My (not so) near death experience – Fugu dining

My (not so) near death experience – Fugu dining

I always dreamed of trying and experiencing something unique. Sort of like marking significant milestones in my life. One such milestone is cheating death by eating Fugu or what is commonly known as pufferfish or blowfish.

Fugu? What is Fugu (Pufferfish aka Blowfish)?

For those wondering what Fugu is, National Geographic nicely describes this deadly fish as:


Biologists think pufferfish, also known as blowfish, developed their famous “inflatability” because their slow, somewhat clumsy swimming style makes them vulnerable to predators. In lieu of escape, pufferfish use their highly elastic stomachs and the ability to quickly ingest huge amounts of water (and even air when necessary) to turn themselves into a virtually inedible ball several times their normal size. Some species also have spines on their skin to make them even less palatable.


A predator that manages to snag a puffer before it inflates won’t feel lucky for long. Almost all pufferfish contain tetrodotoxin, a substance that makes them foul tasting and often lethal to fish. To humans, tetrodotoxin is deadly, up to 1,200 times more poisonous than cyanide. There is enough toxin in one pufferfish to kill 30 adult humans, and there is no known antidote.

I was about to put something 1200 times deadlier than cyanide on my plate and hope to almighty God that I don’t die from it.

Well sort of.

Pufferfish, if prepared correctly is not toxic. Only certain parts of the fish will cause death if ingested. The emphasis here is “if prepared correctly”.

If done wrongly, I would be 6 feet under.

Evidently, I didn’t die. If not, you will be the first person reading a blog entry from the other world.

How does Pufferfish Taste Like?

I had it in Tokyo, Japan after my whirlwind tour of Hokkaido with my girlfriend where we visited Hakodate, Noboribetsu, Sapporo and Otaru. It was our last meal in Tokyo and we wanted to try something unique.

We went for Fugu at Torafugu-tei near the famous Shibuya Crossing. You can’t miss it since it has a huge ass Fugu right above the store front!


This restaurant serves a variety of Fugu called “Tiger Blowfish”.



Great to know that the restaurant serves “Only the safest product”

There’s a la carte and also meal courses on offer. When we were there, there were two courses on offer. One going for 4,980 yen before taxes. The other going for 6,480 yen before taxes. While we were a little puzzled by the menu, there appears to be only minor differences with the menu (the more expensive comes with “Deep Fried Blowfish” while the cheaper menu instead comes with “Blowfish under-skin”), we decided to go big (if it’s going to be our last meal after all) and ordered the 6,480 yen set.


First up, came the Blowfish Skin. If you had jellyfish before, it has a similar chewy texture. It was very refreshing due to the sauce it was served in. It was citrusy like a mix of soy sauce and some kind citrus fruit. The grated ginger (that reddish thing) was not overpowering and helped balance out any fishiness (although I didn’t feel that the dish was at all fishy in taste). I would have loved it even more if it had been a hot summer day as the dish was served chilled.


Blowfish Sashimi was up next. Surprisingly, unlike our typical experience with Japanese Sashimi, it was not served with wasabi. Instead, again you find a small portion of ginger on the side to go with your soy sauce. There was also a slice of lime, if required. This was, I think, the key point in the meal as you get to experience the actual taste of fugu. Its surprisingly neutral tasting and very “clean” tasting. It doesn’t have a taste per se unlike Salmon and/or Tuna. Or it’s just me not having grown up with fugu and not recognising a “fugu” taste. The flesh is very firm and slightly chewy. Likely from all that muscle gained from puffing away? I actually felt something while having the sashimi. My lips felt slightly numb. Was it just my brain working overtime or was it really true that a master fugu chef will just leave a slight amount of toxin on the flesh to tease diners?


Blowfish hotpot. Yep, we graduated from the raw food portion of the meal. So, what happened was the restaurant staff had laid out a sort of paper bowl in the middle of the table that is above an induction heater. The bowl had a metal piece in it that heats up the broth. The broth was very simple (essentially a piece of seaweed to give some flavour). I guess the idea was to not overwhelm the delicate taste of the blowfish. Any heavier and/or stronger tasting broth would have covered the little taste of the fugu. We were told to cook between 6-7 minutes per piece (longer for bigger pieces and shorter for smaller pieces). The flesh, when boiled, was tender. There was no fishy smell at all. For those who are used to having fish soup of some kind, you will normally assume to soup to have some kind of fishy taste/smell to it. Oddly, there was none. It really goes towards showing how neutral tasting the fish actually is. I did try drinking of the broth towards the end. It was a pleasant tasting soup with a slight sweetness from all those vegetables that came with the hotpot. But not much taste attributable to the fugu itself. HINT: Don’t drink too much of the broth. One or two spoonsful is/are good enough as the broth has one more task to perform.




