigiri Sushi set.

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And I had my Salmon Collar Shio set.

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Salmon collar is a little like porterhouse steak I think. You get a side that’s lean, and another part that’s fatty like the belly. It was incredibly moist and tasty.

Prices here were a little steeper but I suppose from the ambience, it was also less casual that other dining establishments we’d been to.

03 December 2019 Tuesday
Day 4:

We awoke to beautiful blankets of snow on our last morning in Furano.

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It would have made for good winter sports but unfortunately, we were already leaving for Sapporo.

Another good breakfast to start our day of travel.

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Then off we were, out into the gorgeous snow!

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We managed to catch the 10am bus from Furano bus station to go to Sapporo.

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The snow followed us near-enough the entire way.

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From Sapporo bus terminal, we lugged our bags to the Keio Prelia Hotel which was walking distance away. Our hotel check-in was at 3pm so Florian and I left our big suitcases at the reception before going to have lunch.

I requested to try the ‘everything’ crab restaurant, Kani-Honke, where we settled on their kaiseki set. It started with a cold seaweed soup that was actually quite refreshing with its sweet, tangy broth. The crab tofu was alright, and the boiled snow crab with sweet dipping sauce (similar to plum sauce) served with a small pickled crab salad was really good.

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The salad which encompassed crab meat, shiso, and a sweet-tangy dressing was very delicious. Pity it was served in such a tiny portion.

Next, we had the crab croquettes. They were shatteringly crispy on the outside. Within, was a creamy filling of molten cheese, mayonnaise and bits of sweet crab meat. The thin crust was beautifully fried and crunched in nicely to create a textural contrast.

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These balls were served piping hot and so moreish. Eaten with the worcestershire sauce that cut its heaviness, they were quite delightful.

Final course consisted of Crab Miso Soup and three pieces of sushi – salmon nigiri, squid nigiri, and a crab and tamago maki.

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The squid was strange to me with its springy creaminess. I found it too ‘fat’ and slimy compared to the lean slices we tend to get here in Singapore. The salmon nigiri was good though, with fresh, fatty fish. And the maki wasn’t bad either.

Lunch ended with ice-cream. I had matcha while Florian went for vanilla.

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The matcha ice-cream was smooth, bitter and not too sweet.

Altogether, it wasn’t a mind-blowing crab feast. It cost us about JPY6000 for two sets, and while good, wasn’t particularly memorable.

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After lunch, we found ourselves at the basement of Daimaru. Even though we were full, we couldn’t help salivating over the wide array of foods available there.

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Fresh pickles!

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Florian couldn’t help but buy a piece of bread filled with a thin layer of pastry cream and blueberry jam. We also ‘indulged’ in a packet of sweet-smelling strawberries… which unfortunately wasn’t quite as sweet or as juicy as they smelled.

When we finally emerged from the food haven underground, it was snowing! Already, in the short time we were exploring Daimaru, a thin film of white had already settled on the roads. It made the city of Sapporo look rather pretty.

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After checking in, we made our way to Odori Park to admire the Christmas lights.

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And to get a glimpse of the Sapporo TV tower.

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We also found time for Florian to make snowballs.

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And in a joint effort, we made a snowman! A really pint sized one but a snowman no less.

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When the cold started getting into our bones, we finally decided to make our way to Soup Curry Guraku for dinner. We weren’t quite so hungry yet but it was just as well we went early because a queue had already formed, all the way out the restaurant, up the stairs, and out the building’s door. To be fair, it was a small building so perhaps there were only about 8-10 tables ahead of us. The cold outside the restaurant was bitter so thankfully, we were rewarded with a welcomed warmth that hugged us once we stepped in.

Florian ordered their signature chicken and vegetable curry, heat level 5, and a medium portion of rice.

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And I had the 7-kinds of mushrooms curry, with the highest heat level of 40(!!!), and the smallest portion of rice.

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Both of us added pumpkin to our curries.

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The soup curries were really comforting with their spices and heat. Mine made sure to leave its mark on my lips. The heat was exceptionally fiery. Yet, it was restrained enough to ensure that the flavour of the curry was not overpowered. I enjoyed the mix of mushrooms, and especially the crisp forests of broccoli. It goes without saying that the addition of pumpkin was a smart choice – I would have been happy just to have had a plate of that for dinner.

Florian really enjoyed the chicken which was fork tender and juicy. They gave a whole leg! The heat level of his curry was just nice – mild, pleasant, warming and tasty.

I believe soup curries are native to Sapporo, and Guraku does it really well. You definitely cannot leave this place without having it at least once!

After dinner, we walked a while before taking the underground walkway back to our hotel. The snow had not let up and it was predicted to be even colder the next day when we planned to visit Otaru. Quite a few friends and family recommended a day trip to Otaru, saying that it’s a really romantic, quaint little town. I was looking forward to seeing whether it would live up to their words. Since this post has turned out to be longer that I anticipated, I’ll share with you more on Otaru in my next post! xx

One thought on “Japan: Furano to Sapporo!

  1. Pingback: Saying Goodbye 2019. | Butterfingrrs

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