Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Hokkaido - Seafood Galore (Day 2 Morning)

DAY 2 CHITOSE – OTARU – SAPPORO (Lunch/Dinner) - 05/03/08
Upon arrival, transfer by flight to Chitose. Visit the Salmon Aquarium in Chitose, one of the only few freshwater fish aquariums left in the world. In its underground observation room, view thousands of salmon in the Chitose River swimming towards their breeding ground as well as many Hokkaido aquatic creatures. Proceed to Otaru Music Box Museum to view beautifully crafted music boxes. Enjoy a cup of tea in the afternoon, served in an exquisite porcelain cup that will be yours to keep as a memento. Tonight, ascend Mt Moiwa to enjoy the spectacular panoramic views of Sapporo city.

Ascension of Mt Moiwa is subject to weather conditions.

This is supposedly to be my itinerary lah..but then, subject to changes. This is going to be one looooong entry, and it's only until lunch!!

Woke up at 6+am today. Our morning call was at 7am, and we'll be leaving the hotel at 9am. (Japan time from now on) This is their 6am. Actually took this picture at 638am. But who cares. It's bright and had been like this since 4am!! They have longer sunlight than us I guess.

Went down to have our breakfast buffet, which you can see from here, quite alot of people, mostly Japanese though. We're not used to their breakfast you see. They drink miso soup, eat rice/porridge with smoked fish (dad says more like tough salted fish) and some pickled veggies.

I chose to take the scrambled eggs (my fav kind of egg) and some boiled sausages. Yes, it's boiled. Boiled cocktails more like it. Don't ask me what's that green thing, it's something wrapped with veggies and boiled again. Damn the Japanese are healthy lor. The potato wedges not nice one. The egg is sweet!! OMG. In the end I drank miso soup and milk. Really nothing to eat. Heng I'm not the only one who complained...

After breakfast we went over to the Salmon Aquarium. It wasn't opened when we were there!! *Faint* So what to do to waste time leh? Camwhore lor. Although I prefer the term: fulfilling my photography interest.

Ehh weather not very cold. It's 9:15am, what you expect? It feels like being in Genting Highlands...10 years ago. LoL. Cooling with a little breeze. Nothing unbearable.

This is the front of the aquarium. It's a rather small place. That's me and my mom (duh). We're happy to be here!! This will be the start of many places of interests in Hokkaido..we're in Chitose by the way.

Know what I'm showing off? Actually there's lots of small yellow wild flowers on the grass behind me. I find it nice!! When you wake up, and you see these flowers, it seemed to have lifting effects; your mood that is.

Don't ask me what this is. All I know is they're wild flowers that grow on their own. Just like our mimosa and dandelions. But they're nice aren't they? Actually it's my photography skills lah. Just kidding! I'm just using a normal 5.1mp camera hor.

This is how the aquarium looked like lor. All those fishes are actually salmons. All salmons. Whole aquarium dedicated to salmon. They actually have albino salmon as well. Because the Japanese are quite proud of their own salmon, they're requesting people NOT to put China (or is it America?) salmon into their rivers. Can't really remember the details. But I remember that particular breed is actually ostracized by the Japanese.

These are not dust! These are actually baby salmon swimming in an enclosed big fish tank. LoL. In the wild, the salmon mothers and fathers swim against the current to their breeding ground, where they will lay eggs and spray sperms to fertilise them. Only 10% of these eggs make it to the sea/rivers. The rest are either eaten when swimming down stream or they died at birth. Interesting eh?

This is the dandelion which I attempted to blow. LoL. I looked foolish, squatting on the floor and blowing at a wild flower that just won't budge. So to make myself look less like a fool, I took a photo of it. Their dandelions are just so big!! Much bigger than ours lor!! Sigh...Japanese are smaller sized (mostly) than Singaporeans, but their flowers and birds are just so much bigger in size!!

After the tour at the aquarium, we continued walking to take pictures of the nice bridge behind the aquarium and I heard noises. Guess what? A bunch of kids are playing baseball!! Hey batter batter...hit it out of the park!! LoL. Just when I was about to be engrossed in the game, dad shouted for me. He saw something that I always wanted to see!! It's...

SAKURA!!!! All are sakura trees!! Because of the global warming, it was stated that the Sakura in Tokyo had already bloomed in April. And since sakura only bloom for a week, there might be a big chance that I won't be able to see it in Hokkaido. But then..PIANGZ!! So many!!

One of the prettier full bloomed sakura tree. The rest looked rather sparce. Flower petals are mostly found on the ground instead of on the branches.

I couldn't contain my happiness when I took this picture. I kept running and my dad was rather pissed. LoL. "Why can't you walk? Why must run?" Hello!! S-A-K-U-R-A! Need I say more?

