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Sunday, August 31, 2014

Hokkaido Winter 2013 北海道冬季之旅 - Day 11 Itinerary: Hakodate 函馆

Day 11 - 13.02.2013

Breakfast: Doutor, branch @ Hakodate Wako [Closed]

Visited Hakodate Asaichi.

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Purchased 1 day streetcar pass. Price = 600 yen

Hakodate ekimae > Goryokaku Koen-mae
by streetcar

Visited Goryokaku Tower and Goryokaku Koen.

Lunch: Gotoken Curry Express, in Goryokaku Tower.

Lunch add-on: Hasegawasutoa, Goryokaku branch

Goryokaku Koen-mae > Jujigai
by streetcar.

Visited Kanemori Red Brick Warehouse.

Suehiro-cho > Hakodate ekimae
by streetcar.

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Shopping:
(1) Boni-moriya departmental store (棒二森屋店)
(2) Kiosk in Loisir Hotel

Hakodate Bus Terminal (1645 hrs) > Hakodate Airport (1705 hrs)
by Airport transfer bus. Fee = 400 yen

Dinner: Restaurant Pollux, in Hakodate Airport

Hakodate Airport (1940 hrs) > Haneda T1 (2110 hrs)
by JL 1170

Haneda Intl Terminal (2340 hrs) > SIN T1 (0620 hrs)
by JL 035

- End of Hokkaido Winter 2013 Trip -

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Hokkaido Winter 2013 北海道冬季之旅 - Lucky Pierrot ラッキーピエロ (十 宇 街銀座店)

Visited 12.02.2013


Lucky Pierrot is a burger restaurant chain which originated from Hakodate. They have a total of 16 outlets and all of them are located in Hakodate only. However, its exclusivity does not stop here. Each restaurant has its own unique theme, aimed to create different dinning experience in all its branches. As their signature food is burger, Lucky Pierrot is often mistaken as a conventional fast food restaurant. This is not entirely true as they only prepare your food after order is placed.


Came to Jujigai branch for dinner after visiting Mt Hakodate. Very eye catching exterior, with a huge Santa Claus stand placed at its entrance and many other Santa Claus figurines placed on the second and third floors' balcony. This particular branch is Christmas themed and the festive spirit can be felt immediately upon stepping into the restaurant. Cosy setting with European style wallpaper and lacquered wooden furnishing, familiar Christmas tunes played in the background and entire restaurant is decorated with evergreen foliage, Christmas trees and countless number of Santa Claus figurines (in different shapes and sizes)!


Ordered our food from the counter on the first floor and headed up to second floor to find a table. Had to try the shop's most popular Chinese chicken burger (チャイニーズチキンバーガー), which clocked a magnificent sales volume of 300,000 annually! Ordered the pork cutlet burger (トンカツバーガー) as well. The set meal comes with a cup of thick cut fries topped with melted cheese and a glass of oolong tea. Chinese chicken burger tasted quite good - three crispy and juicy chicken chunks (like tori karaage) sandwiched between two pieces of fragrant sesame buns. On the other hand, the pork cutlet burger comprised of two pieces of fried pork cutlets - cooked just right, with its moisture retained.

Conclusion: Though the food served was not mind blowing, the beautiful interior and Christmas theme of this particular branch will definitely uplift the mood of every diner.    

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Lucky Pierrot ラッキーピエロ (十宇街銀座店)
http://www.luckypierrot.jp/
Opening hours: 1000 - 0030 hrs


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Other branches:

(1) Hakodate ekimae branch, located on the first floor of Boni-moriya departmental store (main building).
Opening hours: 1000 - 0030 hrs



(2) Goryokaku koen-mae branch, restaurant located just outside Fort Goryokaku.
Opening hours: 1000 - 0030 hrs



(3) Hakodate Bay branch, restaurant located near Kanemori Red Brick Warehouse.
Opening hours: 1000 - 0030 hrs

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Do you know?
Taiwanese singer, Ann (白安) went to Hakodate to shoot the music video for her song 《麦田捕手》(recorded in her first album which was released in 2012). Try to spot Hakodate city night view, Lucky Pierrot (Hakodate Bay branch) and other iconic landmarks of Hakodate in this MV.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Hokkaido Winter 2013 北海道冬季之旅 - Mt Hakodate 函馆山

Visited 12.02.2013


The view from Mt Hakodate has been named as one of top three cities' night view in the world - alongside Hong Kong and Naples. Mt Hakodate stands at 334 m high and from the summit, Hakodate city sits on a well defined "hourglass" shaped land, bounded by Hakodate bay on the left and Tsugaru Straits on the right.


