Sunday, March 31, 2013


Re-connected with my friend, Midori. It had been about 6 years since the last time we got together.

Our schedules just never clicked.

We met up in Shukugawa. Again, the cherry blossoms were in bloom but it was another gloomy drizzly day.

Lunch was at a cafe called Bin.

In Japanese, bin means glass jar and this cafe happens to make their own jams and jellies.

Their lunch is made with organic veggies...850 yen.

Everything was delicious.

After lunch we had some coffee 270 yen...a Sulawesi Mamasa, rich, smooth and dark roasted.

Another great day of catching up, lots of chatting and laughter.

Bin (UPDATE: 2016 no longer in business)
5-26 Horaku-cho
Nishinomiya, Hyogo
Phone: 0798.20.3087
Hours: 12:00-23:00
Closed Tuesdays

Saturday, March 30, 2013

drizzly foodie thursday in kyoto

It's cherry blossom season here.

But, the weather hasn't been too cooperative. Still, that didn't stop Tamakikat and I from checking out the blooms in her area.

In fact, the day we met up it was drizzly off and on the WHOLE day.

So, all my photos from that day have a gloomy greyish background.

Just imagine a clear blue sky background...

Lunch was at the Doshisha University cafeteria.

I had the daily special...500 yen. Roast pork with a tomato curry gravy, a piece of fried eggplant, cole slaw and some foccacia.

The pork was a little fatty, but for 500 yen, I think it was a good deal, not to mention quite tasty.

Not only were the cherry blossoms in bloom, but the mokuren (magnolia) also.

Dessert was at a cafe called Mo-An (mow-ahn) at the top of Mount Yoshida.

After climbing all those stairs up, a coffee float was in order.

Lots of walking, lots of talking, lots of drizzles....all in all still a great day!

Thanks for a great day Tamakikat!

Hamac de Paradis: Kanbai-kan
Doshisha University
Phone: 075.251.0880

At the top of Mt Yoshida
Phone: 075.761.2100
Hours: 11:30-18:00
Closed Mondays

Friday, March 29, 2013


Our last day in Hakodate started off with the monkeys at the Tropical Garden (which was next door to our hotel) screaming from their hot springs.

It had also snowed overnight so everything else was blanketed in white.

Breakfast was buffet-style and there was quite an assortment of things. I had some rice porridge, salad and other items.

Luckily, Satoshi didn't go overboard with rice this time...

From our hotel, it was a 10 minute bus ride to the airport.

Since we had some time before our flight, we decided to have soft serve (our first on this trip) at Misuzu. To take-out their cones it would cost 300 yen but to eat-in it would cost 500 yen!

The waitress claimed that the take-out version had a lesser portion. She also said that even if we didn't want the jam on it, it would still cost 500 yen, so we went with blueberry and strawberry jam...

So we made it back, Osaka's cherry blossoms had started to bloom while we were gone, the weather was 10 degrees higher too. (actually when this post uploads we'd have hit another cold snap)

Some things we bought...Misuzu coffee caramels.

Misuzu instant coffee. Apparently, they were the first to bring coffee to Hokkaido in the 1930s.

Arare with Ohotsk sea salt and Hidaka Konbu Shoyu.

Flavored arare by Gotoken, a local western-style restaurant. Flavors include beef stew, corn potage & curry.

I hope you enjoyed our trip as much as we did.

I also gotta say "thank you" to the staff at the tourist information counter inside the JR Hakodate Station, they were always pleasant, patient and had loads of information.

It's Friday here, I hope you have a great weekend!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

hakodate day 4

Breakfast on the 4th day, was pretty impressive.

Salad, corn potage, yogurt with some blueberry jam, fruits, breads and grilled salmon, thick sliced bacon, a poached egg on stir-fried veggies and topped with homemade ketchup. There was also a bacon onion quiche.

Since we still had lots of time before check-out, we walked around the brick warehouse area which was turned into a shopping area.

Then after checking out, we headed to Hasegawa store to check out their yakitori bento.

