Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Hokkaido Winter 2013 北海道冬季之旅 - Hakodate Airport 函館空港

Hakodate Airport: http://www.airport.ne.jp/hakodate/en/
Approx 1 hr 20 mins between Hakodate and Haneda Airport.

Other flights:
- Domestic flights from Osaka, Nagoya, Sapporo, Okushiri island and Misawa (in Aomori).
- International flights from Taipei and Seoul.

There are a handful of restaurants and shops housed within the airport. Had our dinner in Restaurant Pollux, located on third floor of the airport, before boarding our flight back to Haneda Airport.


How to get there?
(1) Bus to Hakodate Airport (bus stop 11), bus stop located in front of Hakodate JR Station. 
- Bus schedule (between Hakodate JR Station and Hakodate Airport): http://www.airport.ne.jp/hakodate/en/time_schedule/bus/en.shtml

- Bus schedule (in Japanese): http://www.hakonavi.ne.jp/howto/time.html
Approx 20 mins; fee = 410 yen


Commemorative stamps:

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Hokkaido Winter 2013 北海道冬季之旅 - Kanemori Red Brick Warehouse 函館金森赤レンガ倉庫

Visited 13.02.2013

Our last stop before heading home was to this prominent landmark of Hakodate. Hakodate Port, opened in 1859, was one of Japan's first international ports, alongside Nagasaki and Yokohama. During those days, flourishing trade businesses increased the demand of warehouses near the bayside. Kanemori Red Brick Warehouse, the first commercial warehouse in Hakodate, was constructed then. The bustling trade port has become a scene of the past and the bay area has been transformed into an entertainment district. These warehouses have stepped down from their original function (for goods storage) and converted into shops and restaurants.

Kanemori Red Brick Warehouse is made up of three areas:

(1) Bay Hakodate: Houses Hakodate Music Box Museum, operated by the same company (Orgel Doh) who owns Otaru Music Box Museum. The rest are mainly souvenir shops.

(2) Kanemori Aka-renga Soko (金森洋物館): Spent most of my time in this area. Whole array of souvenirs can be found here. Some of us may be familiar with Pastry Snaffle's, which has two branches in Singapore currently (in Plaza Singapura & Bedok Mall). This famous cheese cake confectionery brand originated from Hakodate and has several shops/cafes in Hokkaido - one of them is located in this warehouse. Ironically, my first encounter with Pastry Snaffle's cheese cake was in Singapore (not in Hokkaido where it originated from) and I liked it alot - as I am a fan of rich and creamy cheese cakes! Hope to visit their cafes next time in Hokkaido...
Pastry Snaffle's: http://www.snaffles.jp/english/

(3) Hakodate History Plaza (函館ヒストリープラザ): Houses Hakodate Beer Hall, Hakodate Roman-kan (shop selling glass crafted products) and other wagon shops.

All in all, Kanemori Red Brick Warehouse is quite a touristy place - you can find repetitive items sold in different stalls. After doing your shopping in these warehouses, I will recommend visitors to take a leisure stroll along Hakodate Bay - enjoy the sea breeze and at the same time, admire these historical monuments once again.


Kanemori Red Brick Warehouse 函館金森赤レンガ倉庫


How to get there? 

(1) By streetcar.
Take streetcar #2 (heading towards Yachigashira 谷地頭) or #5 (heading towards Hakodate Dokku-mae 函館どっく前), alight at Jujigai 十字街. Walk towards Hakodate Bay. 

Hokkaido Winter 2013 北海道冬季之旅 - Gotoken Curry Express 五島軒 函館カリーエクスプレス, Hasegawasutoa ハセガワストア

Visited 13.02.2013

(1) Gotoken Curry Express

Was time for lunch after visiting Goryokaku Tower. Chanced upon Gotoken Curry Express, located on the second floor of the tower and decided to give it a try. Gotoken, a restaurant that was established more than a century ago, started out selling western cuisines. However, curry became Gotoken's signature dish later on (during Taisho period between 1912 - 1926). This was created based on a recipe which was improvised by the second generation owner who had undergone training in Imperial Hotel then. 

