Thursday, 31 December 2015


We left our very last Ryokan stay and bid farewell to sleepy Noboribetsu. We had an early train to catch bound for Sapporo. Unfortunately many attractions in Sapporo have closed for the New Year period including the Clock Tower. We dumped our bags and made a beeline for Shiroi Koibito Park. Shiroi Koibito is a biscuit made of chocolate sandwiched between langue de chat. I first started to get addicted to them from my days of working for a Japanese company. My boss used to bring them back to the office from his trips to Japan. Well guess what? Sapporo is the home of Shiroi Koibito! It is also apparently the second most popular souvenir that Japanese buy.

The "factory" was a rather unusual tudor-esque building with eclectic collections including gramophones and old toys. It did run through the process of how chocolate is created as well as how the biscuit is made. There were large panes with views into the production area. Unfortunately, it was packed when we went which made it very difficult to read and take in everything. The cafe which sold ice-creams and trreats was also highly popular, partly because it had a birds eye view of the surrounds. We had to wait for 30 minutes to get a seat, but were glad we did! The one disappointing thing was that the biscuits were not cheaper at the factory than at other outlets. The only difference was that they had special souvenir combinations that were available elsewhere. With so many people in the store, we had to move with the tide of human bodies. We had at most a mere 2 or 3 seconds to decide whether or not we wanted a particular box before we were shuffled past it. Paranoia set in and we grabbed as many boxes as we could that were labelled "not available at New Chitose Airport". We left with $183 worth of biscuits!

Part of the factory!

A fountain made by Royal Doulton in the late 1800s as you enter

Part of the collection of diaromas to relay how chocolate is made

One of the views of the factory floor

gramophone collection...

One could get married is proof

Our "lunch"

At 3pm, we lugged our haul to Stellar Place at Sapporo Station to have a sushi "lunch" at the well-known Hanamaru. We were too late even for dinner. The restaurant had tickets patrons take to join the queue. By the time we arrived, all the queue tickets for the day were gone!! We trudged into the closest restaurant which looked reasonable and had our default pork cutlets instead. A reliably tasty and cheap meal!

No Hanamaru sushi for us :(

The grate for Sapporo. Finally found one not covered up by snow!

Our post "lunch" shop at Stellar Place did not last long. We survived the hordes at the food section of Daimaru long enough to purchase some breads and headed for our base for our Sapporo stay. We made reservations at Hotel Clubby we were able to get two very rare QUADRUPLE rooms. Yes you read correctly! FOUR beds in the one Japanese hotel room and with space to spare for our large suitcases!

The range of Star Wars merchandise in Japan is mind-boggling but this one takes the cake. Moving R2D2 fridge!

Darth Vader vacuum anyone?!?!

Kit Kat store!

Butter, strawberry and maple, sakura and green tea to add to our collection of shinshu apple, rum and raisin, wasabi, red bean, oolong tea, and the bakeable kit kat...

Everyone was too tired to go out again and so it was a quite New Year's Eve for the family, much like our other New Year's Eves...

Wednesday, 30 December 2015


Jigokudani "Hell Valley"

Noboribetsu is part of Shikotsu Toya National Park and is popular spot onsen resort town. It is a relatively small town and we decided to visit Jigokudani "Hell Valley" rather than the bear park for various reasons. Jikokudani is one of the main sources of the town's hot springs waters. The surface activity has had it described as "looks like hell smells like fart" which was reasonably accurate. The smell was rather torturous for someone who had a rather keen sense of smell...


Sengen Park Geyser. Water and steam ejected every 3 hours up to 8m high and last up to 50 min. We missed it.

Look like hell smell like fart. They weren't kidding

You can see the sulfurous water bubbling away


It really was smelly! .

Being only a small town, Noboribetsu had but one tiny shopping street but Oma and Opa managed to buy a backpack worth of goods including the backpack itself. All the restaurants and eateries seem to be closed. Pounced on the first one that opened at 1130am. Ramen fest - corn ramen, leek ramen, crab miso ramen, butter ramen. We tried them all and they were mostly delicious however the butter ramen wasn't quite as tasty as the others although it did smell divine! We're not sure if it was because there was no other restaurants open, but there was a significant line by the time we finished.