Reached Hakodate later than plan (as we missed an earlier train from Sapporo to Hakodate) and skies had already started to darken when we check in to our hotel for the night. Original plan was to made our way up by late afternoon, in order to capture the transition from day to night. Fortunately, weather was promising on our only night spent in Hakodate (and last night in Hokkaido as well) - the most important factor that affects the scenery enjoyed from the viewing platform on Mt Hakodate.

Royce Chocolate takes on a different packaging in Hakodate!
Made use of the streetcar (to Jujigai), followed by ropeway to reach the observatory. Trembled when the gush of chilly wind blew onto our faces when we stepped outdoors, but we were immediately welcomed by the stunning night view which looked exactly the same as what I have seen in books! City lights looked like millions of diamonds that sparkled brilliantly under the dark skies, bringing a smile to every visitor's face. To enjoy the panoramic view indoors, you can also settle your meal in the restaurant here. By far, this is best city night view I have seen in Japan (have been to Mt Moiwa in Sapporo and Mt Inasa in Nagasaki on separate occasions).

Conclusion: Undoubtedly, Mt Hakodate is a must visit attraction in Hakodate especially when weather permits!

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Mt Hakodate 函馆山
http://www.334.co.jp/eng/
Opening hours: 1000 - 2200 hrs (25 Apr - 15 Oct); 1000 - 2100 hrs (16 Oct - 14 Apr)
Ropeway carriage departs every 10 minutes normally.
Ropeway fares = 1,200 yen (round trip); 660 yen (one way)

Tip: Download 10% discount coupon from HISCoupon app.


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How to get there?

(1) Streetcar:
- From Hakodate JR Station, transfer to streetcar at Hakodate ekimae stop.
- Take the streetcar #2 (heading towards Yachigashira 谷地頭) or #5 (heading towards Hakodate Dokku-mae 函館どっく前), alight at Jujigai 十字街.
- Approx 5 - 10 mins walk to ropeway station.

(2) Local bus:
- Board Mt Hakodate bus from bus stop #4 outside Hakodate JR Station.
- Bus reaches Mt Hakodate summit directly.
- Fee = 400 yen (adult), 200 yen (child)
Bus schedule: http://www.334.co.jp/jpn/access/location/location2.php 

(3) Twinkle Bus Hakodate:
- Night Bus route covers Mt Hakodate sightseeing.
- Operating period: 1 Apr - 30 Sep
- Fee = 700 yen (not inclusive of ropeway ticket)
More information: http://www2.jrhokkaido.co.jp/global/english/travel/twinkle.html

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Commemorative stamp: 

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Hokkaido Winter 2013 北海道冬季之旅 - Loisir Hotel Hakodate ロワジールホ テル函館

Stayed 12.02.2013
Booked thru Japanican.



- There are many hotel options nearby Hakodate JR Station. Decided to settle for Loisir Hotel which is just a stone throw away from the train station. Loisir Hotel is one of the brands under Solare Hotels and Resort group, which also manages Chisun series of hotels. Have stayed in Sapporo Chisun Hotel on my first trip to Hokkaido and was pretty satisfied with my stay then.

- Booked the standard twin room A (exclusive of breakfast) at 7,980 yen/night (~99 SGD). Typical room size of 18 m2 (limited walking space in the room), equipped with all basic amenities. Souvenir shops are conveniently located on the ground floor (hotel lobby is on the second floor), allowing guests to perform last minute shopping of local specialties before heading back home. 

- Overall: Strategic location of hotel, great accessibility by both train and streetcar. A good hotel option for those visiting Hakodate for the first time.

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What's nearby?

