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Escaping the city heat (better known as summer vacation) I

Day 1 and 2 - The voyage to Hokkaido


View Summer Vacation 2006 on agc_cwm's travel map.

We finally made it to summer vacation: there were days we both thought we would melt, but we made it. We decided to go to Hokkaido, the northern island of Japan, because we were told it was a lot like Canada and it would be a whole lot cooler than Osaka. (Side note: It is August 16th and when we were coming to work at 09:45 it was 32˚C! and yesterday with the humidity at 49% it felt like 38˚C.)

Summer vacation officialy started on August 5th, but our days off are on Thursday and Friday so our vacation started two days early and we took advantage of that.

We left Thursday, August 3rd around 16:00 and we had to go to another station to catch the bus to the ferry. It was good thing we left early because we couldn't find where the bus was. We thought we knew, but it turns out we didn't. It took us a good 30 minutes and asking four different people to find it.

We got on the bus and it was a 2 and a half hour bus ride north of Osaka to the ferry terminal in Maizuru.

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Then when we got to the ferry terminal we had to wait for another 2 and a half hours before we left. We boarded around midnight and we left at 00:45 for the 20 hour ferry trip.

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We splurged and got a private room, which was a good call. This ferry was more like a mini cruise ship than say, the Grand Manan or the old PEI ferry.

When we got on we unpacked and then decided we'd try the sento (Japanese Bath) before bed. It was our first experience with a sento and we weren't sure of the etiquette. So we just went with our typical coping method and watched what other people did. And yes, Martin, they are public baths and you do go naked. I think I handled this aspect of the bath better than Court, but mainly because once I take off my glasses I can't see a damn thing anyways.

After this we went to sleep after shutting off the mood music. There was always this better quality elevator music playing on the ferry. We had controls to turn this off which was a blessing. After we woke up we had breakfast, then came back and checked out the TV and what did we find? A Blue Jays, Yankees game on TV. It was an re-run, but that was ok: we both ended up falling asleep in the middle of the game anyway.

Then we had lunch and just relaxed, played cards, and slept some more. Aside: before we left Osaka we stopped at the bookstore to pick up some more reading material. Court went in first and I guarded our bags. She came back out with a big grin on her face after finding a great treasure. I eventually wore her down and she showed me the find. She had found a "Vinyl Cafe" book written by Stuart MacLean in a bookstore in Japan (we are eventually going to send him a postcard to tell him this). We started to read the stories on the bus, but we soon discovered they are a lot better when someone else reads them to you.

The ferry ride was a great transition into vacation mode. We couldn't do a whole lot so we had to relax. There were a lot of families on the ferry as well, and a lot of the kids brought their pet beetles on with them. Pet beetles are really popular here and they are very expensive too.

Also, in the afternoon we were sitting on the deck I was reading and Courtney was looking for whales. When Courtney got accosted (not really accosted) by a drunk Japanese family (they all weren't drunk, just the parents) who wanted to practice their English. This was funny for me to sit back and watch but I think Court was a little annoyed by this. But we had to get used to it because this was just one of the first random English conversation we would have.

On the ferry they also had a vending machine where you could buy french fries. We hadn't had fries out of a vending machine before so we decided to give them a try. They weren't THAT bad. They were passable. IMG_0830 (Small).JPG

We eventually got into Otaru and caught a train to Sapporo. This was our first taste of Hokkaido and it was a lot cooler than Osaka. We knew then this trip was a good decision.

When we got into Sapporo we had tickets for the overnight train to Wakkanai (the northwestern tip of Hokkaido). We had about an hour to kill and we decided we needed to find a bank machine. This took us pretty much the whole hour to find. Bank machines here close at midnight which is a bit of a pain. We eventually had to go outside and find a convenience store. We figured that the very rural areas we were going to weren't going to take Visa and we needed a lot of cash.

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Once we found this we went back and got on our train. The train left at 23:05 and got in at 05:30. We had the top bunks and there were two Japanese men in the bottom bunks. We tried to sleep as much as we could, but the train kept stopping and starting so we didn't get much sleep at all. However, we got in just before the first ferry left to the island so this train gave us a full day on the island.
~A

Posted by agc_cwm 18:07 Archived in Japan

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