Hakodate, 2006

Day five in Hokkaido included a trip through Noboribetsu and an overnight stay in Hakodate, a seaside town. We started off the day by taking the Usuzan Ropeway over Lake Toya to view Mt. Showa-shinzan. 北海道有珠郡壮瞥町昭和新山. Man, what a mouthful of Japanese!

Mt. Showa-shinzan is a volcanic lava dome next to the stratovolcano Mt. Usu.

We were given a little bit of hiking time throughout the park before heading off to Onuma Quasi-National Park. The park is located on the Oshima Peninsula that encompasses another Japanese volcano, the Hokkaido Komagatake. We set free by our tour guides to go on self-guided bike or walking tours. Since my mom can’t bike, we opted for the walking tour. The park encircles the Onuma (big) and Konuma (small) ponds. While I can’t say the scenery was breathtaking, it provided a quiet and zen atmosphere that made for a very relaxing ride.

onumoFor lunch, we had a tofu hot pot, fresh corn, a garden salad, and tempura. Pretty much every meal I’ve had in Japan thus far has come with tempura and/or a garden salad. That may sound excessive and tiring, but you’d be surprised! Everything was so fresh that neither my mom nor I ever got sick of it. All the vegetables tasted like they had just been picked off the vine or out of the ground that morning. A giant bowl of rice accompanied every meal too–my mom would polish this off without fail. She’s typically someone who is incredibly weight-conscious, but the rice in Japan is phenomenal. There is literally something in the water that goes into growing the rice that makes it extra chewy, fluffy, and moist without being mushy. It also has this natural sweetness that you taste the longer you chew on it. Mmm.

The yellow poster of the bear is essentially a “meme” of sorts that you find everywhere in Hokkaido, and only in Hokkaido. I can’t remember the backstory, but what is says is “watch out for bears!”.

We then checked into our hotel, the Yunokawa Prince Hotel Nagisatei (湯之川王子大酒店 – 渚亭). Nothing ostentatious and garishly-decorated like the fancy hotels in the US, but it was nevertheless stunning. Staying in a seaside resort meant we could bathe in hot springs on a beach, listening to the waves crash against the shoreline and feel the gentle ocean breeze against our faces. To be able to disconnect from the noisy world outside like that was an unforgettable experience.

After our bath, my mom and I were treated to one of the best meals I had in Japan. It’s simply unfortunate that I forgot to bring my camera because our dinner was so beautifully arranged: vegetable origami that consisted of carrot cherry blossoms and daikon koi. What I (nor my mom) have not forgotten were the fresh fruit platter they served to us at the end of the meal. Absolutely some of the sweetest, freshest, and most gorgeously-cultivated strawberries, cantaloupe, pineapple, and honeydew I have ever been blessed enough to eat. While I don’t know the name for these complicated and luxurious meals in Japanese or English, in Chinese they’re called “和風料理” (he feng liao li), which basically means “Japanese-style cuisine”.

With our bellies full, our tour went on a trip up the Mt. Hakodate Cable Car for a night view of the Hokkaido skyline. Now that was truly breathtaking! From the top of Mt. Hakodate, you can see Hokkaido lit up: the city lights trace the wonderfully unique coastline of Hokkaido, which looks like a tiny shark with a curved tail. Sadly, my camera wasn’t good enough to capture the spectacular view, so I’m left with a bunch of blurry pictures. It was just a bad day for photography.

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