(1) Bus to Hakodate Airport. Bus stop is located outside the train station.
Hakodate Airport: http://www.airport.ne.jp/hakodate/en/
Bus schedule to/fro Hakodate Airport: http://www.airport.ne.jp/hakodate/en/time_schedule/bus/en.shtml

(2) Hakodate eki-mae streetcar stop is located beside the hotel. Hop onto the streetcar to visit other attractions in Hakodate. Purchase a 1 day pass for 600 yen to enjoy unlimited rides on the streetcar. Passes can be purchased from Tourist Information Counter located within Hakodate JR Station, hotel front desks or directly from the driver. Bought mine from the front desk of Loisir Hotel.

Hakodate Streetcar Map (found in 1 day pass)
Rough guide on streetcar fares:
From Hakodate eki-mae > Jujigai, to visit Mt Hakodate and Kanemori Red Brick Warehouse: 210 yen
From Hakodate eki-mae > Goryokaku koen mae, to visit Goryokaku Tower: 230 yen
From Hakodate eki-mae > Yunokawa Onsen: 240 yen

(3) Hakodate Asachi Market (函馆朝市), located beside the train station and hotel. Seafood lovers will definitely want to savour the freshest catch of the day in this popular market. Chose the accommodation plan without breakfast because we wanted to visit the market in the morning.

(4) Boni-moriya departmental store (棒二森屋店), located beside the hotel. You can find quite an extensive line up of local souvenirs (mainly food) on the basement of Annex building. For MUJI fans, you will be delighted to know that they have one outlet on the fourth floor in the same building.
Website: http://www.boni-moriya.com/

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Loisir Hotel Hakodate ロワジールホテル函館
040-0063 函館市若松町14番10号
http://www.loisir-hakodate.com/


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Commemorative stamps: 


Hokkaido Winter 2013 北海道冬季之旅 - Hakodate JR Station 函館駅


Hakodate JR Station (H75), terminal station on Hakodate main line.

(1) Limited Express Super Hokuto & Hokuto commute between Sapporo and Hakodate.
(2) Limited Express Super Hakucho & Hakucho commute between Hakodate and Aomori on Honshu island via Tsugaru-Kaikyo line, passing through Seikan Tunnel.

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What's nearby?


(1) Buses

- Twinkle Bus Hakodate: JR operates two sightseeing bus routes covering several prominent attractions in Hakodate (exclusively for JR train users).

  • Mankitsu Bus covers a pretty extensive line up of places: Trappists Monastery, Goryokaku Park, Cape Tachimachi, Hakodate Asaichi Market, Seikan Renrakusen Ferry Mashumaru Museum, Motomachi Guided Tour, Foreigners' Cemetery and Kanamori Red Brick Warehouse. Would have love to join this sightseeing tour if I have allocated more time to explore Hakodate.
  • Night Bus focuses on Mt Hakodate night view.

More information: http://www2.jrhokkaido.co.jp/global/english/travel/twinkle.html

- Bus to Hakodate Airport (bus stop 11)
Hakodate Airport: http://www.airport.ne.jp/hakodate/en/
Bus schedule to/fro Hakodate Airport: http://www.airport.ne.jp/hakodate/en/time_schedule/bus/en.shtml

(2) Hotels
There are many hotel options near the train station - Loisir Hotel, Hotel Route Inn, Smile Hotel, Comfort Hotel, etc.

(3) Twinkle Plaza and Tourist Information Counter are located within train station. You can make reservation for Twinkle Buses and purchase 1 day streetcar pass here.

(4) Hakodate ekimae streetcar station, is about 3 minutes walk from train station.

(5) Hakodate Asaichi Market, located just beside train station.

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Commemorative stamps:


Hokkaido Winter 2013 北海道冬季之旅 - Day 10 Itinerary: Hakodate

Day 10 - 12.02.2013

Breakfast: Best Western Fino Hotel

Morning stroll to Clock Tower

Shopping: Marui Imai, in Odori.
Bought packed lunches from Marui Imai.

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Sapporo JR Station (1317 hrs) > Hakodate JR Station (1649 hrs)
by Hokuto train. Day #4 usage of 4 day flexible Hokkaido Rail Pass.

Check in: Loisir Hotel Hakodate

Hakodate ekimae > Jujigai
by streetcar. Fee = 200 yen.

