Aloha Hokkaido! Doko Ga?

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People always ask me what my favorite destination is, and I have to admit, Hokkaido is at the top of the list. The northernmost island of Japan seems to have it all, and in abundance.

If you want the big city, hang out in Sapporo. It’s not crazy like Tokyo, which is like New York; it’s more like Chicago. Most of the island, however, is sustainable, scenic and agricultural, so just about any ingredient you need for anything can be found here. If something ever happened to the world and they got cut off, the people of Hokkaido would survive … and they’d be surviving on some of the most delicious food on the planet.

There was no question, when Pali Kaaihue of Doko Ga TV asked me and some blogger friends to go with him to Hokkaido (courtesy of Hawaiian Airlines) to explore some spots off the beaten path (courtesy of the Hokkaido government and Love Hokkaido television), that I’d join the group. We shot some episodes, which you can see online and in-flight starting in December. The following blog posts will give you a peek at the places we visited and the foods we discovered, in addition to my solo adventure in Hakodate.

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At last! We landed in Sapporo at about 5 p.m., but it’s already fall, so the city starts getting dark early. We headed out to get our bearings and grab some dinner before the next few long days ahead. Here at Odori Park in front of the Sapporo TV Tower, from left: Anime/manga blogger Deb Aoki; Hana Hou! Japanese editor Yumi Ozaki; our cameraman Michael Kini (we call him Kini); and blogger Olena Heu.

First stop: Onimusha.

First stop: Onimusha.

My first meal upon landing in Japan is often ramen, and in Sapporo (if we can’t think of anyplace in particular), we’d probably stop at Ramen Alley. But Pali directed us to his favorite, Onimusha, which is right in Susukino.

Onimusha
4-4 Minami 5 Jo Nishi, Chuo-ku
1F Sanyo Bldg. 2-gokan, Sapporo 064-0805, Hokkaido
+81 11-521-0264

dsc06755Like most ramen restaurants, you order via tickets from a vending machine at the front. They offer an English menu, but the machine buttons are still in Japanese, so you’ll still need help. Click here for a larger image.

Buta-shio ramen, 800 yen, with corn added.

Buta-shio ramen, 800 yen, with corn added.

The salt-pork bone broth sounded interesting, but the selling point of the buta-shio was really their statement that the broth is full of collagen. Who doesn’t want nicer skin, right? This was rich and very filling. I’m glad I ordered corn to help balance the savoriness a little more.

Oni miso, 850 yen, with butter and corn added.

Oni miso, 850 yen, with butter and corn added.

This ramen is one of their most popular bowls. It has a rich miso broth and is very comforting. Deb ordered it with corn and butter, which I always recommend, especially in Sapporo.

Musha zyoyu, 850 yen.

Musha zyoyu, 850 yen.

The musha shoyu ramen, however, is what they claim is their specialty: a rich, soy sauce broth “with a refreshing aftertaste.” Seriously, though, in the cold of Sapporo, any of these is comforting. The price is right, too!

dsc06765Itadakimasu!

dsc06768 dsc06769Some fun restaurant signage on the way back to our apartment. I think the chicken eating its own ramen is a little disturbing!

The next day, we set out to check out the Otaru area, a port town close to Sapporo. You’ll see more of that in my next few blogs, but if you want to see all of the photos from this trip, click here.

If you watch Doko Ga TV (doko ga means “where is..”), you know that Pali films all over the country. This tour, however, was provided by Hawaiian Airlines and the Hokkaido government to tie into his being named Hokkaido’s “Smile Ambassador” from Hawaii as they work to promote a sister state relationship. Hawaiian Airlines offers direct flights from Hawaii to Sapporo every other day, so it’s pretty easy for us to hop over there and see what Hokkaido has to offer.

Up next: Tanaka Sake!