Midway into our hotpot came the fried blowfish. Make a guess what did it taste like. Like fried chicken, of course. Honestly, I believe you can actually pass off fried fugu as a nice piece of fried chicken. The entire thing was crispy and tender. Absolutely delightful.


Blowfish Porridge. Well, there is no blowfish involved here. Instead, the staff will prepare the porridge at your table using the broth leftover from the hotpot. They will add in a bowl of rice to soak in all that goodness before pouring in an egg for flavour before topping it off with some spring onions and some soy sauce. It was more than plenty for the two of us. We found that the waitress was a bit light on the soy sauce and we decided to add it a bit more. The porridge evolves with time. At first, its watery before turning thick after absorbing in all that broth. I found it to be very filling and my advice is that if you think you are already about full, you might want to ask the waitress to cut back on the rice so that you won’t have too much porridge.



We ended our meal with a small dessert – a mini ice cream sandwich.


Post fugu meal – I didn’t die!!!

As time ticked by, I knew I was safe. I cheated death.

Would I recommend Fugu? Yes! Definitely. I do think most should at least try it once during their lifetime. But do remember to have it at proper establishments with proper fugu chefs. While deaths do occur, they can be attributed to amateurs who had no idea what they were actually doing.

Have you tried fugu? Let me know in the comments.

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My Backpacking Experience on Business Class: Part II

My Backpacking Experience on Business Class: Part II

This is a continuation of my previous article where I shared my experience flying business class for the first time whilst backpacking. You can’t blame me for flying business if the tickets were so cheap (Approx SGD1100 return). For that poor chap who grumbled to his significant other as to when they could afford to fly business, it ain’t so difficult. Hehe. I guess my business class seats costs just slightly more or if not the same as their economy seats. The joys of travel hacking.

Checking in at Haneda Airport

It had been a fast paced holiday for the both of us. In a matter of 7 days, we covered Hakodate, Noboribetsu, Sapporo and a tiny weeny bit of Tokyo. And we were now at the tail end of our trip. But unlike other trips, this was still going to be an awesome experience. We were flying business back to Singapore!

Checking in was easy. Although I could sense some confusion among the JAL airline counter staff. They took some time to process my tickets. They claimed that there were errors or some problems on their system.

Haha. =D I think, they were just confused by the odd nature of my ticket. You see, we had just spent a week long layover in Tokyo and were trying to continue with our single flight from Bangkok to Singapore (Hint: That’s part of the hack).

After a few “Is there any problem with our tickets” and a few “We are sorry. We are checking your tickets’ validity”, we were issued our business class tickets. Yahoo!


While it may seem a bit frightening especially since deep down you know the reason why their systems are raising mini-alarms, I didn’t really feel much panic/scare. Somehow, I had faith in JAL’s staff making things happen (actually I think for most decent airlines) when dealing with Business Class passengers. You can say its some form of privilege or them going an extra mile to make their customers happy.

Sakura Lounge at Haneda Airport

This lounge didn’t disappoint. If you remember my earlier post, I actually complained about the food on offer at the Bangkok lounge. Their Haneda Lounge is much better.


First off, as I am a beer fan, I was completely blown away by their beer dispensing machines. Yes, machines with an “s”. One was for Asahi. The other was for Kirin. This ensures that each schooner is always a perfect schooner with that nice layer of foam crowning the glass. For those who don’t frequent such lounges, lounges typically either offer canned beers (Booo!!!) or beers on tap (eg. SQ’s lounges at Changi). While tapping your own beers seem fun, the overall glass of beer may not be perfect. So a plus one for the beer dispensers! There are also other beverages on offer if beer is not your thing.



