After being able to find and download all my old Myspace blogs I am doing some look backs on the adventures we experienced while living in Japan. These have been left exactly how I wrote them in my early 20's -- in all my immature, naïve, and ineloquent glory. Pictures have been added.
This is the vacation Ryan and I have always referred to as "the best trip"... we went to the Annual Sapporo Snow Festival in Hokkaido Japan and absolutely loved it. At this point I was working and had saved up just to go on this tour and to enjoy ourselves without going crazy. I don't think my writing expresses really how much fun we had!
February 7, 2007
Whew! What a trip... and an experience of a lifetime. Hokkaido was beautiful, yet cold.
Okay, I'll start at the beginning. We got up freakin' early and left the base around 4:30 in the morning. Got to Henada Airport and got on the flight. Wonderful me, I slept through the whole bus ride and plane ride. When we landed around 8:30 or so we got on another bus which took us to the Ainu Museum.
The Ainu were the natives of Hokkaido before the Japanese government made them Japanese. They seem to be a lot like the Native Americans as well as Eskimos, at least their culture and lifestyles are similar. It was interesting. There was a presentation that we watched and a very entertaining story-teller who gave us the background of who the Ainu were and how the museum became what it is now. There was also some shopping where I got this incredibly warm rabbit fur hat. It's sooooo soft!
From there we headed to the Sapporo Beer Garden for lunch. We get there and there's a TON of snow. Luckily it was all plowed, but the areas that weren't went above my waist. Now, we were all told that it would be a mutton BBQ. So all of us are expecting a BBQ - that wasn't what it was - the food we get is like yakiniku, we have to cook it ourselves at the little grills in our tables. It sucked 'cause we were all so hungry and didn't want to wait for it to cook, but we did anyway.
Ryan is bad with chopsticks so he stole some little kid's spoon and fork while we all chatted with the people around us. It was nice. We didn't try any of the beer though. Some of the people around us did and they said that it was just okay. The Beer Museum was closed so we couldn't check that out... :(
Finally, after all that we are driven through the main section of Sapporo where the festival is being held. This was good 'cause it let us know where things were in relation to our hotel - then we were dropped off at The Sapporo - Toku Hotel.
Ryan and I took a nap once there. We were tired!
Then we got up and walked out to the Odori blocks (about 12 blocks of snow and ice sculptures). We were really hungry but couldn't find a restaurant we trusted, so we went to Mr. Donut. Then later we got some chicken on a stick from one of the festival stands - it was REALLY greasy. Anyway, we looked at ALL the statues which took us about 2 hours. At the end of the blocks was the competition. It is a 3-day competition where teams from all over the world build their sculptures in 12-hour shifts. Our neighbors were on the USA team so we stopped by and chatted with them for awhile and they gave us their team pins. Pretty cool. We saw teams from Finland, Australia, Germany, China, Guam, Hawaii, Thailand, Sister City Portland, Singapore, and others that I can't think of right now.
On the way back we find a McDonald's, have that for dinner and go to bed.
The next morning we are up early and downstairs in time for our breakfast. Where we sit down happens to be a very good thing. We weren't sure what we were going to do that day. The guy we sat with is married to a Japanese national and the day before they had gone to a local tourist attraction that we hadn't been told about. It was Mt. Moiwa. You have to take a taxi to get there and she was kind enough to write out the instructions to the cab driver for us.
First, though, we wanted to explore more of Sapporo. This girl who was there on her own said she would tag along with us. So we first looked around and decided to go to Susukino Market looking for the ice sculptures. After going all along this crazy road we find them, one block down from our hotel (go figure). We get a bunch of pictures and see some weird buildings as well.
Next we start to look for the fish market. Ryan is not the best navigator and it was starting to snow kind of hard so we couldn't find it. We thought we passed it, so we decided to head on further down to the Sake museum. We make it there and it was NOT what we expected. It was basically just a sake shop with some little models of old sake making... and a movie about how it's done. But I find a cute bottle of sake or wine (not sure) and buy that. Then the sales lady gives us samples of what I just bought. Tasha and I split the sample (less than a swallow), so it's only like a taste of it... pretty good! It was fruity like apples. Then the sales lady gave us a blueberry one, not so good. Then we tried the real sake stuff. Bleh! Not a fan at all - so I didn't buy that one. Haha.
As we headed back to the hotel we found the fish market. We took a bunch more pictures and were just suprised at everything. Some guy tried to have us buy sea urchins... no thanks. Ryan got a kick out of the huge live crabs in some of the tanks. Oh yeah, some weird Japanese guy tapped me on the shoulder. Then when I turned around and looked at him he just waved and said hello. I said hi back, but it was just weird.
