A Travellerspoint blog

August 2006

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

Day 10 and 11 - Sapporo, Otaru, and the journey south

View Summer Vacation 2006 on agc_cwm's travel map.

Car Sapporo.JPG

During our final day in Hokkaido we were getting to be a bit vacationed out. Tired of sleeping in hostels, living out of backpacks, and eating Japanese food. We woke early, ate, loaded the car, took some final photos in the mountains before beginning the final leg of our drive into Sapporo. The road we took wound through the mountains, and you couldn't drive in a straight line for more than 200m. There were many tunnels cutting through some of the mountains; the longest one we drove through was 2700m in length. They have distance postings inside the tunnel to tell you how far you are from either entrance, which we thought was quite handy.

When we finally arrived in Sapporo and returned the car, we had to walk about 3 blocks, packs and all, to get to our train at Sapporo station. By the time we got to the train station, we had basically decided that we would try to get our ferry tickets changed to that night instead of the following night. We had also decided that we both really needed some non-Japanese food, and so we found some pizza and some salad, and enjoyed lunch thoroughly.

Upon our arrival in Otaru, we went straight to the ferry terminal to see if it was possible to change our reservations. Turns out, it was, and it was going to be cheaper to leave that night, and we were once again going to have a window in our room (our previous reservation was windowless). We exchanged our tickets and went on a quest to find lockers to put our packs in, as we had about 5 hours to kill before we had to board the ferry.

We did find some lockers, but they definitely weren`t designed for expedition packs like ours. I was able to cram my pack and the bag of dirty laundry into one of the medium sized lockers, but Andrew`s pack was going to take a bit more inventive manouevering. We ended up having to take everything out of the pack (thank goodness for stuff sacks, or else there would have been an explosion of clothes and stuff on the ferry terminal floor) and jamming everything in the high-school width locker. While Andrew was doing this, I found that there were some missed calls on my phone, and decided to call home. Yes, we were still alive.

Once everything was in the locker, we walked back toward the touristy area we had passed earlier. We walked past a number of little shops and came across a large stone building, which we decided to go in. It turned out to be the music box factory and museum. This place was a full three floors of music box goodness, if such a thing exists. It was a pretty creepy place, as you couldn't escape the sound of the music boxes, each playing different creepy melodies. It was even possible to make your own music box here; you could choose all the features, from the box itself, to the tchotchkes that adorn it, to the music it played. In addition to this, you could also purchase a number of preassembled music boxes.

IMG_1165 (Small).JPG IMG_1167 (Small).JPG

The museum contained some rarer artifacts and limited edition/antique music boxes for sale. We saw some tabletop models that ran upwards of ¥600,000. Oh, to have that kind of money to spend on such things. We wandered around the museum floor looking for the most expensive music box. We found one the size of a china cabinet that was more than ¥3,600,000 ($36,000). We discovered that you could plug in ¥100 to hear the sucker play, and these two suckers wanted to hear it. We had never heard at $36,000 music box so for only ¥100 we had to hear it. If any music box deserves the lofty price tag, it is definitely this one. The depth of the sound was indcredible. There was layer upon layer of melody and harmony. Over the Rainbow has never sounded this good. The staff on the museum floor started keeping a pretty close eye on us, as though we were going to make off with the goods, so we decided to get out of there before we were obligated to buy something.

IMG_1168 (Small).JPG

We the went to a shop across the street and bought a couple of boxes of Shiroi Koibito cookies and some Exotic Hokkaido KitKat bars as souvenirs. We also bought some super butter toffees as a snack. There was a kaleidoscope museum and store in the back part of the shop. We looked around for about ten minutes, at which point Andrew decided he had had about all the kaliedoscopes he could take. We went outside and immediately heard this whistle, like an old train. We turned around, and the rather large clock on the sidewalk outside the music box factory was spewing steam from its top. Turns out, it's a steam clock, and it tolls every quarter-hour, playing notes by shooting steam out through the five whistles on the top. We later found out that the clock was made in Canada, which is perhaps why we were so oddly drawn to it, and why it made us smile so much, and why we would spend a half hour later that night sitting across from it waiting to get a shot of it blowing its top. It turns out there is another one of these clocks in Gastown in Vancouver.

IMG_1199 (Small).JPG

We walked a little further, past some fish markets and fruit stands selling typical Hokkaido products (I'll let the price tags speak for themselves), and found ourselves a little hungry.

IMG_1490.JPG IMG_1491.JPG

We decided it would be best for the budget if we konbini'd it again, and so we did. We also decided that we were better off buying noodle cups to keep ourselves nourished on the boat, so we weren't at the whim of whatever the restaurant was serving. So we were rude and ate on a stone wall outside a historic bank museum. It was delicious. By this time we thought we might splurge on some dessert somewhere, but nothing was open.

IMG_1489 (Small).JPG

We walked down to the canal and saw that there was a jazz festival going on, with some singers and some taiko drummers. We watched some performances and walked along the canal. One of my students suggested not to walk along the canal during the day, because it`s filthy, and was he ever right. Under cover of darkness is the only way to visit this canal; with the Victorian lanterns lit it would be quite romantic.

