Trip to Hokkaido

Dusk approaches in Sapporo.

Dusk approaches in Sapporo.

[Taylor]

On Monday the nation of Japan celebrated Respect for the Aged Day, thus providing a nice three-day weekend for Julie and I to do some traveling.  If you are an Aomori ALT reading this now, we highly recommend Hokkaido for three-day excursions.

We decided to embark on a trip to Hokkaido, Japan’s northern most island, to visit some ALTs from Portland.  Many photos were taken.  Click here to view 81 of our favorite snapshots.

Getting There

Following the advice of another Aomori ALT, we decided to take a ferry from Hachinohe to Tomakomai.  We did this for two main reasons.  First, it was the cheapest route; a one-way ticket cost about $45.  Also, one can ride the ferry overnight which is incredibly convenient.  Not only does this take care of lodging for two evenings (arriving and departing), you also get to kill time on the 9 hour ride with sleep.

Here is what it looks like riding economy class on the ferry to Tomakomai:

Julie enjoying a late night snack.

Julie enjoying a late night snack.

Notice the brilliant absence of chairs.  Sleeping on the floor wasn’t the most comfortable night of sleep we’ve ever had, but it certainly wasn’t the worst.  We were both thankful to have room to stretch.

Day 1:  Otaru

We left Hachinohe at 10:00 PM, arrived in Tomakonai at 7:00, took a taxi to the train station, and arrived in Sapporo at around 9:00 AM.  Our friends met us at the station and invited us into their lovely and spacious apartment.  As fellow residents of Portland they had stocked up on Stumptown Coffee before leaving for Japan and poured a few cups for us.  For a few minutes it felt as though we were back in Oregon.

We then met up with a few other ALTs and caught a train to Otaru, a quaint city (compared to Sapporo, Japan’s 5th largest) famous for glass blowing, Western European architecture, make-your-own music boxes, and sushi.

Our train to Otaru traveled by the ocean.

Music boxes.

Music boxes.

Blowin' glass!

Blowin' glass!

Hands down the best salmon sushi we have ever had.  Possibly the best we could even imagine...

Hands down the best salmon sushi we have ever had. Possibly the best we could even imagine...

Otaru is also famous for its canals and ivy-covered buildings.  If you peform a Google image search of Otaru you will no doubt find pictures of the canal covered in snow during the winter months.

Otaru is also famous for its canals and ivy-covered buildings. If you perform a Google image search of Otaru you will no doubt find pictures of the canal covered in snow during the winter months.

What an afternoon!  After we had our fill of glass, music boxes, chocolate, black sugar ice cream (maple flavored, other flavors included lavender, sunflower seeds, and cheesecake), owl statues, canals, and ivy-covered buildings, we hopped a train back to Sapporo and enjoyed some warm, spicy soup curry for dinner.

Soup curry.

Soup curry.

Day 2:  Sapporo

After getting a little extra sleep on Saturday night, we all decided it would be a good idea to head to an onsen at the foothills of the mountains on the outskirts of the city.  If at any time you find yourself running on fumes while traveling in Japan, go to an onsen.  You will be revitalized.  For those of you who don’t know, an onsen is basically a place where you get to sit around in various styles of hot tubs.  You can find onsens at naturally occurring hot springs as well.  The onsen we attended had 6 variations of hot tubs, a steam/mist room, a sauna, and a pool of cold water.  We were there for about 2 and a half hours and paid roughly $8 total for the services.

Feeling refreshed and energized, our gracious hosts took us to a bookstore (as they put it, the Powell’s of Sapporo), where we found a bountiful selection of books in English.  After some debating we narrowed our choices down to a novel, a collection of short stories, and an informational book on Japan and grabbed some dinner at the station before taking another train back to Tomakomai.

As we settled in for another 9 hour ferry ride, we reflected on our trip.  We concluded it was a refreshing excursion both because of the excitement of life in the city and the conversations with our fellow Portland JETs (the abundance of Portland ALTs is no coincidence, Sapporo and Portland are sister cities).  It was wonderful to reconnect with folks from home.

The dolphin blanket helped us sleep.

The dolphin blanket helped us sleep.

On Monday morning, as we arrived back to Aomori-ken, we carried our momentum further and traveled to Towada and Shimoda in search of a Go board and some stones.  We were successful!

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2 Responses to “Trip to Hokkaido”

  1. Mom in AK Says:

    Wonderful pictures and write-ups! You two are awesome – glad your long weekend was so enjoyable. I’m sure it was fun to see Portland friends, too. The sushi looked very exotic. I especially liked the dolphin blanket. Was it provided on the ferry, or did you buy one?

  2. Sadao Says:

    Being a Portland native, I enjoyed your article very much. I’m originally from Akita which is adjacent to Aomori ken. I’m glad you had a nice trip there.

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