From Bali, we stopped in Japan before heading home thanks to Alaska Airlines’ generous free stopover even on a one-way award flight. Most of us had previously been to Tokyo and Osaka, so we decided to go to Hokkaido. It wasn’t easy to get to Hokkaido, it involved 3 flight changes: Bali to Jakarta, Jakarta to Tokyo, and Tokyo to Sapporo. It was a full day in flight but flying in business from Jakarta to Tokyo (60K Alaska Airlines miles from Jakarta to Tokyo, Tokyo to Boston in business class was such a great deal, unfortunately, they had raised the price to 80K now) helped to get some good rest 😀 Japan Airlines’ business class from Jakarta to Tokyo.
Their amenity kit was a disappointment in a cheap-looking pull-string bag.
As the flight was at 9:55 PM, I fell asleep right after take-off. Jason ordered snack mid-flight: a delicious cup noodle and some appetizers.
I woke up 3 hours before landing and the main meal was served. Japan Airlines carefully arranged the presented each dishes like art unlike Cathay Pacific!
I watched the newest Doraemon movie 😀 The fried fish or chicken (oh boy I forgot) was too soggy. Their miso soup was good.
My favorite part of the meal was the dessert – a strawberry mousse.
After we landed in Sapporo CTS Airport, we took the train to Sapporo Station for ¥1,990 one way; it took around an hour. I don’t get why they build airports so far away when there is plenty of land closer to the city center. From Sapporo Station, we took a taxi to our hotel – Crowne Plaza Sapporo where we redeemed 20K IHG points per night for two nights. The taxi ride was less than 5 minutes and cost less than $5. All taxis take credit cards and you can also book on Uber.
We arrived at the hotel early in the morning so our rooms were not ready except for Peter’s. While checking in, I asked the receptionist about the closest hospital/clinic. Since it was a Sunday, most of the clinics were closed but the receptionist was super helpful and made a call. He explained the process of getting medical help in Japan…he called a number and inquired about the need – skin infection and English speaking. The call center put him on hold for a few minutes and came back with a clinic name and address! He wrote the name and address in Japanese so we could show it to the taxi driver. The hotel helped us call a taxi, explained where to go, and in 20 minutes we were there. The taxi ride was more expensive at $15 since it was a longer ride. The clinic was located on the 3rd floor, I matched up the name to the sign in the directory to confirm. Once we arrived at the clinic, the receptionist was already expecting us! She gave me a form to fill out with basic information like name, date of birth, and address. We waited another 10 minutes and we were called in to see the doctor!
The doctor speaks just enough English to communicate with us. He took a look at Jason’s legs and asked when it started and where. It started around 3 days ago after Jason had a massage in Bali. The doctor suspected it was from bug bites. He explained that he’d prescribe 7 days of antibiotics, antibiotic cream, and diarrhea pills (in case of side effects from the antibiotics), any questions? It was 2 minutes, the alarm went off, and the nurse came in. Woah it was super efficient! We waited 5 minutes or so for the receptionist to give us the prescriptions and the bill. Guess how much was this doctor’s visit? Less than $50 without insurance!!!
Me at the clinic:
The receptionist walked us down to the pharmacy and explained to the pharmacy staff that we’ll need a taxi to get back to the hotel. It was another 15-minute wait, we got a piece of paper with an image of each medication and instructions in English, got the medicines, and made the payments – once again, less than $50! The staff said “taxi coming”. Japanese hospitality was incredible, they arranged everything for us! It was unfortunate that Jason got a skin infection during the trip but very fortunate that he was in Japan and got medical help!
We took the taxi to Sapporo Station where we had lunch at a highly-rated conveyor belt sushi restaurant called Nemuro Hanamaru.
They mostly have raw fish sushi so not much choices for me….
They had a menu that you can order in case you don’t see something on the belt, I made an order for udon and it was a small and cold bowl…
Their sushi was super fresh and good, according to Jason. After lunch, we walked over to the Pokemon Center in a shopping mall linked to Sapporo Station in the adjacent building.
Right outside the store, there are lots of capsule toy machines! I wasn’t a capsule toy person until I saw those super cute Pokemon coin mini backpacks. I tried my luck and I was so lucky to get my favorite Pikachu on the first try!!!
The rest of the group did more shopping while Jason and I took a taxi back to our hotel so he could get rest. Our room was ready by then….the room was outdated but okay for 2 nights and centrally located.
There was a 7-Eleven next to the hotel and surrounding the hotel were multiple convenience stores. I walked over to check out the 7-Eleven for drinks. I heard that Hokkaido milk is a must-try! They have so many brands ahhh which one should I pick? I picked the one that said “Hokkaido milk” that’s not a 7-Elevan brand. It was rich in taste!
There was half an aisle filled with cup noodles! Jason asked me to get him a bowl of instant ramen since his legs were so painful that he could barely walk; he planned to stay in the hotel to help with healing the next day.
For dinner, I walked over to a nearby ramen restaurant (北海道らーめん奥原流 久楽 本店) and ordered take-out so Jason could have “fresh” ramen instead of instant noodles. The waitress at the restaurant did not speak any English nor there is an English menu but I was able to guess the type of ramen (spicy or non-spicy) and ordered. They carefully packaged in containers separating the noodles and the soup so the noodles wouldn’t get soggy. The ramen soup was flavorful but very thick so we couldn’t finish it. The gyoza was okay, but not as good as the ones that Jason’s aunt made.