Second, the food spread was better. Like the Bangkok Lounge, the lounge had the usual fare like curry rice, miso soup, bread basket and salads. Unlike the Bangkok Lounge, this lounge also offered other stuff like dumplings, siew mai, udon, spaghetti, sushi, different types of soups. While I would have preferred a more western offering (the variety was still very Japanese oriented), the food was satisfactory.



Third, the lounge actually has lockers available for guests. I believe this is a good feature to have especially for lone travellers who don’t want to be bogged down by their hand carry. They can just deposit it in one of those lockers and retrieve them when they leave the lounge.

Fourth, shower facilities are available as well. I always appreciate a shower just before boarding especially if I had been out the whole day before the flight. Hehe. I made sure to snap a few photos for your guys this time around. Very inviting right?





Business Class : Haneda Airport to Changi Airport

Okay. If my Bangkok-Narita flight was awesome, this flight must be “awesomer”. Is that even a word?

The seats are more spacious or appear to be more spacious since the airline did away the mini-cabins that I described in my earlier post. Instead of constricted cabins, the seats are now more open concept based so you don’t feel wrapped in or forced into a small area.


Everything feels right. The seat reclining buttons are now located on the arm rest within easy reach from your fingers. This was unlike my earlier experience where the buttons located in an awkward position.



There is also a cabinet attached to each seat. In it was a thoughtfully placed bottle of water which was a nice gesture especially for those drinkers who may need to hydrate after those many glasses of champagne. While I did not drink champagne, that bottle of water came in handy after I downed a bottle of sake ><



An interesting thing I found while on the flight was the toiletries displayed in the washrooms on board the plane. You have the usual toothbrush and mouthwash. You can also find eye masks displayed. Do not confuse this with the eye mask you wear to block out the light while you try to catch some sleep. This eye mask is similar to the face mask (the kind you put on your face to help moisturise/beautify your skin) but for your eye region. Something odd but definitely a plus point for me!

The menu for the flight:




As usual, since this is a night flight, there’s a late night snack on offer. This time round some kind of pastry. It was a nice experience as I did not have to ask for the night snack. The crew had offered it when I ordered my drinks. Hehe, I could have forgotten about the snacks but for their reminder.


Breakfast was either Japanese or Western. I went with Western after my bad experience with JAL’s Japanese breakfast on the flight in. I guess it was a good choice with the smoked duck and the omelette. You can’t go wrong with that kind of combination. The omelette was, however, slightly dry (i.e. overcooked). The best I had so far was on SQ’s business class. The omelette there was actually moist. JAL, please do something about it!!!



Would I fly JAL again? 100% yes. While I find the food can always be better, the price (if I can continue my travel hacking) is definitely affordable and a bargain especially when flying to Japan.

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A heads-up: Do drop by again soon. I will be flying Malaysian Airlines’ Business Class in March from Singapore to Delhi (Found a real bargain for the tickets SGD810 return!). Expect Malaysian Hospitality and more awesome reviews for you all.


Backpacker on Business Class! WHAT?!

Backpacker on Business Class! WHAT?!

While I have flown business on a number of occasions as a young associate accompanying my bosses for meetings overseas, I have not flown business for leisure my last 28 years on this planet. That was until now. Whilst backpacking to boot. This is my experience flying on Japan Airlines Business Class from Bangkok to Narita, Tokyo for cheap (Approx SGD1100 return ><). 

Checking in @  Suvarnabhumi Airport

We arrived early after having done a whole day’s worth of shopping at Chatuchak Market and Platinum Mall. And I was sure glad that we were on Business Class. Shorter queues while checking in and also a chance to grab a well needed shower at the Sakura lounge after lugging my backpack with me all around Bangkok. For the uninitiated, Business Class passengers are entitled to use the airline’s lounge. Such lounges typically come with a small buffet spread, drinks, wifi and shower facilities.


Jumping the queue – Surprisingly, there was still a queue likely because its a shared lane with JAL’s Premium Economy Class.



We were given a Premium Lane pass as well as a Miracle Lounge pass. The former allows you to use a special lane for faster custom clearance. The latter offers passengers a chance to use the Miracle Lounge (I believe its a pay to use lounge) instead of JAL’s Sakura Lounge. The reason being that Sakura Lounge may be too packed. For us, we decided to risk it and try out the airline’s main lounge. Of course, I felt duty bound to ensure that you readers get a first hand experience of the Sakura Lounge from me.


