Susan's Shanghai Blog - Week 80

Another month, another short trip to Japan! This time, we ventured North to Hokkaido island and Sapporo. Sapporo is the fourth-largest city in Japan by population (around 2 million people), and the largest city on Hokkaido island. Most people who recognize Sapporo will think of either the city that hosted the 1972 Winter Olympics, or Sapporo Beer. They also hold an annual Yuki Matsuri, or Snow Festival, which draws more than 2 million tourists from around the world.

We arrived in the New Chitose Airport and caught the airport express to the Sapporo Station. The trains were nice ... not quite TGV status, but better than a metro-type train.

Sapporo Station handles all of the JR trains, as well as the Sapporo subway. It is a huge complex that includes the JR Tower (the tallest building on Hokkaido island) as well as a commercial mall/complex call Paseo.

Another month, another short trip to Japan, another Monterey Hotel! We seem to like this hotel chain in Japan, which is fine because they tend to be good, clean hotels always located in great places exactly where we want to be! This is the Monterey Edelhof Hotel, which is 2 blocks north of the TV Tower and Odori Park, which is the main area in the downtown area, 2 blocks south of the train station, located within 2 or 3 blocks of the subways stations for all 3 lines ... you almost can't GET a better location! I think my only complaint was that there were no English-language stations on the TV so I couldn't watch CNN every day. Tom I think called that "a benefit". From our window, we got a view of the city but also the mountains.

Of course, a trip to Sapporo wouldn't be complete without a trip to the Sapporo Brewery. The brewery was founded in 1876 in Sapporo during the Meiji period (called the Kaitakushi Brewery) with the first brewmaster being trained in Germany. The Sapporo beer is now brewed in 5 different locations in Japan as well as in Canada (which is where most of the North American-sold Sapporo beer is brewed). The Sapporo Beer Museum is housed in a red-brick building which was originally a factory of the Sapporo Sugar Company (dating back to 1890). Most of the museum (well, basically all of it) was in Japanese so the museum itself wasn't all that interesting to us.

Not really great pictures, but Tom with the Sapporo beer star.

These are the older ads for Sapporo beer. It was interesting to see the change from the traditional Japanese-dressed ladies to the more westernized ones, including one with a golf club.

At the end, there was tasting available. You got one beer or a Sapporo soft drink along with a snack. Susan had the soft drink (you'all KNOW how much she LOVES beer (*NOT*) and Tom went with the beer, along with beer crackers and a little wheel of cheese.

For our first dinner, we went to Kani-Honke (the branch in Susukino), which is a restaurant chain that specializes in crab. Tom got a tree in the middle of the picture, but the restaurants all have this big crab over the door. Not sure if this is how the name came about, but Kani is crab (like sushi crab) and Honke is the main household of Japanese family ... so perhaps this is meant to be "Crab House". Inside the front door is a pool where they have different types and sizes of crabs. They serve snow crabs, hairy crabs, and king crabs, all from the seas close to Japan.

We got our own little room with a traditional japanese door (frames with paper). You can somewhat see how everybody has little rooms. Once in the room, it was a low table where you sat on pillows. One thing that was really good with this one was that there was space for your legs to hang down so we weren't required to sit on your legs. (sorry that the table picture is a little blurry).

To ensure we took in the full effect, Tom had a beer and I had a japanese wine (Yumi wine I think). It was quite nice .. sweet and fruity!

Then we started through the multiple courses. We had ordered one of their "set menus" that seemed to have a bunch of crab, since that was their speciality. We aren't really sure what all of the items are, since the menu was in Japanese and we just looking at the pictures when we ordered. But they all came with interesting plating. I like sushimi but I'm (personally) not a big fan of raw shellfish, like raw shrimp or raw crab (even raw shrimp sushi).

The hairy crab was different than I expected and we remembered why we normally don't get crab legs (too much work!). And we aren't really sure what the yellow stuff was (we think crab brains or guts).

This was a fried rice ball with a sauce, which was really yummy. Then came she soup and sushi. Desert was fruit in a sweet milk sauce.

Susukino is the entertainment section of Sapporo, although wikipedia calls it the "red-light" district. It was just south of our hotel, laying between Minami 4 and Minami 6 (North/South) and Nishi2 chome and Nishi 6 chome (East/West). It started out in the 1870's with a couple brothels, which were moved in the 1920's, and then restaurants, cafes, and movie theaters took their places in the area. The Susukino Snow Festival was held as a part of the Sapporo Snow Festival in 1983, and since that year, ice statues and other snow objects are lining up the street of the Susukino district every February.

Leaving the restaurant, we happened across a little street fair .. not sure if it is an every weekend thing or something special for the Beer Festival, but there were lots of drink stands including beer, wine, and liquors (like the one that said that Mojito Loves Bacardi).

We came across this lady singing and dancing. She seemed to have a little following in the audience.

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