Week 1

Hokkaido Island

Just like the itinerary you get on a cruise ship, this has fun info, an activity and a story spotlight about one of the kids you are helping at UC Davis Children's Hospital! 

Taste of Japan

Miso Butter Ramen

Miso ramen is a type of Japanese noodle soup that is flavored with a thick and hearty broth made from miso paste, which is a traditional Japanese seasoning made from fermented soybeans. The origins of miso ramen can be traced back to the mid-20th century in Sapporo, the capital city of Japan’s northernmost prefecture, Hokkaido. According to one popular account, a restaurant called Aji no Sanpei, it’s rumored that a drunk customer requested noodles to be placed in their miso soup. At the time, ramen was typically served with a clear, soy sauce-based broth, and Aji no Sanpei’s innovative use of miso gave their ramen a distinctively rich and savory flavor that quickly became popular. This variation of ramen is also known as Hokkaido ramen, and it was a departure from the traditional pork bone-based broth that was ubiquitous at the time of its introduction. Morito Ohmiya is credited with creating this new version to make ramen healthier and less oily. 

Cruise Beverage

Japanese Wine

Japan has been growing grapes for more than 1,000 years, possibly starting back in the 8th century, but fermenting those grapes into wine is a newer phenomenon. In the 16th century, Portuguese Jesuit missionaries started bringing their own wine to the feudal lords of Kyushu down south, and up north in Fukushima, the daimyo Gamo Ujisato is said to be the first to drink red wine in Japan around the same time. Finally, when a wave of Western culture rushed into Japan during the Meiji Restoration of the late 19th century, wineries began to open in Japan, and local winemaking began to take root. Hokkaido now grows about a third of the grapes in Japan by weight, and over the past 60 years, winemaking in Hokkaido has grown to encompass 26 different wineries in the region. Hokkaido’s cold and snowy climate meant that the first vineyards mostly grew particularly cold-hardy grape hybrids, including the Crimson Glory, to help the vines make it through the winter. But for better or for worse, climate change has warmed the region in the intervening decades, and nowadays varieties of Vitis vinifera (the common grape vine) are also cultivated in Hokkaido, a process that started mostly with German varieties, and eventually branched out to French grapes too. Now, people compare the climate around many of Hokkaido’s vineyards to some of Europe’s most famous winemaking regions, like Alsace and Champagne. Wine from Japan (not a sponsor). 

Fun Facts

Overview of Hokkaido

Hokkaido is the second-largest island behind Honshu. While there are islands further north, Hokkaido is the largest one to the north. Because of where it’s situated, it’s well-known for its beautiful snowy landscape during the winter, making it a popular destination for skiing.


There are approximately 5 million people living on the island of Hokkaido. Given its size, it’s very sparsely populated – this is due to the fact that the island is mostly countryside and very mountainous. To put it into perspective, Hokkaido is the second largest island in Japan, but only the third-most populous.

Size of island

In total, Hokkaido covers around 83,423 kilometres squared of land. There are several smaller Japanese islands that surround Hokkaido, with the Russian island of Sakhalin only 21 miles to the north.

Major cities

Sapporo is the largest city on Hokkaido with a population of almost 2 million people as of 2015. It’s a very popular tourist destination for Japanese people and the rest of the world. Sapporo is famous for its skiing, the annual snow festival and the eponymous beer!

Known locally as ‘Red Bricks’, the Old Hokkaido Government Building was built in 1888 in Neo-Baroque style. It was, at the time, the largest and tallest building in Japan. Brick buildings are rare in Japan so it is normal that the old government building should be considered a local attraction. 

The Horomitoge Lavender Garden blooms into a spectacular sea of purple that makes for a sublime photo op. The garden boasts over 5,000 vibrant lavender plants (and counting), a colorful affair to rival Hokkaido’s more famous fields of Furano.

Anime Set in Hokkaido

Kimi ni Todoke, takes place in Hokkaido and focuses on a 15-year-old high school freshman, Sawako Kuronuma.

 Silver Spoon, is set in the fictional Ooezo Agricultural High School in Hokkaido, and depicts the daily life of Yuugo Hachiken, a high school student from Sapporo who enrolled at Ooezo Agricultural High School fleeing from the demands of his strict father.

Erased, follows 29-year-old Satoru Fujinuma, a struggling mangaka living in Chiba. 

Japanese Philosophy

If a problem can be solved, then it's not worth worrying about. If it can't be solved then it's useless to worry about it.  

This quote takes ‘don’t sweat the small stuff’ to the next level. If you have a bad habit of worrying about circumstances outside of your control, this is a great way to put things in perspective. It’s also a reminder to take action on the issues that you do have control over, rather than complaining about it.


Okurayama Ski Jump Stadium Towers and Olympic Museum

Located in the breathtaking region of Hokkaido, Japan, this iconic site is a living testament to the 1972 Winter Olympics, proudly held in the capital city of Sapporo. As we explore this historic landmark, you'll be transported back to a time when athletes from around the globe gathered here to showcase their incredible skills and compete for Olympic glory.

