Japan: Day Trip to Otaru.

04 December 2019 Wednesday
Day 5:

Our first morning in Sapporo and snow was still falling from the evening before.

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We didn’t opt-in for hotel breakfast here so I had something light in our room while Florian slept in a little longer. When he was up, we made our way to Cafe Denmark for him to fill his stomach.

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I had a hot hojicha latte.

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From the cafe, we took a train to Soen and walked to the area around their fresh market.

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We followed Mark Wiens‘ recommendation and went to Kaisen-Ichiba Kitano Gourmet 北のグルメ (Seafood Market Northern Gourmet Food).

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They have a spacious dining area upstairs, and more space on the ground floor as well. We were seated quite promptly although getting the attention of the service staff was not as straight-forward even after pressing the service bell multiple times.

When we were finally attended to, Florian and I were informed that the King Crab we were after cost almost twice what was stated on the menu. I was quite annoyed about that. If they had said that the crab was sold at market price, that would have been fine. When a price is listed on the menu, and then verbally changed to something much higher, it made me feel like we were being taken for a ride. So we axed the idea of crab and went for scallop sashimi instead.

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We stuck with our plan to share a bowl of kaisen don – Mixed seafood rice. The prawn was incredibly sweet and creamy. Probably the best I’ve had. The bowl included salmon, tuna, squid, abalone, octopus, uni, ikura, scallops and surf clam. All were delicious although I still cannot say I am a fan of uni. The texture is perfectly fine, but the flavour somehow doesn’t quite sit well with me. The slices of chutoro were impressive though. They had just enough fat to glide down nicely without being overly fat like otoro.

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We realised only after our kaisendon arrived that there was already scallop sashimi included. No regrets ordering the extra scallops though. It had just enough bite and was so naturally sweet that it didn’t even need any sauce to bring out its flavour.

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Oh. I also had a crab miso soup on the side. It was nice but not great. Nothing can beat the crab miso soup that we had at Kaiten Sushi Topical back in Furano.

After lunch, we continued by train all the way to Otaru. Otaru is a small harbour city and we were told by friends and family that we ought to visit it while we were in Sapporo. It takes about 40-45 minutes to reach there by train and probably has much more to offer than what we were able to cover. For example, we didn’t managed to visit the musical box museums, or their glass factories. We did, however, manage to visit Sankaku Market.

Florian and I were debating whether to have lunch at Sankaku Market or Sapporo Central Seafood Market but settled on the latter thinking it may be less hyped up.

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Walking around the small seafood market in Otaru though, I couldn’t help but feel a tinge of regret.

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The live seafood were beckoning me!

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As were the just-alive ones.

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And even the totally lifeless ones.

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We’ll be back some day.

That afternoon, we decided to enjoy the fluffy snow that blanketed the now unused railway tracks.

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We walked along Otaru canal as so many suggested to do.

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It was extremely cold and still snowing the entire time we were there.

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-5.6 degrees celsius. The coldest I have ever been. And yet, the snow just made everything look so pretty and I think it created some kind of insulation so that it didn’t feel quite as cold as it was supposed to be.

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I told Florian that perhaps I’m okay with travelling to cold countries in winter IF there is snow. No snow, no go. Because cold and snowy is gorgeous and very bearable, but cold and wet is disgusting.

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We dropped by Le Tao‘s flagship for tea. We tried their Milk Pudding, as well as their famous Duo Fromage Cheesecake.

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I wasn’t much a fan of the eggy pudding although Florian loved that eggy flavour. The cheesecake was nice but I prefer the seasonal pumpkin one we had the other weekend with our friends. I also enjoyed snagging all the free samples they were happily giving out.

By the time we were out, the sun had already set. Mind you, we weren’t in the cafe very long. It just happens to turn dark around 4pm in winter. So we were blessed to see Otaru transform as it streets and buildings lit up the town to create soft glow that made me feel all snug.

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We looked around a few shops here and there, ducking in whenever the cold got too much, and ducking back out when we had gathered enough warmth. Then, we slowly walked back to Otaru station where we returned to Sapporo.

We didn’t want to travel too far for dinner, so we consulted GoogleMaps to seek out a good Izakaya near our hotel. We found this one just 80m away.

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We were allocated a small cubby room that granted us privacy. The clinking of beer glasses and echoes of laughter from other rooms made my first izakaya experience in Japan feel very authentic. It helped that our server couldn’t speak English. I liked it already!

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We managed to order some amazing Bonito Tataki.

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It was like a cross between tuna and mackerel. Sweet and smokey, yet clean in taste.

Florian was craving potatoes and because it made more money-sense, ended up ordering a grilled buttered potato with marinated squid guts.

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He was a little disappointed by the size of the potato. We both tried the squid. He didn’t like the texture. I thought it was rather interesting with the sweet sliminess it possessed.

Florian also had the buttered grilled corn and scallops which went down a treat. This shell held all the things he loves.

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And grilled oysters. We were going to have one each but…

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My pot of seafood soup had three large ones and since Florian didn’t want to help me clear out my pot, I refused to exchange one fat, creamy glob of oyster for his shrivelled up ones.

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I thoroughly enjoyed this Kaisenabe. It reminded me of the one I like to order at the Japanese restaurant we frequent here in Singapore, only on steroids. The large scallops with roe, fresh oysters, sweet prawns and big chunks of salmon, with the sweetest vegetables, made for great eating and certainly filled my belly up.

If we weren’t already leaving for Tokyo next morning, I’d have definitely wanted to hit up this izakaya many more times.

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