Dynasty Travels: 8D6N Colourful Hokkaido Tour, Day 6 (Part 2)

Sunday, 13 March 2016

Right, I'm typing this as I'm watching The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen on Fox. Hopefully, that means I won't be too distracted trying to tell you guys what's next on Day 6.

Day 6's itinerary:
Otaru --> Hokkaido Shrine --> Susukino Street + Ramen Yokochu

Anyway, right after lunch, we headed for the Hokkaido Shrine. I have to admit, I didn't find anything particularly exciting online prior the trip about Hokkaido Shrine, hence I wasn't terribly excited. Especially not after Otaru.

Hokkaido Shrine is located adjacent to Maruyama Park. If anything, I'll have to say that the place was really serene.

This big straw rope, also known as the 'Shime-nawa’ usually signifies that the ground thereafter is sacred, where deities lies. Hence, visitors would all have to 'purify' themselves.
So, in case you're wondering how to go about 'purifying' yourself, I've noted down the steps as they were explained to us:
  1. Take a ladle with your right hand.
  2. Ladle water and wet your left hand. Don’t do this above the water-vessel. Shift to the side so that the water doesn't fall back into the common pool. And don't finish up all the water you've ladled, there are still steps 3 to 6!
  3. Switch the ladle over to your left hand and wet your right hand.
  4. Now switch the ladle back to your right hand again and catch some water with the palm of your left.
  5. Take a "drink" with the water pooled in your palm. And when I use those inverted commas, I really mean that there is no need to swallow the water. Again, shift to the side and you can just spit it out gently. Do not touch ladle with your mouth.
  6. With the last of the water in your ladle (still in your right hand), wet your left hand again.
  7. That’s it!

Well, if you don't ever think that you would remember this (and still fear that you might look really silly), no worries. Just look around for any Japanese, and ask for help.

While at the shrine, you can also have your fortune told. For about 200 yen, you get to pick your fortune that's written on a slip of white paper, also known as Omikuji. If your fortune sucks, then just tie it up at the rack and walk away. That actually signifies that the bad luck has attached itself to the wood, instead of the bearer. However, if you received good fortune, keep it in your purse, wallet, bag and make sure you leave the place with it. Good luck is then supposed to have followed you.

We were also fortunate enough to have witnessed the priest giving his blessings to new cars. Apparently, the Japanese would drive their new cars to the shrine to be blessed to ensure that they would be safe on the roads.
Remember Rokkatei from my earlier Otaru post? Well, Rokkatei has a branch at the Hokkaido Shrine! If you ever do visit the Hokkaido Shrine, please do make sure you drop by the Rokkatei branch here. Not to buy more confectionery, but for the delicious red bean mochi! Visitors will be served with a cup of tea (that's free!) and you can purchase a piece of the red-bean mochi called Hogan-sama. It's freshly grilled on the spot and apparently only this branch of Rokkatei sells it!
Once we were done at the Hokkaido Shrine, we were then driven to the Sapporo Clock Tower. Unfortunately, this was just a quick photo-shop and there was no chance to explore the place.
A pity really. The Sapporo Clock Tower, also known as Tokeidai, is a pretty well-known symbol of Sapporo and actually houses a museum. Since I didn't get to explore, I really can't comment on whether it is worth a visit.
However, I actually got really irritated with it as a photo-stop. For one, there were very few spots to get proper pictures of the clock tower. And given the very few spots, there was a camera crew there who was not only in the way, but took up almost all available space! When we (including our tour guide in Japanese!) asked politely if they could just excuse themselves for a few minutes for us to grab pictures, they ignored us completely! As if we were transparent! Non-existent!
They could have just communicated to us if they were on schedule or something. But instead, they refused to even talk to us, and one even knocked us out of his way! I have to say, I was extremely stunned as that was my very first experience of Japanese rudeness and inhospitality! What irked me even more, was that shortly after all that, they packed up and left. Well, guys, you could have said something right?! By then, I was no longer in the mood to get any more pictures.
Anyway, the last stop of the day was Ramen Yokochu. Yes, I know the itinerary also says Susukino Street but that's another item of that day that irked me. Our Susukino Street was shown to us when we were on the tour bus, on the way back to the hotel at the end of the day. Like "by the way" this is Susukino Street.
Yeah, I know. No time and all that. But seriously, I really think it could have been better managed if time had been better managed and the agency didn't book a hotel that was extremely out of the way. If you've read my other posts, you'll have figured out that time was my main gripe in this entire trip.
So anyway, back to Ramen Yokochu which essentially means a small street with several ramen restautants.

It's pretty amazing that this alley has more than 10 ramen restaurants. Unfortunately, when we arrived, a lot of the restaurants were still not opened. However, as they agency had already pre-booked for us, we were ushered into one with this red sign board:
Given that small alley, it was no surprise then that the restaurant was small. Extremely small. The minute our tour group of 24 entered, it was full! And not just the normal full capacity sort. I felt like I was a sardine in a tin sweat can! Not the most pleasant of environment to partake a piping hot bowl of ramen.
Our tour guide, Ms Reikko, shared with us that the chef of this ramen restaurant had once been invited to a Singapore food fair too. Unfortunately, my parents and I very much preferred the Santouka ramen we had at the Asahikawa Ramen Village. Not sure if the sardine-sweat-tin had a part to play, but I couldn't finish my bowl of ramen. All I wanted to do was to leave the shop for cool air.
My one and only shot of Susukino Street taken as I was standing at the exit of the Ramen Yokochu. Still kind of apt, since (other than shopping and Pachinko parlours) Susukino is also known as a red-light entertainment district.
Thoughts from Day 6:
Is it any wonder if I say I would recommend that you make a day trip out to Otaru? I could easily lose myself in Otaru for the entire day. Honestly, I'm going back there one day and doing myself a favour by slowly savouring the treasure trove that Otaru is. Do not rush through Otaru.
If you're the sort of person who goes by "see one shrine, seen it all", then you might want to forgo Hokkaido Shrine. Hokkaido is not my virgin trip to Japan, and in my opinion, there are other shrines more majestic or beautiful. However, this one does evoke a sense of peace and serenity that I do not always find at other shrines.
As for Ramen Yokochu, visit only if you're into ramen or touristy stuff or you want to get an Instagram worthy pic (yeah, those walls would have been Instagram heaven). Otherwise, honestly, there's ramen everywhere in Hokkaido. And there's good ramen outlets everywhere in Hokkaido. You really don't have to specially make your way there.
Tourist Information:
Hokkaido Shrine
Address: 〒064-8505 Hokkaido Prefecture, Sapporo, Chuo Ward, Miyagaoka, 474
DID: +81 11-611-0261
Ramen Yokochu
Address: 〒064-0805 中央区南5条西3丁目 No.11グリーンビル

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