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Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Hokkaido Autumn Road Trip 2016 (Part 6) - Kushiro

Kushiro is a port city, located on the east coast, facing the Pacific Ocean. It is also known as the fog city, with the summer being the foggiest and it even has a fog festival in late July each year. Here is an article about Kushiro's Fog Season

But I don't want to go there for fog. Luckily dense fog dissipated few days before I arrived and sadly, fog came back for a day during my coastal drive to Obihiro. Luckily it wasn't dense, just imagine days with some haze in Malaysia, not the serious type.

Kushiro is famous for seafood. This city is most famous for Pacific Saury (Sanma) and Hanasaki Crab. It's a huge fishing port with many fishing towns nearby.
So, I definitely came here for the seafood and I find it hard to find sufficient stomach space to eat within the 16 hours I was in the city.

Besides that, Kushiro is also the place to watch Japanese red crested cranes (The emblem of JAL), of which is on the endangered list. And if one loves nature a lot, and loves birdwatching, the Kushiro Marshland will be quite interesting.

The weather of Kushiro during our visit

We arrived in Kushiro at about 7pm. Checked in at Kushiro Castle Hotel and walked to the city centre for dinner.

Walking on Nusamai Bridge

This road seems quiet. On the right side is the bustling night area, with restaurants and entertainment centers.

We were hungry. When we arrived at the street I was looking for, I thought I found Aburiya. It was all in Japanese, and we couldn't read, but the menu looks same same. But this restaurant was not welcoming. Same thing happened like how it was in Kihachi Abashiri. We saw vacant counter seats, but they politely, apologetically showed us to the door after we said '2 persons'. Well... Ok ok.

Izakaya Aburiya くし炉あぶり家

Then we walked next door... Oh, it's Aburiya. Finally it's really Aburiya  Why I want to look for Aburiya? Since I couldn't get to eat Kinki the night before, I must get Kinki this time. Aburiya has a vast menu and it's a good bet if we want to have a feast. And they have an online menu in English, so I guess, we will be more welcomed.

Indeed. The cashier reception welcomed us in English and invited us to sit down after we kept our shoes in the shoe cupboard. It was a 10 minute wait before we got our seats. During that time of waiting, we saw parties of 5 to 7 being rejected. The restaurant was quite full.

We were brought to counter seats at the Robata section. The menu at the restaurant was only in Japanese but there were some pictures. I referred to their online English menu and ordered our food.

Here's what we had tonight. My husband wanted to order some grilled skewers, but I told him, we will be having other food later.

Kujira Sashimi 
It's a local specialty and frankly, some parts are too chewy to be swallowed. There isn't a special taste that makes it distinguishable. Overall, not too bad.

Senpoushi Oyster, Grilled
They look big compared to their shells. I'm not a big fan of oysters, and in Hokkaido, they are eaten grilled or lightly steamed. A bit fishy, but that's the way it is, right?

Sashimi of the day
 The reddish sprouts next to the wasabi, I wonder what are those, it's spicy.

Grilled Hamo (Black Eel)
Hamo isn't the same as Unagi. Hamo is black eel from the sea.
Somehow, I find that it tasted fried, and not grilled and didn't quite enjoy it that much.

Kujira Bacon
It's quite tasteless, unless eaten together with the dried fish flakes, I'm not too sure if those flakes are bonito. The white parts are a bit crunchy.

Robata Kinki
Kinki is an expensive fish. It is also known as Menme or Kichiji rockfish or Deep sea perch. It is most famous in Abashiri, where they are line caught and not with a net. I didn't get to eat that in Abashiri, so it was quite a regret, I'm not sure if this one we had is line caught or net caught.  But what I know is, it's more 2000yen cheaper than in Sapporo's Kitano Gurame, for about the same size.

This fish is actually larger than my palm, I put my palm to high up to take this picture.

After eating this famous fish, I look at my husband, and asked him... "What's so special about this fish?". He chuckled and said, "I thought I didn't know how to appreciate this, and now I know, I'm with you."

Frankly, I will prefer cod or a good wild salmon over Kinki. The texture is quite similar with grouper or wrasse, that type of fish, tropical reef fish. Or maybe I had it a bit too early in the season, when it's not that fatty yet? Or maybe we should take the one that is boiled instead?

