Date of Travel: 05/02/2012
Despite how tired we were from our frantic few days in the Kansai region, we had to get up earlier than usual as we had to check in for our flight to New Chitose at 8:45am. Luckily, we had purchased breakfast coupons from the hotel lobby the night before, so breakfast was already sorted out. It was also the first time we had a proper sit-in breakfast during our trip. While it was good, I am still not used to having fish first thing in the morning. We hopped onto the plane shortly after to kick-start the second leg of our trip – the Hokkaido region.
We arrived in New Chitose Airport at 10:30am. After grabbing our luggage, we hopped on a train to Sapporo, which took about 35 minutes in total. The train started off in a dark tunnel, but suddenly went out into a field of white – blinding J.C. completely. It was very different looking at Japanese residential houses being covered in snow, and was a view I had never seen prior to this train ride. We arrived at Sapporo station around noon, quickly headed over to our accommodation at Nakamuraya Ryokan to drop off our luggage, and went off towards the Sapporo Beer Garten for some Jingisukan.
Jingisukan is a grilled mutton dish which is usually served on a convex skillet, which is supposedly in the shape of Genghis Khan’s helmet (hence the name). We looked at the menu and had no idea what to order. I saw an expensive option at the back, and thought that it was an all-you-can-eat option as there was a time limit given on there (approximately 2,100 yen). Brownie wanted the same thing I was going for, but J.C. wanted a cheaper option (900 yen). The waiter however said we could not order what we had wanted, but we had no idea why as he was unable to explain to us the reason. J.C. interpreted the waiter as saying that the expensive option is for all three of us (e.g. 700 yen each) and that it was not an all-you-can-eat, so we went ahead with that option. We were still quite hungry after the first round, so I ordered more meat. Even after that we were still hungry, but as we were unsure of what the price would actually be, we were relunctant to pay more. The price came out to 2,100 yen each, and that it was an all-you-can-eat! So we ended up paying 6,300 yen in total but only ate the equivalent of about 1,350 yen. Yeah – epic fail. Turns out that the reason we couldn’t go with our original order was that those who went for the all-you-can-eat could just give more food to the one who didn’t, which would be cheating the restaurant and makes sense when we thought about it. So yeah, was not a good start to the Hokkaido leg of our trip. But all part of the experience of travelling! At least the beer was good…
The Sapporo Beer Museum was located right next to the restaurant, and was free to enter. It had a very cute display showing how the beer was made. Most of the displays were in Japanese so we had no idea what they were saying. There was a section showing past bottles and advertisements of the brand, which was quite interesting to see how it changed with time. The grounds itself was covered in snow, and we had a brief snowball fight before heading off to Sapporo Factory, which is a popular shopping mall in Sapporo.
Sapporo Factory has a very interesting interior. Along the sides are shops on about 4-5 different levels. Along the middle are steps surrounded by a lot of greenery and fake wind turbines. With the amount of glass window panes present, it gave the area an “outdoor” feel to it, which was very unique. Hilariously, there was a Hawaiian dance competition going on at the same time despite it being winter. I suppose the interior of the wall was warm enough for it anyway.
We went out of the mall and headed towards Odori Park, which is a narrow park over 10 blocks long in the middle of the city centre. It is one of the sites of the famous Sapporo Snow Festival. Despite the fact that the festival was only starting the day after, the park was full of people having an early look at the various displays. We started off at the end with the Sapporo TV tower and worked our way west. There was a mini ice-skating ring, small ice sculptures, a large snow sculpture of marine life, a Disney stage, an ice sculpture of Taiwan’s Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall, and hundreds of smaller statues.
After such a long afternoon, we decided to head back to our accommodation to rest before heading out and finding dinner. We checked into the ryokan, and were brought to our rooms by really friendly staff. We were served green tea and a very delicious tiramisu mochi. After chatting among ourselves, we decided that we were too tired to go out looking for food, and decided to order some food from the ryokan. The food was amazing, and we were more than happy to come back to the ryokan for future meals if needed. After dinner, the friendly staff came back to set up the futons and laid out some yukatas for us to wear. I must say, this was the best possible first experience at a ryokan, as all of us really felt welcomed here. After chatting for a bit, we decided to call it a night. Tomorrow was the reason we all came in winter after all. Tomorrow – the Sapporo Snow Festival officially begins!
Flight from Itami Airport to New Chitose Airport – 10,800 yen [ANA Star Alliance Airpass]
Train from New Chitose Airport to Sapporo JR Station – 1,040 yen
Nakamuraya Ryokan – 5,775 yen
Breakfast at Itami Airport – 300 yen [breakfast voucher from Osaka Airterminal Hotel]
Lunch at Sapporo Beer Garten – 2,610 yen [“all-you-can-eat” and Sapporo Beer]
Dinner at Nakamuraya Ryoan – 1,100 [Tempura and Sashimi set]
N/A ~All free~
Souvenir from Odori Park – 1,260 yen [Cellphone strap]
TOTAL (cost for whole trip in brackets)
12,885 yen excluding flights, 22,885 yen including flights (213,320 yen total)