Otaru Beer in Otaru Hokkaido

Near Sapporo and want Beer? Try the Otaru Beer restaurant in the city of Otaru.

I think the Otaru Beer spot in Otaru is a better deal than the Sapporo Beer Factory or Sapporo Beer Garden in Sapporo. Otaru beer is more unique and tasty, and the environment is just as good if not better in Otaru. The Otaru Beer shop also has some quality souvenir mugs, glasses, and mini kegs for sale. If you like beer and find yourself in Otaru you should check it out. The food is nothing to write home about, but they go with a German theme so have pretzels and sausages as good as any that you’ll find in Hokkaido.

ProTip: Winter 2016 the Otaru Beer restaurant had a hot honey beer and a hot cherry beer available. The hot honey beer was not good. Repeat, not good. Skip it! The hot cheery beer was passable, but still not great. Stick with the Otaru Beer staples. I personally like their Weizen, also known as their “banana beer.”

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Access:
You can get to Otaru from Sapporo by train in about 30-40 minutes.

The Sapporo Beer restaurant is located right on the main drag near the canal so it’s easy to find. In this age of Google I’ll leave the mapping to you. You can’t miss it!

Sugoi! Where is that word from anyway?

One of the first words any student of Japanese will learn after encountering an actual Japanese person is ‘sugoi.’ すごい. Yes, Sugoi. One of the most overused words in the entire Japanese language. Probably.

“Sugoi” as used by modern Japanese means: Awesome! Cool! Amazing! That’s great! Fabulous! Incredible! Wonderful!

When using Kanji sugoi is written as 凄い but it’s often written only in Hiragana. The Kanji carries the real meaning of the word. So, what other words use this 凄 character?

凄まじい すさまじい susamajii | terrific; fierce; terrible; tremendous; dreadful; awful; amazing; absurd; cutthroat; intense;

凄惨な せいさんな seisanna | ghastly; gruesome; appalling; lurid

So you can see that this word has the connotation of something so sugoi that it’s terrifying. I’m not sure when Japanese started using sugoi as often as they do now, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the original use wasn’t in a positive context at all.

Anyone else know?

Modern fancy Japanese also occasionally write sugoi using some katakana… スゴい!

Check the online ALC dictionary for even more examples of this character 凄.

Mingus Coffee in Sapporo

Fancy hipster jazz coffee shop in Sapporo!

Mingus Coffee has excellent and strong coffee, yummy cakes, and traditional jazz playing on vinyl to keep spirits up. It’s also located in the center of the city close to Sapporo TV Tower so you can stop by after doing some sightseeing.

Mingus Coffee is a smoker-friendly environment, so there’s that. When we were there on a Monday morning there were no other customers, so we didn’t have an issue with smoke. At other times you may be enjoying some second-hand smoke with your coffee, but hey, that’s usual in Japan.

The shop has a nice rustic look with old cameras, jazz record jackets, and coffee equipment filling out the scene. There are window seats though they don’t offer much of a view. The coffee menu is straight forward, but has the nice touch of having the strong coffee options clearly labeled “strong” (though in Japanese only). So if you like your coffee with a kick you can be sure to find something you like.

Recommended!

Google Maps will get you there. Here’s the address.

Mingus Coffee
1 Minami 1-jo Nishi, Chuo-ku
Osawa Bldg. 7F, Sapporo 060-0061

住所:北海道札幌市中央区南1条西1 大沢ビル 7F
最寄駅:地下鉄「大通」駅32番出口より 徒歩1分
営業時間:09:00~24:00 (Open from 9-midnight)
定休日:不定休 (No regular holidays)
公式HP:なし (No official website)

Mingus Coffee around the web:
This site claims that Mingus Coffee is one of the best coffee shops in Sapporo as ranked by locals. http://hokkaido-labo.com/sapporo-coffee-1936

http://hokkaido-map.com/area/sapporo/mingus-coffee-sapporo-cafe/

This site seems to suggest that Mingus Coffee has terrace seating. I can’t verify as I was there in the dead of winter and sitting outside was the last thing on my mind.

I store all my photos on Smugmug.

Off to Yokohama

On December 16th, 1941, just about one week after the attack on Pearl Harbor, this American song was recorded.