The centerpiece of our tour is the magnificent Okurayama Ski Jump Stadium. Constructed in 1931, this towering structure remains one of the world's few 90-meter class jumping hills. Standing at an impressive height of approximately 1,000 feet, it has witnessed countless awe-inspiring leaps and records set by some of the finest ski jumpers in history. The ski jump itself stands as a testament to Japan’s commitment to excellence and innovation, merging traditional craftsmanship with modern techniques.

Our journey begins with a ride up to the observatory, strategically perched just above the jump platform. As we ascend, you'll be treated to panoramic views that are nothing short of spectacular. From this vantage point, the sprawling city of Sapporo unfolds before you, with its urban landscape blending seamlessly into the natural beauty of the Ishikari Plain. On clear days, the vista extends as far as the eye can see, offering a breathtaking glimpse of Hokkaido's serene and majestic terrain.

Adjacent to the stadium lies the Sapporo Olympic Museum, an engaging and interactive tribute to the spirit of the Winter Games. Here, you can immerse yourself in the excitement and challenges faced by Olympic athletes through a variety of exhibits and activities. Feel the adrenaline rush of ski jumping and bobsledding through state-of-the-art simulations that give you a taste of what it’s like to be an Olympian. These mock sports experiences are not only educational but also incredibly fun, providing a unique perspective on the dedication and skill required to compete at such an elite level.

As we explore the museum, you'll also encounter a rich collection of memorabilia and artifacts from the 1972 Winter Olympics, including medals, uniforms, and equipment used by the athletes. These exhibits serve as a poignant reminder of the history and heritage of the Games, celebrating the triumphs and stories of those who competed here.  It inspires visitors, especially young people, to pursue their dreams with dedication and to appreciate the rich sporting history of their country.

But there's more to this site than its Olympic history. The Okurayama Ski Jump Stadium and Olympic Museum are culturally significant, representing Japan’s modernization and international prestige. Hosting the 1972 Winter Olympics marked Japan’s debut as the first Asian country to host the Winter Games, signaling its emergence as a modern, technologically advanced nation. Hokkaido’s harsh winters and abundant snowfall have fostered a rich tradition of winter sports, celebrated here at the stadium and museum. These facilities not only highlight the importance of skiing, snowboarding, and other winter sports in the region but also foster community pride and encourage future generations to engage in these activities.

Additionally, the site hosts various cultural events and festivals, particularly celebrating winter sports. These events provide opportunities for cultural exchange and community bonding, embedding the stadium within the cultural fabric of Sapporo and Hokkaido.

Thank you for joining us on this tour, and we hope you enjoy your visit to one of Sapporo's most cherished landmarks! This experience not only offers a glimpse into the world of winter sports but also celebrates the rich cultural heritage and enduring spirit of Japan.

Japan Box Highlights

Miso Soup

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to our culinary exploration of one of Japan's most beloved treasures: Miso Soup from Hokkaido! As we embark on this flavorful journey, prepare to be enchanted by the rich history, vibrant flavors, and heartwarming traditions that define this iconic dish. 

Our adventure begins on the northernmost island of Japan, Hokkaido, a land of breathtaking natural beauty and bountiful culinary delights. Here, amidst the snow-capped mountains and pristine wilderness, we discover the soul-warming essence of Hokkaido's famous Miso Soup.

First, let's acquaint ourselves with the star ingredient: miso. Made from fermented soybeans blended with salt and koji (a type of mold), miso is revered for its robust flavor and healthful properties. In Hokkaido, where the winters are long and harsh, miso soup serves as a comforting staple, offering nourishment and warmth to weary travelers and locals alike.

But what sets Hokkaido's Miso Soup apart, you ask? Ah, my friends, it is the region's bounty of fresh, local ingredients that elevate this humble dish to new heights of culinary excellence. Picture plump, succulent clams harvested from the icy waters of the Sea of Japan, their briny sweetness imparting depth and complexity to the broth. Or perhaps tender cubes of tofu, delicately silken and bathed in the savory embrace of miso-infused broth.

And let us not forget the star of the show: Hokkaido's renowned Hokkaido konbu (kelp), harvested from the pristine waters that surround the island. Rich in natural umami, this sea treasure infuses the soup with a subtle depth of flavor and a hint of oceanic essence that is truly unforgettable.

As we savor each spoonful of Miso Soup, let us also appreciate the cultural significance of this cherished dish. In Hokkaido, where the winters are long and the nights are cold, Miso Soup is more than just a meal—it is a comforting embrace, a symbol of hospitality and community that brings people together around the hearth.

So, my friends, as our culinary journey through Hokkaido comes to a close, let us raise our bowls in gratitude to the artisans and chefs who have shared with us their passion for this timeless tradition. May each sip of Miso Soup be a reminder of the warmth, nourishment, and camaraderie that await in the heart of Hokkaido. Itadakimasu!