Total food bill... Not as expensive as I anticipated because I didn't actually count the food I ordered. Lol. Now I realise that green tea is not complimentary in this restaurant. One serving at a whopping 280yen. The overall experience is ok. The food taste fine and I'm glad we came.

Location of Aburiya in Kushiro

Kushiro Zangi at Torimatsu  鳥松

Since we only had seafood at Aburiya, with no carbo,  our tummies still had ample space. We walked over to Torimatsu, just two blocks away.

Kushiro Zangi is fried chicken served with a special dipping sauce. It is not the same as chicken karaage, although it looks similar. It is said to be invented by Toriyoshi, and I read on Tabelog, Toriyoshi is famous for their boneless zangi, but sadly made with chicken breast. Some say Torimatsu is nicer, some say Toriyoshi is nicer... To us, anyone goes since it's our first time eating it.

We went in, ordered by pointing and asked for Ocha when she asked us what we wanted to drink. The lady pointed to her Thermal pot, we didn't know what she said, but we just nodded our head. Then we were served two cups of brownish tea that tasted like Chinese tea.

The chicken tasted like a good fried chicken, moist, well flavoured, crispy.... and when I dipped the chicken into the dipping sauce, it just hit me that it tasted like Inche Kabin. The sauce, that sauce! It's very very similar to Inche Kabin's dipping sauce, But the chicken is not the same laaaa. Just the sauce.

My husband, the fried chicken lover didn't enjoy it because he happened to eat all the breast parts and I happened to take the wing and the red meat parts, hahahaha! Too bad. I didn't choose as they were batter covered, how will I know, except the wing, of course. I thought we will be ordering a second portion, but he said no. OK lor...... Actually, I'm still not full.

Location of Torimatsu in Kushiro

Went around looking for ramen...but the famous Kawamura is having its off day. My husband has actually set his eye on the free deer curry rice supper provided by our hotel.

We walked back to the hotel... stopped for a while at the beautiful river infront of our hotel

crossing Nusamai Bridge again to get back to the hotel

Hotel Kushiro Castle, along Kushiro River

River bank with leisure area

Nice right....

I wished I had time to linger around the river, I want to get a beer and stroll along the river side. But the man wanted to go and have his deer curry.

And this is what he got! Felt cheated right? Hahahaha. Not even one tiny slice of venison.
Free one lor.... so.... can't complain.

After this hearty supper, we bathed and called it a night in the largest hotel room throughout our trip.

Kuidokoro SakeBanya 喰処 鮭番屋

Woke up a bit earlier and went out for a Robata breakfast. Robata isn't only for dinner in Kushiro, it is also available for breakfast. And some said Robata style cooking started in Kushiro. Hmm.. it's just BBQ to me.

meat skewers

fresh fish and air dried fish

fresh oysters

seafood rice bowl

The grilling is serviced. Drinks are self service, complimentary. We took our drinks, sat there and waited for our food.

We took two small bowls of donburi, one large air-dried Atka mackerel, 1 salmon belly, 1 fresh sanma, 1 brined sanma.

Both sanma tasted good, but we preferred the fresh one, it's juicier and more tasty.
Salmon was great. It's salmon season now.

But, sadly, I didn't like the Atka mackerel. It had a light ammonia taste in it. I do not know if that should be the way, as I didn't know how to ask in Japanese. I know it's air dried, so, it could be that way, and that's how it's appreciated? It actually smelled ok to me, but just tasted a bit weird. Anyway, we finished it up, without licking it clean. I was alright, no food poisoning happened.

Salmon belly cut small, and the air dried atka mackerel

The donburi here was alright, but quite a good steal with the generous ingredients.
Mine Scallops and Ikuro , 780yen

His, Prawns and Ikuro , 780yen too

Nothing is wasted and even the bones were grilled until crisp. No oil was used and the bones were fying in their own oil.

We were full and seriously burping fish breath. Quite disgusting, hahaha!

There are also dried seafood products here, and we bought none.

Location of Kuidokuro Sakebanya in Kushiro

Washo Market 和商市場

Washo Market is famous for its Katte Don, where one buys a bowl of rice, and goes around buying sashimi of choice.

Get your rice bowl and then go get sashimi to make a Kattedon.
seafood toppings for Kattedon
(click on the picture if you want to see the price clearly)

See the price for Chutoro and Otoro :)

I didn't want to do that, that's why we didn't come here for breakfast. I came here for shopping and CRABS!!!

