Monday, May 21, 2018

Hokkaido Revisit 2017 三回目の北海道の旅 - Bistro Vraie ビストロ ヴレ

Visited 31.10.2017 (Tue)


The best. Stayed in Higashikawa-cho for a month and I am glad that I discovered Bistro Vraie just before I left Hokkaido. Located within walking distance from Michikusakan 道草館, I was surprised to see a French restaurant like Vraie pop up in such a remote and quiet countryside area like Higashikawa-cho. Got to know about this restaurant while reading a magazine a few days before my visit and it piqued my interest immediately. Having visited it, I have to conclude that this is one for the best meals I had during my stay in Higashikawa-cho!


Truth... Real... That is what Vraie meant in French. The owner and chef, Murakami-san 村上さん, previously operated a popular French restaurant named Montorgueil モントルグイユ in the heart of Sapporo city. Despite that, he has always wanted to move his restaurant closer to the food suppliers / where the ingredients originated from for guaranteed freshness. With this thought in mind, he kept a lookout for such suitable location for about five years. His dream eventually came true in February 2017 when he shifted his business entirely to Higashikawa-cho, a suburb which fulfilled his criteria. Clean underground waters provided by water that flows down from Daisetsuzan, excellent agricultural produce, close proximity to airport (about 10 mins drive away from Asahikawa Airport), friendly people that reside here are some of the reasons why he decided to start anew here. A bold decision taken indeed.


Concept. Murakami-san showcases his culinary talents in this humble looking wooden house standing just behind the main road that runs through Higashikawa-cho. The warm ambience created by the usage of polished wooden furnishing, an industry which the town is well known for, captivated me instantly when I stepped into the restaurant. The homely aura here made me feel very relax and comfortable, and this was one aspect which I did not expect to come from a famous high end French restaurant. While Murakami-san leads the kitchen, his amicable wife serves the customers in the dining area. The culinary concept portrayed here is 「山のめぐみをいただく」which means "to enjoy the blessings from the mountain". Using vegetables and meat as the core, backed up by his culinary skills and numerous years of experience in this field, guests can ensure that delicious and affordable French cuisine are presented in Bistro Vraie.



Relish. Ordered the roast pork ローストポーク for main. First, I tucked into a bowl of creamy mushroom soup which increased my appetite for the upcoming main dish. I was exhilarated by what was put in front of me next! The entire dish was so aesthetically plated to the point that I felt that the position of every component is well thought through and it looked harmonised in any angle I looked at it. Tastewise, it definitely blew me away! The thick cut of meat has the right about of fats and was cooked to perfection, with a little pink in the middle and the juices retained wholesomely. The sides were equally delicious as well - perfect mashed potatoes and tasty charcoal grilled vegetables. Had to compliment and thank them for the delectable food served when I was footing the bill. With such awesome food offered here, I am absolutely sure that supporters for his previous restaurant in Sapporo are more than willing to travel an extra mile to Higashikawa-cho now to relish this flavour over and over again.


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Bistro Vraie ビストロ ヴレ
〒071-1424 上川郡東川町南町1丁目4-11
Opening hours: Closed on Sunday nights and Mondays; please refer to their Facebook / Instagram for their operating hours during lunch and dinner.
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/vraie.hokkaido/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/vraielife/
Website: http://vraie-hokkaido.com/

How to get there? 

(1) By bus from Asahikawa Station Bus Terminal 旭川駅バスターミナル Platform 10.
Board Asahikawa Denkikidou 旭川電気軌道 Bus 60, 62 and 67 for Higashikawa-cho 東川町 and alight at Michikusakan-mae 道草館前. Bus journey takes approximately 40 minutes. From the bus stop, it takes another 2 minutes to walk to Bistro Vraie.
Fare = 570 yen

Bus 60 schedule:
- Weekdays: http://www.asahikawa-denkikidou.jp/hyouji.php?ROSEN=60&BSTOP=167&HOLID=1&DATE=2017-12-03
- Weekends/Public holidays: http://www.asahikawa-denkikidou.jp/hyouji.php?ROSEN=060&BSTOP=167&HOLID=0&DATE=2017-12-03

