More Trips

Japan7 October 17

Taiwan4 March 17

Japan6 October 16

Europe May 16

Japan5 November 15

Korea2 March 15

Even More Trips

HongJapWan March 2014
Sichuan March 2013
Tokyo3 October 2012
China2 August 2012
Japwan March 2012
China November 2011
Korea September 2011
Taiwan March 2011
London3 June 2010
Japan May 2010
London2 February 2010
London September 2009
SE Asia December 2005

Visiting 9 cities in Japan - Oct and Nov 2016 - Page 6

Day 16 - Monday, 31 October 2016


Warmer today, could be as warm as 8C, wheres my shorts? Warmer however means rain. And it rained. And it rained some more all day.
The rain was not too much of a problem, because today is a rest day after yesterdays effort anyway, but I did get wet, and cold, and wet feet. I am not wearing my boots today because they are drying from yesterday, so my only other pair of shoes provide no protection from water ingress. No IP rating at all.
This means I have been squelching around in saturated socks for hours. Fun times.

I ventured along the park, to the main temple, which is better forgotten as its tiny and boring. In fine weather, I would have climbed the hill behind it, which seems to have more colorful leaves than a person could handle without dying from amazement. Even in the rain people were standing around taking leaf photos, collecting leaves, smelling leaves, tasting leaves, sneaking up on leaves to surprise them and offering leaves congratulations on making it off the tree.

Near by, is the zoo. Zoos can be terrible. I googled this one. Reviews were ok, more important than that, entrance fee, $5. Time to get wet and look at monkeys.
In the Japanese zoo tradition, it was 2/3 under redevelopment, forever. They wont redevelop it, they will just redevelop the redevelopment sign and scaffolding pretending to be redeveloping something behind it that has crumbled.
What was left was quite small, but they do have polar bears. They also had a Hokkaido brown bear, sleeping in a hole. He was massive, as big as a grizzly bear. I dont want to ever see one again.

I exited my hotel to be greeted by proper rain, now what.

First I appreciated some recycling stations for fluro tubes and printer cartridges. Cause I am working today. OK work completed.

This is a snow melting machine, for your home. You plug this in, and presumably stick a hose down your drain onto the bottom of it, then shovel snow into it. I am going to become the sole Australian distributor, PROFIT AWAITS.

This is the softbank mascot dog, you see him everywhere. Note he has a small dog on his head. I suspect they are preparing for the station cat situation.
Station cat is (was) a famous cat appointed head of a train station somewhere down south. He died of old age after approximately 9 million photos of him wearing a stationmaster hat.
By this time they had rebuilt the station around station cat, to be completely station cat themed. So when he died they had to make up some bullshit story about how station cat had a few years prior appointed an apprentice, and then they brought out a new cat they found going through the garbage a week prior.
Softbank are hoping to prevent this debacle by appointing the apprentice mascot before the original dies.

I dont know what this building is, but it has a large elaborate garden.
Note they tie all the trees and shrubs up in twine. I dont know why. Do they put plastic covers over them? I have seen some pine trees with wicker basket style covers over them already.

Pick a box.

Time for a few more leaves.

This is the main shrine of all of Hokkaido, or it claims to be. It looks small and boring.

The path to the main shrine is past peak leafery.

OK, I dont need to see Japanese monkeys in a zoo, I can see them in the wild.

So I looked at this Heyena instead. Lots of the photos show animals indoors in small areas. They can generally go outside if they wish, into larger green areas. But they are choosing to stay indoors near the heater. Even hippos, lions, deer, all of them want to be inside.

Snow leopard. Most of the time it was just me, and they followed me around.

Big tiger seemed to enjoy my company.

The lesser panda. They had heaps of these, they are a dime a dozen.

Dusty lizard.

Polar bears are the main attraction here. There was at least one other one, and he was taking flying leaps into a pool to fetch his plastic ball. Unfortunately I could not photograph that because he was behind a series of fences and grills. Japan hates you to get a good view remember.

Here is the city ski jump. Sapporo has actually been awarded the winter olympics twice, in 1940 and 1972. They did not get to host them in 1940 though, they decided to team up with Hitler to fight the world because they didnt like the dominance of power of one ethnic group in Hollywood.

The walk back had more leaves than you can shake a stick at. See what I did there?

