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Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Hokkaido Autumn Road Trip 2016 (Part 8) - Yoichi and Otaru

Date: 16/9/2016 (forgot to record today's weather)

We woke up, went over to Times Car Rental and collected our car for the day.
This time, we no longer got an upgrade. It was a subcompact, Mazda Demio. Car collection time was much shorter as the center knew we just returned a car the day before, and the briefing time was really brief, well, it's protocol, they still had to do it.

We went to Sapporo Curb Market to have breakfast. I will write about it in the next post.

After an unsatisfactory breakfast, we went on our way to Yoichi

1. Yamamoto Sightseeing Orchard in Yoichi 山本観光果樹園

Yoichi is a fruit farming area in Hokkaido. Another area will be Niki. Niki and Yoichi are neighbours.
There are many fruit farms that are open to visitors and tourists.

During my visit to Hokkaido, peaches, prunes, plum, apples, pear and grapes are available for harvest. And not many farms will have all these fruits, except Yamamoto Sightseeing Orchard. If we came in Summer, then there will be many choices for cherry farms. But cherry is not in season now.

We reached Yamamoto Sightseeing Orchard at about 11am. Quite late as my husband made a wrong turning.
Walked to the reception counter and showed them discount coupons I printed from their website and bought our 'Autumn All You Can Eat + Takeaway 2kg' tickets.

Each paying visitor will be given a basket, plastic containers to keep fruit scraps and a knife. Then we went through a briefing on the do's and don'ts. Guests are allowed to eat any fruit we find in the farm. Fruits that are heavily fruiting can be taken out, but fruits at the end of season can only be eaten on site, if you happen to find them. During our visit, we are only allowed to bring out pear, apples, grapes and prunes. The others can only be eaten in the farm, as much as we like.

I was pretty excited as these fruit trees don't grow in where I came from. I've seen apple trees in Cameron Highlands, and it's nothing like what I will be able to see here.

Red apples

In Malaysia, store bought apples always tend to have bruises. And for the first time in my life, I'm looking at a beautiful apple that is free from any bruises, and the flesh is so white.

I thought blueberry season was over, but I was in for a surprise. There were still a lot of blueberries on the bushes. Some small some big, as we weren't the earliest to come in, the bigger ones might have been picked by other people, but still, we could find some larger than 1cm. They were sweet to me, but my husband says there are tart.  The blueberries can't be brought out, we ate them in the farm.
Luckily I brought some water, so we rinsed them before eating.

The amount we picked, I ate 80% of these.

During ticket purchase, I was told that peaches were off season.  I was sad because I wanted to come here for peaches. But, see!! There were still some peaches on the trees.

The peaches were big, but not as sweet as I hoped. Kind of bland... no good.

Nashi Pears
These nashi pears were delicious! We picked some to bring home. My husband told me to find the ones that didn't carry any tinge of green. So, I went looking around for the brownish ones. It wasn't a good idea as they over ripened by the time we got home.

The green big pear below looked so nice, we were told that this pear is not good. So we didn't pick any.


The prune trees were fruiting heavily, every tree we saw was full of fruits. I tried a few fruits from different trees, tried to find the darkest one. Sadly, they weren't nice to eat at all.

Left: Portland grapes ,  Right : Buffalo grapes

My husband was hoping to bring home lots of grapes. To our dissapointment, the grapes were sour! The only one that is sweet is Delaware. But one have to get the really ripe ones. He was a bit disappointed.

When we got back to Malaysia, he regretted not getting more of the nashi pears. Everybody said they were good and only my son liked the grapes, and he calls them jelly grapes because they slip off the skin.
Delaware grapes

I think we were quite in luck... we managed to eat quite a lot of fruits, except Cherries. Not bad eh!

We took out more than 4kg of fruit. There was 300gm excess. The lady who weighed our fruits asked us whether we want to eat the excess and bring out the 4kg,  or just pay the extra. My husband chose to pay. He didn't want to eat anymore.

Just before leaving I bought an apple pie... well.... it was nothing to shout about. Hokkaido has many places that sells apple pie, and I don't know if the others do taste better. Basically it wasn't buttery at all.