This is the wallpaper on my laptop. Seriously. LoL. My camera didn't do justice to the scenary. Really. It was must brighter and clearer and prettier and amazing and heavenly and's just so much nicer there than on the pics.

This poor sakura was shrivelling already, therefore it's not that pretty. It's supposed to spread the 4 or 5 petals proudly de. Sigh.

The stream look pretty right? Many of the kids cycled there to catch fish. Oh, I didn't mention that the kids have public holiday from 05/03 - 05/06? Their Children's day. For guys. LoL. The females have their children's day in March. Shiok hor? So there were many carps flying outside the houses..and kids everywhere.

Know what I liked about Japanese? I was on bus to our 2nd destination, when the bus stopped at the traffic light and I sawa this scene. The guy in white was actually cleaning the streets (no he is not a road sweeper) outside the restaurant where he worked. He even cleaned the rubbish off his neighbouring shops. Not like Singaporeans..where any rubbish infront of your place is YOUR rubbish. Nopez. They're very sweet. And there's no rubbish bin along the streets. TOTALLY. NONE. And the white guy brought his rubbish back into his shop to dispose them. No such things as dumping the rubbish on your neighbour's front door.

Anyway, the 2nd guy, came to deliver flowers. And apparently looked lost. So he asked the white guy for directions. Just imagine what the courteous Singaporean would do. He would tell you how to go. But not the Japanese.

They BRING you to the place. Iif they're free that is. If they are really busy, they will direct you. Else, they will bring you to the place you wana go. Therefore, our tour guide, Gary, told us not to worry if we're lost. The Japanese will bring us back to the hotel. This is like..leaving very good impression for tourists..really. Maybe we should learn a thing or two from them?

2nd destination: Hokkaido Jingu Temple. It's rather chilly by now. They say the door in the centre is for the Gods. Right for male. Left for females. Know what? Nobody cares lah, but I saw that nobody uses the middle door. They would enter and exit by the side doors..

Before praying or entering the shrine, we need to cleanse ourselves. Steps as follow:
Wash your hands and gargle (clean your mouth) at hand-washing stone basin.
2. Use the right hand to hold the scoop (or ladle).
3. Scoop the water and wash your left hand
4. Hold the scoop with your left hand
5. Scoop the water and wash your right hand
6. Hold the scoop with your right hand
7. Scoop the water and pour it into your left hand
8. Gently gargle and spit out the water.
You're now ready to pray!

Eh this is no joke ok. The water is majiam ice water!! Damn freaking cold to do this pose. Fingers were damn numb by the time I finish. Oh..I didn't gargle. LoL. I actually dapped the water on my lips. No worries, these water are clean. It's just that I didn't know you must gargle. Damn.

My hair is flying. What does that mean? IT'S DAMN COLD LAH!! Kaoz. Anyway that's the middle door behind us. When you see those strips of paper, it means that the God is near. And funnily, nobody really uses that door for Gods.

I went to draw lots. 9 years ago, I went to a Tokyo temple and drew lots. It's quite different with this temple though. The one at Tokyo is slightly similar to what we have in SG. All the lots are in a container, where we would have to kneel and shake until one lot drops out. Only difference is, instead of one big opening, the Tokyo one has a cover on the top, and only one small hole to let one lot drop out.

The Jingu though, is lagi better. They have 2 bins. One is where all the lots are in Japanese. The other is in Japanese and English. You just drop ¥100 (S$1.40) and put your hand into the bin and draw the lots. Abit like lucky draw. LoL.

At Tokyo, I drew a bad lot. So I had to return to the Gods, so I tired it on a bracket they put up for bad lots. The monks will then burn the bad lots and return it to the Gods. LoL. Jingu also. Those white white stuff are actually the bad lots. My lot? More of that later.

We were lucky to witness a wedding taking place. But that didn't stop me from praying to the God, hoped He/She knows English. =) To pray, there is a sequence:
1. Advance before the e'nshrined god, hten deposit some money into the offertory box.
2. Bow two times politely.
3. After that, clap your hands twice.
4. Bow deeply one more time.
All these are according to the Hokkaido Jingu website. Yes they have a website. Whoever says temples can't have websites? They not only hold weddings there, they also do blessing of cars and children as well. Quite interesting wor. That is if you like to learn the ways of other countries. Cause apparently most of the people from my tour group aren't really interested. They just wana see sights only. -_-" Waste money.

