We got up a bit early today to account for last minute packing. Got ourselves organised and then went down for breakfast - toast and pancakes today. It was a horrible day, the rain was pouring down, so Mr Kimura took us to Hirosaki station so we wouldn’t get wet and we would be sure of a seat. Then it was a day of transport: local train from Hirosaki to Shin Aomori (trundled along) then the Hayabusa Shinkansen from Shin Aomori to Shin Hakodate (horror of horrors it was 4 minutes late arriving into Shin Aomori, but it did make up time, a Super-Hokuto Express from Shin Hakodate to Minami-Chitose and then a 3 minute ride on the Airport Rapid to Chitose Airport.
|Me and a monkey or is it an ape?|
We were in no rush, so we walked slowly down ‘Smile Walk’ which had loads of massive Steiff toys set up in kawaii formations. Then to check-in, straight through security and passport control and into our business lounge. The lounge wasn’t massive, but then Chitose airport isn’t massive - mainly internal flights and international flights to south-east China - saw departures to Seoul and Taiwan and of course us to Hong Kong.
So, another good holiday in Japan. Aren’t they always? Must say that in the last two years, the amount of English around has significantly improved again, making travel a lot easier for us non-Japanese speakers and this in Hokkaido which is in the boonies really. We didn’t hear another English accent the whole time we were here - we spoke to a Kiwi, a couple of Aussies, but apart from that it was all Korean, Chinese and Taiwanese. It will be strange to go home to where everyone is white and speaks like us again and of course I will relish the fact that I will be able to read everything again.
I was able to do a lot more research this time into day trips - tapping into trip advisor and finding various blogs (many of which seem to be Singaporean - which is funny as it was a Singaporean blog from which I got loads of ideas for Malaysia last year!) . It was this research which got us to the science muesum in Asahikawa and the lavender fields of Furano. I can only imagine it will be even easier next time we come. However, saying that I still think there are lots of hidden gems in Japan which we have no chance of finding. The biggest source of tourism is still internal tourism, meaning that there isn’t a massive need to get brochures and ideas printed into English, especially as there are so few of us are around and if you print your material in English, that could mean that foreigners may turn up, expecting staff to speak English which could be a stretch for places stuck in the middle of no-where. Although Matt can read and speak Japanese, that doesn’t mean that staff in tourist offices readily tell him about places off the beaten track. That science museum for example was AMAZING but we didn’t see one flyer for it even in the town it was based, however, their staff did speak English and they gave us a well written multi-lingual brochure to guide us round (which we stupidly left behind - real shame!)
Rubbish bins - there are no rubbish bins on the streets of Japan anymore. Neither of us remember this from previous visits so it must be new. It is a real pain if you are a visitor on day trips. There were a number of times when we were walking around with rucksacks full of empty packaging after having a bento for lunch and cold drinks. And of course, in Japan they package everything up to the hilt so our bags were very much stuffed with it. It got ridiculous and there were a number of times when we thought about getting a train one stop down the line and back just so we could get rid of our rubbish into the train bins. On the day I went shopping in Sapporo by myself, I was having to carry extra bags because I had the empties of a lunchtime bento and about 4 bottles of drink (it was a hot day) to carry around with me as well as my shopping. In the end I found a large convi store with a bin and stuffed it full of my rubbish after buying yet another cold drink. I can understand reasons not to have bins but surely if you provide takeaway food in plastic packaging, you should provide a bin to put the empties in as a matter of course?
Oh, notes to ourselves for next time:
+ Don’t take rain coats, take retractable umbrellas. It is too hot to wear coats - too much like boil in the bag. Big umbrellas are a pain to carry, but retractable ones would be perfect and that’s what everyone uses - for rain or sunshine
+ Matt - don’t take too many clothes, just one pair of jeans and one pair of shorts. Take extra pants and only a few pairs of socks
+ Look into doing another homestay - more fun and more Japanese for all of us.