The many views from my room …
Breakfast was Calbee cereal I bought from a supermarket at Obihiro, with banana and yogurt from the buffet. There were many requests on Airfrov for this particular brand of cereal, so I wanted to try it for myself. Well, it didn’t taste that great. I preferred the range from Nissin, especially the Uji Matcha flavour. Before leaving Noboribetsu onsen town, I wanted to try dessert from one more shop – Milky House. It was supposedly famous for sweet red bean soup with dumplings but since we had no time to dine in, we took away soft serve and a bottle of milk pudding. The soft serve was actually ready made blocks of Lotte ice cream put into the machine to churn but my older girl thought it tasted great. The pudding was disappointing. A bit lumpy and didn’t taste nice at all. I didn’t even bother to take a picture of it. We drove past the giant demon statue on our way back onto the Hokkaido Expressway.Driving in the day was so different. Last night everything was pitch black. Today, we got to see the ocean and the mountains.We made an impromptu decision over dinner yesterday to visit Lake Shikotsu on our way to Sapporo. It was a detour but we wanted to visit one more natural sight before hitting the city.The road leading to the lake was really pretty with trees lined on both sides. I think it would be even prettier during spring and autumn.By the time we reached the car park near the Shikotsuko Visitor Centre, dark clouds rolled in and the lake was choppy.It was too cold to walk along the lake so we took shelter at an eatery (not sure if it’s called Lake Side Kitchen or Shikotuko-tonton) recommended by bumblebeemum for its cheese imo mochi, a chewy round potato flour pancake filled with gooey cheese. It was really good. Four weren’t enough so we ordered two more plus grilled squid, chicken steak and scallops.My parents and aunts wanted something more substantial so they went next door for noodles.Spot the vending machines between the two shops? Guess what I found? Another flavour of milk tea! This one was very good.
It was still freezing cold when we finished eating so we decided to leave for Sapporo. There were two routes we could take – road 453 or 16. We checked with the staff at the visitor center and they recommended route 16. Although route 453 was more scenic, it’s safer to take 16 especially when the weather’s so unpredictable. Thank God we sought their advice because one moment it was clear and a short while later, right after we got onto the Hokkaido Expressway, heavy snowfall. It was so bad our GPS showed that the expressway was closed to incoming vehicles. Again thank God we got onto it in time and made it safely to Sapporo. We got a bit worried because we had to return the cars by 3pm. Any delay would result in late return and extra charges.
1.Where you return your car is very important. My car rental company, Nippon-Rent-A-Car, has several outlets within Sapporo city. We chose the one:
- That is within walking distance to our hotel. We dropped the rest of the group and all the luggage at the hotel before returning the cars.
- That has its own petrol kiosk. Super convenient. Just hand over the car to the attendant who’ll top up the petrol. Then make the final payment at the cashier.
Of the 3 outlets, only the top left met both criteria. It may look like a long walk to our hotel, Monterey Sapporo but it took only 10 mins. We cut through the JR Sapporo Station, which kept us from the cold and gave us the opportunity to familiarise ourselves with the station.
2. Where you stay is also very important. These were my considerations when choosing a hotel in Sapporo:
- Short walking distance to JR Sapporo Station so we could take the JR Airport Express Train to New Chitose Airport. During winter, train is probably the fastest mode of transport to the airport. Taxi, private car pick-up and airport express buses (Chuo Bus and Hokuto Kotsu) run the risk of being caught in traffic due to winter weather conditions.
- Easy route to JR Sapporo Station. The path leading to the station should be relatively flat and wide so we could easily pull our luggage, especially when there’s snow on the ground.
Non-smoking rooms. My original booking was for Hotel Sunroute Sapporo but after reading reviews about stale cigarette smell even in non-smoking rooms, I switched to Hotel Monterey Sapporo, a fully non-smoking hotel. I paid about $50 more per person for the 4 nights stay but it’s worth it. The European style hotel was beautiful and comfortable.
We waited for the snowstorm to clear before venturing out of our hotel to explore the many dining and retail options within JR Sapporo Station or more rightly known as JR Tower. Our hotel was just two streets away, nearest to the ESTA exit of JR Tower, where you would find BIC Camera. The other shopping zones were Apia, Paseo, Stellar Place Sapporo and departmental store Daimaru.
After ensuring everyone in the group knew how to get back to the hotel, we split up. It’s just too hard for 10 of us to move together in a crowded shopping mall.
Prior to this trip, I’ve already made a list of possible dining options:
- Sapporo Ramen Kyowakoku – ESTA 10F
- Tokachi Butadon IPPIN – Stellar Place Center 6F
- Tonkatsu Wako – Stellar Place Center 6F
- Kaitensushi Nemuro Hanamaru – Stellar Place Center 6F
- Tonkatsu Tadumura – Daimaru 8F
- Mia Angela – Daimaru 8F
Since we have not had any tonkatsu, we decided to go Tadumura at Daimaru, highly recommended by bumblebeemum. On our way, we walked past Tonkatsu Wako. It was our favourite when we visited Kyoto but we figured we should try the best in Sapporo.The mouth watering display outside Tadumura. To our surprise, the restaurant was rather empty, unlike Wako where there was a queue waiting to enter. We ordered three sets to share – katsudon, buttataki tonkatsu (aged pork loin) and millefeuille tonkatsu (thin sliced pork loin).I chose to post only the millefeuille tonkatsu set because the thinly sliced pork loin was the only tasty one. The other two were actually pretty tough, even the aged one! The soup was normal miso and the cabbage was bland. It was overall a disappointing meal. It made us wonder if we should have just stuck with Wako although there’s no guarantee that the Sapporo branch would be as good as the one at Kyoto Station.
I couldn’t resist taiyaki so I bought one to try. But I was foolish not to eat it immediately. By the time I ate it back in the hotel, it was cold and soggy. There were lots of other food stands but we were too full from dinner to try anything else. The only other food we bought was for tomorrow’s breakfast – bread from Dominique Geulin bakery and a sandwich from Shirokuma Bakery known as white bear bakery.
Having satisfied our curiosity about the food offerings, it’s time to shop. Again I compiled a list of stores to go:
- ESTA – CanDo 100 Yen B2F, BIC Camera 1F, Uniqlo 5F, Loft 6F, GU 8F
- Stellar Place – Disney 5F, Muji 6F
- Paseo – Studio Ghibli B1F
- Apia – Sanrio and 3Coins B1F
Top priority was Loft and Muji. Love for stationery runs deep in the family. But before that, I went to ABC-Mart at ESTA 8F because…
My snow boots gave way. I was thankful it lasted until Sapporo. Getting a new pair in the city was much easier. After scouting around and trying, I settled for …
We bought quite a bit at the two stores and decided to leave the rest for other days. We wanted an early rest since tomorrow we would be off to explore Otaru where all kinds of desserts await. Yum!