Monday, November 2, 2015

Hokkaido Autumn Guide Sapporo: Mount Moiwa, Curb Market, Kani Honke and Ramen Yokocho!

This is one post of a multi-part series covering our Two weeks Tokyo & Hokkaido Travel Guide:
    ▫ Singapore Airlines Suites Class from Singapore to Tokyo
    ▫ Three Days in Tokyo: Off the Beaten Path
    ▫ Sapporo, Otaru and Cape Kamui: Scenic Self-Drive Guide
    ▫ Furano, Biei, Sounkyou and Asahikawa: Amazing Autumn Colours
    ▫ Jozankei, Noboribetsu and Hakodate: Unparalleled Beauty
    ▫ Scoot's ScootBiz Class from Tokyo to Singapore



We begin our Hokkaido in Autumn guide by briefly discussing how to travel from Tokyo to Sapporo. If you're a hardcore train fanatic (or a JR Pass Holder), the day trip involves a change of three different trains over a ten hour journey, and costs around ¥24,000 one way. The overnight train doesn't fare that much better: It's a 16-17 hour journey and at ¥35,000, costs even more!

So it makes much more sense (unless you hold a JR Pass, which negates the cost of the day train entirely) to just take a budget flight. There are dozens of flights per day served by JAL, ANA, Air Do, Skymark, Vanilla Air, Peach; and Jetstar Japan - to which we paid ¥18,220 for a return ticket inclusive of 25kg baggage allowance. Not too shabby!

Hokkaido Autumn Guide Narita Terminal 3
Do ignore the lack of any actual JetStar aircraft in this photo!

One interesting thing about flying domestic in Japan: Check-In/Baggage Drop closes just half an hour before scheduled flight departure!

Anyway the flight was uneventful; and upon landing we spend ¥1,580 for a JR ticket to Sapporo, followed by an onward Sapporo Subway ticket to the Odori station. From there it's a 5-minute walk to Richmond Hotel Sapporo Odori (¥11,660/night, without breakfast) - a fairly standard business hotel, meaning decent bed, decent room size, all amenities included (shampoo, soap, razor, pajamas, etc), and what seems like the exact same plastic prefabricated bathtub/toilet found in practically every other business hotel in the country.

Hokkaido Autumn Guide Sapporo Richmond Hotel Odori
Hokkaido Autumn Guide Sapporo Richmond Hotel Odori

Our bags safe and secure, it's time to grab some late lunch! Our destination: Ramen Yokocho (Ramen Alley), a small alley smack in the middle of the entertainment, nightlife (and red-light) district of Susukino. Here you'll find over a dozen different ramen shops, representing the best of the ubiquitous noodle soup that Sapporo has to offer.

Hokkaido Autumn Guide Sapporo Susukino Ramen Alley

Unfortunately we weren't in Sapporo long enough to give you the proper run-down as to which bowls are best; but suffice it to say that our randomly-chosen seafood-miso-butter-corn and mini cha-shuu shoyu ramens at Teshikaga Ramen (弟子屈ラーメン) didn't disappoint.

Hokkaido Autumn Guide Sapporo Susukino Teshikaga Ramen

With bodies warmed and our bellies full, what better way to start our Sapporo sightseeing ... with a trip up the nearby Mount Moiwa for a view of Sapporo itself? We're taking the Sapporo Streetcar, so head to either the Nishiyonchome or Susukino stops, board the tram, and get off at the Ropeway Entrance (ロープウェイ入口, 'ro-pu wei iriguchi') stop. Fare is ¥170 per trip regardless of distance.

Hokkaido Autumn Guide Sapporo Streetcar Map

The Ropeway Base station is almost a full kilometer away, uphill and on foot, so it's great that a complimentary shuttle bus is available nearby.

Hokkaido Autumn Guide Mount Moiwa Shuttle Bus

Access to the observation deck on the peak of the hill is reached courtesy of a cable car followed by a small funicular, and costs ¥1,700 for a return ticket. Throughout the trip a sweet young thing attendant with a melodic voice points out various different landmarks - in Japanese, unfortunately, with no English translations.

Hokkaido Autumn Guide Mount Moiwa Cable Car

The peak of the hill isn't that high up - only 531m above sea level - so there's only a 2-3°C temperature difference on the top. What the board doesn't tell you, however, is that it's really, really windy, so it feels a lot cooler than the temperature might suggest.

Hokkaido Autumn Guide Mount Moiwa Peak

Anyways, the observation deck overlooks the hills on one side, and the mountains on the other, and has some pretty interesting views over Hokkaido's biggest city.

