Monday, May 21, 2018

Day 6 in Hokkaido (Summer): Taking the Subway, Had King Crab, Prayed at a Shrine, Had Soup Curry, Took the Vintage Tram - Inaugural Trip to Japan!

As summer in Hokkaido wasn't that deadly compared to Singapore, we chose to walk along the street instead of taking the underground walkway to Odori subway station! See, the temperature that morning was only at a mild 22 degrees celcius!

Purchasing the subway ticket was pretty straightforward with an option for English at the vending machine; click here if you wish to know more about the subway / MRT system at Sapporo.

This was at 8.30 am and i often wish i can sleep in when i am overseas. However, the psychological need to make full use of my vacation time often result in insufficient rest. That's the reason why i decided to take it slow when i was in Bangkok recently and woke up significantly later on most days.

Stepping out of Nijiuyonken subway station and i saw the above 'slope' which was actually the Mt. Okura Ski Jump Stadium used for the 1972 Winter Olympics.

Pretty flowers along the street.

Arrival at Curb Market (札幌場外市場, Jōgai Ichiba) where we were going to have a seafood feast for breakfast! The only problem; there were so many stores to choose from and i had a hard time deciding!

In the midst of enjoying a warm ear of microwaved corn, i chanced upon a store where pieces of the luxury king crab were freely dispensed! I love samples and our decision was made; grilled and boiled king crab plus raw scallop sashimi at the 'kindhearted' store.

Want something less touristy? We found this sheltered and clean local market when we were on our way from Curb Market to the subway station.

Took the above picture as the Japanese lady directing traffic (both vehicular and pedestrian) was incredibly polite. That's the one thing lacking in Singapore; customer service and pride in our work, despite the occupation!

Clearly demarcated bicycle lane - Singapore has only recently started with the bicycle lanes and while it's a good start, i often got myself confused on which lane is for the bicycles.

Taking the subway and exiting at our next destination; maruyama koen station.

While there were numerous attractions in close proximity to the subway station. the most popular one might have been given the honor of having it being incorporated in the design of an exit passage for the station.

KFC - i often make it a point to try Kentucky Fried Chicken whenever i am in a new country and it's unfortunate i didn't have the time and tummy space to give face to Colonel Sanders when i was in Japan!

900 meters to our destination; in case you are wondering, we shall be visiting the maruyama zoo! I love animals; however, Alex is a real fanatic and whenever you see me blogging about a zoo in an overseas country, it's usually because he is with me.

Citizen clock; come to think about it, i don't recall seeing that too many citizen-branded products for sale in Singapore nowadays. The Japanese brand often advertised is Seiko, i think.

English cottage - housing a French restaurant, it commanded a rating of 4.1 on google review. For its menu and more photos, click here.

Okay, kind of lost here but google map to the rescue! It's important to have data when overseas as i super love the map function on my phone. According to the navigation on the google map, i am required to cut across.

Yes, cutting across Maruyama Park which is well known in Hokkaido as one of the best places to enjoy the blossoming sakura in May!

Actually, even without google map, the eye-catching tiles on the tar floor would help to direct you towards maruyama zoo.

Some pictures of the park; nice, quiet environment and extremely soothing in the cool weather. As i have always said, if Singapore can maintain a temperature of 15-20 degree celcius, a lot of locals would want to venture outdoors.

A stone plaque; although the characters were in readable Chinese, the sentencing was ancient and i couldn't quite piece them up.

Another one; something about the primeval forest at maruyama park.

Crows; the modern pest in cities given their intelligence! And boy were they huge! Strangely, i recalled it was black yet in the two photos, this crow appeared bluish.

Torii; the gateway towards Hokkaido Shrine. I was thinking of giving it a miss as the Japanese shrines i had visited in the past few days didn't excite me and i guess it would be better for me to spend my time somewhere else.

Very old tree, i think, with wrinkly bark! 

Trees and trees and trees. I was getting bored with so many trees surrounding me although according to google map, we should be reaching our destination soon.

Maruyama Zoo; the oldest zoo in Hokkaido that's open in 1951! Wait, for a zoo, it did seem extremely quiet. I brushed the thought off as Wednesdays could be a lull period for most attractions.

It's closed for zoo holiday!! What the heck is a zoo holiday?! I don't see the animals coming out on their day off!! :( Anyway, it's one of their scheduled fortnightly closures and you know what th date was? 9 August; Singapore's national day!

With a broken, disappointed heart, i stepped into the 7-11 convenience store for some snacks. It's connected to the zoo and i felt so near yet so far! Sigh.... can only blame myself for not taking note of their operating hours as i thought zoos would be open throughout the year; like the Singapore Zoo.

Enjoying my pack of Japanese snack from 7-11; trust me, i got like more than twenty packs to bring home and would have gotten more if not for the fact that the stores didn't keep extra stock. And you know? It cost less than S$2 a pack!