Map to Yamamoto Fruits Farm

We left Yoichi back to Otaru for lunch.

2. Old Mansions in Shukutsu Otaru

Otaru is a town built on herring fishing. It was in the olden days when the town prospered with large catches of herring until the collapse of the herring industry. There are two famous mansions in Otaru, which are related to the herring industry.

Quiet streets in Shukutsu

One of it is Old Aoyama Villa and the other will be Herring Mansion, of which is perched on the hill near our lunch restaurant. I marked both mansions on my Google but in the end, we only came to Herring Mansion.

Herring Mansion

We looked at the stairs leading to the mansion and shook our heads. Out thighs were still in pain from hiking Kurodake. The hike to Kurodake almost killed my vacation, see! 

Besides the Herring Mansion, there are other old houses around.

Looks like a herring related museum, but we didn't enter. They were closed by 3pm and it was already 3.15pm.

Shukutsu's coastline. It's very rocky.
Map to Herring Mansion

3. Minshuku Aotsuka Shokudou 民宿 青塚食堂

I found this place when I was looking around on Google Map, trying to see if there are any restaurants near the old herring mansions. For me, if I were to visit a city built on herring, I should come here and eat some herring. Just like I should eat seafood in Kushiro and meat in Tokachi.

It was around 2pm when we arrived. Most of the lunch crowd was about to leave.
It was this charcoal pit, with herring on spit that attracted me to come here for lunch.
It looks kind of sadist to have the fish impaled and cooked, LOL.

As you enter, you will see scallops, whelks and oysters on the grill. This restaurant is also famous for horse dung sea urchin, but it's not in season now, and it's usually availlable during summer.

We ordered one large spit roasted herring, of which they called Nishin in Japanese, one sashimi platter and two rice

It's my first time having herring and it is so bony! But delicious.

Moist and sweet flesh

but very bony!

The sashimi was so good! The best we had throughout our trip. The scallops were bouncy unlike all the others I had which was just soft. The octagonal fish 八角鱼 was displayed on the dish, head and tail intact,  was very nice as well. I saw this fish at Kushiro's Washo Market, but I never thought I will have a chance to try this. It had a nice texture that we liked.
Whelk sashimi was crunchy and fresh.

Didn't regret driving all the way here for this! It's quite far off from Otaru city, but because I thought I would also visit the herring mansions, of which in the end, we just 'visited' them from afar, LOL.

Cost for our lunch, around RM180
Location of Minshuku Aotsuka Shokudou

After a sumptuous lunch, we drove to Otaru Town and parked at parking lot that I selected due to its strategic location. It's near to the canal and near to Otaru Sakaimachi. There is a website for you to find out the locations of parking lots in Otaru.

I parked here

4. Kita No Ice Cream House 北のアイスクリーム屋さん

Walked to this very special ice cream house and along the way, we saw some ducks in the drain, or is it a stream with concrete fortified banks ?

Hokkaido is still full of nature everywhere.

Kita No Ice Cream House is situated on a small lane, and if one does not search for it, one might not bump into it by chance. My husband had no idea why I chose to come here and just chose his regular flavours, until I asked him, you don't want to try sake? Then only he looked at all the flavours carefully!

All the flavour labels:
Squid, Sea urchin, lemon pop, cream cheese
Green Tea , strawberry, white peach, chocolate,
Wine, Japanese sake, rose, beancurd,
Potato butter, Purple sweet potato, pumpkin,
Melon, vanilla and Fresh Caramel.

Awesome selection of flavours!

Price of different cones

So, this is what he got, one special flavour, one safe flavour. LOL. Sake and Chocolate. He said, there's not much sake taste in it.

Sake and Chocolate
 I on the other hand, the usual me, won't go for the usual flavours. I chose sea urchin and squid ink ice cream.
The sea urchin and squid don't taste fishy at all, actually there's no 'special' taste. It's just a novelty thing.
Squid Ink and Sea Urchin
Location of Kita No Ice Cream House

5. Otaru Canal and Sakaimachi

We ate our ice cream and walked towards the famous canal. The canal that everybody takes pictures with , and is instantly recognizable as Otaru. It's a small short canal, so short that Sungai Melaka seems more interesting. 

