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Welcome to Abashiri in north Hokkaido,where the temperatures can dip to -10° Celsius. it's cold!
And believe it or not February is the high season
It snows a lot in North Hokkaido.
the city lies along the Sea of Okhotsk which gets quite icy in February.
In fact the sea freezes over
And from the city visitors can hop on a ship for a drift ice tour of the sea near Abashiri, it's quite an Adventure!
it's one of the most popular attractions in the city, and lasts about an hour depending on conditions.
The drift ice tours typically start in mid January and go on to late March.
The old Abashiri prison, the Alcatraz of Japan is the number one site here.
Check out my episode on Japanese prison food made right here.
behind me is a Hokkaido Street food market, it's a festival of food!
Despite the cold and ice, the event is held every February.
with yatai and street food stands, and it features seafood from the Sea of Okhotsk. a real treat!
Things really get started after 7PM.
But that shouldn't stop you from grabbing a bowl of ramen
or curry udon to make the freezing temperatures feel just a little bit better.
As the sun sets, more and more people get off work and make their way towards the winter market.
where barbecue grills are hot and waiting!
You can buy meat and vegetables at local stalls, or even bring your own!
When I started to feel the cold I knew it was time to warm up. I spy'd my first treat at this stand.
Locally made amazake for 100¥ or about a dollar
Amazake is sort of like Japanese sake before the alcohol process begins.
It's quite healthy, when they use less sugar in it.
It's a favorite in Japan during the winter months at festivals.
Nothing, warms you up like a cup of Amazake, and I asked him what makes it so good.
and he said that he makes everything!
This Amazake is all homemade and it's really, chunky it's like a soup!
The warmth will radiate from the inside out for a while, with just one cup
but don't fill up on it! We're just getting started.
I said they had a lot of local seafood and here's the first.
Oysters and scallops from the Sea of Okhotsk.
The scallops in Hokkaido can get pretty big, and cooked with a little dashi or soy sauce, quite flavorful.
Hokkaido crab, the king crab legs are much cheaper here in Hokkaido.
You can buy them from local vendors at the market, and put them right on the barbecue.
We're starting to put together quite a meal!
I made a lot of friends, including here at the okonomiyaki stand.
Okonomiyaki isn't exactly local fare, but it's good and hot.
We'll come back here a little later to see how they're doing.
The ice bar in the center of the market, is not a bad place to hang out
This is really cool this entire bar, made by hand, all made out of ice. beer on an ice bar!
That really is cool!
The thick blocks of ice never melt up here in Abashiri.
It's a nice touch to emphasise the everyday life here.
Surrounded by ice in the winter, and yeah the brews are super cold here.
If you want something hot, they have atsukan hot Saké.
Abashiri is one of the friendliest towns I visited in Hokkaido.
People come out to socialise in the freezing cold.
Warmed by food and booze and friendly company.
Sit anywhere you like, there's a lot of grilling all around you.
The sound and smell of sizzling food makes you hungry instantly!
The event is staffed by university students who keep the grills going late.
This may be the warmest place in the market.
The grills are free to use just find an open one, and game on for some BBQ.
Like all Japanese festivals it's super clean and organised.
there are six bins to recycle your garbage.
pet bottles, glass bottles, cans ,raw garbage, landfill garbage and plastic trays.
The more I walked around the more friends I made with stand owners who treated me to samples.
This steamed potato and butter looked so good!
Abashiri is also known for drinking a little more than other places, and things get a little... silly.
The Stand owner also gave me some of these locally caught shrimp, lightly battered and deep-fried.
Crispy, it's not usual to eat the whole shrimp, is it? it got my sign of approval!
It was getting late, I had more than I thought I would drink and my flight back to Tokyo, was just 90 minutes away.
Since you don't have to check in until 45 minutes before departure at domestic flights.
I thought I'd have one more go around the market.
My friends at the okonomiyaki stand were doing great! the fire ramen stand was also tempting.
the colder it got the more I wanted a bowl of ramen.
but I was invited to sit down with some abashiri residents and share their local seafood.
I had just enough time to try some new things with them.
The locally caught fish was excellent, with a little salt and another cup of hot sake magically appeared!
You gotta love that Abashiri hospitality.
it's hard not to fall in love with regional markets, in Hokkaido and all around Japan.
This was an experience I'll never forget!
So that's the Abashiri Street food festival scene!
you're gonna eat a lot you're gonna drink a lot you get a meet a lot of great people and...
Might get a little bit tipsy but it's all out of fun!
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mata ne~ (see ya!)