If you are having a heart attack or the earths atmosphere is suddenly removed, go to this floor.

This is more China than Japan. Look at the light fittings, they have plastic bags meticulously attached under them. At the low point of each bag, is a tube, high quality work here. The tubes are then connected via a series of junctions into a bucket. All to collect water from the leaking roof.
I am sure it would have taken someone hours to rig all this up.

Baseball legend

I have often wondered if I would be able to make it to the majors, now I have that answer, unequivocally YES.

Before we get to my new amazing career, I must as usual describe the weather. Stopped raining, and not as cold as it was all day. Google disagrees with me and tells me its currently 0 degrees, but I swear it feels a lot warmer outside now.
Despite this, I still mainly wandered around underground, looking at flowers. Astute viewers may recall my trip this time last year to Hiroshima where they had chrysanthenumthemunumium judging going on at the castle. Or maybe it was Nagoya, or both.
Here in Sapporo they dont want to miss out. But because of the cold, it now occurs inside the big tunnel to the station. With no barriers around the prize winning bonsai plants and about a million people an hour rushing past in halloween costumes.
Seems risky to me, your 50 year old meticulously pruned and shaped flower bush could be knocked over by a harry potter godzilla zombie hybrid at any moment.

Now onto my baseball skills.
I was almost back to my hotel when I saw a SLUGGERS BAR. Potentially this could mean a lot of things. However they had a useful graphic at the bottom of the stairs showing people with baseball bats, rather than androgonous people in slug suits pretending to create more slugs.
So I went upstairs, and it seemed awesome, I observed for a while. A computer graphic of a person winds up to pitch at you, and then a ball fires out of the wall where there arm would be.
You can choose your speed, anywhere from 70kmph to 180kmph, which as I understand it is faster than any human pitcher. I settled on 90kmph, which is probably slug pace.
Anyway, you get 3 games of 20 pitches each for about $7, so I thought it was good value.
Game one, I hardly hit a thing. Japanese guys taking it seriously by bringing their own bats, batting gloves and ridiculous long socks and shoes were laughing at me. So I attacked them with my metal bat.
Game two, I got my eye in, and realised I was standing too close to the plate. Most of the pitches I hit went into the ground.
Game three, I was on fire, hitting everything. At the back of the big shed on a roof this was all in there were targets on the wall. I hit one, music played, cheering effects came out of loud speakers. No one else hit a target. Where were the scouts recruiting for the majors?

Part one of the flower show, full sized flowers. They all look half dead. Probably because they have been inside a subway tunnel for a week. I saw the old male judges taking this very seriously with head lamps and magnifying glasses on my way back.

Part two of flower show, superior bonsai version. Nowhere near as good as the ones I saw last year.

Thats a great deal!

Running off either side of the overly heated tunnel are numerous large shops, buildings, and in this case, multi storey brand new food court. Each level was a different quality, I stopped at a mid level for good quality but cheap.
As you can see, I am the only person here, but that might be because its new.

Soba time. With deep fried prawns and fried rice. Cause you need rice to go with your noodles. This was really quite nice. Even the white miso paste stuff on top of the noodles was ok.
Like many things in Japan, it smells fishier than it tastes.

Everyone knows there are strange kitkats in Japan, but I had not seen this higher class version of a kitkat before. Much more expensive, and only sold in Daimaru basement.

Somewhere along the tunnel is what I presume used to be a bank vault, they left the vault behind. It was probably easier than removing it.

Now onto the baseball. A fun activity for sure. First I photographed someone else playing.

And then here I am with my special helmet. Wearing a helmet was not mandatory, but I love a good helmet.
Also though, I dont understand the helmets, since you are most likely to get hit in the face and yet there is no grill.

There are currently 2 comments - click to add
jenny on 2016-10-31 said:
I wonder if those kitkats taste better than the ordinary ones.

adriana on 2016-10-31 said:
they tie up bushes and trees and put straw round them to stop the branches from breaking with the weight of snow. According to NHK it was supposed to be snowing in Sapporo today.

