Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Japan, Sapporo: Asahi Tour, Food and Drink

A key thing i wanted to do during my trip to Sapporo was take the Sapporo brewery tour. There is no longer a Sapporo brewery in Sapporo, so I took the Asahi tour instead. First thing I have to note is that it was very difficult to lacate the brewery, as none of my maps had sufficient detail, and there was no signage for it anywhere.

I found the Japanese people friendly, if mainly unable to speak English, but they were all willing to give me directions. Sadly, each person seemed to think it was in a different location from every other person. When I saw this, I knew I was close.

The tour was all in Japanese with a laminated card with a sentence of English for every five minutes of Japanese. So I'm sure I missed a lot. Those big tanks were just about the only "real" part of the brewing process you could take pictures of, and most of the tour passed through interpretive areas, where you could look inside a fake brew vessel or taste some hops.

At the end of the tour, they provide you with three glasses of Asahi--each one a different variety, brewed on premises--and a pack of snack crackers. Honestly, I was glad to have done a brewery tour, but it just wasn't that impressive.

I was, however, delighted with my meal at one of the handful of restaurants, Lamb & Grill Pilsen, specializing in the grilled mutton dish called "jingisukhan" or "gengiskhansu". Not surprisingly, all the beers available are in the Asahi family--and that's plenty okay with me. You have an in-table grill, and they start you with a salad and some miso soup; the main course has three different cuts of meat, plus mushroom, cabbage, bean sprouts and onion. There is also a slab of fat to keep the grill clean.

Jingisukhan is a specialty dish of Hokkaido, the northernmost main island where Sapporo is situated. Another specialty here is ramen, the well-known noodles, though they are generally a bit thicker here than elsewhere. There is an area of Susukino, the eating and drinking district, that's known as "Ramen Alley".

My visit was cut short so I didn't get to eat as many meals as I would have hoped, so here's a nice steak (though nothing to compare to kobe beef in Kobe, either taste or cost), a lovely dark (it was on special) from our friends at Suntory, and a cheese plate at this minuscule bar I found in the arcade at Susukino:

My vacation got cut short. And I have to take full responsibility. Usually, I book a hotel for my first couple of nights on a trip in advance, and then see how things shake out after that--not particularly clever or unique, but this time it really backfired. This week (the first of May) happened to be Labor Day, Children's Day, etc in Korea, resulting in a full week off. Unfortunately it was also Constitution Day, Greenery Day and Children's Day the same week in Japan. Everyone in Japan seems to travel during this period. After my reservation ended, I was unable to find a room anywhere on the island of Hokkaido. Not a one.

I had a choice to make, travel south by train and hope for something in Tokyo--both parts of which were bank-breakers--or head to the airport. Korean Air was able to put me on the next flight with no fare adjustment. So my six-night trip became three, and I barely got enough pics for one more post.

I fear I have over-compensated, as my upcoming journey to Cambodia is far too long, at 17 days.

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