After a nice and filling breakfast, we walked to Sapporo Station and got our tickets for our destination on this brisk morning. We'd been planning this side trip from the time we decided to travel to Hokkaido. I hinted at the destination in my previous Hokkaido post as being the place where the coldest temperature in the history of Japan was recorded and that temperature being close to where Celsius and Fahrenheit meet; which would be -40F. The coldest recorded temperature in the history of Japan at as -41 degrees Celsius (-42F), was recorded in Asahikawa on January 25th, 1902.
And no, we weren't headed to Asahikawa for the weather, which was actually pretty nice at about 36 degrees Fahrenheit when we left Sapporo, but for more hedonistic endeavor.
The weather changes quickly here....from the mild near freezing drizzle and the rainbow above, to the sudden snow during our 90 minute ride to Asahikawa.
But things had cleared pretty quickly by the time we had arrived.
When we mentioned visiting Asahikawa to folks who knew about the city, the first thing mentioned was Asahiyama Zoo; though they really couldn't fathom going there at the end of November. And when they found out what our real purpose was....well, they kind of thought of us as being a bit, well, as my Mom would have said, "きちがい".
To get to the first destination, we had to leave the train station and cross several streets to one of the many municipal bus stops. From there, it was me, using my terrible, quite limited Japanese, to ask if the bus passed the destination. Once on the bus, I used Google Maps with pocket wifi to figure out when we were getting close. Lucky for us; the wonderful and friendly driver remembered that I had asked about the place and made sure to let us know. And when we started walking in the wrong direction, stopped, opened the door of the bus and pointed us in the right direction. You gotta love Japan!
So where was this? Well, while I have a favorite splurge sake that I enjoy, my favorite (not) everyday sake is made by Otokoyama. If my liver could only speak. Sam used to call me Mr Otokoyama ages ago and Ed from Yuma and I really enjoyed our Otokoyama in our younger days eating at Sakura.
So a visit to Otokoyama Brewery was a must.
The sake museum was interesting, I didn't know that Otokoyama has been around for almost 350 years!
You get to see the brewing facilities, a collection of scrolls, and vintage brewing tools.
Loved the various displays of various awards and the world wide distribution....heck, I even recognize some of these places!
And then of course, there's the tasting area......
Just when we started tasting various sake, a busload of Chinese tourists invaded. The Missus was laughing as many of them complained about having to use the steps to go upstairs! We decided to take a break and sit at one of the desks; which had a collection of reading glasses of various magnification....I don't recall seeing anything like this before.....
When things calmed down a bit, having tasted most of the free samples, we went to taste the "good stuff" which you had to pay for.
My favorite was the Kitamiduki.
There's also a little faux spring from which you can taste the water. The Missus went to have a sip, but when I went to get a taste, the water stopped flowing! Oh-oh, I might be in trouble here!
Otokoyama Sake Brewery & Museum
Nagayama 2 jyo, 7 chome
We had a great time...though waiting for the bus on the chilling sidewalk wasn't too much fun.
Eventually the bus did arrive and we headed back.
We got off a few stops short of where we started. A set off to find our second destination.
Regular reader know that Santouka makes our favorite ramen in San Diego. The Missus even had Her senses dulled when we last visited Japan, convinced that the ramen served at Santouka in San Diego was every bit as good as what we had at places like Ippudo, Rokurinsha, and Nagi Ramen. She was a bit misguided, I ended up calling this "the Santouka Effect". But now we were in Asahikawa, where Santouka Ramen started. I did some research and found the "Flagship Store", what I understand is the original location.
It is a tiny shop, a few simple tables and bar seats.
What did we order? Well, that was a no-brainer. Shio Toroniku style of course. Which was delivered in the signature thick sided donburi, designed to keep the broth hot during your entire meal.
There some slight, though significant differences with regard to the ramen. The noodles were even more chewy and just had a wonderful texture. The pork cheek was sliced much thicker than what we've had here in San Diego, and yet started to fall to pieces when dipped in the broth. The big difference? The broth tasted less salty, but had a mild seafood flavor, this totally reminded me of the flavor of Sanouka's shio broth when they first opened. I don't really pick that up in recent bowls in San Diego.
Since we'd had a rather large breakfast, we shared the single bowl, and also ordered a boiled egg and some rice, which was cooked perfectly, and went well with the pickles.
One constant between Santouka here and Santouka in the states is.....the boiled egg is still mediocre as it's hard boiled. At least this one didn't have that sulphuric tasting green ring around the yolk that indicates a terribly overcooked boiled egg.
In regards to the ramen, the Missus claims this is the best bowl of ramen She has had to date. Me? Well, I'm not so sure..... Still, I can now say I've been to the original Santouka.
Ramen Santouka Honten Asahikawa
8 Chome-348 1 Jōdōri
We walked back to the train station with bellies full of warm ramen.
My friends actually did pretty well, since I bought them a bottle of the Otokoyama Kitamiduki, which I was told you can only purchase in Asahikawa. They told me it was delicious. For some reason, I think that we'll return to Asahikawa one day. After all, the Missus loves Santouka!
Thanks for reading!