Other Places in Hokkaido

When I got up this morning, it was raining. I came down and ate my pre-paid breakfast and WOW—what a spread! It was what they call a “Baikingu” here (the Japanese pronunciation of “Viking” which is what they call a Smørgasbord, or all-you-can-eat buffet). I ate until my eyes bubbled, including lots of bread, fresh Hokkaido butter, yummy miso soup, salmon, and probably a liter of Orange Juice. Yay!

I couldn’t really think of anything else I wanted to see in Sapporo (really lame thing to say, since I know I’m missing a LOT), so I thought I’d get on the train (since I now have an active JR Rail Pass) and see what else I could visit on the island.

Not too far away is the town of Otaru, about which the Rough Guide had some nice things to say. It was only about 30 minutes, but in that time the rain had become a torrential downpour. Sadly, I wasn’t feeling adventurous enough to go out in it, so only saw the main street from the station entrance! I wish I had more time…

Instead, I decided to try in the other direction, so headed back through Sapporo to catch a Hokuto Super Express to Hakodate. It’s well known for its historical western-influenced buildings. It was one of the first ports opened to the outside world in the Meiji era, and many countries opened consulates here. I only had about an hour-and-a-half, so took the little trolley car down to the end of the line and hopped off. Oops! Should have looked at the guidebook first, since I missed the big historical building area and ended up in the fishing district.

But you know, that kind of serendipity also has merit: I think I got some excellent photos there and saw things that the average American tourist would never see. I think the close-up I took of the squid boat lamps is one of the best ones from this entire trip (see it in the photo gallery). After wandering a bit and looking at the guidebook, I realized that I could save the ¥250 and walk back to the station on my own—and I’d pass by some of the historical quarter on my way. And since it’s COOLER here, walking isn’t as big a chore.

I got back to Sapporo fairly late, so dropped into the Internet cafe where it’s all-you-can-drink soft drinks, free soft ice cream and cheap eats from the grill while you web surf in your own private little cubicle. Incredibly, pretty much everything in the huge station mall was closed (this really IS like Salt Lake City…), so there wasn’t much else to do. I guess since I was wimping out, it also means I won’t be eating any of the signature Gengis Khan on this trip.

Since it’s already time for me to leave (can you believe it?), I had to get stuff packed and ready—I have a 7:30 AM train to catch with 2 connections on my 10-hour journey to Tokyo tomorrow. Sadly, since I’m up so early, the pre-paid breakfast for tomorrow was lost—at least they agreed to pack me a box lunch of sandwiches for tomorrow. I’ll miss the gorgeous spread from this morning, though…

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