Back to my lot. I drew an excellent luck! Therefore I no need to "return" my lot to the God. Unlike the time I was in Tokyo. I had to tie and leave it there. It was such bad luck till my dad bought me a charm. LoL. Oh yah, those charms got "expiry" date de. They lasts 1 - 2 years, after which you're supposed to go buy another one. The difference between charms available at the temple and outside is that the charms sold at the temples had all been blessed by the monks. Therefore it's more expensive than outside, which are not blessed. I bought 2 health charms for my parents, 1 study charm for myself and 2 hp accessory for Feng and me.

We're always hearing that Japanese invented this, invented that. Heck, they invented the PSP! LoL. But they also invented stuff to help them conserve energy. What you see here is a warning light. Afixed to it is a solar energy panal, where in the morning, they absorb the sun rays to generate power, therefore at night they can use lesser battery power to run. Ingenious.

Lunchtime is next! We're headed to Seaport, where there are many restaurants by the sea. And obviously their seafood are all freshly caught!!

Just look at the rows and rows of seafood!! Eh there are no shrimps or prawns. The prawns are too common liaoz. Somemore prawns are supposedly to be "poisonous", according to Chinese. They sell their "delicacies" to us, which are King Crabs (the crab on Deadliest Catch), scallops, conch shell, sea urchin etc.

This is included in our tour package. If you wana eat anything "exotic" or anything extra, you pay. See if I can remember the food.
From bottom left: Pickles, something something, melon jelly, seasoned salmon (goes very well with rice, I bought 2 bottles home. Tastes nice with porridge too!), rice, normal noodles (more like maggi mee) in miso soup, "claypot" and soy sauce.

Inside the claypot: Salmon slices, cabbage, corn, onion, butter, prawn (read prawn), asparagus and scallop. Tastes nice, especially when butter is added to the cabbage. I'm gonna cook my cabbage like this the next time..with butter only! Oh..of course this one not enough for my family lah. So dad ordered a king crab (smallest available) and 2 scallops.

This is the huge pot where we will dip our seafood in to cook. Damn big pot. Piangz, writing this portion made me drool. *Growl* Stomach hungry liaoz..can still remember the taste.......

We're in Japan, a country where they mostly eat sashimi. They brought us 2 plates, not because the extra food we ordered cannot fit into one plate. It's because everything on this plate is for us to have it raw. Eh I tell you hor, the scallop tastes delicious. It's sweet, and a little saltish due to the sea water, and springy, and tender, and juicy, and...heavenly beyond words. I'll never get the same taste in Sakae Sushi or Genki Sushi...ever. *Drool* Oh, we didn't eat the crab legs raw, cause we're not used to it and the tour guide says it's a little powdery if we eat it like this. So we boiled it in the soup..

These are for us to put into the hotpot. This is only ONE crab. And the smallest one somemore. Total damage was about ¥8000+++ (can't really rem..but rather exp, about $100? Can't remember le cause not I pay. Keke) Egg, spring onions and crab. You choose the crab, they kill it for you. It's fresh de! LoL.

You know..the King Crab is so easy to eat? Forget the hammer or whatever tools you need to eat Sri Lanka crabs. It's so easy to remove the meat on the legs. Just twist the opposite way at the joint till it breaks and pull. The meat will follow. And the meat on the other end of the joint? When you bite onto the meat and pull, the other end follows. This is so damn delicious and sweet. I ate quite alot even though my lips were starting to swell (again. I'm allergic to seafood you see)

Just look at the meat texture!! Piangz! How not to love Japan? Even the crabs are so thoughtful!! They let you eat them with ease!! No need to hammer or break the shell. It is so damn nice!! *Stomach growling louder* Hungry liaoz...shit.

This thing that looks like shit, is actually not shit. It's the roe of the king crab. And yes, we cooked it and it tastes not bad. I like...

And once cooked, it turns red. Didn't really have time to take pictures, cause my hands were busy eating. It's so damn nice!!!! The roe are a little crunchy, and springy..don't know how to describe. But it's not bad. With A LOT of cholestrol. LoL. But it's worth it.

At the end of the lunch, seeing seagulls fly by, I wondered to myself if I'll be as lucky as this in the future. To fly to another country, see the sights, and not having to worry for anything for the next few days..and then I think...what the heck. Enjoy then say. As for after lunch hor, tomorrow then update. It took me quite a while to upload these pics. LoL. Ciaoz..go make milo liaoz. Hungry.

Some Notes:
The brides have to wear a 三角帽 (3 ends hat) for a traditional Shinto wedding. It is said that brides have horns on their head, so the hat is to flatten the horns, therefore ridding the brides of any evil.
The Japanese creates food with their heart, cooks with their heart, serve with their heart. Therefore it is polite to put our palms together and lay the chopstick horizontally on the "web" between our thumbs and index finger, and say loudly "Itadakimasu!" (Let's eat). After dinner, it is courteous for us to say "Gochisou-sama" (Thanks for the food).

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