Hokkaido Autumn Guide Mount Moiwa Sapporo
Hokkaido Autumn Guide Mount Moiwa Sapporo
Hokkaido Autumn Guide Mount Moiwa Sapporo

After sunset we take the funicular and the ropeway down to ground level, and head (by Streetcar/Tram) back to Susukino to get our chow on! Among other things, Hokkaido's quite famous for seafood fished out of the cold surrounding waters - crabs in particular. So naturally we head over to Kani Honke to partake of some of the best ズワイガニ ('Zuwaigani' i.e. Snow Crab), 毛がに ('Kegani' i.e. Hairy Crab), and タラバ ('Taraba' i.e. King Crab) that the city has to offer. If you're interested you can check out our full dinner review here.

Hokkaido Autumn Guide Kani Honke Crab Cuisine

With dinner done and dusted, we roam around Susukino for a bit to walk off the calories before retiring to the hotel for an early bedtime.

Hokkaido Autumn Guide Sapporo Susukino
Hokkaido Autumn Guide Sapporo Susukino



The early bird gets the worm; the early tourist gets a bowl of fresh seafood on a bed of fluffy rice. There are two morning markets in Sapporo: the Nijo Market (walking distance from Susukino) and the Curb Market (next to the Sapporo seafood wholesale market - a little further away). If you're pressed for time you probably won't be disappointed with the Nijo Market; but if your schedule allows we recommend travelling to the Curb Market instead.

Hokkaido Autumn Guide Sapporo Curb Market Nijo Market Map

The trip takes about half an hour and involves walking to the Odori Station (perhaps via the underground shopping alley Pole Town), riding the orange Tozai subway line for 5 stops (¥250), and a brisk 15-minute walk to the Market. Naming conventions seem to vary a bit: It's definitely 場外市場 (Jogai Ichiba) in Japanese, but it seems us English speaking folks can't quite decide whether to call it Curb Market or Crab Market.

Hokkaido Autumn Guide Sapporo Curb Market

Ahem. Anyways this street is flanked on both sides by a few dozen shops selling seafood, crabs, melons and other produce, both frozen and fresh. It's really enjoyable just walking around and browsing all the huge crabs on display (and marveling at how much they cost). Many of the shops actually also offer shipping services internationally to other East Asian countries (Taiwan, Hong Kong, etc).

Hokkaido Autumn Guide Sapporo Curb Market
Hokkaido Autumn Guide Sapporo Curb Market

Our actual goal though, is of course 海鮮丼 (kaisen don) breakfast available at the various shops around the market: glistening, delicious crab meat, ikura (salmon eggs), salmon and scallops with rice; superbly fresh and utterly delicious.

Again we're not in a position to recommend any particular shop: Just go by your instinct and pick one that appeals to you the most. What we do recommend, however, is to make scallops one of your ingredients of choice. There's a certain amazing sweetness to the flesh of fresh Hokkaido scallops that you can't quite get once it's been frozen and shipped to your home country.

Hokkaido Autumn Guide Sapporo Curb Market
Hokkaido Autumn Guide Sapporo Curb Market

After that mighty breakfast we spend the rest of the morning exploring the shopping meccas of Tanukikoji and Pole Town. Pole Town is an underground shopping alley running the distance between the Odori and Susukino subway stations, and is intersected by Tanukikoji (above ground); both are good for hours upon hours of shopping and/or just browsing.

Hokkaido Autumn Guide Sapporo Tanukikoji Map

Tanukikoji is perhaps a little more aesthetically pleasing, and is perhaps a little more varied - with fruit shops sitting besides restaurants, pachinko bars, UFO Catcher arcades and other variety stores ...

Hokkaido Autumn Guide Sapporo Tanukikoji

... whereas Pole Town, being underground, is that bit more claustrophobic. If you're there, we highly recommend stopping by Kinotoya Bake for some absolutely delightful Cheese Tart Souffle paired with creamy Hokkaido Soft Serve Ice Cream.

Hokkaido Autumn Guide Sapporo Kinotoya Bake

For our final lunch meal in Sapporo, we elected to try a local specialty that you'll hardly find anywhere else: Soup Curry! There are many establishments serving up this strange concoction of Soup and Curry; we chose Dominica for its unique, Caribbean-inspired decor.

Hokkaido Autumn Guide Dominica Soup Curry
Hokkaido Autumn Guide Dominica Soup Curry
Hokkaido Autumn Guide Dominica Soup Curry



With that, we conclude our guide for the Sapporo City. After lunch we'll head over to pick up our rental car and make a stop at Shiroi Koibito Park before heading off to Otaru and Cape Kamui. Click here to follow along in our next post!

Also, for a more focused write-up on food, do visit our eight foods that you totally must eat in Hokkaido guide!

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