Sakura Lounge @  Suvarnabhumi Airport

Surprisingly, the expected crowd did not materialise. Maybe all the passengers decided to play safe and decided to hop over to the Miracle Lounge >< The lounge looks spacious and relatively new having been renovated recently. There are two main seating areas. One is more of a lounge setting. The other is more of a dining area with proper tables.



The Japanese buffet spread was decent. While it adds a more authentic experience to flying a Japanese airline, I believe the lounge can offer a better and more varied selection of food. While there was a spread, most of the food was more like an appetizer and/or light. Don’t get me wrong. The food tasted fine but could have been more substantive and/or heavier (i.e. more meat and/or fish). Maybe some chicken katsu instead of small chunks of fried chicken? Or maybe some sushi?   



The drinks on offer was okay. You have the usual soft drinks, milk, tea and coffee. For those who like to indulge themselves, the lounge offers cans of Asahi (and if I remember correctly Singha beer) and also different kinds of wine / spirits and also recommended sakes!


While I was there, I also got a chance to use their shower facilities. Unlike the lounges I have been before, Sakura lounge offers a more private experience. Instead of shower cubicles in a shared washroom facility, the lounge has several private shower rooms. These rooms are cleaned and the towels / toiletries replaced after each use. Just approach the attendant outside for the key. Sorry no pictures as I forgot to bring my phone in =[

Business Class on JAL flight

For this flight, the seats are arranged into mini cabins separated by a panel. 




Each mini cabin is spacious enough. This is with the separator screen down. However, I would have preferred a more open seat arrangement and less of a feeling that I am confined in a box. I can imagine the flight be less comfortable (psychologically since there is no difference in terms of the actual physical space) if the screen was actually raised.

The flight kit is pretty decent. You have your usual toothbrush, ear plugs, slippers and eye mask. There was also a “Moisture Mask” which is essentially a glorified face mask that help filter the dry air. The Sony earphones were pretty good as well.




Once you are settled, the flight attendant will confirm your meal selection for the flight. For those wondering, this was the menu for my flight. Way different from what you see in Economy. No?


Late night snacks and ordinary snacks



Breakfast Menu



Drinks Menu


For such late night flights, dinner is not served. Instead, breakfast is served just before you land. Business Class passengers can have a late night snack to help tide them through till breakfast. I had a plate of sushi and a “Sky-time Kiwi” for my late night supper while watching Pirates of the Caribbean ^_^ before falling asleep.




Did I mention that the seats recline till they are flat? Really comfortable and as though you are sleeping on a bed! I am really considering splurging for my next trip to Europe and flying business and avoid having a stiff neck at the end of the flight.


I went with the Japanese Breakfast. Of course, I had to try something unique to JAL right?


View while having breakfast




My verdict? Skip the Japanese Breakfast and just stick with the Western selection. Somehow, the Japanese Cuisine just doesn’t taste right with the reheating. The rice balls were disappointing. The reheating made them a tad bit too dry. The rice was also bland. The food was also so-so. Maybe Japanese food isn’t a flight suitable type of food (Did you know our taste buds taste things differently when we are way up high?).

Other than the average breakfast, I found the entire experience enjoyable as a whole. In fact, having flown the return flight back to Singapore, it appears that JAL’s Business Class is actually something that I would recommend and/or fly on again if I have the opportunity.

If you want to read more about my flight back from Tokyo to Singapore and/or the lounge in Haneda Airport, please remember to like and follow!!!


Fantastic 2017! Whats up 2018?

Fantastic 2017! Whats up 2018?

A happy new year to all my readers out there.

It has been a roller coaster year for me.

2017 saw me leaving the honourable profession of being a lawyer and going in-house as a legal counsel (which I still hope is an honourable profession). 2017 also saw me starting up my own spot in the world wide web with the creation of Etraveller Times. When I started this blog, I thought it would be merely a hobby of sorts where I get to share the many tips and tricks I picked up along the way. Well, that was how I saw it back then in August with me posting what I thought was cool travel hacks or tips that can make your travel a better one. I sought to answer questions like:

The blog then started to take a life of its own.

