Wednesday, 27 March 2013

My Japan Story Part 5 – By train to Hokkaido

This blog is very much overdue by more than a year since I last wrote about my experiences at Takayama, Mt Fuji and Nikko more than a year ago. Somehow the memories of Hokkaido rekindle my mood to write about it.
The journey from Tokyo to Hakodate in Hokkaido was a picturesque and memorable one. If I were to take the same journey again, I believe the views would have been different after the disastrous March 11 earthquake that destroys most of the cities along the Tohoku Shinkansen line. It is all worth the 7 plus hours spent in the train with Jared Diamond’s Collapse to accompany me.

Two bullet trains joined together, at Tokyo Station.
The journey also showed the efficiency of the Japanese as they are capable of separating the passengers and two bullet trains attached together in Tokyo but bound for two separate destinations at Morioka. In the span of 12 minutes, the one train became two with one bound for Akita and the other to Hachinohe. I was amazed and I murmured to my friend, if this is to happen in Malaysia, it will take at least 30 minutes. The bullet train line ends at Hachinohe where we had to change to another express but not bullet train en route to Hokkaido.

It was a great challenge for me and my friend at Hachinohe as we have only 20 minutes to move from one train to another with our two big luggage bags, crossed from one station to another, find the right platform (as Hachinohe is transit hub, there were at least 40 platforms) and grab our lunch without missing the train. We almost miss the train! Aomori was the last station on Northern Honshu before the train descent into the Seikan Tunnel beneath the Tsugaru Strait. It is the both the longest and the deepest operational rail tunnel in the world.

It was evening by the time we reached Hakodate; thankfully we do not have much trouble finding our hotel as we were both tired and hungry. We found a traditional Japanese grill eatery near to our hotel for dinner. It was run by a couple who only speak Japanese and we had problem communicating with them. So it ended up with drawing and sign languages but the grilled stuffs were great. To this day I still can’t forget its grilled chicken wings. The hunger in us finished off whatever stock that they had prepared. We went again the next day and again, we cleared their stock.

Before we left, the lady owner, through a Japanese gentleman who speaks a little English asked if we are going again the next night. We told them that are leaving for Sapporo the next day. I told my friend that they must be asking because they want to prepare more food if we are to be there again, much to our great laughter. The Japanese goes to those grilled places for drink and a few skews of grilled stuffs but we had close to 50 skews a night. I wonder what the owners thought of us. I have no idea what is the name of the grill house as it was all in Japanese but it is at the back of Aqua Garden Hotel.
The Russian Orthodox Church

At the romantic waterfront area, with former warehouses dotting the landscape.

Hakodate was once a treaty port but right now it is more of a fishing town but a romantic place, especially the waterfront area. The icons of the town were the imposing Russian Orthodox Church and the Goryokaku Park, famous for its 1500 cherry trees.

Next, my lavender experience.

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