Adventures in Hokkaido, Month of Gluttony
Trip Start Jun 27, 2009
48Trip End Jun 25, 2011
Map your own trip!
Show trip route
Sorry it's been a while..as usual the blog is long and there are a ton of pictures.
No sooner did my summer in Hokkaido begin, do I find myself beginning the 21 hour ferry ride home to Wakayama (there were no plane tickets available due to a big Japanese holiday). Returning to a life of teaching kids 12 essential fruits, living in sweltering humidity, and general life as a second year JET.
Back in February, Lily and I asked for 'special leave' from our town Superintendent to study Japanese at an international language school in the northern most Japanese island, Hokkaido. Our program was based in central Sapporo, we would live in dorms, have access to everything in the city, AND be able to enjoy cooler weather
Lily, Tony (who lives 30 minutes away by car), and I headed up to Sapporo on a one-way ticket and moved into our Japanese university dorms. Lily and I were placed in a dorm right in the center of the city, seems great right? Well I didn't mention all the rules/regulations that come with living in a Japanese University dorm. I'm 25, right? Well I was informed when I walked into the dorm that my curfew would be 10:30pm! I couldn't believe it! I hadn't had a curfew that early in, well forever. Lily and I laughed and listened to the rest of the rules:
1. 10:30pm curfew, EVERY NIGHT
2. You must change your name plate from red-blue every time you leave/enter the dorm (so the 'dorm mom/dad,' as we affectionately came to call them, know where you are)
3. No men allowed, unless it's your father or brother. Even then, they have to stay in the lobby.
4. Take your shoes off at the door, and place them in your specified shoe locker
5. Breakfast from 7-8am, and dinner from 5-6:30pm
6. No loud music after 9pm
7. Trash separation rules and specific trash days (plastic, paper, cans, etc) must be strictly adhered to, or else! Fear the wrath of dorm dad! haha
8. If you want to stay out past curfew you have to fill out an extensive form saying where you will be going, and when you will be returning. Then you place your name plate in a special box different from everyone else.
We met about 5 other foreigners (from Vegas, London, Hong Kong, California, and Seattle) who were participating in our same school and living in our dorm, and bonded immediately over the ridiculousness of our living situation. School was everyday from 9:00-12:30, separated into 2 classes, with a 15 minute break in between. Lily and I placed ourselves in level 5 (the lowest is 6) as we felt we had learned a lot throughout this year and didn't need to start at square 1. Classes consisted of lots of new vocab, conjugating verbs, and conversation practice with the days grammar point.
Our class was full of characters, I loved how international the group was
After class we explored the city and enjoyed the Summer Beer Festival! There is a huge park called Odori Park that lies in the center of Sapporo, lined with large trees, beautiful fountains and plenty of green space with actual grass (seems like a luxury in Japan due to space limitations)! The major Japanese beer vendors set up huge tents, and food stands in the park for 3 weeks, playing live music, having contests, etc...The people in Sapporo are more relaxed and laid back than the people of Osaka and I think other Japanese cities, and they really seemed to savour things like the beer festival that occur in the summer months! Most definitely because it is SO cold for most of the year up there.
When we weren't hanging out in Odori Park, 'studying' in class, shopping, or eating at our favorite Indian Restaurant aptly named Taj Mahal (run by the nicest people from India) we were planning a road trip for the upcoming weekend
Central Hokkaido is known for its rolling hills, farm land, and endless fields of beautiful flowers of every kind and color. Our first weekend in Hokkaido also happened to be Lily's 23rd birthday. We rented a big van and 8 of us drove about 3 hours into central Hokkaido to an area called Furano, famous for it's lavender. The landscape of Hokkaido looks drastically different from other parts of Japan I've visited, as there is actually a lot of flat land. It felt more like America. There were new red barns, fields of corn, hay bails, wide roads and of course mountains in the distance. Because no one lived in Hokkaido until the late 1800's everything up here is still relatively new compared to the rest of Japan.
We spent the day walking through different farms, admiring the fields of purple lavender, red poppy's, yellow sunflowers and multi-colored Lily's. This is one of my favorite days in Japan thus far, I can't explain why, but everything about it was just so perfect
The second weekend happened to fall on my birthday so I picked the 2nd adventure for us. The largest Japanese national park is in Hokkaido, and called Daisetsuzan, and in it is the tallest peak, Mt.Asahidake (2,290 meters, or 7,500 feet). I guess I was feeling adventurous when I chose hiking as the activity for my 25th birthday. Little did we know when we arrived, 3 hours later, how hard the hike would actually be. We took a cable car about 1000m up the volcanically active mountain, and then began our 3 hour hike to the summit.
For some reason none of us seemed prepared for what we were going to be doing: Lily was wearing crocks, and I only brought an almost finished bottle of water (sorry mom!) The beginning of the hike was fine, only a slight incline, we passed a lake, and stopped to look at all the smoke coming out of the mountain in various places. We hiked up very loose, rocky terrain for what seemed like days, I literally almost didn't make it
Once we made it to the summit, the exhaustion I felt from the ascent quickly disappeared as we looked out over an endless sky of clouds and beautiful green snow-capped mountains. It was definitely worth it! Although I maybe wouldn't pick something like this to do again on my birthday, in retrospect it was a pretty cool way to spend my 25th. It took us about 2 hours to get back down, with only a few falls, and before we knew it the sun was down and we were on our way back to Sapporo to return the Japanese 'rice rocket' car we had rented.
Our friend and fellow JET from Wakayama, Mac flew up to visit us for our last weekend and we decided to go white water rafting! Once again we rented a car and drove about 3 hours to the small town of Hidaka with a big river famous for canyoning, cliff jumping and rafting
You can see the rest of the things we did in my pictures - this has taken me too long to write as it is. Overall I had a great time living in Sapporo and really enjoyed city life. It was a much needed change of pace after living in a town of 18,000 for one year. These days I'm actually trying to study some of the Japanese that I learned so the people at my office think it was worthwhile to let us have a month of paid vacation.
But in other news, the new JET's for this year have arrived and are settling in to their towns all over Japan
Lily and I are already planning our next Wakayama event, which will be held in our town in late September! We will tour the temple complex and see our waterfall (tallest in Japan!), then go to a local onsen hotel on an island, camp out on the beach, then go kayaking the next day. Lots of people have already signed up so it should be a lot of fun.
School starts on Tuesday, September 4th, and I'm desperately trying to motivate myself for one more year. It's hard because of the monotony of it. I love change and I loved teaching at Browne because every day was different. Here, every day is the same, the same games, the same vocab...I know I can mix it up by trying new games, and I plan on doing that, but still..it's wearing on me! I don't know how some JET's stay here for 4 and 5 years and teach English
I am excited about all the traveling I have planned for this year and will use those trips to get me through each week. First stop, Seoul South Korea on September 21st!!
OK time to study for real,
I'm happy and doing well :)
Miss you all,