Dynasty Travels: 8D6N Colourful Hokkaido Tour, Day 7 (Part 2)

Sunday, 17 April 2016

Here's the unfortunate thing. It would appear that as days (while on tour) went by, the number of photos that I took, got lesser and lesser. By the time I hit Day 7, let's just say I had major camera fatigue. Also, Day 7 was the one day in our entire Hokkaido trip where it rained. Gloomy skies and rain, hence the reluctance to also bring the camera out. Although, having said that, we were indoors for most of Day 7. Yup, it was just an excuse.
No matter what it was, the lack of photos obviously does not bode well for a blogger. We'll get by for the next couple of posts, but I seriously have got to remember to keep taking photos on the next trip!
Day 7's itinerary in reality:
Central Wholesale Market --> Ishiya White Chocolate Factory (白い恋人パーク) --> Asahi Beer Factory ( アサヒビール北海道工場) --> Mitsui Factory Outlet
I kind of feel that this next tourist stop on the itinerary won't need much introduction from me. Anyone who had visited Hokkaido (or any part of Japan I think) would have heard/bought or had friends request a box of the famous Shiroi Koibito chocolate cookies. Yup, it's that famous "two thin butter cookies with that layer of chocolate sandwiched in-between". The one that comes in a pale blue metal tin. This famous confectionery is not a particular favourite of mine or my family's, but I know of scores of friends and colleagues who are fans of the chocolate biscuit.
In fact, this particular confectionery is so famous, visiting the theme park would seem like a must in most tour group itineraries. Even those on free and easy tours would have made this one of their pit stops. So based on that, what you can expect at the Shiroi Koibito theme park (aka the Ishiya White Chocolate Factory)? Crowds. Crowds and crowds of tourists.
Having said that and as someone who absolutely hates crowds, I have to say, it was still pretty enjoyable. But don't say I didn't warn you.
At the entrance of the theme park, you will be presented with a "passport" as well as a token Shiroi Koibito cookie. I found the passport quite useless actually since everything was in Japanese, but the pictures inside would give you an idea what to expect while in the theme park.
Those of you who enjoy workshops would be glad to know that there is a cookie-making workshop at the Ishiya White Chocolate Factory. Ok, it was more like a cookie-decorating workshop. After you don their hygiene gear (you know, plastic aprons, hats, foot-wear and the works), they will shuffle you to the work tables where each individual has a Hokkaido-shaped cookie to decorate. You'll be given a box at the end to store your cookie and it'll even last the flight home! Ours came out of our luggage unscathed. But I suspect that's really because of my superior packing skills.
I also think this would be great as one of those parent-child bonding activities to do while on holiday. That is, if you're one for such workshops. While my parents and I participated, to be honest, I just wanted to be out of their hygiene gear asap, and instead tour the grounds and get to the food.
Yup, that's me and my parents. We prefer sights, landscapes and food.
While in the building, there are a lot of exhibits on various floors, including cake decorations, toys and even kitchen ware. Apparently the Meissen cup and saucer above was one of the most expensive exhibits around. The exhibits were kind of weird though. Apart from the cake decorations that could still fit into the overall theme, I didn't think that I'll find toys and gramophones around in a chocolate factory.
What did make sense to us, was this display of Japanese efficiency. My parents and I actually stood at the windows watching the industrious workers sort, pack and monitor the production of the famous confectionary. The only reason why I chased us off? Limited time and I wanted to get to the café, theme park grounds and souvenir shop.
Now the photo above was me being greedy and only remembering to snap a picture after a mouthful. Okay, it might have been a few mouthfuls. I honestly cannot remember. What I do remember was that the soft serve was awesome. Even in the cold, rainy weather.
And since I forgot to grab photos of the café and souvenir shop, let me just grab some pictures off the "passport" and share with you what you should be focusing on.
On the bottom right (picture above), you can actually get customised souvenirs. It's basically one of those "take your touristy photo and I'll print it on the container" thing. Of course it'll cost you though. So unless you're looking for a special photo keepsake, you can probably skip this. Especially if you are on a budget.

