It was only appropriate to re-watch Charlie and the Chocolate Factory on the flight. I was going to Hokkaidō, Home of Shiroi Koibito!
You see that logo at every turn and every corner.
It isn’t merely a factory ok? It’s like a castle.
Just like how Charlie Bucket loves his chocolates, my life isn’t complete without Shiroi Koibito, and perhaps a pilgrimage to the Park. There was no Willy Wonka by my side. And the Oompa-Loompas were substituted with cute Japanese girls who handed out a complimentary piece of that divine white chocolate biscuit to each visitor.
I don’t dream of inheriting the Park. Can I work there, perhaps? The quality control department needs someone with discerning taste buds like mine! Hahaha. And I promise to be good. I won’t turn into a giant blueberry or get thrown down the rubbish chute by intelligent squirrels.
Just this image alone makes me very very very excited.
Above pic from Wikipedia.
The people behind Shiroi Koibito are brilliant. You put an EXCLUSIVE stamp on your product instantly when you refuse to set up sales counters overseas. Is that why Bengawan Solo declined franchise opportunities despite an insane volume of pandan cakes sold annually?
I’m not a fan of beer, but I am (usually) fascinated with marketing tales. It’s rather interesting to look at the packaging decisions and advertising gimmicks done over the years.
Did you know that Sapporo had a branch right here? That was during the Japanese occupation, when we were renamed Syonan-to.
I didn’t find out why they had a single star in their logo. The bar at the museum was a perfect setting for some communist gathering, in my humble opinion.
I caved on the last day, after repeatedly seeing print and banner ads for a week.
I probably should have done some videos of the food, but I was too eager to eat. Blame those gluttony genes.
The first raw fish I ever had was probably salmon sashimi. Very soon, I learnt that salmon sashimi = cheap sashimi, and the Japanese actually eat salmon in other ways. Hello to the expensive TUNA BELLY SASHIMI.
I had been mumbling about the daily crab and salmon intake, when we were finally brought to this BBQ restaurant. KOBE BEEF!
Ah… The tenderness of the beef, the rich texture and taste. I finally understand why people on culinary television shows can gush with so much emotion.
It’s the best beef I ever had. I’m beginning to tear as I’m typing this.
The first railway line in Hokkaidō was built between Sapporo, its capital city, and Otaru, underlining the importance of this port city. Being a strategic port ourselves, we understand that economic progress and infrastructure development is typically faster, as compared to inland regions.
Larger ships were unable to sail in directly, so the famed Otaru Canal was created. Don’t imagine something magnificent. People who are used to seeing bigger things will call the Canal a mere longkang.
The city centre of Otaru is easy to navigate. Shops sell plenty of seafood, and souvenirs for the hordes of Japanese and Russian tourists that stream in every year.
This antique goes for ¥775,000 ¥5,775,000, approximately S$12,500 S$93,000, at the Music Box Museum. There are of course entry level items, some allowing you to choose the music you want. I was tempted to get a carousel music box, but figured it would soon be rendered to a dust collecting device in my room.
We visited a sake factory, where we learnt the history of sake making. The brown ball you see above is a signature décor at all sake producing places. I alighted from the coach after a quick nap and was too groggy to remember the details.
In another corner, you see members of the public coming in, armed with huge water containers. The “Water of Longevity” originates from “the compacted snow in the Daisetsu mountain range”. It’s used for sake brewing, and also made freely available to everyone.
Over at Hokkaido Jingu, we learnt the way to pray. Bow, clap twice, say whatever you want to say, and clap twice to finish. As I stood watching, a few tour mates noticed that I didn’t join in and asked if I am a Christian.
No, I’m not. I believe in anything and everything. The thing is, Hokkaidō is a whopping 5,934 kilometers away from Singapore, and there isn’t even a direct flight. It’ll be rather difficult to return to give thanks, should my wish(es) come true! Hahahaha. Really, that’s the only reason why I refrained from doing anything.
The 16-petal chrysanthemum, a symbol of the Japanese Emperor.
They provide English and Chinese translations. Very thoughtful. And I wonder if they will soon have a box for divination lots in Simplified Chinese to cater to the Mainland market.
