Drink It Dry, (Kampai): A Roark Guide to Drinking in Hokkaido

Posted by Beau Flemister on

Don’t beers just taste the best when you’ve earned them? When you’ve bike-packed all day or snowboarded for hours on end or explored a foreign city by foot? Roark’s company of waywards sure thinks so, and our recent trip through Hokkaido, Japan was no exception. We sang for our supper — and we also sang after supper. The following is a guide to our favorite haunts we uttered kampai in, loosely translated to “drink your cup dry” plus a few other spots our local Roark Japan crew vetted for us around Hokkaido. Now, you’ve just gotta get your passport — and find them yourself.


*special thanks to Ryu Atobe for the tips

Our Favorite Bars…

Bar Barunba (Niseko) Barunba’s been holding it down for over 25 years at the same location in Niseko. One of the many iconic bars in ski town. Through the small Japanese-size entrance, you’ll find that all the local and tourists are there are in high spirits with good vibes after enjoying some of the best powder in the world. Next, immediately order their famous signature cocktails: Jet Li, Bruce Lee and Bruce Willis.


Bar Moderno (Sapporo) Located in Sapporo city, Bar Moderno only has 8 seats with one counter, a super cool vinyl bar known to play records live. You can also dig through their collection for requests to play or even buy albums.


Bar Gyu (Niseko) Another great bar in ski town, Bar Gyu’s entrance door is actually a refrigerator door, thus, many people call it the “fridge bar,” as well. The owner Hisashi has the best bartender lineup in town and does epic cocktails. He also spins vinyl there and even plays live music at the bar.

Ajishin A dope little restaurant serving the frostiest Sapporo Classic Beers.


Sapporo Beer Museum (Sapporo) Is worth a visit, and during the summer there’s a beer garden where you can cook genghis kan (lamb) on a grill. Get a beer tower if you can.


Seafood Izakaya (Fisherman Town) Izakaya restaurants are rad because they serve a bunch of small dishes and you can try so many different types of food in one place. Seafood izakaya makes especially great sashimi plates straight from fish market. Proper izakaya has good Japanese saké selection, too, and they’ll suggest the best sake bottles that go with what dishes you ordered.

And if you’re looking for good sake… Kunimare has a superb selection, and are the northernmost sake distillery in Japan. Check out the Nikka distillery for epic Japanese whisky, if you’re done with sake.

Our Favorite Karaoke Spot… Pub and Bar DNA was where the Roark crew had the time of their life and a legendary karaoke session. Highly recommended.


Our Favorite Ramen Spot… Ki Kyo Ken (Hidaka area) Hokkaido has thousands of ramen places, but somehow this one just hits different. There’s a rockabilly chef making absolutely next level miso ramen and spicy miso ramen. The location is also near a surf spot, and how good is ramen after a cold surf?

Our Favorite Sushi Spot…Toriton Sushi Train is the one. The balance of fish and rice is culinary perfection.


Solid spot for live music in Hokkaido… RSR (Rising Sun Rock Festival) The biggest outdoor music festival in Hokkaido, happening every August.


Or, if you’re trying to earn those drinks, do this: Snowboard during the winter months. The amount and quality of snow in Hokkaido will blow your mind and change your life. The surfing’s pretty good too…  Hike Asahidake, the tallest mountain in Hokkaido. August is the only month without snow and pretty good conditions to do it. Mostly local Japanese people doing that rather than foreign tourists.