Those of you foodies, please note. The soft serve comes in 3 types, chocolate, white chocolate and a mixed version.
A tip: The white chocolate version is actually the same type that goes into the white chocolate cookies. You can go for the mixed if you want to try both. I always preferred the white chocolate in the cookies, I just went for the full white. No regrets.
What's less well-known (but I personally find yummier) is their canned chocolate drink. That's the one bottom of the photo above. There is a café at the top floor of the building that serves cakes and this special chocolate drink. If you have the time and opportunity, please do enjoy the chocolate drink. Let me know how the cakes fare though.
However, if you're like me, short on time and opportunities, grab a few cans of the chocolate drinks to go. This is seriously one of the best canned chocolate drink I've had. Rich and good. I've also seen it around some of the convenience stores in Hokkaido, but it doesn't always seem readily available. I couldn't get enough of them during my time there.
Another tip if you're shopping at the souvenir store. Many people just aim for the standard box of Shiroi Koibito cookies. First, if you have a tour guide, ask if they will be bringing you somewhere else where you might be able to get them cheaper. Some of the shopping streets have such stores and they are oftentimes cheaper. In addition, these stores carry other snacks/souvenirs and some even offer you boxes to pack them all up neatly. Especially if you buy quite a bit. That makes your subsequent luggage-packing a lot easier. If you don't have a tour guide, do a bit of online homework. It's not difficult to locate such stores.
However, what you should be purchasing at the souvenir shop at the Ishiya White Chocolate Factory are the non-standard items. That basically refers to anything else that is not the famous white chocolate/chocolate cookies that come in that pale blue tins. The stores that I mentioned in the paragraph above, tend to carry only the more well-known Japanese snacks. Makes sense for them to do so actually.
Of course, if you're not certain that you'll being able to hit those stores that I mentioned, then please by all means, make sure you get your share of the Shiroi Koibito cookies. I wouldn't want to be accused of making you lose your precious cargo of famous chocolate cookies.
What I am saying though is while at the souvenir shop, do take a look at the other items that are being offered by Ishiya. These are the ones that may not be readily available elsewhere. If you're not certain which ones are good (and honestly, I've forgotten which ones myself), get the assortment pack. I find the assortment pack a pretty good way to try almost everything they have to offer. Plus, they're pretty good to share around with the family and everyone gets to try everything as well!
Of course, by the time my parents and I finished our soft serves and purchased our Ishiya snacks, we had only a few minutes left to tour the grounds. Sigh. As usual. The lack of time.
What I can tell with you based on initial impressions amidst a gloomy, rainy weather, was that the kids would probably enjoy this place. There were train rides, a tree house and what looked like a playground. For the adults, there's a rose garden, which probably means Instagram-worthy pictures are likely aplenty.
Unfortunately, those were the only few photos I managed to grab before we were ushered back up on the tour bus.
Next stop, the Asahi Beer Factory. There are a few beer factories/distilleries that conduct tours, including Nikka and Suntory. It depends on what's available on the tour package or where and when you're headed if you're going on your own.
While at the Asahi Beer Factory, we were told that photos were not allowed in some parts. The tour itself was quite educational and brings you through the process of making those beers. In fact, it was then I learnt that hops was actually quite an important ingredient of the beer-making process! (And just a couple of weeks back, I read somewhere that there was a shortage in the hops harvests this year! Hopefully that doesn't affect the breweries!)
At the end of the tour, visitors will be treated to (up to) 3 glasses of Asahi beer. My dad had some and he found it pretty good, especially since he went for the best pour. However, as my mom (who's allergic) and I don't drink beer (I do take alcohol, just not beer), we were treated to their drink products. My mom opted for the apple juice which was quite sweet. For me, it was a no-brainer. I just asked for my all time favourite - a Calpis.

What fascinated me was that Asahi produces many other products, including one of my all time favourites - the Calpis series of drinks and candies! While I don't drink beer, whenever I am in Japan, I become a Calpis-aholic. Friends who travelled with me to Japan and my parents have since learnt to just buy me the Calpis drinks or the Japanese yogurt/yakult drinks whenever they are at the convenience stores.
There are even seasonal Calpis products that I always look out for whenever I head to Japan. I got the candy packet in the picture above at the Asahi Beer Factory itself. This was the hard candy version and had an additional cherry flavour as the seasonal flavour. While I couldn't find them on this particular Hokkaido trip, I actually prefer the Calpis gummies though. I usually buy the Calpis gummies whenever I hit the Daiso stores in Japan. Other things available at the Asahi Beer Factory include their beer jelly chocolate, beer cakes that come in pretty barrels, etc.
Well, if you ever head to Japan and happen to come across Calpis, just try one and let me know if you'll like it!

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