I didn’t realize that sunflower planting is actually a form of crop rotation in Hokkaidō. If you had paid enough attention in secondary school Geography, you would know that it’s not advisable to grow the same thing in the same plot of land year after year. But you leave the soil empty, weeds might grow. The answer is sunflowers! They don’t deplete that much nutrients in the soil, and is a perfect way for the land to recover and be ready for farming next year.
Summer was coming to an end, and the chrysanthemums were fast withering. No lavender in sight, but you don’t leave Hokkaidō without buying something that’s lavender-related.
My mum got a lavender pillow. It’s supposed to make you sleep better. And no, I didn’t get this money ripping can of “Lavender Aroma”.
I was actually unfazed by the extraordinary price tags. That comes from watching enough televesion. The slice of honeydew I got off the rack was juicy enough, but was artificially sweet.
These should see some action in a couple of months.
That was really hilarious. The statement came from a young couple who tied the knot a day before departure. They are NOT listeners of my morning show (but know me somehow.) After my identity was verified, I went into hardsell mode.
Right, I gained two additional listeners from this trip. Hahaha. They are pictured below.
“Why are you using their ladder? Got so yao gwee or not?”
We were at this fruit farm, where we were free to pick any obscene number of cherries we could eat. I have never liked cherries, but oh, I must have devoured about 15 on the spot.
Mountainous geography and harsh winters- some of the reasons why the Japanese were reluctant to live in the northern part of their country. Development went ahead, with the assistance of the Americans in the 19th century, and people gradually migrated to this place with cool summers and sub zero winters. It got a little warm last week, which made me quite grouchy. But I would very much like to visit the place again when snow falls.
It took me a few seconds to verify that the correct drink was dispensed from the vending machine. ¥120 in most places. Going by my Personal Worldwide Coca-Cola Index, it’s rather steep.
I had salmon and crab every single day, sometimes twice a day. The reality is I don’t fancy crab that much.
Although I’d much prefer to be seated and served, I like buffets sometimes. It’s not because I can gorge myself to death, but rather the fact that I can go crazy with condiments and toppings. That’s my bowl of tofu with way too much bonito flakes, or katsuo.
I’ve read how the Japanese go gaga over a bowl of ramen. There are restaurants which are fully booked a year ahead, and there are some which implement wacky rules. There’s this ramen chef who installed individual cubicles, prohibiting customers from talking to one another. He explained that people would fully appreciate their food only when there are zero distractions.
Sapporo hosted the Winter Olympics in 1972. We popped by Okurayama Jump Stadium, and many of us were grateful that they had an escalator in lieu of a monster staircase.
(Pictures of the ski jump didn’t turn out too well.)
This is 昭和新山, literally a new mountain, nothing to do with Johor Bahru. Showashinzan, a live volcano was formed during an earthquake last century, making it one of the youngest mountains in the world. It is also the first and only privately owned volcano, as it emerged in the middle of some farmland. Eager to turn this into a tourist attraction, they had a bear ranch built at the foot of the mountain.
The cubs are really cute. But I got very disturbed as I walked further in.
These sunbathing bears have got accustomed to apple and cookie throwing visitors. You see them stretching their paws, asking for a quick snack. There were also vending machines in case people want to go on a feeding frenzy.
That’s so sick.
Apart from the pandas which feed on bamboo, and Winnie the Pooh who eats honey or something, bears (to me) are ferocious predators which attack humans. They rule the part of the land they live in, so there was something very perverse and humiliating in having those adult bears begging for food.
I said about a week ago that I didn’t like lakes. I eat my words. Lake Toya 洞爺湖 is beautiful.
There were 20 people in this group. Everyone was excessively punctual. Hahaha. Every single morning, we left the hotel five minutes before the scheduled departure time. No one was late, and no one ever dilly-dallied.
I enjoyed the casual and friendly interaction.
Me: Auntie! We’re going shopping! You want to go?
She had a sullen look when I walked over, but perked up instantly when I said the magic word.
Auntie: Shopping? Here so ulu, where got shopping?
(We were at a onsen resort, away from the city.)