We returned to our ryokan to enjoy the facilities. We had produce to consume including rockmelon shoju (wine) and daifuku (mochi type balls). Rockmelon in Hokkaido is meant to be one of the best in the world. It tasted good but the rest of the afternoon became non-existant for me as I conked out, awakening just in time for a quick dip in the onsen prior to our very last ryokan dinner. One of the highlights for dinner was eating fugu (puffer fish). The children were somewhat wary having read that the toxin could kill if the fugu was not prepared properly. After watching Oma and Opa eat theirs without expiring, they duely polished up their serving.

Rockmelon wine so good even though I only had one glass

Mango flavoured honey

Eating fugu

carrot mousse with caviar

Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Hakodate Day 2

Our day started with a visit to Hakodate Asaichi (morning market), a bustling cluster of shops and eateries selling fresh produce. The market opens from around 6am in the winter until noon. Unfortunately the website for the market is only in Japansese Our aim was to eat breakfast and tick off some of the must eats in Hakodate. Nothing like squid for breakfast...

Hakodate morning market

Still snowing!

Er...that crab is trying to escape. Don't blame it...

How would you like your roe served?

This one please

Squid. Ticked!


Steamed hairy crab bun

Walking along the water will eventually take you the Kanemori Redbrick Warehouses found in what is called the bay area. They are a series of red-brick buildings built around 1900 and once used as...warehouses! They are now home to a variety of shops including Royce's Nama Chocolate, Milkissimo ice-cream, and well-known patisseries like Pastry Snaffle's and Petite Merveille. We had to choose our choice of caloric intake and opted for Petite Merveille and Milkissimo. It could never hurt to ingest extra calcium. The gentleman giving us samples at Petite Merveille was so generous with the portions. After trying nearly everything...we bought the best cheesecakes ever (soft and melt in your mouth!) and pumpkin pudding. As the cheesecakes were mini, one did not feel so bad eating them. I personally loved the sweet potato cheesecake. And of course the thing to do when it was below zero outside was to eat ice-cream. The purple sweet potato ice-cream at Milkissimo wasn't bad! Other favourites included apple-pie and  pistachio. Prices were reasonable at JPY520 for 3 scoops.

Red Brick Warehouses

The boys bought rubber shirukens

Opa bought a photo of himself


Buying plenty of dairy at Petite Merveille

SO awesome!

Punpkin puddings also a hit

The grate design for Hakodate. Squid!

We skipped the Motomachi area and Fort Goryokaku as we were short of time. Opa managed to fall over three times in the snow on the walk to the warehouses and so we hopped on to the city tram to head back towards the station. Fortunately for us, the ride was free. We couldn't quite work out what the reason was but oh happy day we'll take it!

Next thing to tick off the list was shio ramen, Hakodate's specialty. The restaurant happened to be close to our hotel but we had to wait to get in despite being early. The broth was light but tasty. All meals served were finished in 9 minutes flat...

Warmed by lunch, we picked up our luggage from the hotel and made our way to the station for our 2.5 train trip to Noboribetsu. We were able to board the train half and hour early. Perhaps we didn't eat enough ramen but we finished all the snacks before the train left the station...

The best shio ramen in town said Malcolm. We had wait in the cold for it!

Luckily it passed the Oma and Opa test

Scenery of the water from the train

We were initially going to stay at Lake Toya for one night and Noboribetsu the next night. Instead we opted to stay 2 nights at Noboribetsu to reduce the travel and to make it our ryokan stay. Takinoya was lovely. Our rooms had views of the mountain and our baths and balcony all had unobstructed views of the Japanese Gardens below and the mountains in the background. Our dinner didn't disappoint and we were glad to have crab as part of the offering. The onsen of choice for the evening was the outdoor onsen. Having snow fall down around you whilst in a hot springs was simply magical! Looking forward to a slower pace tomorrow!

Our room

This time it had a sitting area where Malcolm could extend his legs with ease!

Our shower/bath


Private dining room

Crab time!