The third day which I spent in Japan was spent largely on travelling to Hakodate, which is one of the major cities in Hokkaido. Another one, that is more usually more notable and famous to foreigners, would be Sapporo.
Snow Miku, anyone?
Snow Miku, anyone?
For this day, I needed to be in Hakodate to check-in and prepare for my exchange program, which I would be spending a total of 7 days in the area. I wouldn't do much sightseeing today, since it's largely just travelling and resting, but the main bulk of sightseeing would be done over the next 2 days. In the later part of the week, the schedule which my partner university came up with was a mixture of classes in the morning and field trips in the noon and evening, where quite a few field trips had interesting activities like don-making (as in donburi) or just visiting less-common tourist spots!
Now, back to this listless day's activities. I woke up earlier than usual to head to Haneda airport, where I would be taking a direct domestic flight from Tokyo to Hakodate. The other route of choice would be via a Shinkansen, which would take about 4 to 6 hours, and after 2 long and very tiring but fulfilling days in Tokyo, the choice is apparent!
Hakodate, being near the sea, is not only very scenic but also extremely well-known for many types of seafood where the most famous ones would be squid, especially Japanese Flying Squid (surume-ika) and some crabs and fishes. This is already apparent with all the fish-based designs and ornaments around the airport. Of course, Hakodate wouldn't miss out their grand chance to market some delicious Hokkaido desserts as well! Many of these can be found in the airport itself or even in local souvenir shops. And believe me when I say that Shiroi Koibito is literally everywhere.
Though the largest issue with Hakodate would be the temperature, which is about 16 to 20 even in summer. The cool, or rather cold, weather was apparent even on the plane itself! And when you think it can't get any worse, that's when it does. There is an airport shuttle bus that's about 410 yen from the airport to Hakodate Ekimae (Bus stop before the Hakodate station), which my hotel for the week was located near. The frequency of the bus is about 15 minutes, and the bus journey takes about 20 minutes. And being myself, I have the luck to miss out on one and had to wait 10 minutes outdoors in the raging wind, queuing for the next one. So cold!
The bus ride was really comfortable, similar to a coach. Part of the reason for this was the plush seats, and the other being the relatively smooth roads Hakodate has. The only bad thing which I can nit-pick about would be the weather because it really ruined how the huge stretch of sea looked in my pictures. The speed which the bus was moving at wasn't picture-friendly at all either. Sometimes I wished that I brought a different camera...
Arriving at Hakodate Ekimae wasn't the biggest challenge, but the road to the hotel was. I must admit that while I'm weak and pretty small-sized and definitely not made for lugging a huge luggage halfway across the streets of Japan, Japan's roads are not really considered well-made for luggage either. There are many flights of stairs as well as junctions with tram tracks, making it very difficult to drag your luggage across the streets without having to carry it over parts of some roads. Thankfully, Japan's traffic lights seem to have longer green-man duration for some wider roads.
This is an advertisement board for an Izakaya which I spotted on the way to my hotel. This is not an advertisement for the store or anything of the like, because I didn't even have the time to visit this store due to how packed my school schedule was. Even so, I can't deny that I got really tempted then to just leave my luggage aside and enter that store there and then -- for that price and that visual appeal of the different kinds of food. Not to mention that I always had something for sake and those sake bottles were really, really tempting me quite badly.
Nevertheless, temptation exist to be resisted and I plodded faster along the road to my hotel. It gets darker much earlier in Hakodate than in Tokyo, and I knew that I was going to be quite tired that night from all the travelling!
Dinner was at Tsugaruya Shokudo, and what I had was Kake Udon, which is just plain udon with little-to-no seasoning for the broth. Kake udon is my to-go dish for tired nights when I don't really feel like chewing much, and I must say that this definitely does not disappoint! The single female chef dressed in home clothes with an apron (no, I don't have a picture of her) is definitely the image of a mother in this eatery as she whips out dish after dish of home-cooked food.
The tea is amazing, with a light floral fragrance lingering behind every sip. It's free to refill, and how the tea always runs out is clearly another indication of how much it's favored!
Another good thing about this place is the temperature. It's set around nearly 26, which is a nice toasty warmth compared to the brutal cold windy climate outside the store. It sets a nice comfortable ambiance to the eatery and while it might not look like the best place to dine at from the outside, it certainly lives up to its name as a cheap and good eatery, so I urge all of you who plan or are in Hakodate to give it a try!
After dinner, I decided to check out the drugstore opposite my hotel to see if there are any good milk that I could pick up. If you know, Hokkaido is famous for its milk and corn, so those are a must-try when I'm in the area. Right at the entrance of the drugstore was this Osomatsu gashapon greeting me. Glad to see that it's so famous here as well?
I secured my source of water and milk, from the store, of which I didn't take pictures of either, I finally headed back to my hotel for the night. Stores at Hakodate close very early (at about 7pm) which is such a pity because I end classes at about 5 or 6pm daily and that would limit my shopping choices quite a bit.,.
Putting that unhappiness aside, I managed to get into the onsen at my hotel at about 8:30pm, where there was no one inside. I literally had the whole bath to myself and there was absolutely no need to feel any form of embarrassment because there was literally no one in the entire place except myself! But it did feel a little awkward after a while when I heard nothing else but the water sounds which I was making, so I left the onsen a little sooner than I would usually have.
For Day 4's update, I would be sharing the details and some of my pictures about Hakodate Bay area and Goryokaku Tower, both of which are really popular tourist spots! The Bay area is filled with good food and numerous cute products for shoppers while Goryokaku Tower has a more gift-orientated souvenir shop and a nice long historic linkage with the Bakufu, which they love emphasizing.
Stay tuned for Day 4's update!
From Your Fellow Japan Fan,
Day 5 (Part I) | Day 5 (Part II)