Hasegawa store in business since 1978 was apparently the 1st convenience store in Japan to run 24 hours.

Their yakitori bento has nothing to do with chicken, apparently pork was more easily to come by back in the day, so their bento is topped with skewers of pork.

Choose the amount of rice you want, type of seasoning (tare (special shoyu sauce), shio (salt), shio tare (garlic salty sauce), umakara tare (extra tasty special shoyu sauce).

We chose the small (200 grams of rice) with the tare (special shoyu sauce). The sauce was a little sweet-salty, the pork very tender. Satoshi also ordered the shiso maki (pork wrapped with perilla) and beef tongue.

They have an eating area, so when our food was ready, we shared it. Satoshi, who doesn't really care much for pork, inhaled this.

Simple and delicious.

We then caught the tram to the Yachigashira area. Satoshi wanted to see the Hekketsu-hi, a monument dedicated to the fallen Tokugawa shogunate warriors.

It is up on the hillside near the Hakodate Hachimangu Shrine and Myoshin-ji Temple. Talk about trekking in the snow!

We hiked back down and caught the tram from Yachigashira to Yunokawa, which is the end of the line.

Yunokawa is an area with lots of hot springs.

We bought some yakidango (grilled dumplings) from Gingetsu.

After checking-in we ate the yakidango and cake donuts from Kin no kokoro and then went to relax in the hot springs.

Dinner was buffet-style at Tanta-an. Tanta-an is Ainu (language of the native people of Hokkaido) for lively. There was all sorts of things like crab, even curry.

Satoshi said that Hokkaido tends to cook their rice on the softer side. Their rice was a little too soft for my liking.

We also tried a soft drink called Citron, which is made with beet sugar. Nothing out of the ordinary, though it boasts that the flavor hasn't changed since 1950!

It was a great day, though our trip was coming to an end.

Hasegawa Store
23-5 Suehiro-cho
Hakodate, Hokkaido
Phone: 0138.24.0024

Yakidango Gingetsu
2-22-5 Yunokawa-cho
Hakodate, Hokkaido
Phone: 0138.57.6504
Call before going, days closed are not set

Imagine Resort
3-1-17 Yunokawa-cho
Hakodate, Hokkaido
Phone: 0138.57.9161

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

hakodate day 3

Day 3 was "warm". Instead of the minus temps, we were in single digits, which meant, the snow was melting and we were walking around in slush...

Breakfast was buffet-style, which Satoshi always goes overboard on. He ate 3 bowls of rice and lots of tsukemono...someone is supposed to be watching his salt intake...ahem!

After breakfast, we walked through the asaichi (morning market) and to the Mashu Maru, a ferry that linked Honshu to Hokkaido for 80 years.

Apparently, ships in Japan attach "maru" to the names of their ships because they thought of their ships as castles and to have a circle (the meaning of maru) is like having a barrier (like the moats for castles) around to protect it.

One of the interesting things was the blanket origami. Apparently, this art-form was done for the upper class passengers to commemorate special events like anniversaries, even the New Year.

The stewards would learn from the elder stewards how to fold the blankets. Unfortunately, this tradition was stopped in the 60's because it hindered the amount of time it took to prepare the rooms for the next passengers.

We then went to drop off our bags at the hotel we would be staying at called the Winning Hotel.

Down the street from this hotel is the 1st cement electric pole in Japan. It stands 10 meters (about 33 feet) tall.

I was intrigued by this old liquor store, which turned out to be a sweets shop called Kin no Kokoro.

It was here that we picked up some of their delicious cake donuts.

We then walked up the hill to check out the old British consulate.

I was amazed at how big these older buildings were. It was hard to believe that we were in Japan.

And then we came back down for lunch at California Baby, another local establishment. This place has a concoction called Cisco Rice...buttered rice, topped with meat sauce and 2 grilled frankfurters.

Really filling and a taste of Hakodate's B-kyu gurume.

I was bummed that their meat sauce was a store-bought type, but was happy that I got to try this.