Bus 67 schedule:
- Weekdays: http://www.asahikawa-denkikidou.jp/hyouji.php?ROSEN=67&BSTOP=167&HOLID=1&DATE=2017-12-03
- Weekends/Public holidays: http://www.asahikawa-denkikidou.jp/hyouji.php?ROSEN=067&BSTOP=167&HOLID=0&DATE=2017-12-03

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Chugoku Sanyo, San-in 中国地方山陽、山陰 - Korakuen 後楽園

Visited 16.04.2015 (Thu)

View of Okayama Castle's Tenshukaku from Sawa no ike.
Three Great Gardens of Japan. After "conquering" Okayama Castle, we crossed Tsukimi Bridge 月見橋 to the other side of Asahigawa where Korakuen is situated. Korakuen, alongside Kenrokuen 兼六園 in Kanazawa Prefecture and Kairakuen 偕楽園 in Ibaraki Prefecture, is one of the three Great Gardens of Japan (日本三名園). To date (Nov 2017), I have visited all three and each has its very own attractive elements, so it is difficult to select which garden is the best out of the three. From the Tenshukaku (castle keep) of Okayama Castle, I already had a prelude of this fine landscaped garden from an elevation and was looking forward to visit it. Entered the garden via the South Gate (which is the closest to Tsukimi Bridge) and embarked on an excursion in this 133,000 m2 wide garden.


Background / Highlights:

- Korakuen completed construction in 1700; about a century after the existence of Okayama Castle. In the past, the garden was used as place to entertain important guests and a retreat for the feudal lord. In 1884, the ownership was transferred to Okayama Prefecture and the garden became a public park for everyone to enjoy. In fact, the original name of this garden was Ko-en 後園 or "the garden at the back" as it was built behind Okayama Castle. However, it was later changed to Korakuen because the garden was built in the spirit of the famous proverb (kotozawa), Senyu Koraku 先憂後楽, equivalent to 先苦后甜 in Chinese which means no sweet without sweat. The name serves as a good reminder to all on this important virtue in life.


- Severe damages were inflicted on Korakuen during the floods of 1934 and during WWII bombing in 1945. Fortunately, the garden was successfully restored based on paintings and diagrams drawn during the Edo Period. Korakuen was designated as a Special Scenic Location under the Cultural Properties Protection Law in 1952 and continues to be well taken care of to ensure future generations can learn about the rich heritage that the country possessed.

View from Yushizan 1/3.

View from Yuishinzan 2/3.

View from Yuishinzan 3/3.
- The two best viewing spots that should not be missed in Korakuen are:

(1) Yuishinzan 唯心山. This is a man-made hill which offers a spectacular view of the entire garden. From here, vast area carpeted with grass, various water features, arched bridges and traditional Japanese style huts and houses all formed a picturesque scenery of Korakuen which is a beauty to behold.

(2) Sawa no ike 沢の池. This is the largest pond in the garden with three smaller islands in it. Standing at the north side of Sawa no ike and facing southwards, you will be able to command a panoramic view of the garden with Okayama Castle in the background. Unfortunately, I did not bring along a good camera during my trip to capture a better picture of the entire scenery, so the photos featured here may not be a good representation of my description.


Side note: Found a shop which sold sakura flavoured soft serve here and bought one to try. However, the soft serve did not have the conventional swirling pattern and tasted average, lacking the rich and creamy texture that I would expect from this famous sweet in Japan. Later I found out that there are actually two different types of soft serve / ice cream machines in Japan. Usually it is dispensed from a machine where the soft serve liquid mixture is poured into it and continuously frozen and whipped (similar to the one we see in fastfood outlets such as MacDonalds). There is another type in which a ready made ice cream tub is inserted into the machine and the contents is forced out through a hole at the bottom of the tub. The one I had was made from the latter and I find the consistency of the soft serve generated to be poorer. With this experience, whenever I approach any soft serve stalls, I will first peek into their stall to observe the type of soft serve machine utilised before placing my order to avoid another disappointment.

Poorly executed sakura flavoured soft serve.
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Korakuen 後楽園
〒703-8257 岡山市北区後楽園1-5
Operating hours:
- 20 Mar to 30 Sep: 0730 - 1800 hrs; last entry at 1745 hrs.
- 1 Oct to 19 Mar: 0800 - 1700 hrs; last entry at 1645 hrs
Entrance fee = 400 yen; Combined ticket with Okayama Castle = 560 yen
http://www.okayama-korakuen.jp/



How to get there?