IMG_1176 (Small).JPG

By this time it was getting quite dark, and we decided to walk back in the direction of the ferry terminal. We found a small shop that sold a variety of things, and I bought a glass net float for dirt cheap as a souvenir from the day. We ended up getting a little lost on the way back to the terminal, but we did find our way eventually. We stopped for breakfast beverages at the konbini and went to the terminal to retrieve our bags and wait in the seating area. Again, we did a lot of people watching. When we finally got on the boat, we both dumped our stuff in our room, had a cup of tea, took a shower, and hit the hay, glad to be on our way home.

The next day on the boat was very relaxed, filled with reading, napping, and playing cards. We skipped a couple of meals at the restaurant on the return trip, which saved us some money, and also saved us from getting up really early in the morning. We arrived in Maizuru at about 21:30, and, after some negotiating with the bus driver, we boarded the bus back to Shin-Osaka station. It turns out we were supposed to get vouchers for the bus while we were still on the ferry, but those announcements were in Japanese, and the only thing we understood from those announcements was 'Shin-Osaka'. I gave up and figured we were going to get stranded at the ferry terminal overnight, but Andrew was persistent, and got us on the bus. The volume on the expressways that night was unbelievable; traffic was at a standstill a number of times as we got closer to Kyoto and Osaka. Summer vacationers, we presumed, making the most of their short breaks. When we got back to the station, we grabbed our bags and raced to the platform; it was getting late, and we didn`t want to miss the last train. The one we caught was about 5 minutes late, which almost NEVER happens here. We got off at the next station, and switched train lines, taking a train to the next station, Juso. Back on home turf, the heat hit us square between the eyes and we immediately wished we were back in Hokkaido. We lugged our bags back to our apartment (thank goodness we cleaned the place before we left), and collapsed. We were back, safe, and mostly sound.

Posted by agc_cwm 19:54 Archived in Japan Comments (0)

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

Day 9 - Another day in Furano

View Summer Vacation 2006 on agc_cwm's travel map.

Car Furano.JPG

This night we were moved into a private room that had tatami mats, which was really comfortable. We woke up in the morning and were starting to pack our bags. We were supposed to go to another hostel in Furano. We were half way through packing our things when Court suggested we should stay here for another night. She went down to see if they had another room avaiable and they did. This time out back in the log cabin. Between the private room, the mountains, the good food and the outdoor onsen we decided to stay one more night. The other hostel wasn't too happy when we called to cancel. But, that's ok.

We did our typical morning routine. Onsenned, ate breakfast and hit the road. We went back into Furano to go rafting. The rafting trip wasn't leaving until 13:00 and we got to Furano around 11:30. We went back and got some more konbini bento food and found a park to sit in and eat. After we ate we both took a little nap on a park bench.

After lunch we set off to find where we were going. Once again our GPS led us close to the target, but not quite there. It took us a little longer to get there, but we made it. We were there a little early so I hit up the driving range and hit a bucket of balls while we waited. Court unsuccessfully explored for a non-stinky, non-squat toilet.

We eventually got going in the rafting van for an hour up into the mountains. There was us and two Japanese girls and we met another Japanese couple when we got to the rafts.

Court got really excited as we were travelling when we passed a curling rink. I think she really wanted to stop and get out but we had already paid for rafting.

They gave us dry suit to wear for rafting, along with the requisite helmets.

IMG_1460 (Small).jpg IMG_1461 (Small).JPG

We don't have a lot of picture from rafting because we didn't take our cameras. But it was gorgeous out there. We passed two big groups of people fishing and there was a lot of rhubarb growing along the side of the river.

Before we got in the water we set the raft up and went over how to paddle and different commands. We understood these even though they were in Japanese. Once again, our guide couldn't speak English. The only problem was the two Japanese girls that were there. I don't think we needed to give them a paddle. One poor girl just couldn't wrap her brain around paddling backwards. The other one couldn't wrap her head around paddling in either direction. They just couldn't do it. Actually, now that I come to think of it, I don't think anyone of us needed to paddle; our guide was good enough to get us down the river by himself.

Rafting was a very nice way to spend this day; it was kind of cloudy and not too hot. We stopped in a couple spots and we could hop out and go swimming. Well, float down the river. And another spot we stopped at you had the option of jumping off a cliff into the river. We both decided to pass on this one, been there done that. Actually, I think we talked about this before we even got near the river and decided to pass. The other Japanese guy we were with did jump off. I think he tried to do a flip but he didn't make it all the way around and did a bit of a back flop.

We hit a few decent sized rapids and there was once I thought I was going over, but they may also have been because I was sitting on the very edge of the raft. It was still fun though. And we saw our first rainbow in Japan!

Once we got out of the river we had to high tail it back to the hostel. We left Furano at 18:00 and supper at the hostel goes from 18:00 to 19:00. Our GPS unit said it was going to take us 1h45min to get back. Which I then took as a challenge. We called the hostel and said we would be back at 19:15 and lo and behold we pulled into the parking lot at 19:15. Yes, they did keep our dinner out for us.

After this we onsenned and relaxed out in the log cabin. It was a long but good day.

Posted by agc_cwm 17:21 Archived in Japan Comments (0)

(Entries 1 - 2 of 10) Page [1] 2 3 4 5 » Next