From a mere how to guide, it became my diary of sorts where I record the many experiences I had overseas and locally here in Singapore. Part diary and part guide to any willing reader wanting to know more. It started off as a simple introduction to Singapore’s attractions and must eat foods. That saw me making a special trip down to Singapore’s very own Botanical Gardens and the Chinese Gardens. It also saw me being a glutton taking in rich and exotic foods like Bone Marrow.



Sup Tulang aka Bone Soup

Sup Tulang, Golden Mile Food Centre, Singapore

It then branched out to a mini-Taiwan guide (as a result of my constant business trips to Kaohsiung) where I discussed its night markets, its custom of betel nut chewing and my first in depth hotel review – 85 Sky Tower Hotel (again compliments of my generous employer).



Then came my Bangkok series where I shared my 1-day itinerary historic/cultural itinerary and half day itinerary shopping/spa itinerary. Don’t worry, I have more installed for Bangkok ><.



Jogjakarta was another awesome place to visit (especially for all those quitting from Drew & Napier’s Insolvency Team – Apparently it has become a pilgrimage for all of us quitters). Its more than just temples with an awesome hidden beach with a death defying gondola ride and also an exhilarating jeep ride to an active volcano:




If that doesn’t sound like enough for a year, I also visited Malaysia’s Melaka (Malacca) and Johor Bahru before finishing the year in Hokkaido, Japan feasting on my many bowls of Kaisendons, drooling over fresh seafood all around me, looking at my girlfriend hugging a kick ass cabbage instead of me, soaking our feet in a natural hot spring river and seeing snow fall for the first time.






What a wonderful year it has been for me! How has your year been?  


Review: Pocket Wifi Router (Changi Recommends)

Review: Pocket Wifi Router (Changi Recommends)

For those wondering how not to burn a hole in your wallet while remaining connected in Japan, I covered some great tips and alternatives in one of my earlier post. This is a follow up article where I share my experience using a Pocket Wifi Router that I got from Changi Recommends.

Collection of Pocket Wifi Router at Changi Airport Terminals

A really seamless process. Just order online and head over to the booth at the airport terminal. Place a deposit and you are done. Returning the device is likewise straightforward.

The kit comes in a pouch with the router (pre-charged) and a power charger. The power charger appears to have been set up for the region you are travelling to (i.e. with the correct socket plug type):



Value for money

For those lost, these routers are small little gadgets that emit a wifi signal that your phone / laptop can tap into such that you have a mobile unlimited data wifi hotspot with you all the time. The data allowance for such routers are generally unlimited (subject maybe to a speed throttle in cases where the fair usage amount is consumed). While such routers are generally expensive (averaging USD100 for around 9 days of use), Changi Recommends offers a very reasonably priced router (unlimited data) at just SGD5 per day with the first day rental being free. This is a bargain at SGD40/USD30 for 9 days of unlimited data coverage!

Easy to use

Unlike other fanciful travel hacks (e.g. flexiroam – a sort of international data roaming service which I also use from time to time – check out my post here), there isn’t much fiddling to do to start using the router. It is as simple as turning it on and finding it on your phone’s/laptops wifi list and keying in the password that is located at the back of the router. Nothing complicated.

Fast connection

I don’t know whether you feel the same way but hotel wifi connections are terrible. Even for 5 star hotels, you sometimes have trouble getting a decent and fast connection.

The pocket wifi router solved all of that. The connection was fast and during my stay in Japan we used it for not only the most basic of things (emails/social media/google maps) but also the more data intensive applications like watching youtube videos and given the odd game or two of Mobile Legends (Side note: Japanese Mobile Legend players are insane ><)

The connection also held up away from Tokyo and worked spectacularly while we were in Hokkaido.

While the connection was generally good on the Shinkansen, there were certain times when the connection was weak. This is to be expected as the train was passing through tunnels with poor signal strength.

Battery Life

While there are other reviews claiming the battery life is awesome, my experience is that it actually depends on your use. Sure, if you just turn it off after each use, the router can definitely last for ages. But if you are like me and would prefer to feel like you are back at your home country (i.e. free access to data the whole day), you will likely keep the router on the whole day. Expect it to last approximately 8 hours before it goes flat (assuming two users). Less if there are more users tapping into the router. So be sure to have a power bank or two to juice up your device in the late afternoon.

I hope my review is helpful. If you are heading to Japan anytime soon, be sure to get one router for yourself.