(1) By Okayama Electric Tramway 岡山電気軌道
From Okayama Ekimae Station (岡山駅前), board the electric tram on Higashiyama line (東山線) and alight at Jo-shita station (城下駅). From here, it takes another 7 mins to walk to Korakuen.
http://www.okayama-kido.co.jp/tramway/rosen.html

(2) By Okaden Bus 岡電バス
From Okayama JR Station East Exit Bus Terminal Platform 1, board Okaden Bus 岡電バス non-stop bus bound for Korakuen or Bus 18 bound for Fujiwara danchi 藤原団地 and alight at Korakuen-mae 後楽園前.
Non stop bus schedule: http://www.okayama-kido.co.jp/bus/jikoku/pdf180308/18_kourakuen_yumeji_1803.pdf
Bus 18 schedule: http://www.okayama-kido.co.jp/bus/jikoku/pdf171001/15_18_fujiwada.pdf

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Commemorative stamp:


Saturday, May 19, 2018

Chugoku Sanyo, San-in 中国地方山陽、山陰 - Okayama Castle 岡山城

Visited 16.04.2015 (Thu)
Number of castles visited to date: 4
Top 100 castles in Japan: #70


Crow castle. Today's plan was to pay tribute to two most iconic landmarks of Okayama city - Okayama Castle 岡山城 and Korakuen 後楽園. From Jo-shita Electric Tramway Station, we followed the signage and walked along the river bank of Asahigawa 旭川 before spotting a shiny, black Tenshukaku 天守閣 standing elegantly from afar. Because of the black appearance of the Tenshukaku (otherwise known as the castle keep), Okayama Castle was given the nickname of "Crow Castle 烏城". Together with Korakuen, the whole castle and the ruins of the former castle were officially recognised as a national historic site on 30 May 1987.

Spotted the castle on the right while strolling along the river bank of Asahigawa. The bridge connects Okayama Castle to Korakuen.

Irregular pentagon base of Tenshukaku.
Background / Highlights:

- Okayama Castle completed construction in 1597 after eight years of workmanship.

- The original Tenshukaku was burnt down on 29 June 1945 by an air raid during WWII. The current one was reconstructed in 1966 using reinforced concrete and looked almost the same as its original form. Another unique feature of Tenshukaku is its base is actually an irregular pentagon and it is especially obvious if you see the shape of the stone walls from behind.


- The only building in the central area which escaped the air raid was Tsukimi yagura 月見櫓, the turret for moon watching, located on the northwest corner of the castle, so do keep a lookout for this longest surviving structure since 1620. Sadly, I only realised it when writing this blog entry and could not find any associated photos of Tsukimi yagura in my photo collection.


-  Akazu no mon 不明の門 (Unopened Gate) is another reconstructed structure which visitors will have to pass through to get from Omotesho-in (表書院) to Hondan (本段), the highest terrain in the castle compound and where Tenshukaku is located in.

Beautiful gold painted Sachi.

Korakuen and Asahigawa seen from the highest level of Tenshukaku.
- This is the first Tenshukaku I came across which is in built with a lift. The Tenshukaku is about six storey tall and the lift serves the first four storey. In the modern world, the top level of a castle keep has transformed to an observatory, allowing visitors to capture an excellent and unobstructed view of its surrounding. If you look out towards North, Korakuen and Asahigawa can be seen clearly from here. When peering out from the windows at the fifth storey, admire the gold painted Shachi (鯱), an ornament depicting a mystical animal which has the head of a tiger and body of a carp, attached onto the roofs. It is believed that adorning the roofs of castles and temples with Shachi will protect the buildings from fire. This was the first time I come across a gold painted Shachi and it stood out more brilliantly than usual, on the roof of the black coloured castle.


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Okayama Castle 岡山城
〒700-0823 岡山県岡山市北区丸の内2-3-1
Opening hours: 0900 - 1730 hrs (Last entry at 1700 hrs)
Entrance fee = 300 yen; Combined ticket with Korakuen = 560 yen
http://www.okayama-kanko.net/ujo/sp/



How to get there? 