After we grab lunch and get back to the hotel we decide to head out to the mountain. We get a cab who takes us there - and almost hits me! Gah! We get out of the cab and there's not sidewalk so as we walk down to cross the street the guy goes in reverse and with all the snow he starts to slide! It was a bit scary and Ryan saved me. Hahaha. We go buy our round-trip ticket in the little gondola thingy which will take us to the top.
The conditions were pretty bad so we couldn't see much on the ride up. Let me just remind everybody here that there is TONS of snow. I'm not kidding. We get off at the first landing and are quickly shuffled onto a bus which has like tank treads and goes up the hill. At the very top the conditions are even worse: windy, snowy, foggy... bleh! It was very, very cold. Ryan and I played in the snow for awhile, threw snowballs, and got pictures. He dragged me up to this area where I was just praying the snow didn't give way 'cause it would be taller than me. Luckily it held and I only sunk down to my knees. Phew. We went in their little shop. There was a restaurant where we spent $20 on fries and 4 rolls. But it had a great atmosphere and a view where we watched it get dark. Every once in awhile the wind would clear out some of the cloudiness and we could see the city below. After that we did some shopping.
The conditions worsened so the rides were only going every 30 minutes instead of every 15. When we got down to that first landing again we wanted to look around. There was a trail that led to this dome place. It said "Ice the Bar"... wasn't too sure what it was, but it looked cool, so we went in. It was so neat! There were lights in the ice, frozen over and icicles above our heads. Then we go through the little door into another room like the first. Then into the final room there was a bar and they were selling hard liquor. Everything was made out of ice and that was totally cool. But we turned around and left, heading back into the waiting building. Finally time passed and we rode the gondola back down the mountain, caught a cab and went back to the hotel.
Ugh, there was still more to this day.
We wanted real food... our sad little meal from the mountain did not cut it. Below the hotel there were a bunch of restaurants so we decided to check them out. We found one with steak. It was pricy with the cheapest meal being about $40 per person. But the experience was great. We sat at this bar-type thing where the chef was on the other side and grilled our food in front of us. It was so neat! It was a 5 course meal, but other than the steak it was all Japanese-style so we picked at what we had. It was really good though. Both of us would swear it was the best steak we'd ever had in our life. The people were funny too. They probably thought we were funny as well. Oh, whatever, we had a good time.
From there we walked the streets. There is a million shopping choices and there's this one street that is only stores and closed off to traffic. It was alright, but we had told Ron (our snow-sculpting neighbor) that we would stop by again to check the progress. We headed back up to the Odori street, which was like 4 blocks up, but then we had to go about 10 blocks down. Ugh, my feet were so tired already from all the walking that day in snow boots. Anyway, we get there and things hadn't gotten very far. From all the bad weather that day their work was delayed. We all had a nice chat and Ron said he'd show us pictures of the finished product later. With that we headed back to the hotel.
Now I love how safe Japan is. If I were in America I highly doubt I would be walking all over a strange city, in the dark, around 8:00 at night, probably looking lost. But there is honestly no fear that we're gonna be robbed or beat or anything. It is a great feeling. We get back to the hotel eventually... exhausted.
Something totally cool was that we flop down on our tiny beds and flip on the TV. We find Forrest Gump... IN ENGLISH! Oh, it was glorious. So when it's over we quickly fall asleep.
Next morning we skip the hotel breakfast. The day before we experienced what they had to offer and we would rather pass on that then have it again. We go to McDonald's instead. The snow was blowing so bad that it hit our eyes and we couldn't see. And let me just say again that it was COLD! Then we go back to our room, pack up and check out. We had 2 hours before we had to leave so we looked at the department store and had some Starbucks. Eventually it's time to load up and get out of there. We were supposed to LEAVE at 12:45, the last person showed up at 12:55, needless to say we were running late. Gargh.
They take us to Satoland. I wish we had more time there, as it was we only got 45 minutes (thanks to the late people). There were snow slides and snowmobile pullings and all that fun jazz. We didn't have the time to wait in the lines, how disappointing, but we did go through the maze. That was fun. I got some cute pictures. Oh, and we looked around. Then we had to get on the bus and get to the airport.
Yes, the airport. I slept on the bus ride there. After some stuipd lack of planning stuff on the part of our guides we finally get our tickets and onto the plane. There was fear that we wouldn't be taking off because how bad the weather had turned, but thankfully it worked out. I didn't sleep on the plane ride, and it was alright. Our travel back to the base on the bus was uneventful, again I didn't sleep.
We had a great trip, but I'm glad to be home again. Ryan enjoyed himself as well, which makes things for me that much better. Happiness!
I'm not sure we'll do this again. It cost a lot of money and now I can at least say I was there and did it. I am satisfied with my experience and will recommend it to anybody. This was something to remember.