Parking rate at Maruyama Zoo; an eye popping 700 yen which translates to close to S$9.00 per entry! Gosh, i am so happy we didn't opt for a rented car in Sapporo

Decision time; should i take the right way and go back to the subway station or to the left where i might wish to check out the 90-meter high Mt. Okura Ski Jump Stadium?

Being the rebellious person i really am; i opted for the latter and at this moment, we were strolling past the Maruyama Baseball Stadium and Maruyama Field stadium.

We got curious with this postbox thingy and while i remember there's something similar to it on Singapore's expressways; the content wasn't what we expected.

Bags of black coal / stones; it suddenly dawned on me that it was supposed likely used in winter time to make the road less slippery for vehicles. p.s. i might be wrong here.

Maruyama Tennis Courts - by this time, we would have decided to give the Ski Jump Stadium a miss as it's another 1.2 kilometer of walk and as expected, Alex was giving an impression i knew very well; why the hell were we walking so much on holiday?!

I was happy since i am no sports fan and didn't understand a thing about skiing anyway! Furthermore, we got to this area where towering trees appeared to be planted so perfectly; as in to create a tree-lined path.

A picture of Alex.

Huge-ass recycling bins for the households; i am not sure if Singapore would go along this route although i feel that many people are trying their best to recycle now, as compared to a decade ago.

Tea-house by Rokkatei 六花亭; we didn't stop over as we finally made up our mind to check out a place as we did have plenty of time given that the zoo was closed.

Our visit to Hokkaido Shrine and i was glad to have made the trip as it was unlike the other Japanese shrines i had dropped by in my inaugural trip to Japan.

It was large and aside from learning how to cleanse my hands and mouth using the holy water, i was charmed by the Japanese amulets and was tempted to have my fortune 'read' using the convenient omikuji!

Memorial for an important person, i guess.

Cutting across maruyama park again; am i the only one to feel that the playground was quite old school and the ones in Singapore were like a ton more fun?! You may refer to the pictures in the post i had on Woodlands Waterfront seven years ago.

It started to rain! Thank god it wasn't that heavy.

A church? According to google map, it's an event venue to hold weddings. If you understand Japanese, you may check out the website here

Thirsty and shagged; we sought refuge at rokkatei and were blown away by the amazing strawberry shortcake and hell good strawberry milk!

On our way back to maruyama koen subway station and we couldn't resist going through the Aeon supermarket at maruyama class shopping mall; so many things to eat and we were still stuffed with the king crab earlier that morning!

I was in need of liquid though and even though water is a natural thirst quencher, my eyes couldn't stop looking at the hokkaido milk on display. Do you know that even for baking, some bakers would specially request for hokkaido milk?

118 yen for a small carton pack; so shiok and i can literally feel its rich milkiness flowing down my parched throat! Sigh... i should have drunk more in Hokkaido...

Tiny, glass decorative items for sale; it's in one the stores at maruyama class shopping mall.

At maruyama koen subway station; the starlight cafe caught my attention but i honestly couldn't stomach anything else. It was more urgent for me to get to a washroom to release the pressure of my bladder.

Spotted anything interesting?

Sink was so compact and i must say it would fit in just right in my house's washrooms. Furthermore, it requires less cleaning. Hm... shall keep this in mind when i renovate in the future!

Back to Sapporo station!

Majority of Singaporeans love to check out stores with crowds; the innate curiosity makes us determined to know why there were so many people.

Oh, rock candy which is pretty common in the little red dot.

Makeshift stores selling fruits and i only realized now that the melons were priced cheaply! Did i misread the labels?

On the street where the sky had started to drizzle again. Alright, not that of a problem for us as we decided to take a short rest back in UNIZO Inn!

An hour later, we hit the road again and even though it had stopped raining, the sky remained overcast and i wondered if we should proceed with our plan to visit the observatory at JR Tower.

UNIZO Inn is conveniently located between Sapporo station and Odori station; as you can see, it's 230 meters to Sapporo station and 280 meters to Odori station!

Flea market in the wide, 520-meter long underground passage.

Fortune counselor? Well, i already had my omikuji and didn't think i need extra guidance. Anyway, it did seem pretty popular with a queue outside on a lull Wednesday afternoon.

Purchased our train tickets, in advance, from Sapporo JR station to New Chitose airport station! Wouldn't want a repeat of what happened to us in Bali!

The bridge; i was wondering this must be a really big pedestrian bridge! Turned out on top were all the railway lines and if you wish to visit the Hokkaido university, it's just a short distance right across the bridge.

Commercial buildings all around and they generally all looked the same to me!

LeTAO popup store - as we already had our fill in its branch at Otaru's Sakaimachi street, we didn't see the point of stuffing ourselves again. And there's in fact a LeTAO store right here in Singapore!