Day 17 - Tuesday, 1 November 2016

Dam it

Last full day in Sapporo, and thankfully no rain.
I made my decision of where to go last night, should be easy to get there, there was a small hitch in that plan.
I took the subway to meet my bus, which seemed to be about to depart as I came up out of the subway, so I ran onto it and pushed school kids out the way to make room for me.
Off we drove up through the hills and valleys towards mountains, it started to snow. Snow is fine, you dont get wet in snow, then the school kids all got off and I could take a seat. Just me now. I knew I had to go to the end of the line then walk. I knew the end of the line was an onsen city, with big hotels and hot springs and geysers and tourists called Jozankei Onsen.
So when my bus driver ordered me off about 10km before then in the middle of a field in the snow, I was confused.
It would seem I had boarded a special school bus service that does not go the whole way. I am sure the kids were amused when I ran onto that bus.

Anyway, I only waited in the field for a few minutes before the next bus came along, and had a few old ladies on it, now we were on our the dam!
Once we arrived at the Onsen, which is tour bus central, most people then board some kind of shuttle bus or take a day tour to the dam electric tunnel bus car park. Not me of course. I walked.
A nice walk in the snow it was, but cold! I jogged to keep warm. All roads today, no chance of getting lost, but very slippery!
Eventually, I got to the tunnel electric bus carpark, a 2km tunnel under a mountain that an electric bus for tourists goes through to the dam. It costs money, so obviously, I am not paying, not when you can walk through the tunnel, with that on offer why would you take a bus?
The good news was the bus car park had vending machines for a hot extra sweet milk tea to warm up, then I jogged through the tunnel.

The dam itself, was not massive, and I was too late for peak leafery, it was also too grey and snowy to fully appreciate, but I still think it looked great.
After having the place to myself apart from some workers checking the dams structural integrity by smacking it with a front end loader, an electric bus load of tourists arrived.
Turns out they were from Taiwan, I heard them speaking Chinese, and when one of them asked if I needed help to take cool photos of myself looking angry, he asked where I was from in broken English, so I answered him in fluent Chinese.
Turns out he comes from Taizhong (Taichung) in Taiwan, when I told him I had been there he did not believe me, why would anyone go there. But I have been there, I spent a week there.

After my time terrorising a poor Taiwanese man with my limited vocabularly, it was time to make the return trip back to the Onsen area and look for my bus.
Turns out I had about 30 minutes to spare, just enough to jog around the Onsen area and snap a few photos. There was steam coming out of the road and a few outdoor pools to soak your feet in.
The actual public baths are inside the hotels built on the edge of the cliffs. I then realised I was going to miss my bus. I had to sprint! Not only did I have to sprint, but up a very steep hill with switch backs due to steepness. I must have looked ridiculous, but I made the bus with 30 seconds to spare.

This is where bus #1 decided to leave me. Someone on the other side of the road is trying to figure out if a bus is ever going to take her into town.

I got off at the onsen city, which is down the river from here a little way. It was not my main destination, the walk commences from here... about a 20km round trip!

The view started to improve soon after. A shame there was no sunshine.

More view.

Eventually I got to the tour bus parking area where you can hop on the electric tunnel bus. There is room for about a thousand buses to park here, yet there are none.

The tunnel. I enjoyed the sound of my footsteps. I read that it is absolutely terribly and horrifically freezing in the tunnels. There are 2 to go through.
However whoever wrote that must have gone through in summer, because it is warmer in the tunnels than out of the tunnels today.

A nice view between the tunnels.

Also a waterfall.

The high side of the dam. I will admit I was underwhelmed at first!

The lake above the dam made for some nice views.

Posing time. I had to tell my Taiwanese photographer I never smile... Wo Cong Lai Bu Xiao!

There is a small museum with average quality info on the construction of the dam. But it does have a balcony to stand on and freeze and take another photo.

Now I walked onto the dam to look over the other side. Its a long way down! All the trees look dead down there.

The dam wall, best I could do, they dont let you walk down there damn it.

The damn dam. I think I have stolen these Vegas vacation jokes before on another holiday.
The dam worker in the safety vest you can see was keeping a close eye on me the whole time.

After jogging back to the onsen area, heres the view! A bit more colorful. Probably photo of the day, look at that huge hotel! There are lots of them here.

Hmmm, red bridge in the distance, do I have time before the bus? Not really as I would find out.

I ran to the bridge because as a tourist I must take photos of any bridge painted red.

Excellent view from the bridge.

And the bridge itself. Thats enough bridge.

Last photo for today just before I commenced my uphill sprint for the bus. Very invigorating.

