I got up this morning a little stuffed up. My sister suggested I take it easy, but that’s tomorrow, the day before a stupid long day on the train. Not the longest, but 5 hours is enough. Hokkaido is a big place and getting around takes some time.
Today was the day I wanted to go to the Nikka Yoichi Distillery. The Miyagikyo Distillery was great, but Yoichi is the place the man, Taketsuru Masataka, started his own distillery. But first, I went around the corner to Cafe Ranban to get a morning set. My sister found it on the intarwebs and if she can find it, so can the Chinese tourists. I showed up just behind a group of eight. Fortunately, I got served first and had some toast and a hard-boiled egg.
This place is SERIOUS about coffee. They have a Panamanian and Sumatran that are ¥1800 per cup!
After this I walked to Sapporo station (only about a mile away) in the underground. There weren’t shops the whole way, but it is covered and necessary when it snows here. Also probably nicer to use when it rains. I’m not sure why I didn’t try this earlier.
In any case, I took the first train I could to Otaru, and then took a bus to Yoichi. I could’ve waited for the train, but the bus was pretty interesting and took me past a surfing spot. The bus stop takes you directly to the distillery.
So this place has a lot more history than the Miyagikyo Distillery. The grounds has the Taketsuru house, for example, and the buildings look older.
In fact, this is one of the few coal-fired distilling plants in the world.
That being said, the Miyagikyo tour was a lot better. It was more explanatory, and it took you through the steps. I kept asking questions that annoyed the tour guide (the one at Miyagikyo was much more pleasant). It’s like they’re a lot more full of themselves here.
I had the three complimentary tastes, but the only one I finished was the Yoichi single malt. Nikka Black isn’t my thing, and the Apple Wine is really sweet.
After that it was back to the “Whiskey Museum” where the bar had tastes of Nikka’s finest. Yoichi has a much sharper taste than the Miyagikyo, and I’m not that impressed with it. It wins prizes, though and the 10 year Yoichi Single Malt was pretty good.
After that it was back on the bus to Otaru, and walking around there. Most of what I saw was just touristy stuff, blown glass trinkets and music boxes. I wasn’t impressed. I did see Otaru Beer mentioned and then headed down some alleyways to the restaurant after I had a touristy donut.
They’re really serious about beer here. They do it by the German Reinheitsgebot Beer laws and it’s pretty tasty. They also do two tours every hour through the parts of the restaurant where they make the beer.
I had a mozzarella cheese bread (and a beer) and waited for the tour.
I saw the brewer working, and I tried to get his attention by yelling “Bitte!” Turns out he’s from Oklahoma, and the president of the company sent him to Germany to study how to make beer “correctly”. Turns out the parent company also owns Bikkuri Donkey and Otaru Beer provides all their beer. I guess I shouldn’t feel that guilty about wanting to go there for dinner. I had quite a long talk (and a second tour) from the brewer and that made the trip a success.
I got on the train on the way back and the only thing I remember is handing my ticket to the conductor to have it stamped and then closing my eyes. The next thing I remember we’re stopped at a station and the sign says Sapporo. Good thing I woke up! I guess those whiskeys and beers had an effect!
I walked back to the hotel, searched some restaurant ratings, and found a place with pork bowls right across the shopping arcade. It sounded good and it tasted even better. It was in an odd food mall and the stall itself only had seven seats. But you could take the food out to the central area if necessary.
Oh, I forgot about the pre-dinner ice cream, and the post dinner zangi (Sapporo fried chicken).
And in case my co-worker Phil sees this, I found a figurine in the pork bowl restaurant.
I can’t seem to get away from Dodger fans.