(1) By Okayama Electric Tramway 岡山電気軌道
From Okayama Ekimae Station (岡山駅前), board the electric tram on Higashiyama line (東山線) and alight at Jo-shita station (城下駅). From here, it takes another 7 mins to walk to Okayama Castle.
http://www.okayama-kido.co.jp/tramway/rosen.html

(2) By Okaden Bus 岡電バス
From Okayama JR Station East Exit Bus Terminal Platform 9, board Okaden Bus 岡電バス for Okaden Takaya 岡電高屋 and alight at Kencho mae 県庁前. From here, it takes another 5 mins to walk to Okayama Castle.
Bus schedule: http://www.okayama-kido.co.jp/bus/jikoku/pdf170616/8_oktakaya.pdf

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Commemorative stamps:





Friday, May 18, 2018

Hokkaido Revisit 2017 三回目の北海道の旅 - Biei Senka 美瑛選果

Revisited on 14.10.2017 (Sat)
Previous post: http://hsuchia.blogspot.sg/2013/02/hokkaido-summer-2012-asperges-biei-senka.html


Memorable experience. The previous time when I was in Biei, I felt that I did not explore this scenic town well enough. Despite that, Biei Senka 美瑛選果 was one place which I fondly remember from my first visit to Hokkaido. Here, we enjoyed a memorable and exquisite lunch experience at Asperges, an in-house restaurant which serves French cuisine and my family would still mention about it whenever we reminisced about Hokkaido. Apart from that, we brought back heaps of snacks from Senka Ichiba 選果市場, the section where local agricultural products from Biei are put up for sale here.

Alfresco area for patrons of Senka Kobo. 

Asperges.
10 years. After accomplishing my expedition of Patchwork Road, I cycled back to the main town and made my way to Biei Senka. Recognised the iconic, modern looking container house immediately when I turned into the parking area. Biei Senka is an antenna concept shop, aimed to showcase and promote a wide array of products harvested from the land of Biei. This shop set foot in this small town a decade ago and has become a place where both locals and tourists drop by and gather to enjoy delicious flavours that Biei has to offer. Apart from the flagship store, Biei Senka also operates two other antenna shops; one in New Chitose Airport (a good place to head down to for last minute shopping before departure) and the other one in Yurakucho, Tokyo (opened in 2015). The Michelin 1 star accredited French restaurant, Asperges, is the pride of Biei Senka and continues to impress diners with their creations, incorporating ingredients from Hokkaido.

Senka Ichiba.
At Senka Ichiba, I felt like a regular customer here; helped myself to the food samples and located my favorite snack corner effortlessly. Before I stepped into this market section of Biei Senka, I have already set sight on what I wanted to buy from here - the same snacks which I bought five years ago.

- Dice milk ダイスミルク (350 yen): Do not underestimate this small freeze dried milk cube! Popping this into the mouth will unleash the richness and sweetness of raw milk and raw cream concentrated in the milk cube. For milk lovers including myself, this is an irresistible and crazily addictive snack and the entire content will be exhausted in no time, without much effort needed. I wil highly recommend bringing this back home!

- Freeze dried corn とうきび (300 yen): Another equally additive and delectable snack. You will be amazed by the amount of natural sweetness contained in each tiny dried corn kernel and it felt like eating fresh corn out from a cob. This is another item not to be missed out in your shopping list.

- Freeze dried azuki beans あずき (350 yen): This is a new product introduced recently. Similar concept is employed like the two products mentioned above, azuki beans are first boiled with sugar and then freeze dried. These sweet red beans can be eaten directly from the pack or used as a condiment for ice-cream. Bought a couple of these back this time round and my parents like it a lot. 


After all the shopping at Senka Ichiba, it was time to grab a rich and creamy Biei's milk soft serve (310 yen) from Senka Kobo 選果工房, the section of Biei Senka where sweets such as roll cakes and pudding prepared by professional chefs can be purchased from here.

Yet another fruitful trip to Biei Senka!

