Monday, August 24, 2009

Daisetsuzan, Hokkaido

Mui Fong did most of the research for places of interest n Hokkaido before we set off. She insisted on visiting this National Park. She read that this place is most beautiful in Summer and coldest in winter.
We took a train from Furano to Asahikawa, the second largest city after Sapporo in Hokkaido. From there we hopped on to a bus at Asahikawa JR Station which took us for a scenic one and a half hour ride to Asahidate Station.

Daisetsuzan (big snow mountains) is the largest national park in Japan. This park comprises of a group of mountain ranges which includes Mt. Asahi, the tallest mountain in Hokkaido .

We took the ropeway to the Sugatami Station which cost 2800 yen per person.

Mt. Asahidake. A breathtakingly rugged beautiful mountain. It is the highest peak in this mountain range. The term 'dake' is used instead of 'san' as in Fujisan is for this very reason as it is not a 'lone' mountain. It takes about two days to hike to the summit. Apparently it is not a difficult climb but the weather can be very fickle and temperature is known to dip suddenly. Just a few days before we were there, there was a group of hikers who lost their way and by the time they were found, ten died. Weather in the mountain changes very quickly and one has to be very well prepared.

Evidence of volcanic activity.

Steam activitiy.

Closest we could go to these sulfurous vents called fumaroles.
A bell to warn of any unusual volcanic activity.

Parts of the 60 minutes circular trail that begins at the ropeway's upper station.

1st view point of the trail.

Beautiful alpine plant along the trail.

These alpine flora are small but so, so exquisitely vibrant in their colors and shapes.
Maybe they sensed the fleetingness of summer and want to make the most of it.

These amazing beauties are found peeking from every nook of the rocky range.

'Husband and wife' ponds

We encountered about five of these lovely pristine ponds along the 1.7 circular path.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Furano, Hokkaido

The place where we stayed in Furano for the first two nights is called Pension Furanui. Located at the foothill of the Kitanamine ski resort and gondola station (about 5 minutes walk). About 10 minutes taxi ride from Furano train station. Location was ideal but the rooms were spartan, just 2 beds with rather thin mattresses and it cost 6900 yen per person with no meals. We had to open the window in our room to air it as there was strong cigarette smell. I won't return to stay in this place but I love the area surrounding it and would certainly return to stay if ever get another chance to visit Hokkaido. The reason we chose to stayed in Furano is because of its proximity to two destination we wanted to visit.

There are abundance of lodgings to choose from.

Even back packers lodges.

This is the gondola station for the skiers in winter.

The ski tracks are at these hills behind the station.

It is a very picturesque area. Reminded me of how our Kinabalu National Park could have looked like if we had taken more care of the natural environment of the place when building infrastructures.

A small lavender farm 2 minutes walk from where we stayed.

Viewed from the terrace of another hotel.

Lavender bushes. It's everywhere here in Furano at this time of the year. These were found near a temple.

A small temple a stone throw away from Furanui.

A very quaint 'soto' cafe. Don't think they serve soto ayam though.

I am as crazy about flowers as I am about food. This is the first one I am posting but definitely not going to be the last. Hokkaido at this time (summer) is a heaven bursting with beautiful flowers... I have more flowers shots than food shots taken here in Hokkaido.

Second one and counting...

After the rain... it rained almost the whole time we were in Hokkaido. The rain we encountered here was very pleasant. It drizzled like fine mist, very lightly and very softly but continuously.

One more for the road... These were all taken in Furano near where we stayed.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Otaru, Hokkaido

Otaru is a harbour city about half hour train ride north-west of Sapporo. It reminds me of KK, our home town but of course, a much cleaner version. It has a beautiful canal lined by old warehouses.
This has now become one of my favorite cities in Japan which you will later find out why. On this Hokkaido trip, this place was the only destination we visited twice for a very specific purpose. So glad we didn't follow a tour group.

These buildings used to be warehouses but are converted into stylish cafes and restaurants. The canal was used by barges but now is just a scenic tourist attraction.

One of the many artists displaying and selling his version of this canal.

He featured every season of the canal.

These medieval looking couple blended in perfectly with the surrounding. They were plying some intricately hand-made bicycle models in wire.

And this young man who so obliging posed for me,

works one of these trishaws for tourists who don't like to walk.

Met this couple who travel in style. Note the sizes of the bikes. His and hers Harley's?

We found this place quite by accident. After walking around the city and thought we had seen enough we headed back to the station area. Right next to the left of station was a 100 yen shop and we thought we'd take a look. Then something else caught our attention a few meters away...
We saw this entrance to a market place and as you know, we can never walk away from any market place without getting a sniff of the food stuffs.

This was what awaited us in this small one lane market. We hit mother lode of seafood!!!!

These and...

These...We were like children let loose in a candy store when we saw these endless glorious seafood.

Dried scallops

Dried seaweed

Live oysters, clams and more...

Scallops! 11 pieces for 1000 yen, less than 100 yen each.

Every stall we passed offered these yummy tasting stations.

Then we spotted these swimming in huge tanks.

This is THE reason we came to Otaru twice. No, not because of Betty, it was that crustacean she was holding. Hokkaido famous king crab.

This one cost 5000 yen which translated to ~ Rm180 and worth every single sen/yen. They are best eaten plain boiled.

This has to be the best crab meat I have ever had in my entire life. Sweet with a touch of sea saltiness, succulent, firm and of a smooth texture. It was the dish I dreamed about the whole time when we were traveling around Hokkaido.
So, on the day we were to leave Sapporo for Tokyo, we headed here again for another feast. Knowing that we may not be back here again for a long long time we sampled almost everything there was on display.

This stall has only two dining tables.

This was what we had in this heavenly market beside the king crab...

Grilled scallop was very good but...

Sashimi scallop was even better. Every morsel was a fresh crunchy sweetness and a to-die-for taste of the sea...

Another two different crabs we tried. Both were good but nothing compares to the king crab in flavor and texture.

But I love these roe found in this red spiky crab.

A lesson in cracking open a crab. The shells of these are unlike those of our water. They are much thinner and softer, so much easier and faster to get to the meat.

Smoked fish marinated in wine.

Don't know the name of this fish but it was the best grilled fish ever. It had a texture very much like frog meat but creamier.

It looked like this before it was cooked. Its dorsal fins open out like wing.

Hubby saw this post in the making and decided this is THE place in Hokkaido he most wanted to visit...I have offered to be his tour guide!