I found that Hokkaido-style ramen soup was very thick and heavy.
The next morning, I walked over to 7-Eleven to get breakfast. They have steamed buns and onigiri (rice balls).
I also checked out the post office for Jason to get stamps to add to his collection. They didn’t have the Pokemon nor Doraemon stamps 🙁
It was time to head out while Jason stayed in the hotel. The rest of us took the taxi to the fish market – Nijo Market. Most of the stores were selling king crabs:
Also, the famous Furano melon! We didn’t have a chance to try it out the last time so we determined we needed to try it…it was a lot cheaper in Hokkaido and this time around due to the currency exchange rate. The melon was super juicy and very heavy in melon taste (think of a very ripe cantaloupe and better). I was glad that I had a chance to try it out this time and did not disappoint!
We picked a restaurant inside Nijo Market to have an early lunch – Donburi Chaya. Fresh seafood? Yes yes yes!
I was super thrilled that they have a full page on the menu for cooked/grilled seafood! My cooked seafood bowl was filled with crab meats, scallops, corn, and 3 big shrimps! We split the group into two tables so we didn’t have to wait for a large table to fit all of us, our fresh seafood lunch for 3 of us: $58.24!
The fish market was small so we didn’t stay for long and took a taxi/Uber to the clawing machines arcade. I am not into clawing machines but it was entertaining to watch our friends trying their luck/skills. They ended up with many cute stuffed animals 😀
We were hungry by 1 PM so we decided to head over to Ebisoba Ichigen Main Branch for their highly rated Hokkaido ramen. It wasn’t peak lunch time so the line wasn’t as bad – we waited half an hour. Their menu was very simple: I ordered the moderate flavor soup, shrimp & miso seasonings, and medium-cooked noodles.
The small ramen restaurant with limited seats and constantly there were people waiting in line.
The shrimp-heavy flavored soup was very thick and rich, I should’ve ordered the original instead of moderate, maybe that’ll be a little lighter. It was good but very heavy so I couldn’t finish the soup. They take cash only and it was 10570 yen (~$71) for 6 people, very affordable and filling!
I ordered gyoza, it was better than the ones I had last night but still not as good as Jason’s aunts 😉
Meanwhile, Jason had his instant ramen in the hotel and he said it was very good; it even has a piece of meat LOL.
More shopping after lunch…
Shop till dinner hahaha! Jason joined us for dinner but the Wagyu beef restaurant was fully booked so we were scrambling to find another place. Surprisingly, everywhere was so booked; it was a challenge to get seats for all 7 of us! We ended up splitting up again. Jason and I had dinner at Yakiniku Nikumasu, a grilled meat restaurant. We ordered a set menu which consisted of the following dishes:
The beef carpaccio was really good.
3 different types of marinated beef, although not Waygu but they were very good!
We got a black bib so we don’t stain our clothes.
Additionally, Jason ordered a separate order of Waygu beef sushi, it sounded very interesting that he wanted to try it out. It was good; full of beef taste and tender.
Continued with our set menu….
This piece was so big!
This was similar to the Korean bibimbap:
It was nearly 9 PM and the Creamia Ice Cream place closes at 9 so I ran out before finishing the set menu to try out Hokkaido’s famous ice cream. It was a stand inside a pharmacy across from Quijote inside the Tanukikoji Shopping Street, Jeffrey found it the night before by accident.
I ordered the original #1, OMG its texture was very smooth and creamy; it was thicker than gelato but less than Turkish Ice Cream. It tasted so milky; it reminded me of the white rabbit candy!
I tried to finish it as I was walking back to the restaurant and it was so cold LOL. I made it back for the dessert course and it was a lemon-flavored gelato. It was refreshing to balance out the meat we had but I much preferred the Creamia Ice Cream!
Dinner for both of us was $105, a very good deal for the amount and quality of meat we got! Believe it or not, Jason wasn’t full LOLLL. So, we decided to walk into the building to Ichiran, our favorite ramen chain in Japan! There was no line at all :O
Jason’s ramen “configuration”:
It was super delicious and this configuration was perfect for our taste buds! I took a bite since I was full so I didn’t order a bowl of ramen.
Instead, I ordered the almond green-tea pudding, there’s always room for more dessert 😉
We had Ichiran in New York City and paid almost 3x the price as in Sapporo. I don’t know if it was mentally or what, but we thought that Ichiran in Japan tasted much better!
Our short stay in Sapporo was very enjoyable even though we didn’t do any sightseeing since it wasn’t the right season; we were there in mid-October so it was too early for foliage/snow activities and too late for Hokkaido’s famous flower farms. In my opinion, Sapporo is a compact version of Tokyo and I love that because we can get to anywhere less than 10 minutes of a taxi ride so it was super affordable and time-saving to get to places by taxi; each ride was around $5-7. There was no crowd since it’s not as popular as Tokyo, Osaka, or Kyoto and off-season. It was much cheaper in Sapporo than Tokyo. So for those who have been to Tokyo, I recommend Sapporo!