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Biei Senka 美瑛選果
北海道上川郡美瑛町大町2丁目
Opening hours: Differs with season https://bieisenka.jp/store/
http://bieisenka.jp/

How to get there? 
(1) Approx 10 minutes walk from Biei JR Station.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Hokkaido Revisit 2017 三回目の北海道の旅 - Blanc Rouge ブラン・ルージュ

Visited 14.10.2017 (Sat)


Patchwork Road again. This is my second time visiting Patchwork Road パッチワークロード after a five years hiatus. On my first trip to Hokkaido in summer, I hired a sightseeing taxi to cover the less accessible sightseeing spots which included Patchwork Road. At that point of time, I did not pay much attention to the terrain since I was riding comfortably in a car and was trying to identify the famous trees which can be seen along the Patchwork Road. This time round, I made use of a battery operated bicycle rented from a shop near Biei JR Station to revisit Patchwork Road and the journey proved to be much more challenging than I perceived. I was totally famished and exhausted after a two hours ride covering Ken and Mary tree, Seven Stars tree, Parent and Child trees and Hokusei no oka Observatory Park. Original plan was to have lunch at Bi.ble, a fine dining restaurant opened in 2014 by the same people who created Asperges (located at Biei Senka). Unfortunately, Bi.ble was fully booked during the lunch hour. Before I set off for Patchwork Road, I seek the opinion of the staff at the tourist information center near Biei JR Station on where I could drop by for lunch around Patchwork Road. Blanc Rouge ブラン・ルージュ, which located about 800 m away from Hokusei no oka Observatory Park, was one of the restaurants recommended by her. Made my way to the restaurant as it was time for lunch after visiting Hokusei no oka Observatory Park.  




Fairytale. Parked my bicycle at the open compound which Blanc Rouge shared with Potato Village, one of the many pensions (a type of guesthouse) nested in this countryside area. Followed the sign board and came to this country house well hidden in a mini forest. With the surroundings decorated by autumn foliage during my visit, it felt very surreal, just like a scene depicted in a fairytale story book. Upon entering the house, guests are instantly embraced by a homely and cosy atmosphere. Adore the overall woodsy simplistic design, country style furnishing and decoration and was intrigued by the fire place and its chimney that leads the exhaust to the top of the house (something that we do not get to see back at home). Even the cover of the menu is beautifully wrapped with floral cloth and a picture made up of scrap fabrics sewn on the front. When I reached at around 12.30 pm, there were only a few tables of diners (spotted two Singaporeans having their lunch here!) and I was able to get a seat immediately.



Comfort food. Blanc Rouge's signature are beef stew ビーフシチュー and chicken simmered with cabbage 若鶏のキャベツ煮, and both are home cooked type of comfort food which most people can resonate with. Ordered the former and upgraded it into a set which included salad and an option of either bun or rice. Beef is cut into cubes and cooked together with vegetables and red wine over several hours until the meat become tenderised and a dark brown sauce (similar to that of demi glace sauce) with thick consistency is obtained. Upon order, the beef stew is served piping hot in a ceramic casserole dish and the umami aroma which was continuously emerging from the food hits me immediately. Tastewise, the meat was cooked to perfection - the right meltingly tender texture and I love the flavourful gravy which is concentrated with savory beef essence and sweetness of vegetables. I believe every household has their very own recipe of beef stew which is derived after numerous tries and multiple tweaks along the way. I am delighted to say that Blanc Rouge's version was well balanced in terms of taste and was able to satisfy my fussy palate.

This lunch outing has healed my empty stomach and restored my energy to make the return trip to Biei JR Station!


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Blanc Rouge ブラン・ルージュ
〒071-0218 北海道上川郡美瑛町大村村山
Opening hours:
- July and August: 1100 - 1930 hrs
- Others: 1100 - 1630 hrs
- Closed on Thursdays.
http://biei-blanc.sakura.ne.jp/index.html

How to get there? 

(1) By rental bicycle, it is about 2 km away from Biei JR Station.

