Kanpai Japan! Today the Seven Seas Mariner landed in Japan! Specifically the charming city of Hakodate, on the large northern island of Hokkaido.

Sailing In
My first views of Japan during our sail in were of stunning Mount Hakodate in the morning rays of the sun. It was a beautiful day and the seas were teaming with ships. A small fire boat set off it’s water cannon in salute as we approached the port of Hakodate. After overcast skies and rocky seas of the Bering Sea, Hokkaido loomed beautiful and welcoming .

Sailing into Japan: Mount Hakodate

Sailing into Japan: Mount Hakodate

Ika, Ika, Ika

Morning Market

Morning Market

Hakodate is famous for two related things – it’s charming morning fish market and “Ika” a.k.a. Squid.

Just a few steps from the main train station, the Asa Ichi morning market was indeed charming with lots of vendors selling just about anything you can pull from the oceans around northern Japan. Lots of crab, fish, uni and of course, the star of the show, Squid.

Squid Tokkuri and Cup

Squid Tokkuri and Cup

Squid was really everywhere. Manhole covers had squid on them, buses and department stores had laughing and smiling squid cartoon mascots and large tanks outside many stores held pens of darting and flapping live squid on display.

One of the more unbelievable squid creations I saw on this trip was a dried squid tokkuri (sake carafe) and sake cup. Fashioned litteraly out of dried squid, the vessel is meant to be filled with hot sake that will infuse with the taste of squid and then, to top it off, you can eat the tokkuri, ala a Willy Wonka tea cup.

The Sake Boutique
Since I was coming to Hokkaido for the first time, my thoughts wandered to some Hokkaido sake friends I met. Carlin-san and Rie-san both work at a fantastic Sake shop in Sapporo, Hokkaido called Meishu no Yutaka. I didn’t have time to visit them in Sapporo, but they were kind enough to introduce me to a sake shop in Hakkodate.

Sake Boutique Echizenya

Sake Boutique Echizenya

I took a taxi out to “Sake Boutique Echizenya” and met the kind owners of the shop Hisashi and his wife Takako. They introduced me to their sake selection and made recommendations on what I could bring back to the ship. I bought several types of sake with them and was amused to discover a “New York Style” sake tonic mixer from Fukumitsuya. I had to get that!

The sake selection at Echizenya was curated and elegant with a strong showing of Hiyaoroshi (fall nama sake), given the season. Hisashi did a great job at explaining his recommendations and I did my best to talk to them in my broken Japanese. My luck turned when another customer turned up who had lived for two years in the states and spoke fluent English! This allowed us all to communicate more freely and was really wonderful. Everyone was so kind, I was just delighted.

Thanks to Rie, Carlin and all my new Hokkaido sake friends who helped me enjoy such a wonderful afternoon on my first day in Japan this year. I’ll be back!


  1. Profile photo of Timothy Sullivan
    Timothy Sullivan

    October 9, 2009 at 6:25 am

    Thanks again for introducing me to Echizenya – I had a lot of fun!

  2. Carlin

    October 8, 2009 at 9:00 pm

    I would take the masu, but the squid is tempting…
    Tim-san, I’m glad that you had a good time at Echizenya!
    I ran into Takako-san the day before yesterday at a wine tasting.
    She said that they really enjoyed having you visit,
    and that you are welcome back anytime!
    She also said you spoke Japanese very well!
    Rie-san and I are waiting for you in Hokkaido!


  3. Profile photo of Timothy Sullivan
    Timothy Sullivan

    October 8, 2009 at 4:19 pm

    Hiroko-san! I happen to love dried squid, so – with the right sake – I would take the squid cup!

  4. Hiroko

    October 8, 2009 at 3:27 pm

    Squid sake cup?! Wow, Hokkaido people do really love squid. Which would you prefer, drinking sake from masu or drinking sake from squid cup?

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