Day of Travel: 08/02/2012
In addition to the winter festivals in Sapporo and Otaru, many other parts of Hokkaido also have similar events. The second largest of these events was due to start in Asahikawa on this day, and supposedly features a massive firework show. Of course, we had planned to attend this event. We woke up early and headed to the bus station to take a bus to Asahikawa (it was the cheapest option). After purchasing our ticket, we sat down and had breakfast be bought from a convenience store. However, the dashboard kept on showing that the bus was getting delayed. After another 15 minutes of waiting, we asked the staff at the counter the reason behind the delays, and it turned out that there was a massive snow storm the night before which made it dangerous to travel via bus! Luckily we got a refund. Never worry, we had a backup plan – take a train!…except we found out that even the trains were cancelled once we reached the JR station! Well there goes the whole day’s plan down the drain!
We discussed among ourselves other options we could take, and we decided upon the Shiroi Koibito Park, where the Shrioi Koibito chocolate factor was located. We took a subway to Miyanosawa station, and from there it was only a short walk to the park. From the exterior, the main building looks like just an ordinary building. Once at the entrance though, it became clear that there was something special about the place.
The park was quite spacious, and was mostly covered in snow. Many of the buildings resembled European style buildings not commonly seen in Japan. There was a bubble machine blowing bubbles around the bridge, mechanical animals/humans humming and singing happy tunes, and many other unusual displays.
Before entering the chocolate factory, we decided to have lunch at a restaurant just across the park. It was a bit pricey for what we got, but it was convenient so we didn’t mind. After lunch, we paid the entrance fee (and got a free cookie), and entered the chocolate factory. We were greeted with a beautiful water fountain and some small European displays. I also took notice of a “staff only” sign, which shows that even these sorts of signs can be cute in Japan!
We entered a hallway with the sides decorated as if it were melted chocolate. Slightly further down the hall were large glass windows that we can look through at the main chocolate factory. All the workers were dressed in matching white overalls, and the way which they worked was so efficient and almost mechanical. There was also a sign showing some “testing” of these cookies. I wouldn’t mind the taste-testing job!
The rest of the factory consists of unusual displays that seem more suited for museums than a chocolate factory. There was a toy museum, a display of the interior of a traditional house, music boxes, and many more. Brownie was a bit disappointed that there wasn’t a fountain of melted chocolate that he could dip his face into…too much Willie Wonka I suppose?
We stopped by the café at the top floor to have a few snacks. I ordered an amazing parfait which included Shiroi Koibito cookies and baumkuchen! The view outside from the café was pretty too.
Like Otaru, the park grounds were even more beautiful once the sun set. They did a very good job setting up the lighting of the place. It almost reminds me of how people would decorate their houses around Christmas time. Definitely brought a warm to the place. Brownie and J.C. also had fun climbing in and out of the various tiny houses that were scattered around the grounds.
We headed back to Odori Park, and decided to visit the western end of the park as we had not done so yet. One of the blocks were dedicated to an international snow sculpture competition. Must say, I was a bit disappointed with New Zealand’s attempt of the Waitomo Caves, though I must admit that it would be hard to depict a cave in a snow sculpture to begin with. Entries from Malaysia, India and Hong Kong (my favourite) were very impressive though!
Further on from that were smaller snow sculptures of characters from kids shows. In addition to that was a giant One-Piece X Toriko stage. Nearby was an interesting Nissin noodle advertisement featuring Yoda from Star Wars, with the caption “Boil Japan”. Bad use of Engrish Japan…bad…
It was probably the coldest night of the trip thus far, so we decided to head back to our accommodation for the night. For the second time since we arrived in Sapporo, we decided to eat at our accommodation. I had a simple grilled pork dish, but it was delicious! Glad we decided to eat at our ryokan where it was nice and warm. After chilling out for a bit, we hit the sack for the night. Afterall, the next day would be our last full day in Sapporo!
Subway from Odori Station to Miyanosawa Station – 280 yen
Subway from Miyanosawa Station to Odori Station – 280 yen
Nakamuraya Ryokan – 5,775 yen
Breakfast from convenience store – 260 yen [Chocolate donut and apple pastry]
Salty Pocky (not sure where I bought this from) – 157 yen
Lunch at Shiroi Koibito Park – 950 yen [Fried prawn and curry rice]
Parfait at Shiroir Koibito Park – 735 yen
Dinner at ryokan – 900 yen [Buta-don]
Shiroi Koibito Chocolate Factory entrance fee – 600 yen
N/A [Need to save money once in a while right?]
TOTAL (cost for whole trip in brackets)
9,937 yen (249,023 yen total)