Satoshi had their meat sauce spaghetti, and after eating 3 bowls of rice at breakfast, he was quite stuffed.

So we walked around a bit and saw the area where foreigners 1st stepped onto Hokkaido soil. And then we checked in at our hotel.

After putting our things away, we then headed to Tachikawa Cafe where we shared this tarte Normandie (apple tart) and had some coffee.

A common sight were these buildings that had Japanese style architecture on the bottom floor and Western style on the top floor.

I think it was about this time that the winds starting whipping rain and sleet at us and when my folding umbrella's shaft snapped like a twig.

We made it back to our hotel, a bit wind blown and lots wet.

It was still early for dinner, so we watched the Spring high school baseball tournament on television and took a little nap.

Dinner was at Ika ika tei.

We both had the isaribi set, which came with assorted sushi and miso soup which seemed to have ogo (red seaweed) in it.

I was bummed that my uni (sea urchin) had something crunchy in it...ew!

Despite the weather, it was another day of great sights and eats.

Kin no kokoro
16-13 Suehiro-cho
Hakodate, Hokkaido
Phone: 0138.27.3153
Closed Tuesdays

California Baby
23-15 Suehiro-cho
Hakodate, Hokkaido
Phone: 0138.22.0643

Tachikawa Cafe
15-15 Benten-cho
Hakodate, Hokkaido
Phone: 0138.22.0340
Closed Mondays

Ika ika tei
12-12 Toyokawa-cho Hakodate Kaisen Ichiba
Hakodate, Hokkaido
Phone: 0138.22.5656

Winning Hotel
22-11 Suehiro-cho
Hakodate, Hokkaido
Phone: 0138.26.1111

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

hakodate day 2

The next morning, we awoke to what seemed to be a clear day, though that wouldn't last very long...breakfast was at the Asaichi (morning market) at a shop called Yosakoi.

Choose three toppings for your donburi and with it comes some ika somen (thinly sliced squid), some pickles, ika shiokara (fermented squid) and miso soup.

I chose crab, amaebi (northern shrimp), and salmon, while Satoshi chose ikura (salmon roe), scallops and maguro (tuna).

We agreed this was WAY better than our dinner the night before.

After breakfast, we went to the Goryokaku area.

Goryokaku literally means 5-sided fort. This area was built in 1864 and built in this shape to protect against attacks on the Magistrate office.

The tower was built in 1964 and renovated in 2006. It looks out over the fort area and city.

Here is what the area is supposed to look like.

And, around the perimeter are 1600 cherry trees, you can imagine how beautiful it must be all pink! Too bad we would miss their cherry blossom season (which is in May).

Satoshi was interested in all the history behind this area, so he took his time looking at the exhibits.

While I waited for him, I had some coffee and this delicious black sesame gelato from Milkissimo.

We then went to check out the Magistrate's office located in the middle of the park which was re-opened in 2010.

The site is approximately 1000 square meters (about 10,000 square feet) and involved the work of "miya-daiku" (carpenters who are trained to do work on shrines and temples) from around Japan.

Lunch was at a tiny cafe called Peaberry on the perimeter of park.

I ordered their beef stew topped with bread. Usually you find something like this topped with puff pastry.

The stew was demi-glace based. I'm glad they used bread and not puff pastry because it was fun dipping it into the stew.

Satoshi went with their homemade pizza.

The crust was thin and there was lots of veggies and sausage on it.

I'm glad we found this place, it was nice to get out of the snow for a bit and a nice way to warm up.

We then went to find Gekko-kamen (Moonlight Mask), a Japanese superhero from the 60's. Its creator was from Hakodate, so there is a statue in a park in the Matsukaze-cho area.

After going back to the hotel to freshen up, we headed to the Motomachi area. In this area, there are many Western style churches, from many different religions like this Catholic church.

The city reminded me of Kobe, with its hilly landscape, though Hakodate was a bit more steep.

Alongside the streets, you could see these things emitting steam, it is a heating system so that the roads don't freeze over.

