Tasks #69-73 are to try 5 new restaurants in 5 different cities. This counts as the first one.
After an extraordinary busy day of travelling that brought us from jozankei to nikka distillery to otaru to sapporo, we checked into our airbnb apartment and thought about where to go for dinner. We had researched and seen the queues at the famous hanamaru conveyor belt sushi restaurant and thought we should see if the queue was a reasonable size. And because it was already past 8.30pm, there were only about half a dozen people in the line.
There is good reason why there is a permanent queue outside. The food is fantastic. Fresh and simply delicious. We asked for an english menu and quickly figured out how to order like a local. We had uni, squid, ikura, ikura soy, crab roe, salmon, blue fin tuna, medium tuna, scallop — total stack of 14 plates. It was a feast.
Another early wake up day to soak in the spa, we went back to the outdoor one. Breakfast was as delicious and as extensive as dinner. Salmon, rice, tofu, egg and bacon cooked at the table, natto, soup and orange slices. We said goodbye to the proprietors, who were so fantastically hospitable and old fashioned they waited till we were in our car and bowed goodbye to us.
Our last exploration in Jozankei was the small shiraito waterfall the hotel was named after. Very small falls, and the bridge was not accessible because of snow. A very pleasant half an hour walk before we left for our next destination.
About 1.5-2hrs’ drive brought us to the nikka yoichi distillery where they make, duh, single malt yoichi. What a magnificent distillery. Architecturally looking like a distillery in Scotland, with many of the same features and equipment. We were free to walk around the grounds ourselves to see the mill, mash ton, fermenter, pot stills and warehouses. A series of videos in various languages inside many buildings gave commentary on the whisky making process.
The walk ended in the tasting room where we sampled yoichi 10, tsuru blend and an apple wine. Beautiful view of snowy mountains from the tasting room, it gave the whole tasting an unforgettable atmosphere.
We had lunch at the onsite restaurant. Lamb shabu shabu in two broths — whisky and red wine. After lunch we went to the museum bar for more selection. We picked special ones and were pleased that the bartender was generous with his pours:
yoichi single cask 15 — cask strength, quite strong
yoichi 20 — slightly peaty, smooth
yoichi apple brandy barrel — bit rough, not our favourite
taketsuru 21 — no wonder it won all sorts of awards
taketsuru 25 — brilliant, brilliant blend, at ¥1600 for a shot pretty expensive but top quality
Spent a lot of time at the shop deciding on what to buy. They had everything and we wanted to buy everything. Had to balance want against space in our luggage. In the end I bought:
yoichi 20 — one of the ones on my list
single cask 10 — small 180ml bottle
single cask 15 — small 180ml bottle
single cask 20 — small 180ml bottle
yoichi 10 small 180ml bottle — may be for silent auction
taketsuru 17 small 180ml bottle — also for silent auction
taketsuru 21 4x180ml bottles — worked out to be cheaper than 700ml
On the way back from yoichi to sapporo we passed otaru and we couldn’t resist stopping. It was around 5pm and many shops were closed or were closing so it was just a short visit. Went to the canal to take night time pictures as we had never been to otaru after sunset.
By the time we got back to sapporo it was dark. Luckily the gps found our apartment easily, we double parked while we unloaded. I found this apartment on airbnb, on the 10/F of an apartment block near hokkaido university. Quite dorm like the building and the apartment, which was very small with a tatami room, a kitchenette and tiny bathroom. We went back downstairs and spent a little time trying to find an overnight car park. The saving grace was the pocket wifi that came with the apartment which meant we could use google maps.
After we got sorted and parked it was around 8.30pm already. We headed to 6/F stellar place to see if the famous hanamaru conveyor belt sushi. We only had to wait for about 10mins because it was late. No wonder there is a permanent queue outside. The sushi was fresh and fantastic. We observed other customers who didn’t take their plates from the belt, instead ordered freshly made by writing their order on an order sheet. Undeterred, we asked for an english menu and were happy that it came in 5 languages. We were able to copy the mainly kana (as opposed to the more familiar kanji) characters from the menu to the order sheet. Elated when the chef delivered our plates, meaning they understood our writing, yay! Okay, mm did all the writing, but I contributed by helping to read the menu. We had uni, squid, ikura, ikura soy, crab roe, salmon, blue fin tuna, medium tuna, scallop — total stack of 14 plates.
Did some basic grocery shopping at the station kiosk — milk, coffee, snacks. Negotiated the tiny shower and went to bed, another happy day.
Task #8 in 30 in 30 is to take a walk somewhere with fresh air.
Did more walking yesterday around lake shikotsu and jozankei itself. This morning after we checked out of the ryokan we walked to the small waterfall that the ryokan is named after. We could see how much snow there had been, the roads were all ploughed but parts of the pavement had a bank of snow and ice more than 3 feet high. There is a bridge that crosses the part of the river in front of the waterfall but it was inaccessible, all iced in. There was an access road that led to an electricity plant that was behind the bridge so we could take pictures — the bridge is in the foreground.
Not too cold, definitely lots of crisp, fresh air.