Live crabs were everywhere! Horsehair (I mistyped 'hairy crab' on the pictures) crabs and so many Hanasaki crabs everywhere. I didn't see any live Red King Crabs. This is the place for Hanasaki crabs! I'll leave horsehair crab to another city as Kushiro is the only place where Hanasaki crab is caught in the whole of Japan.

We took a swimming one, and weighed it. It was 1kg. For 5000yen a kg, plus 8% GST, we were charged 5040 yen for that crab. The stall's cook poured out 3 ready cooked ones onto the counter to cool off. They were slightly bigger and calling for the same price. The lady asked me if I want these instead since it's hot and piping, saying "Same, same" and we won't need to wait. Thinking twice.... better take one that we saw as swimming. Won't be coming this far to eat a 'suspected' once frozen crab.

Here is a video of us buying crab. I don't know how to select crabs, haha.

As we waited for our crab, I went around to get some sashimi. This box of Otoro was only 850yen. One slice at 150yen. The huge prawn was 500yen. Otoro in Ipoh cost a bomb and I once saw it retailing at RM120 for a serving. So, having it at 850yen for 5 pieces is a steal!!

The wait for the crab was quite long, and finally the crab arrived, piping hot from the steamer! The sharp spines are still manageable.

Seafood prices in Kushiro is a lot more affordable than Sapporo. Looking at raw seafood prices here made my eyes go bonkers. Fish is so much cheaper and fresher than Malaysia, even when rates are exchanged. I felt like I want to move here and eat fish everyday.

If only I can cook these....

air dried fish

I wonder if the black skin one is Hamo. Fresh Saury is 180yen.

八角 or butahachi is a deep sea fish. Shellfish in Hokakido aren't cheap too.

Sea squirt

Kinki, so much cheaper in Kushiro than in Sapporo

lots of fish roe

After coming back and processing these photos, I realised that there are two different labels for crabs. It's either 活 or 根室產. The one that says 活 means 'live' and is more expensive. 根室產 means 'produce of Nemuro'. So I guess, that was caught and frozen in Nemuro, so maybe that's why it's so much cheaper. 

And I also realise that if for  活 crabs, swimming ones are heavier than cooked live crabs. The video I recorded, at 0:59 showed the live crabs (cooked and raw) side by side and the size greatly differs, and both are sold at 5000yen. So, you get more value with freshly cooked live crabs than to pick one that is still swimming. 

But then even with this picture below, the 活 crabs prices are quite confusing. How come that large crab on the left are sold at 3500yen and the ones on the right are 5000yen but smaller. All are labeled as 活 . Could it be due to male or female?

This picture below shows a horse hair crab, or Kegani. I don't know how much this weighs, but the ones here are way bigger than those sold at Chitose airport.

We also went around shopping for sea produce. Prices are better here than at Sapporo. Be it dried scallop snacks or dried kelp for making soup. Prices are far better. Imagine at 20-30% lower. But it's quite far from Sapporo.

Dried scallop seems to have gotten pricier compared to the prices I checked online prior to coming. It's either pricier than the price in Malaysia or comparable. So, I didn't buy it. But dried scallop snack is cheap. 100gm of dried scallop snack is retailing at 950yen only, and 500gm is 3600yen only! I saw in other places, 100gm of dried scallop snack was about 1250yen. My husband regretted buying just 500gm. Next time we will get more, but only if we are coming to Kushiro again!

10K yen = RM400... Cheaper or not?
The underground parking of this market is free. They said it's free for the first 2 hours, but we saw no boom gates. One is free to get in and get out

quite empty on a weekday

Location of Washo Market in Kushiro

Kushiro Fisherman Wharf's MOO ( 釧路フィッシャーマンズワーフ MOO )

We got back to our hotel to check out, and drove to MOO. It's not related to cows, lol. MOO stands for Marine Our Oasis. Actually, it's just across the bridge from our hotel, we could have just checked out and walk over, but that will take at least 15 minutes to walk there and 15 minutes to walk back. The sun was a bit hot, so we would rather save some time.

The night view of MOO and EGG. 

Moo Fisherman Wharf is not very very interesting. But it's a good place in Kushiro if you want to get a lot of souvenirs. And if you want to see a live swimming sturgeon. And it's the 'background' to get selfie in, that clearly shows that you are in Kushiro. This place was supposed to be in our itinerary for the day before, but because we arrived in Kushiro at 7pm, we couldn't make it to visit the souvenir shops, so I visited this place today instead.

