Dynasty Travel: 8D6N Colourful Hokkaido Tour, Day 6 (Part 1)

Sunday, 6 March 2016

I'm finally getting to the end of the Dynasty Travel Hokkaido tour series. Okay, yeah, sure, I took a hiatus but at least now, I'm again motivated to finish this up! I should stop repeating about that motivation though...
So anyway, Dynasty's proposed Day 6 and Day 7's itinerary looked like this on paper:
Day 6: Ishiya White Chocolate Factory --> Otaru --> Susukino Street + Ramen Yokochu
Day 7: Central Wholesale Market --> Hokkaido Shrine --> Odori Park --> Asahi Beer Factory --> Tokeidai --> Mitsui Factory Outlet
That's essentially
Day 6: Sapporo --> Otaru --> Sapporo
Dday 7: Sapporo
Hence our tour guide, Ms Reikko shook things up a little and we ended up with a Day 6 itinerary that looked like this:
Otaru (小樽市) --> Hokkaido Shrine --> Susukino Street + Ramen Yokochu
The foodie in me had been extremely excited about coming to Otaru even before the trip. Almost everyone who had been to Otaru before me had been telling me things to eat and buy. In just a bit, I'll let you know which are the ones that you CANNOT afford to miss.

Otaru is a small harbour city that makes for a pleasant day trip out of Sapporo city. It was once a major trade and fishing port that went obsolete with the arrival of modern dock facilities. The port was land-filled but a part of the old canal was however retained and beautifully restored ~ modern day Otaru Canal. The many old warehouses and old shipping offices that line the famous Otaru Canal are now transformed into shops, museums and restaurants.
Unfortunately, it was still blazing hot the day we were there. It was almost 28 degrees according to a huge digital thermometer. I couldn't get a shot of that thermometer though. It felt like every single tourist there decided to converge on that thermometer that day. But anyway, my point in highlighting the temperature in Hokkaido in July, please do bring along water, shades, brollies, etc. Basically I hope you'll make yourself more comfortable while strolling about in the hot sun if that's the period you're going.

In spite of the hot weather, the canal makes for a pleasant stroll and the old warehouses are really great photo points. We were there pretty early in the morning, so hawkers along the canal were only just arriving and setting up. I'd imagine that if we had been later, they would have provided some shopping and likely even more photo opportunities.

If you're seeking some novelty, there is also the option of canal boat rides. Again, as is with this particular tour, we didn't have the time for that.
Having said all that, mid-morning on a July weekday was probably not the best time to visit Otaru Canal. While doing my research, I read that there were festivals and events that were often held along the Otaru Canal. Plus, I can just imagine how much more romantic (and picture worthy) this place could be in winter when they have the Snow Light Path festival!
While strolling along, I spotted one of my favourite BBQ restaurant in Japan ~ Gyu Kaku. Yes, they are also available in Singapore, but the ones in Japan are just fantastic. Whenever my friends and I go to Japan, we would definitely make a stop at one of their many outlets.
Unfortunately, this time round, I could only afford to take a quick snapshot. My parents thought I was mad when I waved a sad goodbye to the building.

Sakaimachi Street (境町通り) is a short walking distance from Otaru Canal, and while touristy, was fun to spend some time in. Many of the old buildings have been converted to shops, cafes and museums. Even my father who's not the shopping sort, found it interesting to window-browse through the array of kitschy offerings, glassware, chopsticks, chocolates, etc. I believe you might even be able to try your hand at making your own glassware in some of the shops.
Even though we weren't given a lot of time to explore, in the short time we had, I can say that the variety of stuff found here is quite astounding. Shopaholics, you probably gotta hold on to your wallets or pass them to your non-shopaholic friends. If you're a shopaholic travelling with a group of shopaholics, then... all the best, wallets and cards.

Again, due to limited time, I could only get a snapshot of the famous Music Box museum at Sakaimachi Street. In fact, if I hadn't done my research prior the trip, I wouldn't even have known that I was standing in front of it! Neither would I have known that that clock outside the Music Box Museum was a steam clock that was a present from the city of Vancouver! Our dearest tour guide was concerned (again) about getting us somewhere else.
Sigh. I so wanted to get a decent picture of the clock and the museum. Even the amateur photographer in me could see the potential photo opportunities presented!
Right, if you're into photography, then please make sure you pop by Otaru. The old buildings are great subjects/focal points.

