Friday, August 6, 2010

Sapporo and Otaru

August 6
April arrived late last night. She was very tired, but we had a good sleep in the new hotel, the Chisun Inn. The room itself is Japanese size—in other words very small. It also does not have Internet capability, so this is the reason for no posts yesterday.

April woke up feeling refreshed. The bed was very much to her liking (although anything would have probably felt wonderful after only getting 10 minutes of sleep on her flight over).

After our breakfast, we wandered the city, making our way to Nakajima park. It is a lovely park with a pond where one can rent boats and row around. We thought about renting one, but it was getting hot out and we were feeling fatigued from our walk. In lieu of boating, we opted for sitting down and having an ice cream. I may have mentioned it before, but Hokkaido is renowned for its dairy and other agricultural products, namely potatoes and corn. The ice cream did not disappoint and we felt much better after.

The city is filled with animals of interest. There are large crow or raven type birds that are around everywhere and hang around with their mouths open making a sound different to a crow or raven. There are also carp that are huge in one of the rivers we saw. People walking their little Yorkie dogs and Daschunds in the park were a delight. Kawaii (cute)!

Given that we were now out in the heat of the day, we decided to take the subway up to the Sapporo station where we activated our Japan Rail (JR) pass. That was an amazing experience and we felt that we were in great hands. We inquired about our trip to Noboribetsu, got all the information about gates and times from the woman helping us, and made reservations. We then arranged all the reservations for the rest of our trip between all the cities. It felt great to be able to know the exact times and places we were supposed to be.  The uncertainty about that was a stressor that we did not need.

April then suggested that we go to Otaru, a town just west of Sapporo on the ocean. It had been recommended to us by a couple of people in Canada who said it was the best place for Sushi in all of Japan and was a lovely town. So, we grabbed a quick lunch and used our JR passes for the first time to take the 40-50 minute trip to the lovely seaside town of Otaru.

We arrived in the mid afternoon and wandered the town. We climbed to a shrine on top of a great view point. After that we trekked down the hill to view Otaru’s famous steam clock. Those familiar with Vancouver would know very well what the clock looks like—it’s a replica of the one in Gastown. It was made in Vancouver and given as a gift in 1994 from Vancouver to Otaru; it has etchings of Otaru and Vancouver both in 1885 and 1994 on its base.

After viewing the clock and watching it steam the Big Ben song, we wandered down the street to find a sushi restaurant. We found a lovely air conditioned restaurant where we were the only customers (probably because it was 5:20 when we wandered in).  The restaurant had some pictures of the chef with celebrities, which we thought was novel, but it was certainly not a deciding factor. The dinner was excellent and we were glad we chose it not only for the fish, but the fact it was air conditioned.

Otaru is a lovely town to wander through with lovely old architecture intermingled with new buildings. There is a definite tourist vibe but in a charming way. There are many shops with artisan wares such as glass and pottery.

We returned  to Sapporo on the 7:35 train and made our way back to the hotel after a long day in the sun.  We are becoming more familiar with the train system and it is not hard to use. The staff are very helpful and friendly and set us on the right path.

Upon returning to our hotel, a cool shower in the closet sized bathroom was very refreshing. We had some packets of seasoned seaweed and watched some talent show or music countdown and some antique roadshow type program. It is in some ways difficult to figure out what programs are really about. Entertaining.

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