Sturgeon, alone with some other small fishes

Pitiful crabs waiting for the moment that they will be picked

The main reason I came here, is for Mr Sanma Sakanasei's Sanma roll. It's a savoury grilled rice roll with a butterflied sanma on top. I regretted getting only 1 roll. It's so good! Mr Sanma has two outlets in Moo. The one on level one operates from 10am-7pm and the one on level 2 operates from 5pm to midnight.

There are restaurants on the upper level, and if one comes here at night, there are robata restaurants along the river.

We left this place right after we got some kelp snacks and our sanma rolls. Just a quick 20 minute stroll from parking to leaving.

Location of Kushiro Fisherman Wharf MOO in Kushiro

Shiranuka Koi Toi Beach.

Shiranuka is a fishing town in Kushiro Subprefecture. It's a town that is famous for chestnut octopus. There are a few places that I wanted to eat here but our tummies just can't take it anymore. LOL. Anyway, I listed those restaurants out just as back up.

I have never seen a black sand beach. And on Hokkaido's east coast, there is a 140km long strip of black sand beach, stretching from Kushiro, all the way down to Hiroo. There is one stretch that one can drive onto the beach! How interesting!

There is a Michi No Eki at Koi Toi Beach, and we stopped right there. There's a Lawson, toilet, restaurant, snack stands, souvenir shop, Convenient! So, we stopped here.

Special flavours available here. Want to taste some MERMAID?

the view, as we ate

Took out the sanma rice roll we bought, and added some fried octopus skewer, drinks, packaged cheesecake... and it's a picnic facing the Pacific Ocean.

Tako Zangi (Fried Octopus) and Tokachi Rare cheesecake
The octopus was like chewing rubber... Arrrghhh. LOL.

The rare cheesecake was not to my liking. Initially I wanted to buy home, as they could withstand room temperature, but after tasting one, I won't want to buy back. 

After eating, we walked for a short while on the black beach.

Here's a video we took when we were on Koi Toi Beach

Beach was black, sky was dark.. gloomy gloomy day. 
We walked to the road station to see what's there before we leave.

The Michi No Eki here is octopus and squid themed, as Shiranuka is famous for these two catches.
The road station has souvenirs, Japanese sweets and seafood for sale, either frozen or live!  There are so many crabs in this tank and a few were trying to escape!

Couldn't stay for long as we needed to head to Obihiro before it starts to rain. Forecast said, it will rain at about 6pm.

Location of Koi Toi Beach Road Station

Initially, our next destination was 10 minutes away... was to turn onto a beach road, and drive on the black sand beach. But my dear husband missed the junction and it was difficult to turn back. Then I noticed that some of the connecting wooden bridges on the beach road was barred, probably due to typhoon damage two weeks back. Luckily we didn't get on the beach road, if not, we will need to make a U turn. By the way, the weather wasn't too good, it was a bit foggy.

The coastal road was a long quiet drive but it was soooo pretty in many places. Totally pretty!
It would so awesome if it was a bright and sunny day, like when we drove from Lake Notoro to Cape Notoro.


Useful links
1. Shiranuka Tourism :
2. Kushiro : Information about Kushiro City and neighbouring towns within Kushiro Subprefecture
3. Kushiro : Covers information for Kushiro city, Kushiro Marsh and the lakes
4. Kushiro English Pamphlet :
5. Kushiro Tourism Association : Complete with Shopping and Restaurant Type List (Need to use Google Translate)
6. Fisherman Wharf MOO:
7. Washo Market :
8. Kushiro Fog Season

Hokkaido Early Autumn Road Trip 2016

1. Planning the trip - 9 things to think of
2. Driving in Hokkaido - 9 points to consider
3. Part 1 - Sapporo
4. Part 2 - Furano and Biei 
5. Part 3 - Asahikawa and Sounkyo
6. Part 4 - Abashiri
7. Part 5 - Teshikaga (Kussharo, Mashu, Mount Iou)
8. Part 6 - Kushiro
9. Part 7 - Obihiro and Tokachi Subprefecture
10. Part 8 - Yoichi and Otaru
11. Part 9 - Sapporo again and going home.
12. Hotels we stayed in Hokkaido
13. Shopping in Hokkaido
14. Things to Eat and Drink in Hokkaido


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