Flipping my own food

Tomorrow I go to Hakodate, but first, one last meal in Sapporo. I panned google maps around looking for an apricot shaded area of streets which signifies significant retail.
My target was an area south east of the main station, an area which used to be a factory of some description, as its called Sapporo Factory, which was a clue to its former factoryness.
Getting there was mainly dark streets, no retail, not many people, just cyclists on footpaths with no lights, or those old wheel powered dyno lights.
The state of lighting on Japanese bicycles is amazingly bad. The main kind of light is still genuinely the dyno driven lights of old, with each pedal it gets brighter then dims until the other leg pedals again.
This from the country that has toilets with 19 attachments. They are yet to understand LED lights.

Anyway once I got to Sapporo factory, it was a giant mall type thing, joined onto factories, with performance areas for Japanese X-factor, and a large array of christmas decorations erected today following the removal of halloween pumpkins.
It was however indoors and heated, a good thing, as it is now snowing outside again.
Stores in here stay open to 9, people working in stores outnumber customers 5 to 1. Their customary greeting was muted to a pathetic whimper. All of the 15 year old high school drop outs have had to utter the terrifying irasshaimase non stop for 12 hours straight.
Surely they wake in the night uttering the phrase that now defines their existence?
I pondered this for some time whilst listening to the Japanese band in the performance area who were performing only to me and the cleaners belting out a rendition of the rick roll classic never gonna give you up.

The inside of the atrium area of the Sapporo factory mall which is actually about 10 buldings joined together by semi heated walkways between old brick buildings where they used to make welcome to Sapporo memorobilia. Everyone has been to Sapporo now so they went broke and became a mall.

This restaurant in the basement has a giant cabbage on stand, and a sign which I think is proudly describing this huge cabbage they have grown. After seeing this how can I not eat here?

The problem is, its a cook your own Okonomyaki restaurant, so now I have to pay to do someone elses job. Step one, vomit onto the grill, try to project your vomit into a neat circle.

Step 2. Await the onlooking concerned gaze of all the staff in the restaurant, then fake them out by grabbing the flipping things and putting them down again.
Do this a few times before actually attempting the flip as pay back for their weak attempts at the irasshaimase greeting.
My flip wasnt too bad, a couple of bits broke off. The staff returned to sleeping, not sure if they were concerned or hoping for amusement.

Step 3, flip it again and add the other stuff they provide on your table. Bonito flakes, I have no idea what these are, prawn shells perhaps. The good news about cook your own is you can skip the kilogram of mayonaise and sweetened fish paste or whatever it is.

Tonights leaf of the night color spectacle is the outside of the Sapporo factory.

Now I had to choose my dessert.
Except I am in a pet store. These are desserts for pets. No cat photo tonight, they had about 100 kittens to choose from but also attendents everywhere on no photo duty.
You want photo you buy cat. Thats what the sign on every cage / fish tank said!

Heres a random streetscape from an overpass. There are a lot of bigger buildings in Sapporo. I saw a residential apartment building that was 35 levels. Perhaps there is not as much risk from earthquake here?
Note the VEGAS VEGAS place on the left is a huge pachinko parlour, written on its windows is 'I have been dreaming non stop about returning to this moment of supreme happiness'.

The JR tower at the main station is also very large. I checked if they have an observation deck, they do! But its $10 to go up, no way!

If you like these capsule vending things, this is your place. No matter how I try to position myself, I cannot fit all of them in!

Having rejected the dog food birthday cake, I settled on some custard tarts. 6 for $10, what a bargain!

There are currently 2 comments - click to add
jenny on 2016-11-01 said:
Factory mall - never been there - another reason to go to Sapporo again.

adriana on 2016-11-01 said:
Nice onsen town. We will be somewhere very similar sitting below just such a dam in the hot water on Christmas eve. You would find the weather quite pleasant if you wore the right clothes.