Hakodate Ropeway Station > Mount Hakodate summit
by ropeway. Fee = 1,050 yen (discounted)

Dinner: Lucky Pierrot, Jujigai branch

Jujigai > Hakodate ekimae
by streetcar. Fee = 200 yen

- End of Day 10 -

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Hokkaido Winter 2013 北海道冬季之旅 - Susukino Ice Festival すすきの氷の 祭典

Visited 11.02.2014

Year 2013 (33rd): 05.02.2013 - 11.02.2013
Year 2014 (34th): 05.02.2014 - 11.02.2014
Year 2015 (35th): 05.02.2015 - 11.02.2015 


Part of the larger Sapporo Snow Festival, an exhibition of ice sculptures is held in the nightlife district of Susukino in the very same week. This annual event is held along ekimae dori, between minami 4 dori and minami 6 dori, which is within walking distance from Susukino subway station. Managed to rush to this site on the last day, just an hour before lights off (2200 hrs)!

Highlights: 



- These works of art were entries for the ice sculpture contest and sculptors were given less than a day to create their masterpieces on the first day of festival. Having visited Heiwa dori shopping street during Asahikawa Winter Festival a few days back, the "wow" factor that these ice sculptures brought to me was definitely not as high as before. Despite that, I still found myself spending quite some time, admiring the fine details portrayed on each piece of ice sculpture. Personally I like to see how sculptors create mythical and fictional creatures, such as dragons and phoenixes, and they look particularly beautiful when they are illuminated at night.


- The most intriguing ice display has got to be this huge ice wall which was frozen together with crabs and fishes! An ice bar, which is constructed out of ice, allows visitors to enjoy ice cold beer/liquor (if you can withstand that in the cold weather) in the event venue. You may also get the opportunity to take a photo with the Ice Queen, the winner of their local beauty pageant. All in all, not a very big scale event, but still worth visiting especially if you are in Sapporo! 

Fishes and crabs all trapped in this ice wall.

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Susukino Ice Festival すすきの氷の祭典
Open to visitors till 2300 hrs, but lights out at 2200 hrs on the last day.
Free admission.

View Susukino Site in a larger map

Hokkaido Winter 2013 北海道冬季之旅 - Aji no Tokeidai 味の時計台 (JR札幌店)

Visited 11.02.2013


- One of the goals of this trip was to try all three popular types of ramen in different parts of Hokkaido - shoyu (soy sauce) based in Asahikawa, miso based in Sapporo and shio (salt) based in Hakodate. Managed to accomplish two out of three wish list items - missed out shio ramen even though we visited Hakodate this time round. Had tasted shoyu ramen from Aoba, one of the many locally established names when we were in Asahikawa. Made our way next to this well known brand, which is named after Sapporo's prominent landmark, Clock Tower (Tokedai). Even though Aji no Tokeidai has not been around for a long time (was only founded late 1980s), it has risen to become a household name in Sapporo, close to 20 branches/franchises within Sapporo and about 40 in Hokkaido.   

- Patronised this franchise located near the North exit of Sapporo JR Station. Ordered their signature miso based ramen, gyozas (pan fried meat dumplings) and fried rice. Soup was very savory, packed with rich flavours (pork bone broth) and not too salty. Aji no Tokeidai manufactures their own noodles (has a factory in Aomori) - springy noodles cooked well enough to reduce the alkaline taste. So far, gyozas that I have eaten in Japan have been very satisfying - pan fried to perfection, stuffed with juicy meat fillings. Chinese style fried rice finally took us away from many days of Japanese cuisine in this trip and tasted not too bad as well (though was hoping for more "wok-hei" which we can taste in most Chinese stir fried dishes). 

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Aji no Tokeidai 味の時計台 (JR札幌店)
Located on the north exit of Sapporo JR Station.
Opening hours: 1000 - 2200 hrs
http://www.ajino-tokeidai.co.jp/


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Other Sapporo Ramen shops?

(1) Sapporo Ramen Kyowakoku 札幌拉面共和国
http://www.sapporo-esta.jp/ramen
Similar concept to Asahikawa Ramen Village, a community of eight ramen stalls is located on the sixth floor of Sapporo ESTA building (just beside Sapporo JR Station). Apart from Sapporo Ramen, this place also features ramen from other parts of Hokkaido as well. If you are unsure which stalls to visit in Sapporo, you should be able to find one to your liking (though all looked quite similar to me) over here. 



