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