Day 18 - Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Fight for your right for a view

Now I am in Hakodate. Each time I arrive in a new place I feel it is important to herald my arrival through a bold declaration.
The journey to here was on a diesel train! Such ancient technology, amazing. It went slowly, but it went along the coast, baiting the mighty ocean to provide a train ride ending tsunami.
None occurred.
But there was a view to be had, nearly the whole way, very few tunnels, and very few view obstruction barriers for the prevention of view appreciation society of Japan.
Still however, there were other kinds of barriers to a view. The other passengers. My carriage had lots of other passengers, all of whom boarded and shut the block out blinds immediately.
Behind me was a middle aged woman. She had no control of my blind from where she was sitting, this drove her insane. Her first tactic was to raise and lower her blind repeatedly, thinking perhaps I dont understand you are meant to stare at nothing for 4 hours.
Tactic 2 was to push the back of my seat, I glared at her.
Then I got up to put rubbish in the bin, of course when I came back, my blind was down. I looked at her again and raised my blind. She then went and got the conductor. He came, looked at me, said nothing, and left.
So it has taken 3 weeks, but finally, after such an epic struggle, I was allowed to look at Japanese scenery. I feel this is a grand achievement in Japan / Non Japan bi lateral relations. Now we can agree on the South China Sea whaling rights.

The journey was long, but since I was afforded a view, enjoyable, but slow, and also long.
We stopped maybe 10 times in the 4 hours, and there were many mountains to see out the window. I think driving around Hokkaido would be great.
Unfortunately, I know that most of those mountains are closed to humans due to volcanic activity, but periodically they do reopen. Just not either of the good ones I saw today.

Still in Sapporo, I needed to get some steps so paced around at 7am. This is the local taxi car park area shrine demon.

Taxi car park has a small shrine and garden.

Finally some blue sky, and colored leaves. If I was still in Sapporo today I would be up a mountain for sure!

The inside of my train. Other people! Angry woman behind me had not boarded at this stage.

Mountain view #1, I know this one is closed to the public as I planned to climb this a few days ago but could not.

The seaside towns are very much all about commercial fishing. There are no nice beaches. Where there is sand its full of rubbish and nets and buoys.

The entire ocean has these barriers, which are either for tsunamis or to prevent erosion or maybe to reduce the amount of rubbish that washes up onto the sand, or maybe all three!

Mountain view #2, I believe you can climb these, but they are far from the train.

Mountain view #3a, very good mountain to climb, not as high as it looks, very convenient for the train, huge volcanic crater, been closed for years!

Mountain view #3b, please reopen one day! The entire lakes region around this mountain had the best leaf color I have seen anywhere. It might be my destination tomorrow... weather depending.

My diesel train. Looks more modern than it sounded, it actually sounded like he was changing gears with a clutch pedal.

This is my hotel, Route Inn Hakodate, as you can see it is large. Too early to check in, so time for a quick walk down to the docks.

Small mountain view, every photo you see of Hakodate is taken from up there. The top has what is almost a theme park. I might run up there this evening. It really does not look far.
Obviously, there is a cable car for the lazy.

My room, it is tiny...

But it does have a great view.

I can keep a close eye on the trains coming and going, and the mountains in the distance.

Running with the buses

As suggested earlier, it was time to go to the top of Mount Hakodate to do the tourist thing and take photos of the city lights.
I thought to myself, how to make it not so touristy, run up of course, in the dark.
There was no one else doing this. I walked up the hill to the cable car station, and noted that at 5pm it was already dark, there would be no hiking trail tonight, instead the road was the only option.
So up I went, jogging, it wasnt too steep, but there were no street lights. This made it a feast for my other 7 senses. Every squirrel or fox or whatever else I could here in the forest was obviously a bear, run faster I did.
Every now and then a bus or a taxi would come past and shed some light on the situation, or I would be on the side of the hill / mountain lit by the city below, but most of the time it was really dark, in a valley with tall cedar trees covering the road.

Once at the top, there were thousands of people and tour buses. Also a small shopping mall, over 100 vending machines and two restaurants. Both restaurants and the cable car down had huge lines.
The cable car was also about $10 one way! Bugger that.

Only one thing to do, run back down. Those bears know I am coming now. I flew down at top speed, it was constantly down hill. Taxi drivers going past thought I was a lunatic, and I guess I am. All this to save $10 and waiting in line. Actually all this because I am a lunatic who likes sprinting down an unlit road in 0 degree weather in a jacket carrying a camera.

One option to go up the mountain is to take the moo moo taxi. No.

The road to the cable car goes past the old seafood processing factories, now of course a shopping mall and a starbucks.

More of the shopping mall area and floating restaurant boats.

