Hokkaido is a wonderful place.
Safe, clean, orderly – there is no visible system of fines to keep it this way. People are very civilized, pleasant, helpful and polite.
We chose to go at a time when the weather is dandy, though it is a pity that we missed the sakura and lavender blooms. We ran around a little and so stayed in several hotels. The good ones were in Lake Toya and Sapporo. Particularly, Mercure Sapporo which was just fantastic – it’s in a pretty central location, near the Susukino subway station, had free Wi-Fi in room and we got a real good deal too from Booking.com – comes highly recommended!
Driving in Hokkaido is a piece of cake – though the tolls roads, if you use them, can cost a bomb; costs anywhere from ~S$10 to over S$100 depending on how much of the road you use. Petrol there doesn’t come cheap either ~S$2.20 per litre. Got to remember to conserve or use local roads with longer driving times where possible! Otherwise, it was good fun to self-drive, and explore on our own.
It is also extremely important that I mention that the food in Hokkaido is just out of this world.
The sashimi we had was so fresh it was heavenly – I never knew raw scallops tasted that good. All these with freshly grated wasabi! *Yums* The King Crabs were to die for, and sea urchins tasted like excellent roe. We had all these in two places in Sapporo that charged reasonably – one of the shops (think it’s called Nijyo Shokuhin, at No. 060-0053) in Nijo Market and Sapporokko Restaurant in Susukino. The ricebowls we had in Asahikawa were so good we had them over two consecutive nights. The Yubari melon we ate in Otaru was perhaps the sweetest and most expensive slice of melon we’ve ever had. The bowls of ramen we had in Susikino were exceptional. The softserve ice-cream cones served were all made from fresh milk and were deliciously creamy. QUALITY screamed in every bite. Even the just in-season strawberries growing in Sobetsu Farm that we picked and devoured.
I think the trip to Hokkaido (and their handling of the earthquake in Fukushima) has altered our thoughts in several ways.
For one, it will change our travel priorities.
SJ has never been too keen on Asia for reasons only those who empathize with him will understand. I empathize but I’m a little more tolerant of the idiosyncracies of others simply because I need to satisfy curiousity (though I will complain terribly much to the chagrin of SJ if the experience is nasty). After Hokkaido, Japan has suddenly risen to one of the top places in our travel list. We will be visiting Japan (just not Tokyo) again soon and often.
For two, we both decided that scallops should be eaten raw – but only if very fresh. I also decided that I like the taste of sea urchin, and SJ decided that he likes the fried chicken in Japan and will try to re-create it back home with the special powder-to-coat-b4-frying he bought from the supermarket.
For three, we now see the Japanese people in a whole new light, and have a whole new level of respect for how and what distinguishes them from the rest of Asia.
[First published: 12 Jun 2012]