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Friday, March 19, 2010

Sapporo Beer Museum

Wakame soba 350yen
(about AU$4.40 in Feb 2010)

There's a common misconception that Japan is expensive. It's not.

As long as you're prepared to eat like a local, it's easy to stay within a modest budget. Of course eating like a local does mean less meat, more pickles and embracing the Japanese affection for soba, udon and ramen.

After a night of deep-fried cheese, grilled scallops and a flurry of snow as we browsed the Sapporo Snow Festival sculptures, a steaming bowl of noodles was all we craved for dinner.

Tempura soba 350yen

Pocahontas has the tempura soba--a deep-fried fritter made from julienned sweet potato, carrot and onion known as kakiage--whilst I opt for the clean flavours of wakame soba, a mound of cooked seaweed that is slippery, tender and refreshingly fat-free.

Businessmen at the soba noodle bar

It's a simple meal in simple surrounds, the miso stock a little sweet and salty to complement the chewy firmness of soba noodles, nutty from buckwheat. We perch on stools at the counter in this train station eatery, only a mesh curtain separating us from the passing throng of commuters at JR Sapporo station.

Hotel room dessert party from the convenience store:
Daifuku mochi 110yen, Hokkaido milk pudding 350yen

and strawberry choc-chip ice cream 126yen

Our nightly ritual is the dessert party from our pillage of the local convenience stores. Daifuku mochi is reassuringly cool and chewy, the pounded rice cake satiating all glutinous cravings. Strawberry choc-chip ice cream is creamy and overly sweet but I'm happy enough with my Hokkaido milk pudding, a delicate dessert that is intensely milky and, best of all, is a ceramic pot with lid that I can keep and re-use.

Kitchen staff at Nakau

Breakfast is another cheap eat at Nakau, the "fast food" chain known for gyudon beef on rice and oyakodon chicken on rice.


Most of the cheaper eating establishments in Japan use vending machines to collect money from customers. It's a process of efficency, so that by the time the customer takes their seat, a staff member materialises to collect their ticket, knows exactly what they want to order, and relays the message immediately to the kitchen. Your order tends to arrive within minutes, sometimes in mere seconds.

Vending machine

Oyakodon chicken on rice set 450yen

Gyudon beef on rice set 350 yen

Grilled salmon set 390yen
Grilled salmon, tsukemono pickled radish, nori, miso soup and rice

I have the grilled salmon set, a small piece of cooked salmon eaten with rice, pickled Chinese cabbage and a bowl of miso soup.

Egg yolk mixed in rice

A raw egg is commonly mixed in with rice, and whilst I struggle at first, I begin to appreciate the buttery richness the raw yolk adds to the fluffy grains of steamed white rice.

Mister Donut

Mister Donut is a doughnut franchise that can be found all over Japan. In America, the Mister Donut chain was bought out by Dunkin' Donuts and most switched over to the new name. In Japan, both Mister Donut and Dunkin' Donuts exist as separate franchises.

Donut range

Some of our party began to exhibit a certain addiction to Mister Donut's wares, drawn helplessly into the brightly lit stores that were bedecked with row upon row of both yeasted and cake donut offerings. There seemed to be no end of assorted shapes, fillings, icings and sprinkles.

We found the donuts light, soft and airy, without a greasy residue. The chocolate donut with chocolate custard, dusted with so much cocoa it left evidence all over your lips, was a particular favourite.

Strawberry choux 126yen

Sapporo Beer Museum

We caught the local bus to the Sapporo Beer Museum which turned out to be more of a static display of memorabilia, with most of the information panels written only in Japanese.

Beer brewing kettle (mash pan)

An old shiny copper beer brewing kettle, or mash pan, was displayed outside the Museum in the snow, retired from service after an estimated 30,000 uses from 1961 to 2001. The four-metre wide kettle was manufactured by Ziemann in Germany and we were rather bemused to see a large note at the bottom of the information panel that said in bold "This is not an Unidentified Flying Object".

Downstairs bar

Beer tasting 400yen
Black Label, Yebisu and Kaitakushi

The Museum is free but everyone ends up paying for the beer tasting downstairs, 200 yen for one glass or 400 yen for three. Black Label was light and fruity with notes of hops and barley, and I quite enjoyed the Yebisu Black, a dark roasted malt which tasted of toffee. The Kaitakushi is brewed using only malt, hops, yeast and pure water - the hops and barley are grown locally in Hokkaido.

Royce chocolate-covered potato chips

A huge souvenir shop has all kinds of tempting treats: beer jelly, salted ice cream and boxes of Royce chocolate-covered potato chips. I bought a box home with the last of my coins at the airport and can attest that these are deliciously good, the thick potato crisp acting as a perfect salty foil for the thin layer of quality dark chocolate.

Mini snowmen

The grassed area behind the Museum was blanketed with a thick layer of snow and people before us had been busy at work. Not only did we find mini snowmen, but look, a real igloo!


The igloo was life-sized and whilst it took some effort for Bellboy to scoot through the entrance, he reported that it was quite warm once inside. The ice seat was still cold though!

Giant ice slide

We also found a giant ice slide! A series of steps on the side led you to the top, and a plastic-mat provided a frictionless ride of speed.

Too. Much. Fun.

View Larger Map

Nakau outlets and Mister Donut franchises can be found all Japan

Sapporo Beer Museum
Kita 7-Jo Higashi 9-chome Higashi-ku, Sapporo
Open 7 days 9am - 6pm
Free (tastings extra)

To get there, take the No.88 bus from the South gate exit of Sapporo JR station

> Read the next Japan 2010 post (King crab, Hokkaido milk and strawberries)
< Go back to the first Japan 2010 post

Related Grab Your Fork posts:

Read about my trip to Japan in 2007Read about my trip to Japan in 2004
18 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 3/19/2010 02:35:00 am


  • At 3/19/2010 5:42 am, Anonymous Hannah said…

    With each of these meals, your choice is absolutely what I would have gone for! :) Love soba and seaweed, would much prefer salmon and pickles for breakfast, and, of course, am obsessed with salt + sweet so want those chocoalte potato chips NOW.

    (Except not really, because I'm quite happy with my French chocolate, thank you very much :P)

  • At 3/19/2010 7:57 am, Anonymous Mark @ Cafe Campana said…

    Chocolate covered potato chips! What will they think of next. You certainly found some really cool foods and interesting places to eat in Japan.

  • At 3/19/2010 9:24 am, Anonymous Zina @ tastedbytwo said…

    Sapporo is hands down my favourite city to visit in Japan. I went to the Sapporo Beer Museum and had a bbq lunch at the giant Beer Garden next door, both fantastic!

  • At 3/19/2010 10:18 am, Anonymous The Extra said…

    In the words of a great man...

    "A woman is like beer. They look good, they smell good, and you'd step over your own mother just to get one!"

    I'm finding it hard to believe there could be anything better than a cold beer in the snow.

  • At 3/19/2010 10:26 am, Anonymous Angela said…

    Love reading your experience in Japan. I want to go to Japan toooo.

  • At 3/19/2010 1:22 pm, Anonymous yewenyi said…

    I agree, eat what he locals eat. It has the added benefit of being much healthier. And for those who have trouble with the language the vending machines are easier too.

  • At 3/19/2010 2:23 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Hee hee love raiding conbinees for snacks/drinks/foods! And mmmmm bbeerrr!!

  • At 3/19/2010 3:25 pm, Anonymous billy@atablefortwo said…

    oh I went to the Kirin brewery museum in Osaka right next to the bridge, but is gone now.. so sad. The sapporo museum looks pretty tasty too.

    I agree with you, best eats in Japan is still the little dingy ramen and izakaya places around. cheap and cheerful.

  • At 3/19/2010 6:47 pm, Anonymous Mrs Ed said…

    hehe the chocolate potato chip.. it was good.. but feels like double the sin.. eating choccies and potato chips! hehe...

    loving the japan posts!! i wanna go!!!

  • At 3/19/2010 10:27 pm, Blogger Min Ai said…

    Ooh, I loooooved Mister Donut when I was in Japan! Did you try the tofu donut? :P

  • At 3/20/2010 2:02 am, Blogger Yas @ hungry.digital.elf. said…

    Oh my god, Sapporo Beer Museum & mister donuts!! *faint* Did you get to try Jingisukan? (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jingisukan) It's one of famouse Hokkaido local food!

  • At 3/20/2010 10:28 am, Blogger Rita (mademoiselle délicieuse) said…

    Haha, I was hanging out to know what those choc-coated chips were like!

  • At 3/20/2010 6:30 pm, Anonymous Mrs Pig Flyin' said…

    This post takes me right back to a whiskey distillery I once visited, also in Hokkaido. The air was filled with the smell of whiskey in the entire ground of the distillery and I smiled a bit more with every breath... yes, I was like a child in a candy shop :)

  • At 3/21/2010 5:45 pm, Anonymous grace said…

    I spy japan posts!!

    I'm not going to discriminate - everything looks awesome. awesome. awesme (pulls chin back up)

    seriously haha I'm tots jealous

  • At 3/21/2010 5:48 pm, Anonymous grace said…

    actually I'm going to discriminate RAW EGG ON RICE I'm so doing that tonight

    we better be eating rice

  • At 3/23/2010 1:56 pm, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Hannah - Oh you do have good taste. lol. And hmmm I think French chocolate wins - now imagine that on a potato chip?

    Hi Mark - Chocolate-covered potato chips are great. They've sold some at Aldi before but they were nowhere near a tasty as the ones by Royce!

    Hi Zina - Sapporo is a great place to explore, and so compact too. Just a shame it takes so long to get there, but the trek is more than worth it!

    Hi The Extra - lol. And what about a woman in the snow? The mind boggles... lol

    Hi Angela - Glad you've been enjoying the posts. Plenty more to come!

    Hi yewenyi - The vending machines are great, although much easier when there are pictures included. I tend to follow the adage "when in Rome" whenever I eat out.

    Hi FFichiban - We visited the convenience stores every night. So many temptations on offer :)

    Hi Billy - Cheap and cheerful is my kinda place. I love the energy of those places too plus I think they do epitomise the experience of Japan so much better.

    Hi Mrs Ed - You should definitely head to Japan, and it's sin, it's just double the pleasure :)

    Hi Min Ai - Tofu donut? We didn't see those! Must remember for next time!

    Hi Yas - We did try jingisukan :) Pics to come soon (oh the backlog!)

    Hi mademoiselle delicieuse - They're wonderfully tasty. I'm sure you could make your own - sprinkled with delicate salt flakes for extra flavour :)

    Hi Mrs Pig Flyin - Oh I can imagine the bliss on your face being in a whiskey distillery!

    Hi Grace - Oh I have a huge backlog of Japan posts to get through - slowly, slowly... the trip was fab. Japan is a gluttony of fun for food lovers.

    Hope you enjoyed your raw egg on rice too. lol.

  • At 3/23/2010 6:24 pm, Blogger Angie Lives to Eat (and Cook)! said…

    Those donuts look so drool worthy! I actually have not had a donut in a long time, for fear of health problems!

  • At 3/29/2010 9:52 pm, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Angie Lives to Eat (and Cook)! - Oh everything in moderation I say, but I do admire your self-control :)


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