Ugh, even with some heavy editing these iPhone photos look terrible.
Hey, everyone! The bulk of July was spent in Hokkaido, where the trade-off for less Pokestops is the fine weather and amazing food.
Like zangi, Hokkaido's version of fried chicken. The meat is seasoned before breading and frying, though most good shops nationwide do that anyways.
Anyways, I drove north for a few days, taking the coastal roads through the tsunami-damaged cities of Tohoku. Ishinomaki in particular was more or less wiped out back in 2011, but now any sign of damage is gone. As a result, the coast is a sea of cement, ready for more cement buildings to be placed upon it. It is pretty ugly, but in general modern Japanese "normal" architecture is all pre-fab and unemotional.
The ocean is still breathtaking,
so long as you go past the concrete tetrapods that make up 80% of Japan's coast.
From there it was up to Aomori.
The peak of Otake (大岳) is looking pretty clear in this shot. I could have summited it at this time, around 4 in the afternoon, and made it back down as the sun was setting. Instead, I camped and did the hike early the next day. In a brutal, horizontal rainstorm. I posted a video on my Instagram if you are curious. Well, checked another off the famous 100 mountains of Japan at least.
No ferries left for the day meant a night in Aomori.
Hokkaido, if it is down in Hakodate, always starts with the most famous restaurant in town.
Lucky Pierrot. Never heard of it? Now you have.
A place with ice cream and fresh milk on every street, and history everywhere you look.
And uni. Summer means that the bafun uni in the region, considered the best in the world, is at its peak.
So get your grub on!
Love this shot.
Love this shot.
I ate a lot of melon.
Even though Furano is a bit touristy for me, it ended up becoming a base-camp of sorts. There are a few of the famous mountains nearby, plenty of fast roads, and a rider's hotel that is 500 yen a night. That charge comes with a free melon, by the way.
The top of Mt. Asahidake (旭岳). I brought a bottle of my friend's wine from France, drank it on the top, and ran back down the mountain drunk. Kind of the perfect day.
Spent a considerable amount of time searching for some premium cheese, as Hokkaido is famous for dairy. Many hours and many kilometers later, I had a nice aged cheddar and a fantastic smoked Camembert. Why aren't they in the shot? I left the in the fridge at the hotel.
What you can't see are the thousands of Chinese tourists. Seriously, Hokkaido has become a huge destination for mainland China lately. Funny thing was that none of them were at the good ramen shops I went to, they were all the head shops of shops that have branches in China. I went to both, cause ramen.
Dude was up in Hokkaido with a surfboard strapped to his 80cc bike. His starting point was a little island in Okinawa. Live life, people!
Mt. Tokachidake (十勝岳) was amazing. Sure, the skies weren't clear, but hiking up this simmering mountain felt so good. It is rated at 8 to 9 hours. I did it in less than 4, and could have been at 3:15 if I had started the hike at the correct parking area.
I look down at the surgery scars on my leg and remember, just a few years ago, a doctor telling me I may never walk properly again. I was prepared for the worst, or maybe just life with a limp, but I stayed positive, kept exercising, and now I'm running up and down 3000 meter peaks.
I wasn't drunk this time.
Lake Toya. Beautiful campground. And with the money I saved, I went to Michelin 3-star Michel Bras Toya, at the nearby Windsor Hotel.
The signature Gargouillou, a vegetable dish with 40 to 60 local ingredients.
The signature coulant. Michel Bras invented the "chocolate lava cake" essentially. The version here was filled with chocolate and raspberry. Decadent.
More uni. I made it a point to eat a ton of uni this trip. What I discovered was that I don't care for massive amounts of it. A little goes a long way, and a single piece, served with perfect sushi rice and a light seasoning is way beyond a massive bowl of the stuff, even if it is considered the best in the country.
Hakodate. Uni and ramen. Check.
With my time coming to a close in the northern island, I visited 3-star Sushi Tanabe in Sapporo, only to be told that a new no-photo policy was in place. Shame, as some of the pieces were quite nice.
Back in Tokyo, at an elaborate invite-only sake pairing dinner.
The craziest part of the meal was probably the mushrooms bathed in whale fat. Or maybe the deer with avocado. Or the goat cheese with caviar.
I won't review much of it here, but I'm starting to learn how different classes of people define gourmet cuisine. The old image was that the ultra-rich had better taste, and that may hold water when you consider that they have more of a sample to go off of. But times have changed, and time and effort play a bigger role in accessibility to good food. Someone with a weekend job can visit all the hot spots during the week, and then watch as VIPs with private cars swirl their $15-a-bottle sake in expensive glasses, acting like it's their jam.
I shouldn't say anything negative, I like being invited to 1% foodie affairs.
I also like that I roll into the Osaka branch of one of the best ramen shops in Japan, and they immediately give me their VIP sticker.