(2) Aji no Sanpei 味の三平
http://www.ajino-sanpei.com/
Read about this traditional ramen shop in one of my travel guide books. The one and only shop is located on the fourth floor of Daimaru-Fuji Central departmental store (near to Odori Park). Have marked it as one of my "to visit" places on the next visit to Hokkaido!

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Hokkaido Winter 2013 北海道冬季之旅 - Otaru Snow Light Path Festival 小樽雪あかりの路

Visited 11.02.2013

Year 2013 (14th): 08.02.2013 - 17.02.2013
Year 2014 (15th): 08.02.2014 - 17.02.2014
Year 2015 (16th): 06.02.2015 - 15.02.2015


Other than Sapporo Snow Festival, this annual event held in Otaru is equally well-received by both locals and foreigners. Otaru Snow Light Path Festival became our main objective of revisiting Otaru on our second trip to Hokkaido. This event is held over a period of 10 days at two venues, along Otaru Canal and the old Temiya railway track. As this event falls in the same week with Sapporo Snow Festival, many would also make it a point to visit Otaru this time as well.




Walked our way to Otaru Canal from Minami-otaru JR Station, exactly the same way as what we did during our first visit 6 months ago. Was embraced by the nostalgic feel as we came to Marchen intersection and strolled along the familiar Sakaimachi street - the English style steam powered clock, exquisite music box and glassware shops, cafes and confectioneries to stopover for a break. What was different this time round was the addition of snow figures constructed on both sides of Sakaimachi street, and all these works of art further emphasized the theme of love and romance - something that Otaru has always been fondly associated with. Glass lamps and snow candles, which led the way to Otaru Canal began to light up when skies gradually darkened.


Reached the canal well when the sun was setting and was captivated by its innate beauty yet again. A different picturesque of Otaru Canal was presented in front of our eyes... far different from our first encounter 6 months ago. Snow has accumulated on the path beside the canal and icicles has formed on the edge of the warehouses' roof on the other side of the canal. Glass buoys, stringed together, were placed across and on the calm waters of the canal - reminded us that this was once an important tool in the fishing industry and were manufactured by many glassware shops in Otaru at that point in time. The entire stretch of Otaru Canal was lined with many snow candles that were constructed by volunteers and visitors. The bright and occasional wavering flames, when the breeze swept by, created this sense of warmth in the cold night. Personally, I will recommend visiting the canal in the evening to experience the transition from day to night, and also to avoid the bigger crowd that will start to come in at night.


Made our way to the other venue - Old Temiya railway track. Snow has covered the entire railway track, and snow walls have piled up on the sides. Took a leisure walk through the snow path which was decorated throughout with snow and ice candles, before we made our way back to Otaru JR Station.

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Otaru Snow Light Path Festival 小樽雪あかりの路
http://otaru.yukiakarinomichi.org/

(1) Otaru Canal

View Otaru Canal in a larger map

(2) Old Temiya railway track (手宫线迹地)

View Larger Map

Friday, August 1, 2014

Hokkaido Winter 2013 北海道冬季之旅 - Kahisakan 可否茶館

Visited 11.02.2013


My second visit to Otaru. Followed the same familiar route - alighted at Minami Otaru JR Station, came to Marchen Intersection, strolled along Sakaimachi Street and made our way leisurely to Otaru Canal. Have patronised two cafes on my first trip to Otaru - Ginnokane and LeTAO. Though I was tempted to eat LeTAO's cheesecake again (still managed to sample one small piece when I walked by their shop), we decided to try something new this time round. Just as we were finding a place to warm ourselves with hot beverages and rest our legs, we found Kahisakan, a cafe housed in a red brick building, located along Sakaimachi Street.  



Was greeted by the aroma of coffee immediately when we stepped into the cafe. Seats are located on both the ground and second level of the building. Ordered some cake/sweets to go with our coffee and tea, and was pleasantly surprised that their cheesecake actually tasted quite good - very dense and smooth texture! Glad to discover another good cafe to drop by if I come to Otaru again. Found out later that they have branches in Otaru JR Station and Sapporo as well. 

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Kahisakan 可否茶館
小樽市堺町5番30号 可否茶館小樽ファクトリー
http://www.kahisakan.jp/index.html