So instead of bringing us to the Music Box Museum (which I personally think would have been a much better option), we were being hurried into Ginnokane which was a confectionary shop for a piece of cake and a drink in a Hello Kitty cup.
There are better cakes around Otaru (I'll let you know where shortly) and honestly, if you're not a Hello Kitty fan, this was a waste of time in my opinion. I only remember this stop as "Thank God it's air-conditioned!" OK, we got to bring back the Hello Kitty cups which perhaps a Hello Kitty fan would appreciate. I later gave those cups away to a friend who's a fan of the kitty.
It's no surprise then that the minute we found out it was Own-Time-Own-Target (OTOT) after the Ginnokane stop, I literally dragged my parents out and headed off to fulfil my stomach's desires.
Those of you motivated by food, pay attention from this point on:
At Sakaimachi Street, there are several cafes to choose from. However, take it from me that you MUST get yourself to Le Tao for their amazing cheesecake. This was the first stop that I dragged my parents to (after Ginnokane).
In fact, I was so excited, I only remembered to get a picture of the cake when my parents grabbed my fork and reminded me. Yeah, I was that close to stabbing the cake already. I was also so excited, I didn't grab any pictures of the café or anything else.
My entire focus was that perfect piece of melt-in-your-mouth-awesomeness. The best cheesecake I've ever tasted in my life. And one that I'll gladly fly back all the way for. (Heh. I'm already talking to my friend about the possibility of a winter trip there!) I even asked about the possibility of bringing the cake back to Singapore. Unfortunately, the cake only has a shelf life of 6 hours so that's really impossible.

Second stop that you MUST make: Kitakaro Cafe (北果楼). Yup, I remembered to get pictures this round, but it wasn't long before I forgot about the camera again.
I remember wondering if the god of pastries or baking lived in Sakaimachi Street. First the to-die-for cheesecake, and now the lightest, freshest and most delicate tasting cream puff. It was a good thing I had my mom with me then. I had wanted to go back for a second portion of both the cake and the cream puff, but my mom put a stop to it as she was concerned about the expanding waistline.
hmmm... maybe not so good now that I'm writing this. I fly all the way there, a second portion shouldn't have been debated (yeah, I didn't lose that second portion without some fight). Besides, vacation calories don't count right?
Now, most tourists would probably have heard of Kitakaro Café and their cream puffs. So don't worry about not being able to find it there. It's not easy to miss it. Not when you see people exiting from its stores with the cream puffs and their signature bags.
However, fewer would have known that you can also get one of the best rice crackers here at their souvenir shop. They have several flavours available, e.g. scallop, lobster, seaweed, etc. Samples are also available for tasting so you can choose the ones you really like.
The crackers come in slim packs and also have a pretty short shelf life so please think before you buy. By that, I really mean you have got to count the number of days (to your return, till you get to give them away, that sort). I know of many people (especially on their maiden Japan trip) who don't realise that a lot of Japanese souvenir snacks have pretty short shelf lives.
But then again, these rice crackers from Kitakaro are so good, my friends and family finished them very quickly and expiry was not even an issue. I bought like 20 over packs home to give away and later even had friends asking if I still had more to give!

The third and last recommended stop: Rokkatei (六花亭), which is conveniently next to Kitakaro Café. This is more a souvenir stop point, but the snacks to buy back are worth the snaking queues.
What I have pictured above, are their white chocolate strawberries. It's not a personal favourite of mine, but I do know of some friends who love these. So you might as well have a go at it.
What all of us (and I really mean all: myself, family and friends) love though from Rokkatei, and which I don't have photos of (go figure?!) is their Marusei Butter and Rum biscuits. I might not have the photos, but they're famous enough you can google for pictures.
The Marusei Butter and Rum biscuits are another melt-in-your-mouth wonder. I had friends who made a special request to bring them back to Singapore. I made sure I had a personal box of the biscuits to bring home myself. My parents returned home and found that they were short on presents. I just growled at them when they attempted to take that personal box. It's that heavenly.
So there, my three recommendations if you ever hit up Otaru.
Well, given we only had an hour of OTOT, I had to hit the top three off my Otaru bucket list. If you're ever in the same circumstance as us, you'll know what to do/where to go.

Once we were done at Otaru Canal and Sakaimachi Street, we were shuffled off to lunch. Lunch happened to be near the Tenguyama ski resort. The ski slope was shrouded in green though instead of glistening white snow.

Of all my meals on this tour, this was unfortunately the worst. Perhaps it was because we just had awesome desserts and were stuffed from that. It might also be because the restaurant was warm, stuffy and had poor ventilation. Whichever, I just couldn't find the appetite for this meal. The fish was too dry and the soup surprisingly bland.
It was the one and only meal in this entire trip that I did not finish the food off the plate.
Tourist Information:
Otaru Canal
Address: 〒047-0007 Otaru, Minatomachi, Hokkaido Prefecture

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