Here I am at the bottom cable car station, there is a huge parking area for buses. Actually Hakodate seems like Toyama in that everything is parking.

The first clearing of trees is about halfway up. As I was taking photos here taxis would stop and the drivers would enjoy the view and have a smoke.

Looking towards the top, looks kind of sci fi.

View from the top of a cable car on its way down. Supposedly the best night view to be had anywhere in Japan. I kind of think Shimonoseki would be better, even though I was only there during the day.
However here in Hakodate, you have the ocean on both sides.

Its freezing but after running up I was hot and thirsty. Luckily theres no shortage of vending machines. This is just one of at least 10 similar setups devoted to them.

One more photo from the top of people taking photos.

This is part of the shopping area at the top, it is too crowded to go in there.

Back down now, after my super fast bear outrunning descent, and I am back at the seafood factories converted to shopping malls. Only problem is they close at 7pm, including the restaurants. Its 7pm. Maybe tomorrow.

Hakodate is super proud that the Shinkansen comes under the sea to a location near their city now. In this picture it shows the train right in the city. Not so. The actual stop is 22km north of Hakodate.
Eventually the line will go all the way to Sapporo, at which point no one will stop at Hakodate anymore.

Dinner options that were not raw seafood were scarce. I dont mind a bit of sashimi for lunch, but not an entire meal in freezing weather for dinner.
This place is one of the non seafood joints, and its a hamburger place called FABULOUS PIERROT. There are 3 similarly sized outlets of this brand within 100 metres of each other, all with the same decor.
Not for me though!

Eventually I found this little series of streets selling raw seafood. All except one was selling raw seafood. I had some ramen. Unfortunately my photo was very blurry. It was not great ramen, but it was hot.

There are currently 2 comments - click to add
mother on 2016-11-02 said:
Is there enough to do in Hakodate for two whole days?

adriana on 2016-11-02 said:
Looks like you are far from the city centre in Hakodate. Apparently you have to take photos of the night view from the mountain there. Best night view in Japan they say.

Now there is a page 7, it never ends.


Day 1 - Sunday, 16 October 2016
  Magpie attack!
  Landing gets you half way there
Day 2 - Monday, 17 October 2016
  Splashing about in tunnels
  Green motorbike birth place
Day 3 - Tuesday, 18 October 2016
  I saw it!
  Used and organic
Day 4 - Wednesday, 19 October 2016
  Public conveniencce
Day 5 - Thursday, 20 October 2016
  Not too early for color
  Still just a station
Day 6 - Friday, 21 October 2016
  It happened again
  City in decline
Day 7 - Saturday, 22 October 2016
  Huge hotel room
  Places to eat
Day 8 - Sunday, 23 October 2016
  Volcanic gas panic
  Famous food and plenty of parking
Day 9 - Monday, 24 October 2016
  Castles gardens and tourists
  Its a real city
Day 10 - Tuesday, 25 October 2016
  Racing the rain that never was
  NO PHOTO Bigot
Day 11 - Wednesday, 26 October 2016
  Slow train to big city
  They actually finished one
Day 12 - Thursday, 27 October 2016
  Canyon mountain
  Repeat visits
Day 13 - Friday, 28 October 2016
  New airport day
  Wheely good time
Day 14 - Saturday, 29 October 2016
  No smog yes people
  So happy to give information please sit
Day 15 - Sunday, 30 October 2016
  Terrible sign failure
  Pre halloween
Day 16 - Monday, 31 October 2016
  Baseball star
Day 17 - Tuesday, 1 November 2016
  Dam it
  Flipping my own food
Day 18 - Wednesday, 2 November 2016
  Fight for your right for a view
  Running with the buses
Day 19 - Thursday, 3 November 2016
  Dull hysteria
  The final freeze
Day 20 - Friday, 4 November 2016
  Under the sea
  Nights of the warming lights
Day 21 - Saturday, 5 November 2016
  White flag
Day 22 - Sunday, 6 November 2016
  Lets try that again
  Damp pants
Day 23 - Monday, 7 November 2016
  Last stop
  Tourists outnumber local
Day 24 - Tuesday, 8 November 2016
  So shiny
Day 25 - Wednesday, 9 November 2016
  Now they are rubbish
  Button security
Day 26 - Thursday, 10 November 2016
  For the sake of completeness