The northern island of Japan, Hokkaido, is famous nationwide for sightseeing; the locals here pride themselves on being the top tourist destination. Today we would like to introduce you to a local custom that is a little bit different from the other prefectures of Japan.
If you visit a convenience store in Hokkaido and buy a delicious rice ball, when you take it to the register the store clerk will almost always ask you if you want it heated in the microwave. While it is common practice all over Japan for clerks to ask customers if they want their bento boxes heated, only in Hokkaido will they ask if you want your rice ball heated. When we asked the staff in our sister hotel ‘Tmark City Hotel Tokyo Omori’ they replied they almost never get asked if they would like their rice ball heated, and furthermore, people in Tokyo almost exclusively eat their rice balls at room temperature. The reasoning is probably due to the cold weather in Hokkaido!
If you are coming to Hokkaido in the upcoming winter season, please try tasting a warm rice ball! Go to your nearest convenience store and see if the clerk asks you if you want it heated. On the other hand, when we next visit mainland Japan, we will try to ask them to heat up our rice balls!