Hokkaido here we come (and go)!
Trip Start Nov 10, 2008
34Trip End May 09, 2009
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Today we headed to Sapporo, which is on a large island (Hokkaido) at the northern end of Japan.
Woke up early and had our first experience of an onsen which is a traditional style Japanese bath. Basically it's a large tub which you soak in, which was a nice way to wake up in the morning I have to say! Kate apparently pressed some of the buttons on the machine and got bubbles and things, I wasn't so brave. When we left the ryokan, our hostess gave us some origami kimonos which her friend had made, which was very nice of her.
We got the bullet train at 9.26am to Hachinohe, where we changed onto a slower limited express to Hakodate. When this train got to Aomori at the northern end of Japan's main island, the train changed direction so we all had to rotate our seats which was a bit odd, but it does mean you get lots of leg room! We then passed through the Seikan tunnel, which is the longest underground tunnel in the world. Then on the other side we changed onto our final train of the day which rumbled along to Sapporo at 1.30pm. Managed to find the hotel fine, which was a pretty standard place, but cheapish.
Had a traditional Japanese breakfast today of rice and miso soup, not quite what I was looking for as an energy boost for the day but no complaints.
Walked to the park where we saw the TV Tower, not much to look at really, big and metal are the most descriptive things I would say. Then we headed for the Clock Tower, which is one of Japan's top 3 'gakkari' (disappointing sights), as apparently in all the brochures, the background buildings (which dwarf it) are airbrushed out to make it look more impressive. Still, as Sapporo is such a modern city, it was impressive to see a building still there from the 1800s.
Then walked to the Botanical Gardens, where we could only see the greenhouses due to the temperature. Further from this we saw Seikatei which is a house built in the Western Style, but with a Japanese style interior blended in which was quite interesting to see as one room had carpets, tables, chairs etc. the other had tatami mats and cushions. From here we saw Hokkaido University, where we wandered through a museum which was in Japanese, so just looked at the pictures and made up what we thought they were supposed to be.
Then had some tea and went to the Nijo Fish Market, loads of massive crabs here and fish as you'd expect.
Not too much to report. Planned to go to a national park today, but when we got there, the bus to the park only left twice a day and we'd missed it, so we headed back to do some planning and emailing for the rest of our days in Japan to get on top of things.
Had tea in the Ramen Yokocho, a small alley of lots of Ramen bars where you sit around the counter and watch them cook. Very tasty indeed!
Rubbish day! After our foiled attempt to visit the national park yesterday, we tried again today. Got the train to Asahikawa (1hr), then caught the bus to Asahi-dake
Tried to walk around a bit as there were some local trails, but the snow was everywhere and at one point I fell in up to my waist, so we decided to give up on that, even though I tried several different paths. It was pretty cold and we ended up sitting inside the closed ropeway station having a chat for hours. Ended up back in Sapporo at 7pm thoroughly deflated and annoyed really!
Saw Hokkaido-jingu today, which is Hokkaido's main shrine and temple. It sits in a large park in the city and en route to the shrine we read up on the proper way to pray at these places which basically involves cleansing yourself before entering (washing your hands and mouth), then a specific way of praying involving bows and clapping. There was a young girl there with her family and she was dressed in a kimono, we later found out this was probably because it was her first visit to a shrine.
We then caught the bus to the Winter Sports Museum. The museum was fairly brief but it did allow you to try out some of the winter sports in interactive displays which was quite fun, including ski jumping, ice hockey, bobsleigh and speed skating, all of which we were fairly rubbish at! Kate was filmed whilst doing the ski jumper and the virtual character crashed, so it may have been immortalised on Japanese TV somewhere! We took the ski lift up to the top of the ski jump which gave some good views over Sapporo and the surrounding area. Then had a look around Esta, which is a huge food court under Sapporo station, to grab some snacks and things for the next day. Also watched some Sumo wrestling on TV when we got back to the hotel which was pretty fun!
Long update there!
Where I stayed