Journey in winter Hokkaido! – Pair of NTU JAC students, Day 5

Today we left Abashiri to go to Kitami, followed by Asahikawa. Upon arriving at JR Kitami station, we located a locker to store our heavy luggage in.

JR Kitami station

Lockers at JR Kitami station

We then walked to the Kitami Mint Memorial Museum. The museum was a wooden building with wooden interior that looked really luxurious. The friendly staff greeted us when we entered the building and proceed to guide us around speaking in fluent English, explaining the showcases. We had the opportunity to observe the mint oil distillation process and even learned that Kitami used to account for 70% of the world’s market share of mint.

Kitami Mint Memorial Museum

Male student: “The contents of this building was very informative and interesting. It describes the mint production in Japan, the process of mint production, and uses of mint. The staff there told us that Japanese mint is different than western mint, in that when the surrounding temperatures cooled below a certain threshold, the mint oil would crystallise, forming beautiful white crystals. How much Japan played a role in mint production in the past, as well as the wide range of uses for mint allowed me to gain an appreciation of how important mint was, as well as how important Japan was for the supply of mint.”

Interior of Kitami Mint Memorial Museum

Aside from the main building, there was a secondary building right beside the museum that sold mint related souvenirs. Upon entering the secondary building, we noticed how strongly the scent of mint permeated the entire area. In the room, we were able to observe a small-scale demonstration of the mint oil distillation process. In addition to purchasing mint related souvenirs and observing the distillation process, we noticed that there was a workshop where we could make our own scented cream.

Kitami Mint Memorial Museum, secondary building

Mint oil distillation process

Female student: “Unfortunately

, the workshop was over but if given the chance I would love to create my own scented cream. I enjoyed the mint flavoured cookies and biscuits at the souvenir shop. They were not as overpowering at the mint flavoured items back in Singapore and I appreciated how I was able to taste both the flavours of the cookies and biscuits, while being able to savour the light and refreshing aftertaste of mint that lingered in my mouth. Another product which caught my attention was a mint flavoured yokan (a Japanese desert). I am an avid fan of wagashi (Japanese sweets) so seeing a mint flavoured yokan for the first time was a surprise to me and I was curious on how it would taste like. I immediately purchased the product and cannot wait to try it once I am back in Singapore!”

Scented cream workshop (Female student)

Mint flavoured yokan (Female student)

We then went to have lunch at Okhotsk Beer Factory. The restaurant had a classy ambience and three large bronze coloured tanks which we assumed was where they brew their beer. We had gotten the Black Beer Beef Stew, Hamburg Steak, and Fried Oysters. We also ordered 2 glasses of beer, ale and their Christmas beer.

Okhotsk Beer Factory

Interior of Okhotsk Beer Factory

Male student: “The beef stew was amazing, I liked it a lot as the sauce was really flavourful and paired extremely well with the drinks we got. The beef was also really tender. Their Christmas beer was really interesting, it had a fruity start to its taste. It was also really cool to see the staff working on the beer in the brewery as we had our lunch.”

Black Beer Beef Stew (Male student)

Ale and Christmas beer

Female student: “I opted for their lady’s special lunch set. It featured a bean salad, cake and hamburger patty with demi-glace sauce and rice. The hamburger patty came with other items like green beans, egg, carrots and penne pasta. We also shared a fried oyster lunch item. The crispy batter coating on the outside of the oyster and a slight firmness to the cooked oysters itself was a gastronomic experience we will never forget. Another item I immensely enjoyed, was the dessert that came with the lady’s special lunch set. With its light and airy texture, mildly sweet but slightly tart cream, and the light sugar coating around the exterior of the cake. This dessert was just the thing I needed to close my meal. I have never tasted such an exquisite piece of pastry before and wished I had eaten more while I was at Okhotsk Beer Factory.”

Hamburger patty with rice, part of lady’s special lunch set (Female student)

Fried oysters (Female student)

After finishing our satisfying lunch, we boarded the train to Asahikawa. When we arrived the sky had already turned dark. Walking around the city, we were amazed by all the Christmas lights that were up. Our hotel for tonight is OMO7. Walking into the hotel’s posh lobby, we checked in at the front desk and quickly received the keys to our room, and headed upstairs. The room had a view of the city night lights.

Arrive at JR Asahikawa station

Tourist information center at JR Asahikawa station

JR Asahikawa station

Pedestrian only road “Kaimono koen”

Pedestrian only road “Kaimono koen”

Christmas lights at “Kaimono koen”

OMO7 hotel lobby

View from hotel room

For dinner, we walked around the neighbourhood until we passed by a ramen shop called “Hachiya”.

Izakaya beside “Hachiya” ramen

“Hachiya” ramen shop

Male student: “Dinner at Hachiya was amazing, it was honestly the best ramen I’ve had during the trip. I ordered the spicy miso ramen. I felt warm eating it, perfect for the cold weather. For me, Hachiya is something I would recommend to all my friends visiting Asahikawa. It’s extremely affordable large portions allow for a filling meal without sacrifices to taste. Definitely a must try!”

Female student: “I ordered a shoyu chashu ramen bowl, which came with thinly cut slices of chashu and grated ginger on the top. The ginger mixed with the ramen broth added an unexpected depth to the dish, enhancing the flavours of the broth. The heavy broth was well balanced perfectly with the kick from the ginger, something I’ve never had before and I was surprised at how well this combination works. Perfect for those who love a strong tasting broth but without it feeling overindulgent.”

Spicy miso ramen (Male student)

Shoyu chashu ramen (Female Student)