I think by having these heating systems, they save on having someone come and shovel the roads.

Dinner was at Hakodate Beer Hall, which was similar to Otaru Beer.

I was surprised to see soft shell crab salad on their menu, actually I haven't seen this anywhere I've been in Japan. Besides the salad, we also had this sushi (pictured above), some scallops in a ankake (thick) sauce and spicy shrimp.

Their beer, food and service was good.

Since the weather looked like it was going to hold up, we checked out the lookout from Mt Hakodate.

We were glad we did because it was clear.

I shot a few videos here and here. I also forgot to add a link to the short video I shot of the trams. Check them out if you wish.

Another long day, but we were happy we got to see and eat a lot.

10-9 Wakamatsu-cho
Hakodate, Hokkaido
Phone: 0138.23.3751
Hours: 5:00-14:00

43-9 Goryokaku-cho Goryokaku Tower 2F
Hakodate, Hokkaido
Phone: 0138.30.3369

27-8 Goryokaku-cho
Hakodate, Hokkaido
Phone: 0138.54.0920
Closed Mondays

Hakodate Beer Hall
14-12 Suehiro-cho Hakodate History Plaza
Hakodate, Hokkaido
Phone: 0138.27.1010

Monday, March 25, 2013

hakodate day 1

After Continental Airlines merged with United, we found out that I had enough miles for 2 round-trip tickets to a domestic destination.

Satoshi immediately decided that we were going to Hakodate.

So we checked availability and booked our flights to Hakodate.

It is about an hour and a half from Kansai to Hakodate.

Hakodate is quite spread out, so to get around the first day, we used an all-day bus pass.

Near the Hakodate airport is a Trappist convent which we went to check out.

Unfortunately, they don't allow you to tour inside the buildings, but there is a photo gallery which you can see what kind of lifestyle the nuns lead.

They also make a lot of cookies and madeleines with butter that they make. These were delicious.

It was still early to check-in, so we left our bags with the front desk of the Loisir Hotel and went to look for lunch.

We checked out Lucky Pierrot, a local fast food chain.

I tried their number 1 seller, Chinese Chicken Burger...the chicken is deep fried then dipped in a sweet-salty sauce. It reminded me of something I had in Hawaii before...delicious.

Satoshi had their hotate (scallop) burger.

I was impressed by their buns! lots of sesame seeds on it.

Lucky potato are their fries topped with demi-glace sauce, white sauce and cheese...seriously bad for you but very delicious.

After re-fueling, we went to check out the West Area and saw a cemetery for foreigners. Hakodate was one of the first foreign trading ports, because of this, there was also a foreign community here.

There were also some Japanese historical sights that Satoshi was interested in checking out.

We also saw the outside of the old Russian consulate. Apparently the inside has not been refurbished, so they only let you view it from the outside.

Since it was a holiday, the buses weren't running too frequently, so we walked to the Jyujigai area. Satoshi wanted to check out the Sakamoto Ryoma museum.

This tower is called a "switch tower" and was used to control the trams.

I was fascinated by the low-rail trams that they had, they are celebrating 100 years of operation, impressive!

This particular one had the character, Domo-kun on it.

Dinner was at a little bar next to our hotel called Gaya. We weren't too impressed with their frozen fish dishes, though this grilled squid was quite tasty.

By the time we finished dinner, there was a small blizzard making for walking around after dinner a bit difficult.

Dessert was this meru-cheese, a fluffy cheesecake by Petit Merveille, a local sweet shop which had a small counter in our hotel.

It was quite a long day, but we got to see quite a bit despite the weather.

Lucky Pierrot
17-12 Wakamatsu-cho
Hakodate, Hokkaido
Phone: 0138.26.8801

Petit Merveille (UPDATE: 2016 this location no longer in business)
9-15 Wakamatsu-cho
Hakodate, Hokkaido
Phone: 0138.27.2777
Closed Wednesdays

Loisir Hakodate
14-10 Wakamatsu-cho
Hakodate, Hokkaido
Phone: 0138.22.0111