Sunday, January 14, 2018

Japan Winter Holiday 2017 Part 4 - Otaru Sake Tasting and Glass Workshop

After two nights of stay in Niseko Hilton, it was time for us to move on to Otaru. That morning we woke up to an almost clear blue sky. We took the hotel shuttle bus to Kutchan JR Station where we would take the train to Otaru. 

View from our room
Mt Yotei from the bus

Mt Yotei from the bus

Mt Yotei from the bus

Right next to the train station there was a supermarket. We had some time before our train departure time so DH went over and bought a small Milk Kobo Yogurt that we really liked.

When I checked my Facebook account at the station, I saw a comment on one of my pictures from Niseko from my friend in Canada. She mentioned that GC, one of DH's friend from Canada was also on a trip in Hokkaido. I sent him a quick message and in turned out that he had just left Niseko on an earlier train and was in Otaru at that moment! What were the chances!! We made an appointment to meet up as soon as we arrive in Otaru.

It was snowing lightly when we were at the Kutchan Station, and as our train left the snow got heavier. Actually it snowed so heavily all the way to Otaru it reminded me of an anime I watched a while ago called 5 Centimeters per Second. There was this scene when a boy traveled on a train in the middle of a very heavy snow storm.

When we arrived in Otaru Station, it was still snowing heavily. GC wasn't kidding when he had said that it was dumping snow there that day. I had booked Hotel Nord Otaru just a couple blocks away from the station for one night, but there was no way we were going to pull our luggages in that heavy snow storm. We went to the empty taxi stand and hopped in the first taxi. The trip was so close that the taxi meter didn't even move from the starting price. On the way, we saw people trying to pull their luggages with a lot of difficulties.  We checked in at the hotel, met up with our friend, dropped off our luggages and went out for lunch. I already had this one restaurant called Otaru Seafood Yen Bowl. I wanted to go to because it was recommended in someone's blog and the website looked good. It had 4.0 stars rating on Google so I thought it was worth a try.

We walked from the hotel to the restaurant. When we got there, there were people outside waiting for tables so we put our name on the waiting list and walked around for a bit. Fast forward 20 minutes or so, we all got our food and were disappointed. Otaru was supposed to be famous for their sushi, but their sushi at this restaurant was not even as good as the ones we usually have at Kaihomaru in Jakarta.

Other than sushi, Otaru is famous for their Venetian glass art. Back in their golden days, Otaru was very famous for Herring industry and when that started to decline they focused more on glass arts. Kitaichi Glass is the most well known glass company in Otaru.

On our want-to-do list we had glass workshop and sake factory visit amongst other things. So we decided to go to Otaru's famous Tanaka Sake Brewery not too far from our hotel.

On Google it had pictures of a factory yet some comments said that it wasn't a factory. We went there anyway because it was close anyway. Sure enough, those photos on google were incorrect. This location was just a store and not a factory. It was still a great visit though, we got to taste many different sakes and we bought a couple of bottles. One cloudy sake and one bottle of their no. 1 sake. With my limited Japanese, I asked them to show me on Google Maps where their factory is.

This, my friend, is the location of the factory. Don't make the same mistake!

It was still blowing snow but we braced ourselves and went anyway. Miss Kiki was having a lot of fun walking in the snow storm. :D

We bought the two on the left.

Kouji rice for my friend

From the sake store, we wanted to do glass workshop but weren't sure which ones would take us without an appointment and were still open at that time. Thus, we stopped by the Tourist Information Centre right across from our hotel to find out. They directed us to Taisho Glass, not too far from where we were. There, customers can walk-in and request a glass bead workshop. They use a small burner for this glass, so it was okay for children too.

The first step was to choose the type of beads we want to make. We chose the colour and the design. They had the marble, heart, flower, and a few other designs to choose from.

We made the beads two people at a time. I started with Miss Kiki. We each had our own instructor. The steps were quite simple to explain, but it required steady hands and fingers to create a nice, round bead. Look how serious our faces looked! :D

We started with heating up the thin rod that we would use as a skewer. Then we heated up the glass stick until it started melting and applied the melted glass to the rod. Next was to 'cook' this blob of glass on the rod while turning it constantly and slowly to make it a nice round shape.

Next, it was time to add the design. I chose a white heart design while Miss Kiki chose a flower design. We heated up the glass for the design until it melted. For my heart design, I had to make a dot first on my bead.

To 'cut off' the string of melted glass after we applied it, we had to stretch the string in the fire until it burnt and got separated...

The new blob of design we just applied needed to be flattened. Every time I pressed I was worried that the glass was going to stick to my tool but it didn't. :D

See my bead above? That's the 'hot' colour. After it cooled off the colour changed drastically. Check this out... This is the colour after it's done.

After Miss Kiki and I were done, it was the boys' turn. They both chose a simple marble pattern.

When we were done, we had to wait 15 minutes before we can take the beads home. So the boys went out for a drink while Miss Kiki and I browsed around the stores in the area. In the same store, they sold accessories that you can attach your bead to and make bookmarks, keychain, etc. They even sold ear picks!

How was it that we all wore similar colours! :D

Right outside the store there was a tall tree with red berries on it. Some of them were wrapped in icicles and Miss Kiki got ahold of one. It became her treasure for the next hour or so... Every time we entered a store, she would bury it under snow by the entrance and dug it out when we left the store.

Check it out... they decorated their tree with glasses :) It's really nice when you don't have to worry about people helping themselves to your belongings, huh.

After we picked up our beads, we headed back towards our hotel and stopped on the way for Sushi Zanmai dinner. It was much more satisfying than our lunch. Yum!

We then separated ways with GC because he was going to Sapporo that evening.

Next post: Ao no Unga (青の運河)