A week in Hokkaido

This was one of our most spontaneous trips yet. Apart from buying our air tickets, we hadn’t really given the trip much thought. Jeff had booked a week of hotel stay in Sapporo a couple months before, so we would not be scrambling to find a place to stay at, but it was literally only as we headed to the airport that we realized he had also made reservations mid-week at a nearby ski resort in Rusutsu.

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It all worked out in the end though. We managed to shorten our hotel reservations in Sapporo, and spent the couple days in the city wandering around, and mostly stuffing our faces. It may have been the mostly grey skies, but the architecture in Sapporo looks drab and indistinct to us. The super fresh seafood however was such a delight. Our favorite meal of the trip (went again right before we headed back to the airport) was in a little restaurant above the central seafood market North West of the city. There, we feasted on salmon roe so large and juicy that a bite into each burst forth cool savory flavours of the ocean. Uni freshly carved from their spiky shells and so unbelievingly sweet and creamy. Hairy crab cooked in sweet miso broth. Scallop sashimi that melted in our mouths. And sake. Glass after glass of that clear, refreshing off-sweet liquid that cleansed the palate.

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Then there were all the other tantalizing restaurants down the main drag of Susukino, the entertainment centre of the city, the equivalent of Orchard Road in Singapore I suppose, minus the dodgy girly bars. We popped into the narrow Ramen Alley for piping hot broth and chewy noodles three times, stopped by the takopaci stand for a late snack after a filling dinner, and picked up some steamy Chinese buns from a street vendor twice.

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Then it was off to the ski resort. Rusutsu Resort, South West of Hokkaido, doesn’t see as much traffic as Nieseko, which has been described as an Australian enclave, for better or worse. The village of Rusutsu however, is primarily made up of the Rusutsu Resort and the newly rebranded Westin tower, plus a four or five small restaurants set together by the side of the road right outside the main resort area. Besides skiing and eating, there is absolutely nothing else to do.

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Happily for us, that’s what we were there to do. We chose to go in March, which is right at the tail end of the ski season, so conditions were variable. It’d snowed the week before we arrived, and was forecast to snow after we left, but nothing at all the three days we were there. Couldn’t complain though. The temperatures were relatively balmy, about 5 – 8 degrees C, which meant for the most part soft creamy conditions. It felt really good to be back on the slopes again, feeling the burn in our thighs as we cut our way down hill. Missed our usual gang of ski buddies though!

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I’m glad we got three solid days of work out, because otherwise we were literally eating our way through Hokkaido. After leaving Rusutsu, we visited the town of Otaru for a day trip. The highlights of that town are the Russian inspired architecture, and the main historic Street crammed full of seafood restaurants, glass shops, and dessert confectioneries. By gosh, one of my absolute highlights of the entire trip was the camembert cream puffs of Kitakiro Patisserie. Heck, it’s the best cream puff I’ve ever had, and I think my mum’s durian cream puffs are the dream. Just thinking of that hit of gooey camembert mixed in with the smooth egg custard cream just makes my mouth water all over again and my knees go weak. Aaaahhhhhh. It’s utter bliss.

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But yes, for every four shops we walked past in Otaru, we stopped in one for a snack.

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Great trip in all, particularly for one in which we kind of made up as we went along. 🙂

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