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Hokkaido Food Travel

A Local’s Guide on What to Eat in Hokkaido

This is a collection of food that the locals frequented and were mostly recommended to me by the regulars and local people while I was living there. I’m quite selfish when it comes to food, you must be really lucky to read this because now I’m sharing all the secret spots!

Okushiba Shouten Soup Curry (奥芝スープカリ)

This is one of my favourite haunts that was introduced to me by my best friend in Hokkaido, Ogawa-san (I hope he sees this). The portion is generous and the menu is wholesome.

First you choose the curry dish you want – there’s like choices of premium seasonal vegetables, shrimp festival curry, mushroom curry, soft chicken curry etc. Then, you pick the curry base you want – shrimp or chicken. Last, you choose your toppings from a list sorted according to their price range!Then pick your level of spiciness! (I always choose 8 and above haha!) Last, you even get a choice of the type of rice – white rice or brown rice.

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Menu

Then you wait.

The place is decorated in a showa-era manner. Nostalgic and hip.

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Top/Right/Bottom: Seasonal vegetables curry, Hamburger curry, Mushroom curry.

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My Mushroom Curry! Looks innocent but it contains 6 varieties of mushrooms!

This is not my first time eating this curry and I must say the cold weather in Hokkaido has probably led to curry being one of the local favourites. With the portion size, you will definitely be happy with the dish and the price!

Location: Only in Hokkaido!

Outlets are in Sapporo, Asahikawa, Chitose, Hakodate.

Check google maps for exact location as they are normally in residential areas and not easy to find.

Uni and Ikura Don/Chirashi/Sushi (Sea urchin and salmon roe rice/sushi)

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Uni Sushi

Why?? Because they’re the freshest and cheapest here! They’re the the indulgent selection of seafood that you should eat on your holiday. I don’t think they can taste fresher than anywhere else. I have eaten sushi got so many years and I’m definitely not kidding when I said that sushi in Hokkaido taste a different level. If you’re going for the sashimi and sushi, this is the paradise for you. Some places sell ikura with a very strong fishy taste but fresh ikura doesn’t have the stinky fishy taste. It is like bubbles which explode on your tastebuds.

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Chirashi buffet at a hotel – doesn’t look very appetizing but it is actually very very fresh!
Where to find: Basically anywhere in Hokkaido. The best places to find the freshest and cheapest chirashi is actually fish markets in the areas by the sea. You may find delicious ones in the restaurants but they are a tad expensive than the fish market ones and those in touristy areas like Otaru and Hakodate and Sapporo are more expensive then those further up north – could cost 3500 yen and up for one bowl. In the fish markets, you could find as cheap as 1000 yen! (only for the first 10 or 20 bowls until sold out) I was told by my friend who is a local.

The best seasons to eat this is from Nov until Feb.

Sweets

Sweets like pastry and ice cream, cakes and cookies. Hokkaido is the SWEETS KINGDOM of Japan because they pride themselves on the quality of milk they produce. The cows are not trapped in small areas and forced to feed on grass all the time. Their cows are left to roam freely and they seem to have fun (I used to run past a farm all the time and they don’t seem to look sad, they just look carefree and lazy).

Number 1 Sweets Place in Hokkaido is…Rokkatei! (this is according to a Japanese food ranking site)

Rokkatei (六花亭)

With 84 years of history behind them and having survived the war, it is no wonder this pastry shop has grown and emerged as the top.

Their most popular products are actually:

Marusei Butter Sandwich – マルセイバターサンド

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Source: Tabelog

And this: Marusei Ice Sandwich (マルセイアイスサンド)

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Source: Tabelog

But I usually order what is on the seasonal menu so I ended up with this…

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Lotus root (Renkon) cheesecake with matcha latte – perfect for my afternoon tea!

Innocent looking cake but it was so fluffy and moist!

Where: They have shops all over Hokkaido island, but in Obihiro is the HQ for the store cum cafe. For more locations and addresses please visit here.

帯広本店  直営
北海道帯広市西2条南9丁目6
(tax-free shop)

LeTaO

I’ve seen girls go crazy over thhhhhis!! In Otaru, they have 2 or 3 shops in the same vicinity and hoards of tourists would go in and come out armed full with bags. The samples run out as soon as they hit the tables. The lines for the cafe above the store snakes all the way to the stairs (I waited for about 45 minutes).

After queuing for 45 minutes, we finally got to sit down and sample 2 famous LeTaO cheesecakes – the double fromage and the other one is limited edition Ciel Fromage Petit.

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Ciel Fromage Petit.

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Double Fromage Cheesecake

Where: Its HQ is located in Otaru, they have a cafe above the shop front. If you would like to visit other shops, click here.

