Taste a little bit of history with Sapporo Beer and tuck in to lunch at Sapporo Station!

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After a well-rested night and a sumptuous but simple breakfast at the Ibis Styles Sapporo Hotel, Brian and I set off for the Sapporo Beer Museum. It was an idyllic 10 minutes walk to the nearby Hosui-Susukino Station (豊水すすきの駅). Along the way, I caught the occasional glimpse of Sakura trees. It’s my first time seeing them and I do look forward to returning one day for a full bloom encounter. 

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A sole Sakura tree at the tail end of its bloom. To reach the Sapporo Beer Museum, I first took the Sapporo Toho Line (subway, JR Pass not applicable) to the Higashikuyakushomae station  (東区役所前駅), passing 4 steps for 7 minutes. From there, it was a simple 10 minutes walk.

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The Sapporo Beer Museum

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The giant brewing vat half-buried underground.

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When the Edo era was over in 1868, the new government in the Meiji restoration set up a development commission called the Kaitakushi. The commission saw that the beer business would be a strong contributor to Hokkaido’s agricultural economy. Hence, the Kaitakushi brewery was set up as a government business. From there, the brewery invited foreign expatriates to help Hokkaido develop its own beer and transportation techniques. While it may seem easy to envision beer being transported all around the world today, beer back then needed to be chilled with ice as a natural refrigerant for transportation to Tokyo. In 1865, Seibei Nakagawa went over to Europe and completed his German beer brewing training, thereafter being employed by Kaitakushi brewery as the first Japanese beer brewing master.

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After its dissolution in 1882, Kaitakushi brewery was privatised as Sapporo brewery in 1886. 2 years later, pasteurization techniques helped make its beer last longer and able to be transported over. Interestingly, the famous beers of Sapporo, Yebisu and Asahi that we know today was once part of the Dai Nippon brewery in 1906. After a series of further splits and rebrandings, the Nippon brewery was known as Sapporo Breweries in 1964.

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Sapporo’s advertising campaign through the years. Note the branding message. A very interesting reflection of how beer was perceived or portrayed in the company’s early years.

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The various beer bottle caps. Definitely a collector’s edition.

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Left to Right (Sapporo Black Label, Sapporo Classic, Kaitakushi Beer)

The short tour around the museum could benefit with an English speaking guide or even an audio-guided tour on an ipod. Still, the brief printed out tour description was sufficient in describing the displays. Once the exhibits were done, it was time for an interactive experience. At the beer hall, I opted for the Tasting Beer Portion (500 yen for three glasses of Sapporo Black Label, Sapporo Classic, and the Kaitakushi Beer). If you have one variety you like to pursue even further, an individual glass costs 200 yen.

The Sapporo Black Label is arguably the brewery’s masterpiece. Attractive for its balance and refreshing taste, crispness and drinkability, there was a distinct fruity taste of hops and barley. The Sapporo Classic is Hokkaido’s limited special draft beer, and was the mainstay before the black label. Made from 100% malt and 100% fine hops., the beer’s smooth drinkability reflects the ethos of German brewing methods (Hochkurz mashing), providing a touch rounder and slightly bitter aftertaste. The oldest beer, the Kaitakushi Beer is made from the recipe of Sapporo’s first beer (the Reisei Sapporo Beer). It is an unfiltered beer, with a richer yet milder taste of alive yeasts. Bitter and full bodied, it was distinctly different from the Sapporo Black Label. However, the crisp, refreshing bitter sweetness that runs through all three beers is unmistakable.

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Despite having only a brief understanding of Sapporo’s beer from the exhibits, I was still suitably informed of the company’s history and legacy. The best part of the day was the tasting portion at the end of the entire tour. Also, the beer hall cum souvenir shop is an excellent place to hang out and rest your feet before moving on to the next part of the trip. A pretty good visit overall.

 

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Yamanosaru Restaurant
Apia Underground Mall, Sapporo Station

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After the beer musuem visit was done, Brian and I decided to take a good walk to Sapporo Station for lunch while discovering the city’s architecture along the way. For the afternoon, we dined at the Yamanosaru Restaurant located at the Apia underground mall situated adjacent to Sapporo Station. I opted for the Kaisen-don set (1,200 yen). It was my second day in Japan and I’ve yet to have any sashimi. While I was scheduled to go to the Nijo Fish Market the next day, I simply could not wait. This was a filling portion of salmon, scallop, ebiko, hamachi, maguro akami and botan ebi served in a donburi and complemented with a side of somen and salad. The meal was good and substantial though I might say that the fish was average and not the freshest. It was fine considering the portion size and the price.

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On the other hand, Brian chose the meatier, Buta-don set (980 yen). Wonderfully sweet sauce glazed slices of pork were layered onto a bed of Japanese rice. The meal too came with a side of salad and somen. Personally, I thought that this meaty portion was definitely more heartwarming and fulfilling than the kaisen-don. However, both meals were relative affordable. Furthermore, given that you have a place to sit down in comfort while taking a short break adds all the more to this place’s attractiveness.

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Do note that the Yamanosaru chain of restaurants generally permits smoking within its outlet. So while the food may be decently good, non-smokers who are sensitive to second hand cigarette smoke might want to avoid the restaurant. That said, the chain’s relatively affordability made me do a second visit to their Obihiro outlet. There, I took pleasure in a 890 yen Nomihodai (alcoholic drinks buffet) while ordering a few side dishes to share. A great experience that almost guarantee a certain consistency across their outlets.

 

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Former Hokkaido Government Office

Known unofficially as the Red Brick Office, the Former Hokkaido Government Office was used for around 80 years until the new government office located just behind was built. The red brick office was constructed in 1888 and embodies American neo-baroque architecture. Within the building, there are exhibits on Hokkaido history which are open to the public. While most of the item descriptions are in Japanese, I felt this was symbolically a worthwhile visit as you could get a sense of the region’s priorities and history.

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A beautiful landscaped garden surrounds the governor’s house. I think Spring is a very good time to see the flowers bloom and a myriad of colours dotting the picture.

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Brian

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Me

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A duck which somehow tried very hard to avoid my camera from afar. In the end, it just swam right up to me.

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The Sapporo Tokeidai (Clock tower) is a nostalgic symbol of Sapporo. The building was constructed in 1878 as a drill hall for the Sapporo Agricultural College, with a made-in-Boston clock purchased and installed in 1881. Architecturally, the building is of American origin that was inspired during the region’s Kaitakushi years and was one of the earliest structures built in newly founded Sapporo. Through the years, the Sapporo Clock Tower has retained a central figure in the city’s heart.

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The clock that keeps the city’s time.

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Day 2 has been a long and fulfilling affair. From a myriad of activities from beer tasting to soaking in the city’s history, I was more than sated with what I had set to accomplish. And for the next day’s journey, oh boy, was I looking forward to visit the Nijo Market for some fresh seafood![/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]