Nothing much except some old buildings by the side, with creepers on the walls and "Hey, I'm in Otaru." I just came here for the sake of coming. It's really nothing much. 

This is the tourist information center at the canal.

 Autumn colours starting in Otaru..... Sigh... Just starting, it's so late this year.

Actually, I spent more time looking into the river than standing there taking pictures of the short canal. And you know what I saw??? Salmon!!!!!

They were right infront of me and when I got my phone ready, they were swimming away... I chased after them and got a few shots of them.

I sooo wanted to see Salmon swimming naturally in the river and here I got it! I might not see a proper salmon run, with them swimming hard against the river current, jumping over waterfalls, but hey, at least there's 4 salmon in the river! Woohoooo!!! These babies were big....

Salmon. Enlarged from my phone shots

After that, we walked along Otaru's Sakaimachi 境町通りand admired the beautiful buildings. Compared to the other towns I went to, Otaru's buildings look a lot more interesting, maybe it's one of the older cities on this island, compared to the northern ones that I visited earlier.

Many people stopped to take pictures with the fancy looking shops. The shops in Otaru is very different from the buildings in other parts of Hokkaido that I went to.

old and new buildings in Sakaimachi

6. Otaru Le Tao

Le Tao is one of the famous bakeries of Hokkaido and it is based in Otaru. They are most well known for their Double Fromage. There are many Le Tao outlets in Otaru, and they each have something slightly different. We chose to drop by Le Tao Pathos.

Level 1 (Click on it to see a bigger picture)
Level 2 (Click on it to see a bigger picture)

Level one is retail and level 2 is a restaurant.

We went up, a waitress brought us to a table and we ordered one cake platter and one plated dessert. They both come with free coffee, of which, tasted not that good, just like a lot of the coffee in Hokkaido. I wonder why they all tasted artificial.

Our desserts arrived after around 10 minutes of waiting and they were so beautifully plated.

Double Fromage Cake Set: Chocolat Double, Double Fromage and Venezia Rendezvous.
1404 yen, cake and drink (RM56)
 I'm not a fan of chocolate desserts, but I actually prefer the Chocolate Double more than the original flavour. Maybe it's less sweet? Venezia Rendezvous was quite nice as well.

Top to bottom: Macaron, vanilla ice cream (was it?), cheese cake, cookie base, strawberry sauce ,
pistachio bits and fresh berries. 972yen , cake and drink (RM37)
My husband really enjoyed this one. The cookie although soaking in the strawberry sauce, didn't turn out soggy. Sweet and tangy... light and yet indulgent. I wonder if the pistaschio was there more for aesthetic reasons.

Location of Pathos Le Tao

7. Kamaei

Kamaei is a shop that specializes in fish products like fishcakes and the likes. Since we parked just next to this, we went in to get some savoury fish cakes to eat, after all the desserts we had.

We are in the land of surimi. Surimi is the fish paste that are used to make fishballs and all those imitation seafood products. So, trying the locally made, fresh fishcakes will be a great idea.

Frankly, it was rather sweet, too sweet for my liking, not fish sweet but sugar sweet, that type of sweet. I didn't quite like it much. My bread roll wasn't warm at all. It could be just me, as its the #2 restaurant in Otaru on Tripadvisor, with 90% of the ratings given by Japanese. And on Tabelog, the rating is above average at 3.54.

fishcake, Bread roll, and cheese fishcake.
Location of Kamaei Kamaboko (Fish cake)

We started driving back to Sapporo at 5.30pm as we promised to return our car at 7pm. With experience from the day before, we are anticipating some heavy traffic and indeed... we reached Susukino at 7.10pm, as we made a few wrong turns due to google map going crazy and in the end, we used the car's GPS of which is more reliable in the busy city center.

It was a tiring day and we rested for a while in the hotel, and our tummies were still filled with fish cakes. At 8.30pm, we walked out to have some Wagyu at a yakiniku restaurant not too far away.

To be continued.....Sapporo Again


Useful links

Otaru Sakaimichi :
Fruit Farms in Niki (near Yoichi) : (In Japanese, more comprehensive)
or this one:
Otaru Parking Lots :
Otaru Tourist Information:

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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