Otaru Orgel Museum (Music Box Museum), Otaru, Hokkaido, Japan (Gallery)

On our second day after lunch, we went to the Otaru Orgel Museum, which is synonymous with the “music box museum” simply because that’s the museum’s claim to fame. We drove up to the museum and parked in the open-air carpark just in front of the main entrance, and from the outside, the building looked incredibly plain for something that supposedly housed a variety of interesting souvenirs and music boxes.

Stepping in, however, I could see that I was incredibly wrong and, as they say, looks can be deceiving. A soft, cheerful music filled the entire place, and I was greeted with huge rooms on both my left and right – displays full of shiny, moving things from miniature carousels, to snow globes and photo frames, to intricately carved music boxes within which little ballerinas danced or fabric butterflies flapped their wings. Sort of like a disney shop for grown-ups.

Orgel Museum Otaru Music Box Hokkaido Japan Travel Diary Blog

Orgel Museum Otaru Music Box Hokkaido Japan Travel Diary Blog

I don’t think you’ll need that much time at this stop – around 45 minutes should do – unless you’re a huge music box fanatic or plan to do some serious souvenir shopping. The upper floors contain some of the most exquisite (and very expensive) music boxes and other vintage items, but really, I spent the most time standing by the shelves pressed up against the wall, picking out little musical movements encased in clear acrylic boxes, labelled and prepped to play everything from Backstreet Boys to Phantom of the Opera to KPOP/JPOP and Classics. I eventually brought home Beauty and the Beast‘s signature soundtrack because it’s my favourite Disney classic, and I thought nothing would be more magical than to have a musical movement which tinkled the tune whenever I feel like winding it up for a listen.

Orgel Museum Otaru Music Box Hokkaido Japan Travel Diary Blog

Orgel Museum Otaru Music Box Hokkaido Japan Travel Diary Blog

LeTAO (ルタオ), Otaru, Hokkaido, Japan

SCRIBBLES

Category: Dessert – Cheesecake

We made a highly-anticipated stop at LeTAO (ルタオ) in Otaru for their famous cheesecakes. I heard all about the melt-in-your-mouth creamy cheesecakes of LeTAO from friends who’d gone ahead, and I’m glad to say it didn’t disappoint.

7-16 Sakaimachi, Otaru City, Hokkaido, 047-0027

Being right at the start of the street as you turn off the main street, LeTAO is impossible to miss.

Damage: $$ – $$$

If you’re heading upstairs to the cafe, you’re not going to stop at one. And if you’re shopping on the ground floor, with the sales assistants smilingly handing out samples of everything delicious (think lots of chocolate), you’re not just going to walk out with one box either- more like a bag, or two, or three!

To go: YES! Definitely!

Needless to say, you have to try LeTAO‘s cheesecakes – A light texture, with soft, smooth, cheesecake, nestled within a bed of feathery light cake crumbs and a light cream. To me, it was as if special notes of the cheese, distilled somehow, were gently whisked and incorporated into the cake, and as it descended upon my tongue, I couldn’t help but feel a smile grace my lips.

For all the hype surrounding LeTAO‘s cheesecakes, I’m surprised no one has made much mention about their tea. The LeTAO tea is incredible! There is an amazing range of flavours, and if you just open the lids of the sample cans, the beautiful scents will hit you like a dream. We bought some to take home with us from the shelves on the second floor (where the cafe is), and we’ve rationed the teas till now because they are simply so precious in fragrance and taste.

LeTAO Otaru Hokkaido Japan 小樽洋菓子舗ルタオ Travel Diary BlogLeTAO Otaru Hokkaido Japan 小樽洋菓子舗ルタオ Travel Diary Blog Chestnut Mont Blanc DessertLeTAO Otaru Hokkaido Japan 小樽洋菓子舗ルタオ Travel Diary Blog Double Fromage CheesecakeLeTAO Otaru Hokkaido Japan 小樽洋菓子舗ルタオ Travel Diary Blog Desserts Double Fromage Cheesecake

Let’s explore: Furano Marche (フラノマルシェ), Furano, Hokkaido, Japan

I’ve said it before and I’m going to say it again – the Japanese have incredible desserts and products. While in Furano, we dropped by Furano Marche (フラノマルシェ), which is a little cluster of shops selling a variety of things. At the back, we’d find a supermarket selling some of Hokkaido’s most famous treats.

I wanted to give you a quick look around Furano Marche – so come along, let’s go!

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.”