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What to see and do while in Sapporo, Hokkaido – Part One (Again loads of awesome photos!)

What to see and do while in Sapporo, Hokkaido – Part One (Again loads of awesome photos!)

Sapporo is the regional capital of Hokkaido. The vibrant city offers a lively and energetic feel to its visitors especially when coming in from Hakodate and/or the outlying coastal cities. As Sapporo is a major transport hub in the North, it will likely feature in any Hokkaido itinerary. As the article turned out to be too long with all the awesome photos I took, this guide is a two part series on what to see and do while in Sapporo. This is Part One.

Getting there

Sapporo is well connected by both rail and air. For many, Sapporo can be reached by plane from Tokyo to the nearby New Chitose Airport and taking a train to downtown Sapporo. Alternatively, if coming up from the South, you can consider taking the main Hakodate line from Hakodate. If taking the train from Hakodate, consider making time for a visit to Hakodate and also the quiet but charming hot spring town, Noboribetsu. If you have not done so, do check out my guides for both Hakodate and Noboribetsu.

As to whether plane or rail would be better, the answer depends on your intended destination. If you intend to visit Sapporo first, plane would be the ideal mode of transport. By rail, it will take 5 hours to Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto and another 3 plus hours to Sapporo Station. If you intend to visit Hakodate first, travel time would be approximately the same whether by rail or train. So it may be more value for money if you were to take the Shinkansen there and benefit from buying a 6 days JR travel pass. I covered my Shinkansen experience here.

Breakfast at Sapporo Central Wholesale Market

There are two main fish markets in Sapporo: Nijo market and Sapporo Central Wholesale Market. Nijo market, being in central Sapporo, is likely the more popular option. However, Sapporo Central Wholesale Market maybe a better option depending on your itinerary.

We went with Sapporo Central Wholesale Market as it is along the way to White Lover Park our next intended destination.

Sapporo Central Wholesale Market is within walking distance from Nijuyonken Station and is laid out along both sides of a road. There are many different shops to choose from so do take your time and search for a better deal. We ended up making a wrong choice and had to pay slightly more for our shellfish sashimi then we would have at another shop. But that’s life.

Look out for those huge ass cabbages on sale and also those Hokkaido melons. If you intend to buy some back home, you may want to drop by later (while on the way back) to grab one.





White Lover Park

Having had breakfast, White Lover Park was our next destination. It is located at the end of the line and getting there was easy with the many signs pointing you in the right direction.



The Park itself is free and you have access to not only a shop selling White Lover’s products (FYI, White Lover is a Chocolate brand) but also a toy museum with an immense collection of toys. So it makes a good free attraction while in Sapporo. There is also a paid area (600 yen for adults and 200 yen for children) where you get to see the production lines for the chocolate products. We, however, stuck with the free areas as we were short of time.










Do look out for what I think to be hourly “performances” where the clock tower in the Park does a very elaborate performance with moving characters and music jingles. This location is highly recommended for young children given the kiddy aspects of toys/music jingles/ clock tower performances and easily available chocolates! Did I mention that there is also a small train running around a track in the park and also an ice cream booth?





Sapporo Beer Museum

When you are done with the chocolates, why not head over to the Sapporo Beer Museum? Take the train from Miyanosawa station to Odori Station before crossing over to the Toho Line and alighting at Higashikuyakusho-Mae Station.





The beer museum has both paid and free areas. The paid tour is guided. So depending on how much information or detail you require, the self-guided free tour might be more than sufficient. The visiting area is actually quite compact (just one floor) unlike the Heineken Experience in Amsterdam. But overall, that one floor packs a punch since its laid with loads of information presented over different mediums (education videos/placards). For example, did you know that the very first batch of beer that was meant for the royal family was lost as a result of the bottles exploding? Also, how many times was the Sapporo logo changed?





Once you are done with the tour, head down to the ground floor for a chance to taste the original Sapporo beer (brewed based on the original recipe). There is a taster set available (cheaper by about a 100 yen compared with you buying each type of beer individually) Do look out for the clarity of the beers. The original recipe is neither pasteurised nor filtered and is much cloudier from the suspended yeast. If you are on a budget or don’t want to drink as much, my suggestion is to go with Kaitakushi as it is supposedly based on the original recipe which makes it difficult to find out in retail stores.







There are also dining areas or beer gardens in the complex if you intend to grab a meal. Alternatively, the beer museum is located right beside a giant mall where there are plenty of restaurants as well.   If you happen to be around at nightfall, the museum also offers a rather attractive night view:



Stay tune for Part Two of the other places to visit while in Sapporo!

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One day in Otaru, Hokkaido: What to see and do while in Otaru (Loads of pics!)

One day in Otaru, Hokkaido: What to see and do while in Otaru (Loads of pics!)

An itinerary for Hokkaido (and specifically Sapporo) cannot be complete without a stop at Otaru. Otaru is a small port North East from Sapporo and makes a perfect day trip outside of the city. This is my one day itinerary for Otaru and covers all the must sees and must dos while in Otaru.

Getting to Otaru from Sapporo

Otaru can be reached by train from Sapporo. There are two stations you can alight at depending on your itinerary: Otaru Station and Minami-Otaru Station.




As to which is better, I would personally pick Minami-Otaru Station over Otaru Station as the former allows for a better/smoother itinerary. Otaru has two main attractions. There is a shopping street and also its canals. Coming in from Minami-Otaru Station places you close to the edge of the shopping street and from there you can visit the canals before ending at Otaru Station for your train back.

Otaru Shopping Street (Sakaimachi Shopping Street)

Once you exit from Minami-Otaru Station, grab yourself a map of the local area and walk towards the Sakaimachi Shopping Street. The walk is largely downhill with the occasional gem along the way:




Coming from this end also gives a good start to your visit as you will first encounter the Otaru Music Box Museum with an odd pendulum clock by its entrance. Head on in to be amazed by the variety of music boxes available for sale. You can find the plain simple hand wound device and also delicate (and extremely expensive) music boxes on offer. Somehow, in our modern day and age, such a simple device still amazes. Be sure to look out for the historical music carts that are essentially self contained entertainment machines belting out popular jingles. There is also a short display showcasing the development of music boxes together with other major technological developments in the world:











Across the road is the Sakaimachi Shopping Street. While I was there, there were free brochures left along the footpath advertising the different shops available and where they are located. Otaru, I think, can be considered as a mini Venice. Like Venice, Otaru appears to be a glassware city. There are countless number of shops selling delicate and beautiful glassware and also a number of wine shops selling both red and white wines as well as local sake.








Make sure to grab a Hokkaido Cream Puff while there. There is a shop selling pretty decent puffs for a mere 90 yen that comes with a free cup of coffee. Definitely value for money! On a side note, the cheese based dessert was average. So stick with the puffs!






Otaru is also famous for its seafood/sushi shops. Do shop around to see if you can get a better deal.


If you are like us, you can consider venturing away from the shopping belt to get the real deal. Not far from the other end of Sakaimachi Shopping Street is Otarusankaku Market (just beside Otaru Station).

Otarusankaku Market is a small seafood market where you can dine in. We decided to splurge this time round and got ourselves a hairy crab for 6,500 yen on top of our kaisendons. Having done some research both pre and post Otaru trip, 6,500 yen is a reasonable price to pay for a hair crab. Snow crabs are generally cheaper. King crabs are generally way more expensive. Why not also grab a 400 yen oyster and down it with some local Otaru beer? 














Otaru Canals

Once lunch is out of the way (definitely a late lunch by the time you are done with Sakaimachi Shopping Street and having walked over to the market area), you can stroll over to the canals. It is generally better to visit during winter as the views are better. The canals are just average without the snow. Consider having a Hokkaido Ice Cream while there. Perfect for a hot summer day and maybe a perfect supplement on a cold winter’s day!





Do look out for the area just beside the canal where it used to be called Wall Street of the North. Despite its small town appearance, Otaru had for a brief moment the chance of being a financial centre in the North. What remains today are the streets lining the canals with their old stone warehouses (now converted into restaurants).



Getting from Otaru to Sapporo

From the canals, you have two options. You can either head back via Otaru Station or Minami-Otaru Station.

If you are travelling during winter (night falls earlier as compared to summer), going back via Minami-Otaru Station offers a different night view and may be worth the walk.

If not, head back to Otaru Station.






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Signing off, eTraveller.


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