小樽洋菓子舗ルタオ本店
住所:〒047-0027 北海道小樽市堺町7番16号
TEL: 0120-46-8825(フリーダイヤル)
FAX: 0134-31-4277

Kitakarou (北菓楼)

This place offers crazy lot of free sampling. Skip dessert for lunch, come here and walk two rounds and you’ll be filled and satisfied, my advice as a Kuishinbo. This is actually one of my favourite place because their prices are not steep and of course, the wide range of samples! They are very generous with their sample portions too.

I remember once i had a 600+ yen cake set in one of their cafes and I never forgot about it. It was more than 3 years ago!

They are most well known for their baumkuchen:

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Source: Kitakarou

And their okaki (a crispy snack made of mochi flour and tastes like senbei)

Free for sampling too in their store!

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Source: Kitakarou

Where: Their HQ is actually at Sunagawa where they first began. It is accessible by car only.

〒073-0197
北海道砂川市西1条北19丁目2番1号

Other locations are here.

Their Otaru outlet is just next to Rokkatei and LeTaO! Be sure to drop by!

Soft Cream (ソフトクリーム)

Basically, you cannot go wrong with soft cream anywhere in Hokkaido. Never! Try Furano Marche’s soft cream or the farm closest to where you stay.

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Cranberry (クランベリー)

Their sweet potato pastry has basically rocked the patisserie world when it first came out. It was on television everywhere as long as its featuring food in Hokkaido.

SAM_7337Basically, this pastry is sold by weight per 100g. You cannot purchase half or any portion of it. It can only be sold WHOLE. You will end up spending more than 1000 yen just to taste this as their smallest size is probably close to 1kg in weight so be sure to share this with somebody! Or you could end up eating this for days. This is very filling and very yummy. The flesh of the soft sweet potato is scooped out, mixed with butter, sugar and their other secret ingredients and then placed back into the skin and baked.

I think this is a must-try!

Where:

クランベリー本店

北海道帯広市西2条南6丁目
TEL 0155-22-6656

Other locations: Here

Genghis Khan (ジェンギスカン)

It’s really barbecue mutton actually, not the mongolian ruler. This is a must-eat for me even though i’m not a big meat fan. The mutton meat is suprisingly tender and not fattening and I can eat 2 (or 3) big plates on my own.

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My sizzling ghengis khan.

If you love chicken, love beef, love pork, you will definitely love this. If you don’t like chicken, don’t like beef, don’t like port, you will still LOVE this. It is quite addictive, so bring more money in case you can’t stop eating.

Where: I have my secret locations. The best place is actually here at Shirakaba.

〒076-0048 北海道富良野市清水山 (Furano) or 〒080-2103 北海道帯広市清川町西2-126 (Obihiro)

FYI – The Furano outlet closes in winter. I was so disappointed I couldn’t eat this last vacation.

Ramen Furuki (ラーメンふるき)

If you could ask anyone living in Asahikawa area which is the best ramen, most people are gonna tell you this one.

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Whenever I go back to Hokkaido, all the guests in the guest house would be heading here for lunch. This ramen is of miso soup base and their chashu pork is thick and generous. It is crazy popular to the extent that 8 out of 10 guests (from the guest house) would be going there for lunch. It isn’t on the same ranks as those international ramen chains that you know but this is definitely a local favourite.

Anyway if you’re curious to find out, here is the location.

Where: 3-1-1-43, Midorigaoka, Asahikawa City

Opening hours: Weekdays 11:00-15:00
Saturday and Sunday 10:30-15:00

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Questions? Write to me below.

I think i’m gonna run a post on my list of favourite ramen next. 😀

Japan Solo Travel Guide

This is my guide on how to travel to Japan if you’re alone – male or female.

Traveling solo is one of the best things I ever did in my life. My first solo trip was actually more than three years ago, to Okayama city in Japan. If you want to read about how my life was back then, it’s written here and in my archives. Today I hope I could inspire you on how to get ready for the adventure of your life – even more so if you don’t know a word of Japanese!

So first of all, where should you go in Japan?

If you don’t know a single word of Japanese, frankly speaking, it’s not easy to navigate your way especially if you are going to the countryside. There are direction signboards in English but it gets lesser in countryside areas. So for a start, Tokyo would be really easy for a newbie to start but the train lines are so complicated, you would get confused by it. There are a total of 9 train lines just in Tokyo alone. But lucky for you, there are train and bus announcements in English.

