Monday, April 28, 2014

Journey to Japan (Part 5)

We woke up bright and early the next morning; our day was planned out and it would take most of the day to get all the way to Sapporo, which is located on the island of Hokkaido. We chatted with our hosts before departing. They were so kind; they gave us each a stack of pictures in beautiful paper. The pictures were from the tea ceremony, a place where I couldn't take pictures myself. It was such a kind gesture and gift. Along with it, we were given bookmarks- mine had origami people on it and was so cute! We all shared snacks before leaving. Walking back through the charming neighborhood, we found our way back to the bus-stop and from there we made it to the train station and had breakfast.

If I can suggest anything, it's visiting a convenience store for a lot of snack if you're going on a long train ride. In fact, I even brought lunch with me. If you're looking for a meal on the go rather than a snack and all you have is a convenience store, I suggest finding getting a bento! I, however, loaded up on snacks; melonpan with cream inside of it, too! Since there were so many things to eat in Japan, I often stuck to having smaller but several meals. It wasn't unusual for me to eat 5-6 meals a day while I stayed there. This decision made it easier for me to pace myself since I wanted to try so many different foods and snacks while I had the chance.

And here I am going off on a tangent, huh?

We boarded a shinkansen. I spent hours on the train! But I didn't mind because outside of the window I could see tons and tons of snow! I'm sure I've mentioned that I absolutely love snow- one of my most favorite things ever! The train actually went through a pretty big snowstorm. Sometimes it was too difficult to see outside of the window because of all the snow around it. Sometimes we would be in a snowstorm, others it would be beautiful skies outside.

I'm sure you noticed that I said I was taking some trains to an island. You might come to the conclusion that there's a giant bridge connecting the two. Well, the cool thing is that we went in a tunnel that goes underneath the water! As in the water was somewhere above the tunnel. It seems scary, but you never really notice that you're there. They have these nifty charts of when you'll be underneath the water posted on the back of the seats. Of course, this was a different train than the one I boarded first. If you're in Japan, you'll find that you often need to board several different trains to get where you're going.

There really isn't much to say about the train rides. Even though I said I brought a lot of snacks and food, they do tend to have people selling food and snacks on the trains if you're going a long trip on a single train. 

When we finally reached Sapporo, we went immediately to our hotel from the train station. It was already nighttime outside. Taking rolling suitcases across snow isn't exactly the most fun way to get to a hotel, but it was a very short walk from the station.

There were hills of snow that were taller than I was, most of them reached my waist. However, they had cleared most of the sidewalks- Well, when I say clear, I mean smoothed out the large amounts of snow so that you could walk on it. It was the same thing with the roads. It was sometimes difficult to see where the sidewalk and roads were separated. Everything was covered in a very thick blanket of snow. This didn't keep people from walking, biking, or even driving in it. (Meanwhile, back at home, a few inches of snow had fallen and they were calling it Snowpocalypse and Snowmageddon.)

The hotel was thin and tall. Our room was really small, which is exactly what I expected. There were slippers on the floor for the foot of hardwood floor there was before reaching the tatami flooring. The window gave us a nice view of the snow, though. I might mention that the bathroom was the smallest bathroom I had ever seen, not much bigger than a port a potty. Surprisingly they fit a toilet, sink, bathtub, and shower in that space, though I could have stood on the opposite end of the room and turned on the shower with no problems.

Again, we slept on futons- not as comfortable as the one I had slept on the night before, but I was starting to think I preferred them over beds. If we needed room, they could be folded and put away. This hotel also had a public bath, although I didn't visit it due to having to take several flights of stairs down to get there (I'm terrified of elevators).

We left soon after and headed to a restaurant where we could have shabu shabu (which is a hot pot-like sukiyaki except instead of simmering it in a sauce, you boil your food in a pot of water. We brushed the snow off of each other (which was quite a lot) before entering the building and waiting to take a seat. The place looked really nice. When we were seated, I barely had to look at the menu to know what I wanted. I ordered the Wagyu beef. I provided a link, but the short version is that it's the cows that get the massages and sake and the beef is really marbled (for reference, Kobe beef is wagyu beef; Kobe just refers to the location of the cows, wagyu refers to the breed of cow it is(so if you're ordering Kobe beef anywhere else in the world, it's probably not actually Kobe but wagyu-style/kobe-style)).

Eating this meat is truly an experience you should not miss out on if given the opportunity. The meat just melts in your mouth. The fat, as I noticed with most meat in japan, is actually very tasty to eat, and doesn't feel like I'm eating fat at all, and I'm very very picky about not eating fat. My companions both got seafood for the pot, which I don't eat. However, by the time I had finished off the wagyu, they were fishing for the leftover  tiny bits of the meat from the water. The wagyu dish wasn't really enough to fill me up though. It was still worth the money that was paid for it. I can't quite remember the name of the place, but it was something possibly like Shabu-Shabu Tokachi. 


We then went back to the hotel, walking in the beautiful snow that was drifting so gracefully from the dark sky. I wanted nothing more than to plop down in a mound of it and make a snowangel or build snowballs and throw them at people, but I decided it was a bad idea because I would draw even more attention to myself.
I got a drink from the vending machine downstairs. It was a bottle of apple juice. The lids of this brand have different kinds of faces on them. I managed to get one with an emoticon I used quite often last year, which made me quite giggly.

The next day would be my first day attending a snow festival...

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