The main restaurant, located near Jujigai, still offer western cuisines. This other smaller branch specialises in mainly curry items - pork, beef and seafood curry cooked in various ways such as English, French and Indian. The gravy are served in English style silver sauce boats unlike Japanese curry restaurant. Very thick and dark curry gravy, a blend of roux and their homemade broth, which tasted both sweet and spicy. Personally I still prefer the soup curry version. Gotoken also sells packaged curries, enabling one to savour again back at home.


(2) Hasegawasutoa Convenience Store

Skewers cooked on the spot. 
Sometimes, tasty food pops up in unexpected places - which makes food hunting such a pleasure! Hasegawasutoa, is a convenience store chain found only in Hakodate. In Japan, its common to find ready-to-go bento in convenience stores. However, in Hasegawasutoa, they only make your bento box upon order. What is most unusual is that their well known yakitori (grilled chicken skewers) are actually made of pork and not chicken, entirely different from what its name implied! Pork is more readily available and cheaper than chicken as there are more pig farms in South of Hokkaido, therefore pork has been used in meat skewers in Hakodate traditionally. To prevent misunderstanding as well, the lids of these bento boxes are imprinted with an adorable pig cartoon.

Chose the salt flavour. Each bento comes with three skewers, each with alternating pieces of pork and stalks of green onion, served with rice at the bottom. We were amazed by how these simple looking grilled meat skewers were exceptionally tasty! The juicy meat and crunchy green onion makes you want to eat more with every bite. It's a pity that we only had one box (as we already had our lunch)... Apart from the plentiful fresh seafood that Hakodate has to offer, please do not miss out this "B grade gourmet" when you visit Hakodate!


(1) Gotoken 五島軒 函館カリーエクスプレス

(2) Hasegawasutoa ハセガワストア - Goryokaku branch
Opens 24 hours. 

Other branches: 

Spotted another branch near Kanemori Red Brick Warehouse, which is easily recognisable by the big bento box display. Store is just located adjacent to Lucky Pierrot restaurant.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Hokkaido Winter 2013 北海道冬季之旅 - Goryokaku Tower 五稜郭タワー, Goryokaku Park 五稜郭公園

Visited 13.02.2013
Number of castles visited to date: 1
Top 100 castles in Japan: #2

Goryokaku Tower is an observatory building overlooking Goryakaku Fort. This two storey observatory which stands at 90 m tall, is actually pentagon in shape, synonymous to the fortress beside it.  

History of Goryokaku Fort (extracted from information brochure): 
Construction of the fort dates back to 1853 when a US fleet arrived at a Japanese port. Succumbing to US demands that Japan opens its doors to the rest of the world, the Tokugawa Shogun concluded the Treaty of Peace and Amity between United States of America and Japan in 1854, and opened Hakodate Port for international trade. Aiming to maintain governance over Hakodate, the Tokugawa Shogun instituted the Hakodate Magistrate's Office, which promoted land reclamation and industrial development, while fortifying the defensive capabilities of the area. Ayasaburo Takeda, a researcher of Dutch studies, was ordered to design a new fort when the Magistrate's Office was slated for relocation. He devised a fort modeled after European citadel towns, which took seven years to complete construction.

Left: Mount Hakodate in the background. 
In 1952, Goryakaku Fort was designated as a special historic site by the national government. Goryokaku Tower was originally opened in 1964, but later replaced by this newer landmark in 2006. The observatory commands an excellent view of star shaped fortress, Mount Hakodate and the Tsugaru Straits (a channel between Honshu and Hokkaido, connecting the Sea of Japan with Pacific Ocean). Did not believe such impressive looking fortress actually existed when I first saw it in books. Was totally speechless when I finally got to see this in real life -  the contrast between the majestic looking and well defined five pointed star and the surrounding buildings. Another attraction not to be missed when you visit Hakodate!

Goryokaku Fort is decorated different every season. There are about 1,600 cherry trees planted within and on the perimeter of the fortress and this promises a beautiful scenery in spring. In winter, the star fortress sparkles brightly at night as illumination are installed on its perimeter. Exhibits were also on display on the observatory levels, explaining the history of Goryokaku and Hakodate.