A smoking room; frankly, for the benefit of my friends who couldn't do without a cigarette in their mouth, i thought this kind of setup is a win-win. Those who can't stand the stench of cigarettes would know to steer clear of the smoking room whereas the smokers can continue to enjoy their little pleasures in life.

Daimaru - i find department stores in Japan expensive! Maybe i should target their seasonal sales where things can be up to 90% off!

T38 - Tower Three Eight of the JR Tower observation deck! At only 173 meters tall, Alex and i pondered if it's worth the 720 yen entrance fee...

We eventually gave it a miss.

Things didn't go too smoothly for us on day six since some of the places i had indicated on my itinerary didn't materialize eventually. However, i don't believe in sticking to the itinerary as things would be too expected and it can result in boredom and sometimes; a failure to meet expectations.

Crowd again with the presence of policemen; i can't remember what it was although it might have been a case of illegal hawkers.

Sapporo logo!

This used to be a road and was converted to a pedestrian walkway in 2014; it's called Sapporo Kita 3-jo Plaza and leads to one of Hokkaido's most iconic, historical building.

Hokkaido Old Government Building; as we were not keen in checking out historical buildings (especially Alex, who reads to fall asleep), i didn't add this as part of the itinerary.

Filming by a local TV station for weather forecast, i think; reminded me of a Korean drama called Jealousy Incarnate! Strange that Singapore's television stations never appeared to report weather in an outdoor setting; it's always indoor and in front of the green screen.

Hm....... no idea what they were queuing for but it was related to the filming. Maybe the reporter / weather forecaster is famous?

Oooooooo automated carpark even though there were staff stationed on site. For the one in Singapore, at the end of Club Street, i think it's fully automated.

Neatly parked bicycles; in contrast to the messy situation we have in Singapore.

Police station; looked like it belongs in Hong Kong actually.

Cluster of flower beds along the pedestrian walkway.

Strolling past the beer garden at Odori Park; the obelisk in the background was a memorial to commemorate the three modern emperors of Japan; Meiji, Taisho and Showa.

Sapporo TV tower on the other side of Odori Park.

Hello Kitty on the road again!

The good thing about planning an itinerary is to have a clearer idea of what to have for breakfast, lunch, dinner and maybe supper. With the allure of bright signboard splattered with mouth-watering photographs, it can make us succumb to temptations which is honestly a double-edged sword as food can turn out to be better than expected.

However, we were on our way to Suage + Soup Curry; one of the top restaurants in Sapporo and one that we were looking forward too after experiencing a mind-blowing gastronomic curry lunch at Celan Curry!

A satisfying meal no doubt and it's time to try out the vintage tram at Sapporo known as Sapporo Streeetcar! This is something i know Jerald would enjoy given his love for trains, buses and trams.

Eventual destination - to check out the night view on top of Mt Moiwa! Thanks to the TV screen at the ticketing counter, we understood that we would not be able to see much as the weather wasn't in our favour! :(

Took the Mt Moiwa shuttle back to the tram station where we shopped to our heart's content at Tanukikoji Shopping Arcade (狸小路商业街)! p.s. the Don Quijote store had a basket of 1-yen coins that you can take if you are short of a maximum of 4 yen to pay your bill.

On our way back to UNIZO Inn and it started drizzling heavily! 

I should have noticed something was amiss when the famous view of susukino nightlife appeared in front of me. Why? Because i was walking the opposite direction! It didn't hit me until we continued for another 20-30 minutes and by then, i was suspecting that i might have taken the wrong way as the streets got quieter..... 

Alex was pretty drenched due to the rain and i had to make amend by pulling him into a convenience store and getting him a warm can of coffee. No, i didn't tell him i went the wrong way as he is real bad in directions. 

Instead, i just suggested taking the train back to Odori station which he agreed immediately. My suspicion told me he knew but he was too exhausted to complain! Back to Odori station at a little past 10pm and it's time to walk again back to UNIZO Inn


Detailed Postings for the Day

  1. Taking the Subway at Sapporo
  2. Curb Market (札幌場外市場, Jōgai Ichiba)
  3. Raw Corn That's Microwaved
  4. King Crab & Scallop Sashimi in Kyoei (株) 共栄水産 第一市場店
  5. Local Market (札中卸センター)
  6. Hokkaido Shrine
  7. Purification before Entering the Shrine
  8. Irresistibly Charming Japanese Amulets
  9. Omikuji - Traditional Japanese Fortune Telling
  10. Desserts at Rokkatei (Strawberry Shortcake and Strawberry Milk)
  11. Buying the JR Train Tickets to New Chitose Airport
  12. Suage + Soup Curry
  13. Vintage Tram (Streetcar) at Sapporo
  14. Taking the Mt Moiwa Shuttle

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