Day 5 in Japan is the start of my classes in Hakodate, yet it's also one of the most relaxing days because the day's activities include orientation then touring of Hakodate (the tour part is quite long though). The later days in the week would include classes, which are mainly lectures in the morning followed by group discussions, then field trips.
In Hakodate, the main mode of transport would be by bicycle or walking. There are buses available but they come at an hourly frequency. Another mode of transport is the trustworthy trams, which come at a better frequency than buses. And before you think of something similar to rickshaws, the trams which I'm talking about look similar to buses but they run on tracks instead.
The mode of transport we use to Hokudai (Hokkaido University) daily is the bus. We board the 7:25am bus and reach the classroom at 8am daily at a one-way 260 yen fare (classes start at 8:30am) because the next bus comes after 8am. Fortunately, the hotel which we stayed at provided breakfast from 6am and Hokudai always provides coffee, tea and other biscuits as snacks!
For field trips, we usually get a free cab ride (as you know cabs in Japan are crazily expensive) and for our own personally outings like shopping trips, we either go by foot or by trams.
The picture above is my breakfast from the hotel. Nothing much extravagant, and I don't have much appetite in the morning. The drinks are (from left) milk tea, milk and plain water. The milk is the best Hokkaido milk I ever had. The store-bought cartons can't even compare! Sadly, they never did serve the milk again during my stay. On the plate is 3 tamagoyaki (they are so sweet and good!) and 2 breaded and deep-fried fish fillets. The meal is complete with rice and miso soup, which contained wakame (seaweed), tofu and mushrooms.
Now, back to the lovely Hakudai!
In Hokudai, we were enrolled under the fishery sciences faculty. There was supposed to be a tour of the school on a later day in the week but it got cancelled due to rain. As a result, we never got to see the other parts of the University... such a pity.
Here are some souvenirs from the University -- a tote bag, our schedule for the week's stay, a foolscap pad and a mechanical pencil. There's nothing extravagant again, but little thoughts like this goes a long way.
For orientation and ice-breakers, we played 2 truths 1 lie, which is a game where you say 3 statements of which 2 are truths and 1 is a lie. The other participants are to guess which is the lie. If they make a correct guess they get a point, and for every wrong guess you get a point.
And once the orientation game was over, we had solo-introductions before we went on our tours! Firstly, we had lunch at Tonki.
After finishing lunch, we left Tonki and spotted something similar to a flea market nearby. My group mates were really enthusiastic about it and so we went over. They had a range of items on sale, such as clothes, toys and retro games. I even spotted some anime goods, though I didn't purchase anything.
Following the flea market would be the legit start of the tour. For that, my Japanese group mate wanted to bring us to the Bay area and Goryokaku Tower, but upon hearing that we already went there yesterday, he decided to change plans. We decided to visit Tokugawa's retainers graves at Yachigashira then head all the way over to Yunokawa for a free public foot bath!
We took the tram all the way and here's the image of the train map if anyone is interested. Where we went are circled in red, and they are right at the ends. Yay for travelling from one end of Hakodate to the other!
Below is the image ofthe ICAS ticket, which is a 1-day pass for all-you-can-board tram. This ticket costs 600 yen, each one-way tram ride is at least 210 yen and increases with distance. How this works is similar to that of parking coupons, and you scratch off the date you are using this pass. And when alighting, just present this to the driver instead of paying for your ride.
First up is the Tokugawa's retainers grave, which I would be splitting into two articles. This first part would be getting to the start of the cemetery, and the next would be the cemetery, Tachimachi cape and the Tokugawa grave itself. If you're shying away from the cemetery because it sounds scary, note that it isn't a gloomy place and many locals and foreigners alike visit it a lot, especially since Tachimachi cape lies after the cemetery and the cape is well-known for it's beautiful landscapes!
Along our way here, we got sidetracked, making the trip longer than intended. We also came across many more interesting things than we would have if we just went to the graves directly.
For instance, we came across Lawson a convenience store, which I found Idolm@ster files in!
We also came across a shop run by a lone elderly woman. She sold handmade bags and amulets, basically all the traditional things. I got 2 amulets which were made from kimono material at 100 yen each. I'm still wondering what to do with them.
After leaving the shop, we took a 15 minutes walk before we arrived at the cemetery. During this 15 minutes walk, we passed by many houses, some of which were really traditional while others were quite Westernized. There were a lot of plants as well, both wild and in pots. It seems like Japanese really do like plants, and I have no complaints because they are so pretty!
After 15 minutes of climbing up slopes and just generally walking, we arrived at the cemetery, as you can see on the right half of the image below. That's the last house right before the cemetery and the people living there seem quite wealthy. I wonder how they feel living there?
And again, before you think this is a desolated cemetery that is all gloomy and scary, we spotted a car every few minutes and there was barely enough time for us to pose properly for pictures with all the incoming traffic. It definitely was quite different from how the cemeteries in Singapore are like!
Some of the tombs were much larger than the others and appeared much older. They were probably important people to Japan's history or culture at one point in time. Sadly, I don't know most of them. Some of the tombs also had description boards along with them, making this awkward tourist location much more educational.
And right about here is when I stop this posting more photos of graves because I think that most Singaporeans shy away from this kind of inauspicious things, especially if you are superstitious. In the next part of my Day 5 article, I'll continue on to show Tachimachi Cape which lies on the other side of this stretch of graves.
Here's a spoiler pic of how beautiful the view from the Cape is!
From Your Fellow Japan Fan,
Day 5 (Part I) | Day 5 (Part II)