In big cities, it is also relatively easy to find food as convenience stores (“conbini” in Japanese) like 7-11 are at every corner in the street. You will not die at least, but instead you can still eat something quite satisfying as their convenience stores offer a wide selection – from bento to noodles to sushi to cosmetics! You can also use their free WiFi and ATM machines and restrooms if you’re stranded somewhere for a long time. The conbini will SAVE you.

Also, in big cities, you have a higher chance of meeting Japanese service staff who can speak English when asked a question. So for a start, try going to big cities such as Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto or any other cities of that size. Sapporo for example, is a good choice too.

Preparation

Internet/ Wifi

Do you know that you can purchase a Japanese SIM card at Narita airport? They are sold at the vending machines at both Terminals 1 and 2.

sim card

Here is a snapshot of the vending machine services at Narita Airport. Source

It is also available at Haneda airport.

Alternatively, you can also purchase them at the JTB in your country if there is one available or you can purchase them online here. I found that they offer a good price for the SIM card! If you have more than one device that you wish to connect to, you might want to purchase a pocket wifi which allows you to more than one device for internet.

If you do not wish to do any of these, there are actually tons of shops, cafes and malls who offer free wifi!

Transport

Not sure if you have heard of Japan Rail Passes? They’re my favourite way of travelling all over Japan! I actually wrote an entire article on this for Hokkaido travel but you can essentially get the idea.

See here.

Accommodation

It really depends on how much your budget is. While I was backpacking, I normally don’t book my accommodation until the day before… but that’s because I like flexibility in my itinerary. I usually talk to people while I’m there or fellow travelers who will suggest me places to go and I slot them in last minute! But if you’re a first timer, it would be good to get it all sorted first before you head there.

Backpacker hostels are a cheaper way to travel, meet people and that was how I never really traveled alone on a solo trip. 😂 I only stayed once in a backpacker hostel in Tokyo because the rest of the time I was staying over at my friend’s house.

If you’re really down to little or no money, you can try couchsurfing which is a great way to see some expensive cities too. I personally know some friends who host people on couchsurfing and they seem to enjoy helping travellers get to know their cities.

Resources:

K’s House Hostel (I’ve stayed here once – Clean, friendly staff, good location.)

Jalan.net (Japanese link)

Couchsurfing

Tours

I read up a lot on the place i’m going and I will always try to book the tours first before heading there. Some places are really hard to go and they require taking certain highway buses which require booking as well. Sometimes I would map out an entire itinerary and then show it to my friends who are living there to ask if it’s possible. There are things that Google Maps can’t tell you.

I would also check out events that are special to this period of time. For example, winter festivals in Hokkaido. There are usually some event sites in English for such festivals taking place.

Budget for tours really varies. A hiking tour in Hokkaido (depending on season) could vary from 3100 yen to 5100 yen. A full day tour would be 11000 yen or so. I always set aside more than enough for this part because I never want to regret not experiencing anything than regret experiencing something!

I’m always on the lookout for the best tours so I scour the net of Japanese travel blogs to get the most authentic experience. I always prefer the more local experience. If you’re like me and would like to know some of these tours, follow my blog and you will get the list!

Food

I kinda work around my budget for food. I know that I love to eat but I don’t want to waste my money on food that is not the specialty of the place or not a well-known food of the area. I do a To-Eat list as well.

Budget wise, do a give-and-take. Sometimes I would save on my lunch and splurge on my dinner. For a backpacker, 3000 yen is more than enough to eat three fulfilling meals in Tokyo, if you set 1000 yen per meal. Food in Tokyo is relatively more expensive – a bowl of ramen would set you back at close to 1000 yen depending on the shop. There are usually quite a lot of local eateries that offer a one-coin lunch (meaning a lunch that can be paid in 1 coin) or lunch sets that are below 1000 yen. If not, the 7-Eleven offers you a lot of nice choices as well.  When i’m on the road during lunch hour, I definitely buy an eki-ben (short for ‘eki-bento’ which means boxed lunch for the eating in the train) with a yogurt drink.

In Tokyo station, there is a shop in the station that is just selling boxed lunches for the train! I had to walk around twice to make my choice!

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A snapshot of my eki-ben: There is sea urchin, salmon roe and grilled salmon with rice in this.

 

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Yum! The yellow stuff is fluffy egg. Ingredients are from Hokkaido!

This bento cost 1080 yen, slightly above 1000 yen because it contains fresh seafood! Meat varieties would cost a little lower.

I just recently did a 17-day trip in Japan to Tokyo, Hokkaido, Kobe, Kyoto, Kanazawa, Nagano, Shirakawago in under 1500 USD – inclusive of everything except flights and I managed to do 2 snowshoe tours, 1 canoeing tour, many days of sightseeing and yummy food everyday!

Questions? Ask me below!