(2) By foot, it is about 800 m away from Hokusei no oka Observatory Park.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Hokkaido Revisit 2017 三回目の北海道の旅 - Asahikawa JR Station 旭川駅, Matsuya 松屋

Revisited in Oct 2017.
Previous post (2013): http://hsuchia.blogspot.sg/2014/01/hokkaido-asahikawa-jr-station-heiwadori.html


Transformation. The current train station looks relatively newer than the others in Hokkaido because it underwent a major overhaul back in 2011. I actually will rank this as one of the most beautiful train station I have seen in Japan to date. Adore the spacious compound within the train station where passengers or locals can hang out freely in, either to wait for the train arrival or to even mingle with their families/friends. When I was here four years ago, the promenade in front of the train station was still undergoing construction and I was eager to see how things would change after that. Now, in addition to redevelopment of shopping mall and hotel adjacent to the train station, Asahikawa JR Station has developed to become the focal point in the second largest city of Hokkaido.





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What's nearby / What has changed? 

(1) Bus terminal, located in front of the train station North Exit (East side).
Platform 6: Asahikawa Denkikidou 旭川電気軌道 Bus 41, 42 and 47 depart for Asahiyama Zoo 旭山動物園.
Platform 8: Dohoku Bus Shirogane line 道北バス 白金線 for Aoi ike 青い池 and Shirogane Onsen 白金温泉.
Platform 9: Asahikawa Denkikidou 旭川電気軌道 Bus 77, Furano Bus Lavender-go 富良野バスラベンダー号 to Asahikawa Airport 旭川空港.


Platform 10:
- Asahikawa Denkikidou 旭川電気軌道 Bus 66 (Asahidake line 旭岳線) for Asahikawa Airport 旭川空港 and Asahidake 旭岳.
- Asahikawa Denkikidou 旭川電気軌道 Bus 60, 62 and 67 for Higashikawa-cho 東川町.


There are other bus stops located slightly further away from the train station.
- Bus Stop 11: Board Dohoku Bus 道北バス 630 or 667 from here and alight at Takasagodai iriguchi 高砂台入口 for Snow Crystal Museum 雪の美術館.
Bus schedule: http://www.dohokubus.com/rosen_bus2.html
- For highway buses to Sapporo, please proceed to Chuo Bus Terminal 中央バスタミナル (near Bus Stop 11 in the map shown above).

Bus Stop 11; Chuo Bus Terminal on the right.

AEON Mall and JR Inn connected seamlessly to the train station.
(2) Opening of AEON Mall and JR Inn

The former site was occupied by ESTA (a shopping mall managed by JR) and Asahikawa Terminal Hotel and both ceased operation in Jul 2012. A new building which comprised of a shopping mall managed by AEON and a hotel owned by JR group, was constructed and eventually opened its doors for business in Mar 2015. The shopping mall includes a foot court, cinema and is also occupied by local household brands such as MUJI (Level 1) and Daiso (Level 3).
- AEON Mall Asahikawa Ekimae イオンモール旭川駅前: http://asahikawaekimae-aeonmall.com/
- JR Inn Asahikawa JRイン旭川: https://www.jr-inn.jp/asahikawa/


(3) Heiwa-dori Shopping Street 平和通買物公園

- Closure of Seibu Asahikawa 西武 旭川店
This major departmental store has pulled down the shutters of its last branch in Hokkaido permanently in Sep 2016. MUJI, formerly a tenant in B building, has moved its operation to AEON Mall. As for the other major tenant, LOFT, it did not source for another location in Asahikawa city, making Sapporo the only place in Hokkaido where you are find this popular lifestyle goods shop.

- Closure of !EXC エクス
!EXC was another shopping mall which ceased operation in 2014. The existing building has not been tore down and part of it is currently being occupied by Tsuruha Drug store ツルハドラッグ.
Tsuruha Drug Asahikawa Kaimono Koen-dori branch ツルハドラッグ 旭川買物公園通店: http://www.tsuruha.co.jp/shop/?cm=v&id=1663


- Matsuya Kaimono Koen-dori branch 松屋買物公園通店
To my surprise, this is the one and only branch Matsuya has in Asahikawa city. Having said that, the rest of the branches in Hokkaido are all located in Sapporo city. The reason why I have such deep connection to Matsuya is because its beef rice bowl was the first meal I had in Japan on my debut visit in 2011. Then after, I am always on a lookout for their stores with the distinct, bright yellow signboard whenever I am craving for beef or grilled pork rice bowl during any trip in Japan. For just 450 yen, I can get a hearty bowl of salt flavoured, grilled pork rice bowl, topped up huge servings of crunchy green onions and accompanied by a bowl of miso soup. Tastewise, the entire rice bowl is so well flavoured which whet my appetite instantaneously and the contents are always gone within minutes after tucking in. So far, I have yet to record any disappointing outing and I can always rely on Matsuya to deliver such satisfying rice bowl whenever I visit them.

