If you have turned on the TV even once during your time in Japan, you’ve heard these phrases uttered by Japanese TV personalities as they dine upon some local delicacy or another. Japan loves their food and Japanese people especially love to brag about what their prefecture is famous for. Going to Hokkaido, one of Japan’s most geographically distinct locations, what is there to eat? Hokkaido is big and has quite a low population density. As such, it has an unparalleled agriculture culture. Hokkaido produces more wheat than any other prefecture and produces 50% of all of Japan’s milk. So, with all this milk and veggies– what is Hokkaido famous for?
Yeah, we’ve got milk and veggies but Hokkaido also happens to be a giant island with lots of fresh seafood to be found. Hokkaido is particularly famous for uni (sea urchin), ika (squid), ikura (salmon roe), hotate (scallops), and of course– kani (crab). Much of Hokkaido’s seafood can be best enjoyed in don(a bowl)– with the fresh seafood served on a bowl of rice. Such famous bowls include uni-ikuradon (sea urchin-salmon roe bowl), nama-uni donburi (raw sea urchin bowl), and kaisendon (seafood bowl). You can sample all of these bowls at Sapporo’s Nijo Market, where you can customise your seafood bowl– and eat it too. Nijo Market is open from 7.00 to 18.00 for the shops and 6.00 to 21.00 for the restaurants. Also, let’s not forget about the kaki(oyster)! Oysters are in season this time of year and you’ll be able to find plenty of fresh oyster restaurants and stalls. Even though we are staying in Sapporo and there will an over-abundance of seafood available, try and hold off for your kani and kaisendon until you are in Otaru, which is held in far higher regard by foodies for its quality of seafood.
Hey-! Isn’t salmon seafood? Well– yes… Salmon technically spend their lives in both rivers and the ocean but when it comes to salmon and Hokkaido, it’s more than just that! Salmon deserves it’s own mention. From the indigenous Ainu people to the residents of Hokkaido today, salmon is a part of the culture. There are many different salmon hatcheries, fishing points, restaurants, and even museums dedicated to salmon. Two of Hokkaido’s signature dishes- Chanchan Yaki and Ishikari Nabe, both have salmon as their focal point. Chanchan yaki is miso grilled salmon and bean sprouts, a popular dish is fishing villages. Ishikari nabe is a type of nabemono with a miso based broth and salmon. One of the most interesting Hokkaido salmon dishes may be ruibe, a traditional Ainu dish, where the salmon is frozen naturally outdoors and then thinly sliced and served, similar to sashimi.
As previously mentioned, Hokkaido is a land ripe for growing some fresh veggies! The most famous vegetables from Hokkaido are potatoes, corn, and melons. Hokkaido melon’s are exceptionally popular… and pricey.
Hokkaido is probably a familiar sight to you when you go to the market. From butter to cheese to milk, dairy products on Japanese shelves tout their ties to Hokkaido, Japan’s milk master. Thanks to being one of the few places in Japan with enough space to raise cows, Hokkaido produces half of Japan’s milk. And for those cheese lovers out there– if you are reeeeaaaallly dedicated to your love of cheese, you can travel to Furano and visit their cheese factory.
A specific Sapporo speciality is soup curry. Curry and rice holds a special place in the Japanese kitchen, and soup curry is a bit of a different take on the perennial favourite. Soup curry is pretty much explained by the name. Instead of thicker stew-like curry, soup curry has a liquid curry broth, filled with plenty of Hokkaido-grown fresh veggies, and typically chicken (which can be left out in most places my veggie-loving friends). While soup curry is become more popular around Japan, Sapporo is the place to eat it. Thankfully, there are plenty of soup curry restaurants all around the city so you won’t be lacking for choice.
No, not that ruler guy of the Mongol Empire. We’re talking about one of Hokkaido’s signature dishes. While is it similar to yakiniku in some respects, Genghis Khan is a beast all it’s own. Using a cast iron grill, meat (usually mutton but not limited to) and fresh veggies are grilled up right at the table. You may have tried Genghis Khan before if you made it out to the FuJET midyear party but that has nothing on authentic Hokkaido Genghis Khan! Not to be missed– and it won’t be as we’ll be enjoying fresh Genghis Khan at the Beer Factory our first night in Sapporo. If you want even more Genghis Khan, definitely search out the restaurant ‘Daruma’, which comes highly recommended from our own AJET Connect food editor, Xan.
These Chinese noodles were introduced (and like so many other foods) Japan-ised back during the Meiji era. And ramen and Sapporo are synonymous. So much so that ramen and Sapporo Ramen alley will be getting their own article!
Hokkaido is the birthplace of Japanese beer. Originally introduced to the country during the Meiji era, the first Japanese brewery was opened in Sapporo. If you are interested in a further look at Japanese beer history, make sure to check out Sapporo’s beer museum— which just so happens to be connected to the beer garden that we’ll be dining at our first night! Hokkaido in general has shown itself to be a haven and gathering point for craft beer. In October, Sapporo hosts ‘Craft Beer Forest’, a craft beer festival. Craft beer restaurants and bars and scattered throughout Sapporo itself and Otaru as well. Keep on the look out for something new and different from the nama beer that you have gotten used to! If you are interested in beer, be sure to check out this app specifically designed for you to find all the best beer spots here in Nipon!Links Part 1-Snow Festival Part 2-Sapporo Part 3-Dressing for the Cold Part 4-Asahikawa Part 5-Otaru Part 6-I’m on a Boat Part 7-Asano Hotel Part 8– Getting Around Sapporo Part 9– Skiing&Snowboarding