Me: Got! 7-11 is right opposite! You wanna go with us?
Auntie: Chey! You don’t so naughty lah, come and disturb auntie.
This is the majestic Pacific Ocean. There were houses along the coast. Swim across and you’ll reach the United States.
I watched part of the National Day Parade wistfully from home. I could have rushed down to the Padang if I really wanted to, someone said. But I’ve been to that many NDPs and rehearsals and I know I’ll perspire like mad. Someone offered to bring me to a nearby gym so that I could shower before the 11.25pm flight, but I didn’t want to create so much trouble.
I missed Kit Chan’s performance because I was rushing for dinner. I knew someone (not related to the someone mentioned above) would post the clip on YouTube for me/us to gush over and over again. She was splendid, wasn’t she? And that skyline- worth a million bucks!
I slept for a grand total of 15 minutes on the flight, and busied the cabin crew the rest of the night with repeated requests for water and cola. What did I just say about creating trouble…
1- I have fond memories of the first time I went to Beijing. It was summer, and I jumped out of bed thinking I was late. It was only 4.30am. Perhaps if I migrate to the Northern hemisphere and do a morning show there, I wouldn’t be late ever again.
2- It was the first time I had to ask for a toothbrush on an overnight flight. It can’t be that the Japanese have a fetish for morning breath, right?
3- Erm, drink enough water to be hydrated on board?
We arrived at Narita on a bright and Sunny Tuesday.
En route to Haneda, we passed by what could one of the happiest places on Earth. I just read that Lucas Tse, son of Nicholas and Cecilia, spent his birthday in Disneyland.
What do you expect on a Pikachu Plane? Pokémon cartoons, of course.
No, they didn’t use that on me.
People were incredulous when I told them that I wasn’t doing free and easy. What? People won’t mob me one lah. They might not even know who I am.
I was lazy to plan. Apart from zero logistics headache, I thought it would be good to travel with a local guide. How many times have you left a place without learning much? A (competent) guide would fill you in with interesting information and enrich the whole experience!
Despite a lack of sleep, I was happy to enter the mall. But I was left sorely disappointed. The prices weren’t that low to begin with, and the Yen was relatively strong. (I heard it went down a little this week. Thanks huh.) I didn’t buy anything that day. In fact, I didn’t buy much the entire trip. Boo.
The balloonist obviously knew how to make money.
Over at the red light district later in the evening, we saw several young and lean boys with dramatically coiffured hair. They were walking up and down the streets, and yes, they were looking for business. While the gigolos were free to roam, their female counterparts were kept hidden out of sight.
It was a sheer coincidence that the cough syrup I bought from a supermarket was contained in a 100ml bottle.
I receive typhoon warnings every other trip. Enough said.
We stayed at five different hotels on the five nights in Hokkaido. I’m not going to give you the names of these place, since you won’t be covering so much distance on a free and easy trip, and you can’t choose hotels on (most) package tours. And yes, I’m rather lazy to dig through the briefing notes that was emailed to me before we left.
The bed was as comfortable as it looks. And the view outside? Full marks.
I don’t understand why people have to look into the mirror when they shower.
We stayed at two tatami hotels. There was plenty of space in the sleeping area, but we could do with a bigger washroom.
I was really tempted to stick my finger into my mouth and then poke a hole through the paper. Hahaha.
I was cheated of ¥100. It took 3 minutes to react after I inserted the coin, and it took another 4 minutes to load www.twitter.com. I didn’t get any updates on the typhoon because it took another 4 minutes to load www.channelnewsasia.com. I gave up before the 15 minute slot was up.
This was outside one of our hotels in Sapporo. A fellow passenger on the bus asked why the restaurant wasn’t open for breakfast. I wryly remarked, “It’s Geylang. It’s only appropriate that they only open at night.”
It was unbelievable, I tell you. I killed a couple of flies because they simply refused to fly away from me. In fact, I had time to actually search for a piece of tissue paper before crushing one of their kind to death. Then there was this fly which landed on my thigh when I was on the bus. There was enough time to open the window, lift my leg and flick it out. Does the pace of living have an impact on these pests as well?