Furano Delice (菓子工房フラノデリス), Furano, Hokkaido, Japan

SCRIBBLES

Category: Japanese – Desserts – Special milk pudding

I was really excited about Furano Delice (菓子工房フラノデリス) after all my research and what my cousin had told me, and you can totally tell from my voice and the ooh-ing in the video below.

Shimo-Goryou 2156-1, Furano-shi, Tel: 0167-22-8005, Opens 10AM – 6PM (June – September)

Seated atop a hill in the outskirts of Furano city, Furano Delice is not difficult to find and can be easily spotted when you’re in the vicinity. I’m not sure if you can get here via public transport and if there is it is probably rather infrequent, but if you do plan to drive like we did, the telephone number provided is accurate for the GPS and there’s an abundance of parking at the open-air public carpark just opposite its entrance.

Damage: $ – $$

I guess that depends on how many cakes you order, but on the whole it was inexpensive. They’re most famous for the  Furano Milk Pudding which was 300JPY (~$3.50), and the cakes are just a little more than that. They have coffee as well, and the espresso we had was really intense, so all you caffeine-lovers should be pretty happy at Furano Delice too!

To go: When in Furano for sure!

Just to try the milk pudding! Creamy and luscious, like a softer cousin of panna cotta. In my opinion, cheesecake cravings can be better fulfilled at LeTAO in Otaru, but their double fromage cheesecake is pretty good too.


A MORE DETAILED REVIEW

The Furano Milk Pudding was decadent – made from locally produced Furano milk, cooked, and then set in a miniature Furano milk bottle, it is super cute AND delicious. The syrup at the bottom is not caramel, like I’d thought when shooting the video, but more of a thicker, darker, maple sort of flavour which went on smoothly atop the flavours of the pudding. You can keep the glass bottle as a souvenir as well! The cheesecake was good, LeTAO’s is still better, but the strawberry cake was nothing special.

If it’s cold out enough, you can sit on the terrace outside under the tent with gorgeous views over the countryside, but when we were there we sat indoors to get away from the scorching heat.

Furano Delice Desserts Cakes Milk Pudding Hokkaido Japan Travel Blog Food Review

Travel Diary: Kamui Kotan (神居古潭), Asahikawa, Hokkaido, Japan (Gallery)

Kamuikotan (神居古潭) literally means God-village in the native Ainu language and is situated by the Ishikari River, about a half-hour drive out from the city of Asahikawa. We made a stop at Kamuikotan with a slight detour to the west en route to Furano, via Takikawa. It’s a short stop which you can cover in about 15 to 20 minutes.

The lush foliage changes with the seasons – with cherry blossoms in early May, to auburn in the fall. Being central to Ainu folklore, the first thing you’d notice is the mystic calm about this place – the quietness is touched by the sound of the rushing the river below, quick and yet surprisingly serene. Crossing the bridge to the other side of the river, you’d ascend short flights of steps to find the old kamuikotan station as well as a locomotive reminiscent of a time past.
Kamuikotan Hokkaido Japan Asahikawa Travel Diary Tourism

Kamuikotan Hokkaido Japan Asahikawa Travel Diary Tourism Sights Kamuikotan Hokkaido Japan Asahikawa Travel Diary Tourism Sights

Prose by Photography: A Stir in the Shrine

I stood on the gravel, staring at the textured bark of one of the tall, lean trees in the middle of the Hokkaido Jingu Shrine – like wrinkles of the wise, and as if possessing a knowledge that the rest of us were still lost in seeking to discover. Just a moment before that, I’d been standing on the steps of the main building, quietly and respectfully watching from the side as the locals went up to what looked like wooden kneelers and knelt, looking straight ahead at the altar through the glass, bowing piously.

Suddenly- there was movement to the right side of the shrine. A door opened, and a man dressed in pine-green-coloured robes wearing a black headpiece tied with a skinny white rope around his face and under his chin stepped out, holding a small bell. Ring, ring, ring.

Two ladies stepped out with him, hair neatly and tightly pulled back into a ponytail around which a cream-coloured cloth was wrapped and bound with red ribbon, both clad in long white blouses with slits and big boxy sleeves, under which they wore full-length bright red skirts. Ring, ring, ring.

They promptly bowed low to each other, and one of the ladies spun on her heel and departed briskly, as if on a mission, her feet shuffling quickly in matching red geta slippers and I watched as she navigated the peripheral pathways of the shrine, rounded a bend and vanished, her red skirt previously trailing with movement, going with her.

June 2014, Hokkaidō Shrine (Hokkaido-Jingu Shrine), Maruyama Park, Sapporo, Hokkaido, Japan

In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Rule of Thirds.”