Website: https://pkg.navitime.co.jp/matsuyafoods/spot/detail?code=0000001707&bc=eNqLVnq2ZM7zLYseN3c8bm5%2B3DxdSUcJiB43T33cvOpx857HzevBZCdEGVAqrSg1tTy%2FKMW%2BODWxKDlDtySxKD21JKbUwMA4JS8xN1UvMSWlKLW4OB7MgSiKB2kAKTEyg7GMU1RdLVSdjFSdzFVdzVUtLFUdLVVdTVUtTFUdnUEMS2dVSyNVV0tVCwNVS0eQiJOjqqW5UiwAlLxDXg%3D%3D

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Hokkaido Revisit 2017 三回目の北海道の旅 - Shirogane Aoi ike (Blue Pond) 白金青い池

Visited 14.10.2017 (Sat)
Previous post: http://hsuchia.blogspot.sg/2013/03/hokkaido-summer-2012-aoi-ike-shirogane.html


Revisit. On my first weekend in Hokkaido, I headed south from Asahikawa to Biei and Furano to revisit and explore new places in this area. When I visited Hokkaido five years ago during summer, I hired a taxi to cover several sightseeing spots located in Furano and Biei, and Aoi ike was one of them. Unfortunately weather was not its best on the day of my visit and Aoi ike was not as spectacular as what I perceived before I came. And because of this disappointing outing, I have also wanted to revisit this mysteriously blue coloured pond, hopefully on a different season.



Every second counts. For my trip, I made use of Dohoku Bus Shirogane line to commute between Biei and Aoi ike. The bus stop to board the bus heading for Aoi ike is located about a minute walk away from Biei JR Station. As the bus service was not very frequent (about 1 bus every 2 hourly interval), I had to plan my stay in Aoi ike carefully. Took the 0926 hrs bus departing from Biei and arrived at Aoi ike at 0946 hrs. I had only 40 minutes to spend in Aoi ike and this was inclusive of additional 3 minutes walk from the bus stop to the pond. Had to board the return bus trip to Biei at 1024 hrs, otherwise the next one would only come three hours later! Therefore there was no time to be wasted at Aoi ike!


But totally worth it. Despite the limited amount of time spent here, I was blessed with extremely fine weather and was able to witness a totally different view of Aoi ike as compared to the previous time I was here! The turquoise waters were relatively calm and could capture a clear and beautiful reflection of its surroundings on its surface. Moreover, the vegetation were in the midst of transforming into autumn foliage, thus further enhanced the mystifying charm of Aoi ike. I turned speechless when this picturesque scenery appeared right in front of my eyes and without further ado, started working with my camera to capture the panoramic feature of the blue pond from various angles/locations.


Landmark of Biei. One major difference I observed was the increase in the number of people visiting Aoi ike, and it was definitely much way crowded (and less peaceful) as compared to the past. The beauty of Aoi ike has lured many tourists (both domestic and foreign) like myself to travel all the way to Hokkaido to behold this scenery, and have paved way for to become one of the most prominent landmark in Biei over the last few years.


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Shirogane Aoi ike (Blue Pond) 白金青い池
071-0235 上川郡美瑛町白金
https://www.biei-hokkaido.jp/ja/sightseeing/shirogane-blue-pond/


How to get there?


(1) By Dohoku Bus Shirogane line 道北バス 白金線
The bus departs from Asahikawa Station Bus Terminal Platform 8 and passes by the bus stop near Biei JR Station. To get to Aoi ike, alight at Shirogane Aoi ike iriguchi 白金青い池入口. Bus journey from Asahikawa takes about an hour and a half whereas from Biei, it takes about 20 minutes.
Bus fares:
- Asahikawa Station Bus Terminal <> Shirogane Aoi ike iriguchi = 1,090 yen
- Biei JR Station <> Shirogane Aoi ike iriguchi  = 540 yen
http://www.dohokubus.com/rosen_bus1.html