Day 5 – Sapporo

Monday 4 June, 2018
Day 5 / Sapporo

[Missed Day 4? Read the previous post here

Today we fly to Hokkaido! We set off early to catch our train to Narita Airport and during our long walk through the tunnels we see a giant billboard of our favourite Japanese boy band Arashi. Cheye and I love watching the Japanese TV game show Vs Arashi.

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Arashi!

The train to Ueno is packed with people heading to work but our connecting train to the airport on the Keisei line is empty. We arrive at the airport to discover our flight has been delayed by an hour but keep ourselves occupied with some baked goods we purchased earlier from a French Asian bakery Vie de France.

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Mmm, French bread

When we arrive in Sapporo in the late afternoon it’s still quite light outside. We catch the train to the city and walk to our hotel. On the way we stop by the famous cheese tart shop Kinotoya Bake and order some tarts for later.

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Surprised there was no line up!

It smells amazing and the scent of freshly baked cheese tarts fills the entire shopping area!

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Mmm…cheese tarts

Sapporo has a more relaxed feel compared to Tokyo. Things are a little more spread out, not as built up and everything looks lush and green. There are mountains everywhere in the backdrop and we see the giant clock tower on our walk to the hotel.

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Giant clock tower in the distance

We check into Resol Trinity Hotel and the first thing I notice is how nice the place smells. Turns out it’s also has an onsen (Japanese spa) which we have access to during our stay. We make it up to our room and decide to make use of the onsen before heading out for dinner. I’m not exactly sure of the procedure of using an onsen, and nor is Cheye, but lucky there is a guide in the hotel room.

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How to use the onsen and ‘take a bath pleasantly each other’

Up on the 14th floor there are separate sections for men and women so we agree to meet back at our room in half an hour. I walk into the women’s section and it’s completely empty. I sit in the spa for a bit and use the washing area. It’s a really relaxing experience and just what I need after a few hectic days in Tokyo.

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All robed up with our onsen kits

There’s also a wonderful view of the city and park below as they set up for the Yosakoi Festival later in the week.

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Map of the park below

We did want to book the same hotel again for the festival when we return to Sapporo after our cycling trip but they had inflated the prices during the busy period and went with an AirBnB instead.

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Yosakoi Festival later in the week

After making our way back to the room we head out to a vegetarian friendly restaurant we had found on the Happy Cow website called Iki Laboratory (which we have since discovered closed in October 2018). It’s a bit tricky to locate but we eventually find it and take a seat. The girl gives us a menu which is in Japanese. We ask her if she speaks English (Eigo wa hanashimasu ka) and tell her we don’t eat meat or fish (Niku ya sakana wa tabemasen). She tells us they sell beef tongue and asks if we are perhaps looking for the organic restaurant next door? Why yes! Yes we are. She walks us over but says they are closed.

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Iki Laboratory, unfortunately closed
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Not sure why they were closed when we got there at dinner time?

We walk away disappointed and wondering where else we are going to find a good vegetarian feed. We come across a shopping and restaurant strip that spans several blocks so we do a few laps of that.

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Undercover shopping mall

The only vegetarian place we can find is an Indian restaurant but we’d prefer not to eat Indian food while in Japan. We are about to give up when Cheye spots a place selling Hiroshima-style Okonomiyaki. It’s a traditional Japanese omelette made with vegetables and other fillings, but these ones in particular are also made with noodles.

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Okonomiyaki Menu

We walk in and ask the waitress if we can order one without pork, which she says is ok. So we order one of each type (soba and udon), add extras (corn and spring onion) as well as sides (bean shoots) and some drinks (beer and sparkling water).

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Side dish of bean shoots

We watch as the guy makes five different omelettes at once, juggling between different noodles, fillings and toppings. It’s pretty impressive to watch.

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Making five Okonomiyaki at once!

And the food is delicious. Oh my goodness, the soba omelette is crispy and delicious. We decide we want to come back here when we return after our cycling trip at the end of the week.

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Udon Okonomiyaki with spring onion

After filling our bellies with deliciousness, we take a wander through the streets of Sapporo. Cheye picks up some ice cream from the convenience store while I check out the different varieties of Kit Kats on offer.

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Mmm…Kit Kats

On the way back to the hotel I discover a vending machine selling dashi (Japanese fish stock). I knew you could buy pretty much buy anything from a vending machine, but didn’t realise you could get dashi!

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Vending machine selling DASHI!

After a few long days and late nights we decide to try and have an early one so we can start our cycling day nice and fresh tomorrow. But not before tucking into one of the cheese tarts we bought earlier that day. What a way to finish the day!

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If you ever see a Kinotoya Bake in Japan, do yourself a favour and buy yourself a tart or six

Japan Travel Tip #5
Make sure you get yourself a SIM Card or Pocket Wifi. There’s a surprising lack of public wifi available in Japan so your own wifi hotspot is essential for things like maps, info, translations and messaging others. We purchased a SIM card at a stopover in Singapore, but you can easily buy one when you arrive at the airport in Japan. Make sure your phone network is unlocked to make life easier.

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