Hokkaido (Day 3)

Woke up 10 minutes before my alarm. We needed to get up early because it was going to be a full day. I turned off the alarm before it could go off. Then I heard a voice saying, "May I have your attention, please." Again and again and again. My sleep-brain thought that the sound was coming from my headboard or the bedside table. After a minute it stopped. Five minutes later it sounded again. As soon as I realized it was The Boy's phone, I told him that I was going to break it. Got up and got ready. Went to breakfast. J-style buffet. Being Sapporo, they also had "ghengis khan." The Boy put some on my plate, and it turned out to be mongolian beef. Left the hotel and caught the train out to Otaru. The inside of the train was bright blue and yellow. At one point I could see the sea from the window. It looked pretty rough and that was the first time I've ever seen snow next to the water like that. I'm not sure if the city is famous for this or not, but there were old-fashioned looking lanterns all over the station. We walked from the station to some "scenic riverfront" area. I had no idea what was going on. I should have done more research about the town. On the way The Boy wanted to stop for some crab soup.

You could buy it through the window at a shop in town. The snow in Otaru had gotten really high in some places. The sidewalks were well taken care of, but between some buildings it looked like the snow had gotten to be 2 or 3 feet deep.

Even though it was cold, I think a thaw of sorts was starting. The crosswalks were slushy puddles. Along the sidewalks there were boxes, the kind you can buy a newspaper from stateside, from which you can get free bottles of sand to sprinkle on the ground to keep you from slipping.

We popped into a few shops and at one one I bought a sweet that was like manju. It was really good, and apparently the shop only made 50 of them a day. We had lunch in a sushi place. The sushi was fresh and there were heaters under the bar. The sushi was good, but I was a little disappointed because I couldn't get any eel (unagi or anago), and I had to eat sea urchin (uni) and octopus eggs. Only this time the eggs had been blended into a cream on top of a rice ball with nori (sea weed) wrapped around it. The Boy took my picture as I went to eat it. The chef thought we were married, but, once again The Boy had to tell the locals that we were co-workers. Then the chef started going on about how good I was with chopsticks.

After lunch we went back to Sapporo. We went to Mount Moiwa. As we had gotten free passes for the ropeway, we needed to go. From the subway station, we caught a taxi . The driver drove really fast, and it was scary when he drove up the really steep hill next to the mountain. It was a snow covered and two ruts had been cut into the snow by passing cars. However, the ruts were filled with ice. After taking the ropeway up the mountain we climbed into a snowcat.

It took you to a building at the very top of the mountain. We took a few pictures, and I got a t-shirt for Brody. It had a picture of the mascot of Mount Moiwa, "Morris/ Mauris."

But it took me until we were on the way back down the mountain, riding a wooden sled being pulled behind a snowcat. も is the first character in the name (Moiwa) and リス (risu) is "squirrel." Apparently when it's not covered in snow, the mountain is covered in squirrels. From the pictures on the wall in the building at the top of the mountain, it looked like there were 4 or 5 different kinds. Usually I'm faster at picking these things up.

Back from the mountain, we caught a train for the airport. We were heading to the outlet stores near there. In that place there were at least 3 different surf shops. I wondered why until I saw two different groups of people in wet suits, surfing! I wonder how cold the water was.

At the outlets we ate cake and then has about an hour to shop. The boy was serious about it. He told me about how he and Lauren once spent the whole day there shopping. As for me, in the past few years, I've kind of grown to hate clothes shopping. Especially in Japan. I can't just eyeball things and then buy them The sizes are all over the place. I just bummed around.

I wondered where the military base was. Fighter jets flew over a couple of times creating some impressive sonic booms that the locals were very good at ignoring. I was excited as we walked through the parking lot to the shuttle bus because they were playing Divine Comedy's "National Express" on the PA system. As we waited for the bus I was a yellow helicopter fly overhead with 2 big, black missles attached to the sides. When I pointed that out, the boy said that it was American. Nope. It had a big Japanese flag decal on the back.

Got to the airport. Picked up some omigage sweets and ate some ramen. Hokkaido is famous for its ramen, so there were so many different types. I think we both ate the soup with the salt-broth. I'm always amazed at how fast some people here can eat. Especially things like that. I can't eat hot things so fast. Rather, the Japanese say people like me have a mouth like a cat. I think any animal would have a hard time eating really hot food, but I'm not in charge of making J-idioms.

Made the flight just in time. Since the boy was a member of some upper level JAL club, we could upgrade to J-class seats for 1000 yen ($8 or so). The seats were a little bigger with more leg room and as you tilted the seat back, a small leg/foot rest came out of the bottom. While we were still on the runway I shotgunned an Aleve and a chu-hi. I was pretty mellow for the flight back.

Arrived in Kobe and my phone died. Luckily Trish has mailed earlier om the day some options for the station at which I could get off. Took the important things out of my rolly bag and fixed the handle with some packing tape I found under some seats there. Rode the Portliner train into Sannomiya with the boy and sent my bag back to Himeji with him. Booked it to Osaka as the boy yelled after me not to spend too much money on boys.