Thursday, 28 March 2013

My Japan Story Final Part – Lavender fields and mistaken price for watermelon

Of all hotels that we stayed during our trip in Japan, Hotel Garcery Sapporo where we spent 4 nights was the nearest to the train station and its room was the smallest of all, yet ironically, the rate of the room was also the steepest.

Upon arrival in Sapporo from Hakodate, we took a day trip to Otaru, famous after it was featured in a romantic Japanese soap opera in the 1990s. A canal adorned with Victorian-style street lamps runs through Otaru and like Hakodate; it was one of the earlier port cities. What attracted me the most was the glass works in this town and its colonial style buildings and warehouses.

We arrived in Hokkaido just in time for lavender in early July. The lavender fields were mostly centered around Asahikawa and for the lavender season, there is this special lavender train one can take to the fields, the famous being those around the little tranquil town of Biei. Besides the lavender fields, another place that is a must to visit is the Takushinkan Photo Gallery where the celebrated photographer Shinzo Maeda captured the best of Hokkaido throughout his years of living in Biei. Biking was the best way to go around Biei.
An interesting thing happened on our second night at Sapporo when both of us went to the Daimaru Supermarket situated just across our hotel. The display of honey dews and watermelons was too great for us to resist the temptation to try them. We were wondering what was so great that rock melon can cost up to about 10 thousand yen, about RM 300 and half a watermelon costs about RM 200. Then we were elated when we saw a packing of a watermelon cut into half with the tag of 200 yen (RM 6) with some Japanese writing on it. Aha….we thought it just cost 200 yen for half a watermelon that looked so delicious, worth trying right?
Rock melons on display. See the price tag!
Only at the payment counter we realized that the watermelon costs 5800 yen, a discount of 200 yen from its original price of 6000 yen (RM 180). We bought it anyway but it is the most delicious watermelon I ever tasted back then. For RM 180, we can buy at least 15 watermelons in Malaysia and I told my friend: “eat until lau sai (diarrhea). These days when I have craving for Japanese watermelon or rock melon, I can get them in Mediya at Liang Court in Singapore.
One of the farms around Biei.

Tomita Farm is the largest lavender farm in Hokkaido and we spent almost a day there taking photos and strolling around. We went to a few more which we can’t remember their names. The sceneries were breathtaking. Compared to tulip farms in Holland, I would say I prefer the lavender farms more. How I wish in Malaysia we do more to beautify our Cameron Highlands farms, make it nice, neat and conveniently accessible and we can make a scene from Hokkaido out of it.

The shot that I loved most.
Another interesting thing about Hokkaido is a few trees used in commercials and posters and therefore they have their own names such as "Tree of Ken and Mary," "Tree of Seven Stars," and "Tree of Parent and Child." What I remember most of those trees is the Tree of Seven Stars with the majestic Daisetsuzan Mountain in the background.
 Daisetsuzan Mountain from afar.
Finally, a trip to Hokkaido is not complete without visiting the famous Sapporo Beer Museum and Garden. We flew back to Tokyo, stayed for a few more days before saying goodbye to Japan and changed of perception about Japanese ever since then.
Sapporo Beer Museum and Garden.

I’m not going to write in details about Tokyo as I find that it is just another metropolitan city without much to except its famous Sensoji Temple, Tsukiji Fish Market, Yasakuni Shrine, Nihonbashi and Ginza Shopping District, Shinjuku office towers and the Imperial Palace garden.
Infront of Sensoji Temple

Tuna fish head at Tsukiji Market.

P/s: For those who have not been to Japan or Korea and not a K-pop fan, my advice will be to visit Korea first before Japan or you will find that Korea is a mini Japan and the trip won’t be fun anymore.

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