We had a really enjoyable time feasting at Nemuro Hanamaru, a sushi restaurant that is located in the Stellar Place shopping mall in Sapporo. Although we are not usually keen on conveyor belt sushi restaurants (who knows how long the thing has been on the belt right?), we were impressed by the high recommendations given by the hotel staff and by the warm atmosphere when we arrived. And warmth is something that is greatly appreciated in winter in Sapporo.
Sapporo is a lovely place when it is coated with a fluffy layer of snow. To avoid issues of accessibility when the weather is not so friendly, we stayed at one of the hotels that is connected to the JR station. From here you are connected via a large network of underground facilities to many malls and also to the airport which is a short ride away by rail. If you are arriving from Tokyo, you can use the stored value Suica card. The journey from Chitose airport to Sapporo city JR station is about 30 minutes and costs around 1,000 yen. Stellar Place is probably the nicest mall in this vicinity and we believe that Hanamaru sushi is a must-try place should you be in the area.
Let me say straight away that you should not expect high-end gourmet sushi here at Hanamaru. What you can expect is good sushi here at really reasonable prices. More like BMW 5 series rather than Rolls Royce quality, to use a car analogy, which is fine for us, ordinary patrons. The place is filled to the brim with mainly locals but some tourists are also spotted. The sushi chefs do not speak English, but that is not a problem here as you can simply take what you want from the belt. You can also place orders by referring to the English menu and writing the item number that you desire on the slips of paper provided. Prices range from around 140 to 500 yen per plate. The plates are colour-coded according to price.
We helped ourselves to whatever caught out eye on the belt and ordered some of the higher priced items such as scallop and sea urchin sushi. The menu is quite extensive and is not limited to raw fish items. The two items which were outstanding were the grilled eggplant and the deep-fried octopus ‘legs’. The raw fish items were all fresh, had a very healthy sheen on them and had a good pure taste. We took quite a few items without knowing what they were.
We selected so many items that we lost count. In the end we were afraid that we might be faced with a scary bill. That turned out to be unfounded. The total damage for our sushi feast with sake? It turned out to be a very reasonable 3,084 yen (about SGD$40)! No wonder the place is packed and there is always a queue. We timed our visit to be in the mid-afternoon to avoid the dinner crowd and did not have to wait long.
Another reason to visit this place is the festive and energetic atmosphere in the restaurant. The shouting of orders and requests among the chefs and staff were boisterous in a fun and entertaining way. In a place where darkness sets in at around 3.30 pm, it is good to have places like this at your doorstep to spend the long wintry nights of Sapporo.
JR Tower Stellar Place 6th floor
Chuo-ku, Sapporo 060-0005, Hokkaido, Japan
JR Tower area guide: