Date: Thu, 28 May 1998

Day 6.

We got up early and showered, packed up, and said our goodbyes to Saito-san. Since we're running out of Japanese money, I tried to exchange some travelers' checks at the hotel across the street. After deliberating for two minutes on how to tell the gaijin they only did it for hotel customers, someone finally asked if I spoke Japanese.

We headed out to the morning market, where dozens of shops sell seafood and vegetables. Those in the Hernandez family will understand this next bit: CRABS. LOTS OF CRABS. MORE CRABS THAN I'VE EVER SEEN BEFORE IN MY ENTIRE LIFE. Spider crabs. Hairy crabs (like dungeness with fur). King crabs. Hundreds of them. I was in tortured heaven. One stand gave us some for free! Oh, so sweet... Another stand gave us sea urchin, and tried to get me to buy some, but very little yen left right now. Kelly dragged me away from the delectable morsels, and we caught the 8:24 train to Toya.

Toya was kinda cool and kinda not. Kel and I are both glad we didn't stay there. We took a bus to Toyako Onsen, the resort on the shores of Lake Toyako. We crammed our bags into lockers with a little creativity and headed out on foot. Wow... really beautiful blue lake shadowed by two active volcanoes. I can honestly say that I haven't seen any lake that beautiful before, even in pictures. While pretty, there wasn't a whole lot to do there, short of donning bathing attire and heading for the hot spring resort. I had originally planned to stay here overnight; I'm glad I changed my mind. We stopped off for some food, and had a mini picnic on the shore of Lake Toyako. It was a clear day and about 65 degrees. Absolutely wonderful. We caught the bus back to the station and reserved our seats for Sapporo. We'll stay there tonight, then catch a sleeping car back to Tokyo in the morning. I just figured out that with the tickets to Sapporo we ditched yesterday, we've already paid for 4/5ths of our rail pass in the first week, and that doesn't include rail in Tokyo or the Narita Express. More from Sapporo.

Well, remind me not to do that again. Definitely making reservations beforehand. We arrived at Sapporo and headed for the info desk in the train station. When we found it, it was closed. The hours were right, but there was this little sign saying, 'sorry, we're closed today.' Fortunately, there was another info station down the road. We wandered down there and this nice girl helped us find several hotels and gave us a map. We headed for the subway and rode down to our stop. We wandered around the area a bit (Sapporo is one of those rare places in Japan you can actually find things with their addresses) but still couldn't find it. I asked this man in his garage and he and his wife went into full production mode about helping us. He broke out his cell phone and called information, the area office, and the hotel. While he was on the phone, the area office guy showed up and led us there personally. We dropped off our stuff and headed out. Not a whole lot of things to do here. We reserved our sleeping car tickets for tomorrow (it was 50000 to fly, only 20000 to ride, even with the rail pass), so we can get to Kyoto at a reasonable hour. We grabbed some Kentucky Fried Chicken and ate in Odoori Park by the big TV tower. We filmed some 'bad ass' dancers who were practicing, then headed back to the hotel. Lots of neon and people along the way. Kel was happy to be in a Western hotel, even if it wasn't as nice as the one at Narita. To sleep... --M

Date: Fri, 29 May 1998

Day seven - Sapporo.

Since we had all day before our night train left for Tokyo, we slept in a bit. As usual, the sun streamed in the window and kept us from getting any useful sleep after 5:30. At 9 we woke up to get ready. Kel then discovers the window shoji. When closed, this blocks out all the light and it's pitch black in the room. Doh. We grab our stuff and head down the stairs. I hand the key to the Hotel Suisei guy, and he asks where we're going next. I say Kyoto. He says just a second, grabs his shoes and says he'll drive us to the station! Kel is amazed, as am I. We hop into his car and he drives us to the station. Along the way, we have a nice conversation. We get to the station, grab our stuff (thanking him immensely) and head in. We find a locker and STUFF in the suitcase.

We head into the Tokyu department store and wander around. We found the *coolest* Totoro ties! 8000 though. We went down into the basement and got croissants and pastries for breakfast. I really admire depaato (department store) bakeries. Everything looks and tastes delicious. I also got ice coffee and Kel had a 500 hot chocolate! Best damn hot chocolate I've ever tasted, and better be for 500. We headed down the street to a game center where Kel and I spent 500 to try and get the elusive Hello Kitty erasers (and failed... gyp!! I HAD those things). