Anthony Bourdain in Hokkaido: 5 Spots Where Tony Ate
Much like Hawaii across the Pacific, Japan is a country of islands – and each island is unique in what it has to offer visitors. Hokkaido is the northernmost and second largest of Japan’s four main islands, but has managed to retain its uniqueness despite its proximity to the others.
Anthony Bourdain visited Hokkaido just one time, to film Season 7 (Episode 8) of No Reservations. It was his only on-screen visit to this part of Japan – but he filmed 10 episodes in the country in total so there are plenty of other places to visit in eat if you’re following in the footsteps of Anthony Bourdain in Hokkaido.
As you plan your travels and meals in Japan, use this guide to the places Tony Bourdain ate in Hokkaido to enjoy a few meals; he really enjoyed this northern part of the country and its food – I’m sure you will too.
Want to watch the episode where Anthony Bourdain visits Hokkaido, Japan?
The No Reservations episode is available on Amazon, Hulu, and Apple TV.
In this post, I promote travel to a destination that is the traditional lands of the Ainu people. With respect, I make a formal land acknowledgment, extending my appreciation and respect to the past and present people of these lands. To learn more about the peoples who call these lands home, I invite you to explore Native Land.
Ramen Alley (Sapporo)
First up, Anthony Bourdain made his way to “Ramen Alley” in the city of Sapporo, the largest city on the island of Hokkaido. There, he tries ramen – as the name suggests – but it’s not the same as others he has enjoyed in different parts of Japan.
Instead, he tucks into a bowl of miso ramen, the uniquely Hokkaido take on this traditional Japanese dish. It includes crab, scallops, miso, bean sprouts, pork, butter, and… corn? This final ingredient surprises Bourdain too, and he comments on how the protagonist in the movie Ramen Girl adds corn and he always thought that was unusual – until enjoying this bowl in Sapporo.
Wakakoma Restaurant (Sapporo)
Next, Tony and his local guide head to Wakakoma Restaurant (website all in Japanese!) for more regional delicacies. There, he tries Hokkaido-style cheese – another unusual ingredient in Japanese food – as well as large and delicious Wakkanai crab.
They also have two other seafood dishes, featuring local ingredients: Nama Chirashi Don, a bowl which includes 13 types of seafood like roe, clam, snapper, flounder, and tuna, and Ikura Don (salmon roe and sake-soy sauce on rice) with sea urchin (uni).
Next, Anthony Bourdain heads out of Sapporo to the mountain town of Niseko, famous for its downhill snowsports. There he visits Yakitori Torimatsu, an Izakaya-style restaurant, with several Japanese snowboarders. Izakaya refers to informal Japanese bars that serve alcoholic drinks and snacks; in the case of this one, it’s yakitori – skewered and grilled meats.
While most people might assume they have the traditional chicken yakitori, instead they have other proteins: fish sperm sacks, grilled chicken skins, pork belly, tongue, and liver. Sounds about right for what Tony most enjoys eating.
Rakuichi Soba (Niseko)
After hitting the slopes with his new local friends and adrenaline junkies, Bourdain then needs to refuel and warm up. They all visit Rakuichi Soba to try traditional Japanese soba.
Despite having just spent time in the cold, they dig into the dish made and served properly: cold soba noodles and hot broth. Paired with soba tea and sake, it’s a perfect meal to rejuvinate after an afternoon of outdoor adventures.
Note: this restaurant currently says it is reservation only. Be sure to check in advance before visiting.
Takinoya Ryokan (Noboribetsu)
Tony’s last restaurant meal in Hokkaido is at Takinoya Ryokan; a ryokan is a type of traditional Japanese inn with tatami-matted rooms, communal baths, and other public areas – including areas to eat.
Here, Bourdain enjoys a meal prepared in the robatayaki style: cooked over hot charcoal. Continuing to sample the bounty of the sea that surrounds Hokkaido, he has dishes of red snapper, scallops with butter, sardines, and crab legs.
Bonus: Local Ainu Dinner (Shiraoi)
As part of his visit to Hokkaido, Tony learns about – and educates us the audience – to the fact that Japan was home to indigenous groups that are now marginalized and discriminated against. He does this by visiting the town of Shiraoi, where many people who still embrace traditional indigenous practices live. In particular, this area is home to the Ainu people, and Bourdain meets with one of the elders from the community as well as translater, to learn about their culture and food.
His home meal includes chep-ohau, a traditional Ainu soup, as well as salted and dried salmon; like many Indigenous groups of the Pacific, the salmon plays a critical role in the traditional foods of the Ainu people.
While the list of places visited by Anthony Bourdain in Hokkaido isn’t extensive, it’s still a region of Japan well worth exploring if you want to enjoy regional varieties of favorite foods and learn more about the history and dynamic culture of the country. Have any questions about the places Tony ate in Hokkaido, or want to correct this article? Please let me know in the comments below.