“Good bye Mama I’m Off To Yokohama”

Goodbye mama I’m off to Yokohama For the red, white, and blue My country and you. Goodbye mama I’m off to Yokohama Just to teach all those Japs The Yanks are no saps A million fightin’ sons-of-Uncle Sam, if you please Will soon have all those Japs right down on their Japa-knees So goodbye mama I’m off to Yokohama For my country, my flag, and you. Say Goodbye to mama. You’re off to Yokohama. So be brave and be strong, You won’t be gone long. Say bye-bye mama, The land of Yama-Yama, Until April, I guess, Will be your address. On Christmas Eve when dad and I are trimming the tree, You’ll do your share of trimming out on land and on sea. Say goodbye to mama, You’re off to Yokohama, For your country, your flag and me. Goodbye mama, I’m off to Yokohama For the red, white, and blue, My country and you. Goodbye mama, I’m off to Yokohama Just to teach all those Japs The Yanks are no saps. A million fightin’ sons-of-Uncle Sam, if you please Will soon have all those Japs right down on their Japa-knees. Goodbye mama, I’m off to Yokohama, For my country, my flag, and you.

Here is an image of the actual record. More info on this site.

record

History!

Hokkaido Shrine in Winter

It’s -3°C here in Sapporo! The locals tell me it’s usually colder.

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It’s not even “real” winter yet here in Hokkaido. Whenever I get into a cab the driver inevitably tells me that last year there was three times as much snow on the ground this time of year. Regardless, it’s cold, and there’s a lot of snow. Pretty though right?

Most of the people around Hokkaido Shrine this month are either Japanese going for their New Year visit, or tourists from Asia.

If you find yourself in Sapporo, Hokkaido Shrine is definitely worth the visit. It’s the biggest Shrine in Hokkaido and very beautiful. Here are some photos from today! Notice the icicles hanging off of everything and how thick the snow is piled up. Brrr!

I use SmugMug to store my photos!

Shiroi Koibito Park in Sapporo

If you’ve been keeping up with me on Twitter you may have noticed that I’ve bene living in Sapporo for the past few months. Well, we had some friends in town so we decided to visit Shiroi Koibito Park, a theme park built around the famous Shiroi Koibito biscuits that are Sapporo’s most well-known souvenir.

Shiroi Koibito Park was much more interesting than I expected. Then again, my expectations were pretty low because I tend not to like commercial theme parks…

For my friends and family, which included a six-year old and a three-year old, the highlights were…

Making your own Shiroi Koibito Cookies!
You can sign up to make your own Shiroi Koibito snack! You get to wear a bakers cap and work with the staff to make a cookie. At the end you even get to package your cookie in the real Shiroi Koibito packaging. Pretty cool!

Factory Peeping
You can also view the Shiroi Koibito factory in action from above. This is probably the most interesting thing for adults at the park.

白い恋人 factory

A video posted by Jnewbie (@japannewbie) on

Candy Labo Candy Maker Peeping
You can also watch the candy makers at Candy Labo do their thing. The candy-making process is pretty showy so our kids had a great time.

札幌恋人パーク

A video posted by Jnewbie (@japannewbie) on

Making candy at Sapporo 白い恋人パーク

A video posted by Jnewbie (@japannewbie) on

Otherwise the Park is okay. A visit will probably take about three hours if you participate in the Shiroi Koibito making activities. There were a lot of foreign tourists there when we visited on a Saturday in January, so I expect that most of the staff are probably English ready. If you’re in Sapporo with a some extra time on a wet day you might consider a visit to Shiroi Koibito Park!

They also have Clione. Why.

clione

More Information:
http://www.shiroikoibitopark.jp/english/
http://www.shiroikoibitopark.jp/english/access/index.html

Rabbit Island: Okunoshima

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If you’re near Hiroshima, or if you just love rabbits and want to make a trip to Japan to see more of them, consider going to Okunoshima! 大久野島

We made Okunoshima the destination for a two-family with kids trip and it was a good time. It’s basically an island rabbit petting zoo where the rabbits run free and come and go as they please. Great for the kids! The location is also interesting enough to keep the adults busy as well. You can also swim in the ocean as there is a nice beach, and there are also historical spots to check out. The island was a secret location used to produce and test poison gas during WWII. Apparently rabbits were used as test subjects. Now it’s a rabbit paradise!

You can get to Okunoshima by taking a 15 minute ferry from Tadanoumi (忠海). Tadanoumi is about 30 minutes from Mihara (三原) on the Kure Line, and Mihara is about 30 minutes from Hiroshima on the bullet train (Kodama), or about 1.5 hours from Hiroshima on regular trains.

Mihara is known for octopus, otherwise not much is going on there really. We travelled to Mihara and arrived at about 5pm after spending the day sight-seeing Hiroshima. We stayed the night in an inn in Mihara, and then left the next morning at about 8am to take the 30 minute train to Tadanoumi to catch the 9:30 ferry to Okunoshima.

You can find the Tadanoumi to Okunoshima ferry schedule here. Click to enlarge. It may change over time, but this is current as of July 2014.

ferry-schedule

After spending the better part of the day with the rabbits we left the island on the 2:30 pm ferry. The return ferry was MUCH smaller than the ferry going out to the island. The ride is only 15 minutes, but if you’re traveling with young children get to the ferry port early so you can be sure to get a seat. We travelled straight back to Osaka the same day we left Okunoshima and were home by about 7 pm. It wouldn’t be easy, but you could probably day trip Okunoshima from Osaka if you got an early start!

An elderly man working the ferry stop at Tadanojima started chatting with me and asked how I found out about the island. He then said that this year (2014) they have been getting a large number of foreign guests, especially from Northern Europe. He says they mostly claim to have simply discovered the island on the web, and have come to see the rabbits. That’s a pretty maniac trip if you ask me! From Northern Europe to see some rabbits?! I posted some links to media coverage of Okunoshima at the end of the article if you want to see what hype is being created.

The island itself is a good time. You can’t miss the rabbits, they are everywhere. You can buy food for the rabbits on the island, but you can also bring your own cabbage, lettuce, or carrots to feed them. We even saw one guy carrying a huge bag of rabbit food that he brought in himself… Probably to save money.

  • The rabbits are so used to people that' it's easy to get up close.
  • Waiting for the ferry to Ookunojima at Tadanoumi.
  • This man working the ferry at Tadanoumi explained that there have been a lot of tourists from Northern Europe visiting the "bunny island' Okunojima this year (2014).
  • Trains going in both directions arrive on the same side of the station at Tadanoumi.
  • Tadanoumi station! Note the rabbit. Ookunojima island is probably one of the only reasons people from out of town come to this station.
  • Mihara is the "octopus town."
  • The island is mostly void of traffic other than the island buses and other small working vehicles.
  • You can also take a dip in the beach if you bring your gear.
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  • It's easy to become a bunny celebrity with some rabbit snacks that you can buy on the island, or some carrots or cabbage that you bring from home.
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  • The abandoned power plant.
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  • Waiting for the ferry to Okunojima on the Tadanoumi side.
  • The ferry heading to Okunojima from Tadanoumi is pretty large. The return ferry was much much smaller.
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  • 忠海 (tadanoumi) 大久野島 (Ookunojima)

Planning to visit Okunoshima? Here are some tips:

– Bring human snacks. There is only one real restaurant on the island and their service is incredibly slow. It took us about 30 minutes to get our food, and the beers came out like 20 min before the edamame. Guess they are on island time. At lunch time the place gets very crowded, so plan to eat early if you’re going to eat there!

– Rabbit Poop. There is a lot of rabbit poop everywhere, so consider wearing shoes instead of sandals if it’s not too hot. So, you know, you don’t get rabbit poop on your feet.

– Rent a bicycle. You can rent a bicycle to get around the island. It’s a pretty significant walk from one location to the other, so a bicycle is a good way to get around.

– Bring a stroller. If you’ve got kids, bring a stroller. The walk ways are nice and smooth, so it’s great for wheeling around. The ferry boats are also big enough to take your stroller over on.

Links:
Okunojima – Wikipedia
Okunojima Rest Villiage Official Site – This is the largest and only hotel on the island.
Buzzfeed – Pics of Bunny Island
CBS News on Okunoshima Island

A medley of fan films…

Meiko Kaji – Urami Bushi

I recently re-watched Kill Bill Vol. 1 and 2, and noticed the old-school Japanese song that plays during the credits.

Did some Googling and learned that it is “Urami Bushi” by Meiko Kaji. (Life is almost too easy with Google…) Meiko Kaji was a singer and actress and appeared in more than 100 films.

Here is a clip of Kaji Meiko (梶芽衣子) singing Urami Bushi (怨み節) after apparently not singing on TV for more than 20 years. This song, Urami Bushi, was the theme song for the Female Convict Scorpion movie, known as さそり (sasori) in Japanese.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mi0YEuSjNXU&feature=kp

Here is a relatively tame clip from the TV show… It was hard to find. Most are not so tame.

Here is a pretty sweet Meiko Kaji fan Tumblr.

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