Though we managed to visit the fortress later (which is converted into a community park), I found it difficult to relate what appears on the ground level to what was seen overhead from the observatory tower a while ago. Therefore, I will still recommend visiting the observatory tower first before making your way to the fortress. The restoration of the Magistrate's Office, which is located in the centre of the fortress, showcased the sophisticated architectural skills during that era. Decided to give this a miss due to time constraints (and additional admission fee...) - had one more attraction to cover (Kanemori Red Brick Warehouse) before making our way to Hakodate Airport in the late afternoon.

Top right: Restoration of Magistrate's Office

Goryokaku Tower 五稜郭タワー 
Opening hours:
0800 - 1900 hrs (21 Apr - 20 Oct);
0900 - 1800 hrs (21 Oct - 20 Apr);
0900 - 1900 hrs (during the "Dream of Pentagonal Stars" event)
Admission fee = 840 yen

Hakodate Magistrate's Office 函館奉行所
located within Goryokaku Koen.
Opening hours:
0900 - 1800 hrs (1 Apr - 30 Oct)
0900 - 1700 hrs (1 Nov - 31 Mar)
Closed on 31 Dec - 3 Jan for maintenance.
Admission fee = 500 yen


How to get there? 

(1) By Hakodate streetcar:
Take either line 2 or 5 from Hakodae ekimae, heading for Yunokawa Onsen (湯の川). Alight at Goryokaku koen-mae, follow the directions and walk for another 15 mins.
Hakodate ekimae <> Goryokaku koen-mae; Fee = 230 yen

(2) By local bus: Goryokaku Tower, Torabisuchinu Shuttle Bus (五稜郭タワー・トラピスチヌシャトルバス). Bus departs from Hakodate JR Station. 
Hakodate bus website: http://hakobus.donan.net/


Commemorative stamps:

Monday, September 1, 2014

Hokkaido Winter 2013 北海道冬季之旅 - Hakodate Asaichi 函馆朝市

Visited 13.02.2013

One of the top three markets in Hokkaido (alongside Kushiro's Washo Market and Sapporo's Nijo Market), Hakodate Asaichi is a seafood lovers' heaven! Plentiful quantities of seafood are off loaded at the nearby Hakodate Port everyday, which means visitors are guaranteed the freshest gifts from the sea in this market. But what makes Hakodate Asaichi different from the rest? 



- Squid is Hakodate's city fish for many reasons. The shape of Hakodate city is said to resemble the squid from a bird's eye view (Mt Hakodate being the head and rest of Hakodate city looked like the body of squid). Apart from that, Hakodate boosts the highest number of squids catch in Hokkaido annually, making up 90% of Hakodate's overall live catch as well. The locals' affection for squid has even gone to the point that a "squid dance" is created for their annual Hakodate Port Festival in summer! From food (such as squid ink soft serve, squid buns) and souvenirs to mascots, road signs and even manway covers, it seems that the presence of squids cannot go unnoticed in Hakodate.

- One activity that is unique to Hakodate Asaichi is this live squid fishing from a tank placed in the centre of ekini market (えきに). Get a fishing rod from the counter to proceed with squid fishing, without the need of a bait - the trick is to aim for the fin of the squid. After paying for your catch, the staff will dissect the squid on the spot, cutting the main body into thin translucent strips (ika noodles) within minutes. Only managed to see the entire process from the side and did not get to taste the squid sashimi (should have done so...).   

- Undoubtedly, the most popular seafood in Hokkaido has got to be crabs. In Hakodate Asaichi, I got to try a crab bun. A very nice savory snack that is filled with a mixture snow crab meat, bamboo shoot, onion, egg white and soy sauce. Apart from seafood, there are also meat, vegetables, fruits and dried goods stalls, catering to the needs of locals. Always felt that visiting the market was a good way to understand the lives of local, as this is a place which brings people together and is always bustling with life and spirit. 

- We finally get to taste some seafood at one of the many grilled seafood stalls in the market. Feasted on fresh uni (sea urchin), scallop and abalone. Love the uni especially - sweet, slightly briny taste and creamy texture, melted in our mouths almost instantly! If you are a sashimi lover, I will highly recommend to leave an empty stomach in the morning and try out the chirashi don (ちらし丼) and katte don (勝手丼) which are offered by many shops here.


Hakodate Asaichi 函馆朝市
1 min walk from Hakodate JR Station.
Opening hours: 0600 - 1200 hrs (Jan - Apr); 0500 - 1200 hrs (May - Dec)


Commemorative stamp: