Personal: From A Distant Hilltop

A horn sounded. I ran down the hill in an attempt capture a good picture of a passing train. Local Japanese turned their heads to the window, curiously watching as an asian girl in a striped blue shirt with grey jeans tucked into black boots sprinted towards them with a DSLR.

After the scene had passed, I turned back around to re-orientate myself after the sudden, unexpected flurry, and found my family at the spot which I’d left them at – still far away, standing at the top of one of the hills in the garden. I lifted my camera.

My uncle noticed me first and started waving. Then my parents and other aunts and uncles began to look in my direction. They waved enthusiastically and as I adjusted the lens, faces flushed with broad smiles and laughter came into clearer focus.

The itinerary for this trip was left largely to my cousin and I, and I was definitely the more particular of us both. Armed with TripAdvisor, trusty Google, and advice from friends, I’d mapped the routes, booked everything from hotels to restaurants, and read reviews and articles over a period of 2 months prior to the trip – I know that probably sounds crazy to most people, but I just wanted to make sure everything was as perfect as could be, you know?

Everyone knows I’m big on planning – from whom I need to catch up with and when, to places I want to go, etc. By any date, I usually would’ve mapped out my schedule for the next 2 weeks or so, and I typically kickoff each year with a list of projects and things that I want to achieve in the next 365.25 days. Most of my “free time” (to do whatever I might feel like doing) or personal time is planned for – “planned spontaneity” is what I call it, oxymoronic as that sounds.

When I look at this photograph, reward – that’s what it means to me. All that planning, researching, everything- that was all made worth it. My family- smiling, waving, sharing a good laugh, on the hill top of a garden in Abashiri, midway through our roadtrip in Hokkaido.

June 2014, 網走国定公園小清水原生花園 (Garden opposite Lake Tofutsu), Abashiri, Hokkaido, Japan

In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Reward.”

Hazeya Cafe (はぜや珈琲), Abashiri, Hokkaido, Japan

SCRIBBLES

Category: Cafe – Coffee

We’d just wrapped up lunch at Kanigen in Abashiri, when I was presented with the new mission of finding the family a coffee fix. I scanned my list and found that I hadn’t made provisions for any cafe, and so decided to whip out my trusty Google maps, and crossing my fingers, did a “Search nearby: Coffee”. By luck, chance, or by Google’s sheer brilliance, of the few markers that came up, everything was in Japanese except “はぜや珈琲” which had “coffee” in mandarin, and so that’s where I navigated us to. Turns out, it was one of the best coffees any of us had ever had in our lives.

Komabakita 3-chome 9-7, Abashiri, Hokkaido 093-0033 / 北海道 網走市駒場北3丁目9-7

Although I’d been proven reliable in providing navigational guidance throughout the trip, everyone couldn’t help but doubt when my directions led us deep into a residential estate. After piloting through the grid of single-lane residential streets, we finally saw the little cream-coloured standalone cottage with a chocolate-coloured roof and a sign at the front with a coffee bean – it had to be it.

Damage: $

The coffee was worth way more than it’s price. An expresso was about the standard $3+; I can’t remember the prices for every item, but we definitely spent under $8 each and left as a troop of happy Energizer bunnies.

To go: YES!!! 

It was definitely a hole-in-the-wall kind of place, with artisan coffee brewed in-house and an amazing selection of beans, it’s probably a secret kept amongst the locals so thank you, Google! Thank you so much!


A MORE DETAILED REVIEW

I was busy taking photos of the cafe from the outside and was the last one in. A little bell hung on the door of the cafe and chimed as I entered. Even before I actually set foot inside, the amazing aroma of freshly brewed beans hit me like the scent of a memorable perfume, and I stood there for a split second- surprised- trying to take it all in. The only other guests in the place at this time were a Japanese couple and their little boy, who looked just as surprised to see tourists in this place. My family was excitedly flipping through the menu, eagerly anticipating the satisfaction of a good fix of caffeine on a sleepy afternoon.

The place was small and could seat barely ten people, with little round tables lined up against the full-length windows on the left, outside of which lay a bed of pastel purple flowers bathing in the afternoon sun. The counter was to the right, and upon entering, customers would be greeted with shelves of various beans roasted in-house, as well as cookies and such, while a large 2-meter high silver-coloured grinder stood in the back.

Hazeya Coffee Best Artisan Coffee Hokkaido Japan Travel Blog Review

The baristas were perfectionists in the trade. While waiting, we observed them brewing, tasting, measuring and adjusting. They even threw out the first batch which smelled fantastic to me.

It was a pretty hot afternoon and so I decided to get an affogato which I happily conclude was the best decision ever. The ice-cream was creamy and luscious, but what really hit the spot for me was the espresso shot that was poured over it. It was so intense, so deep, so mellow, and had a perfect amount of acidity which gave a kick to the senses. Even as the ice-cream melted, the espresso kept its character, and I enjoyed it slowly- scoop by scoop, enjoying the view of the garden, while everyone who didn’t order an affogato secretly (or not so secretly) wished they did.

Top coffee Hazeya Cafe Hokkaido Japan Travel Blog Review