We found our hotel pretty easily after hopping off the bus. We opened the door to our room and we excited with what we saw, especially being that we had sore muscles from snowboarding the last two days. Could it be?! A massage chair!It was about 8pm by the time we dropped off our bags and went out searching for food. We stumbled into a random place that looked a little nicer – maybe we should have changed out of our Under Armour before heading out. The pizza and pasta that we shared didn’t disappoint. It was just the right amount to allow us to get back to the hotel and take care of the necessities for the rest of the night: do laundry in the sink and hang the clothes all over the room to dry (thanks, Megs!), look into things to do the next day, and put the massage chair to good use. The only things currently on our To Do List in Sapporo were the Sapporo Museum and Bier Garden and a fish market that Yoko recommended. Many of the other things we were finding on TripAdvisor and similar sites were museums (I should clarify… non-beer museums) and that’s not what we were looking for. I DID find a couple breweries and tap houses known for their wide selection of beers and whiskeys. Looks like tomorrow will be a beer day!
We left for the Nijo Fish Market around 10 or 11, with no real intentions other than to walk through and possibly get some sushi (since we didn’t get real sushi at the Tsujiki Fish Market in Tokyo). It was much less crowded here than the market in Tokyo, which was a pleasant surprise. One place caught our eyes and we went in to get a small lunch. We ordered king crab and tuna as our raw sushi options and had some crab miso soup on the side. After placing our order, I looked up to find the World Baseball Classic on the tv. It was Japan vs. the US. Looks like I’d be watching my boy Cutch with my meal.
Our soup had crab claws in them and we had no idea how to get the crab meat out. This was the first time we felt like foreigners, food-wise. As Megs was trying to jam the end of her chopsticks into the crab to get it out, I found our waitress and asked how we were SUPPOSED to do it. She brought back a different utensil, almost like a small spork where the handle end was jagged to pull out the meat. This was less embarrassing than the stabbing-with-chopsticks made method.From there, we walked to the Sapporo Beer Museum and Bier Garden, probably a mile and a half away. If it wasn’t for the cold, it would have been a fine walk. Sapporo was definitely the coldest place we had been and the temperature was in the mid-30s.
The museum was pretty neat. We learned how the first brewer went to Germany for 26 months when he was only 17 to learn how to brew beer, saw the evolution of their labels and their advertising artwork, and some other cool stuff about the facility. Who knew Sapporo is the only brewery in the world to grow, field, and use their own barley and hops?! Not us.
After the Beer Museum, we walked over to the Bier Garden, a much larger space where you can get drinks or food (including a few buffet options like seafood, meats, or vegetarian). We opted just for a few drinks. Megs placed her order and the waiter said “That’s fine but I’ll let you know that the Classic is only available here on the island of Hokkaido and the Limited Edition is only available here at the Bier Garden.” We adjusted our orders based on this newfound information.
Next up, a brewery called Beer Bar North Island. There were a few breweries in the general Sapporo area but this was really the only one that was within walking distance. We got there at 5 only to find out it didn’t open until 6. Time for some more food to hold us over until then.
Most places we passed were some sort of noodles. Although the noodle dishes we had had up to this point were delicious, we didn’t want to burn ourselves out on them. We found a place that offered a number of different skewers. The guy grilling the food in the front window must have made it look pretty appealing, and we went in.
The menu had a variety of different options. Some looked good and we orders them, like bacon and cheese. Others sounded disgusting, like turkey giblets. We didn’t order those.
It was past 6pm so we headed back to Beer Bar North Island. Getting in reminded me of Zoetrope because we turned off the street and into a small hallway of a building, went up a narrow staircase, and found a door at the end of the hallway. We opened the doors and saw a small room with about eight beers on tap, about six seats at the bar, and maybe six seats facing the wall on the opposite side of the room from the bar.
We posted up at the bar and ordered a couple beers, a brown ale for Megs and a pale ale spiced weizen for me. About 15 minutes later, a guy sat down next to me. He ordered his beer, leaned over to us and cheers’ed us, then did the same for the person to his right.
He started chatting us up at some point shortly thereafter. His name was Hiroki but he went by Hiro. He looked to be just a few years younger than us and told us how he had been living in Australia playing his dijirido (that long instrument that you heard a lot about during the World Cup in South Africa) on the streets. He moved back to Japan with his wife recently and was running a guest house, where he still plays his dijirido. Before he left, he grabbed his satchel, opened it up, and pulled out a can of beer. He offered it to me since we had been talking about different beers and America through our conversation. Oddly enough, it was an IPA from Caldera Brewing, a brewery in Ashland, Oregon. I thanked him and he left to bike the hour back to his guest house, which was in the mountains just outside Sapporo, so he could give the rest of the beers to the people staying there.
After we both enjoyed a Black Coriander beer, we also left. It was time to feed the beasts again. Hiro gave us a suggestion that we searched for but without GPS, we weren’t able to find it. We found a nice little ramen place (we didn’t hold out that long from ramen, after all) and ordered that. They had an option with a creamier broth with corn in it, something I hadn’t seen as an option yet, so I went with that. Megs ordered an option with garlic. Both were delicious. We’ve gone back and forth on whether the secret place in Ginza or this one was better. It was that good.
While we were eating, we realized a few things pertaining to ramen-eating. First, we eat it incredibly slow compared to the locals. I realized this when there was not one, but two people who sat down after us and left before us. And I’m not talking two as in a couple. I mean one sat down alone, ate, paid, left, another person flying solo sat down, ordered, ate, paid, and left. The second thing (which likely is a causation of the first) is that people make a lovely slurping noise while they’re eating the noodles. It’s a far cry from how Europeans eat their pasta. The Japanese pick up a pile of noodles, throw them in their mouth, and slurp as hard as they can to get the rest in. Sometimes, it’s two or three good slurps before the noodles are secured in their mouths. It almost reminded me of the way my dad slurps his soup… but multiplied by a power of ten.
It was getting late and we wanted to catch up on the normal things (sending texts, researching things to do in the next destination, etc) so we went back to our massage chair and called it a night.
The next day, we would be flying south to Osaka and Kyoto!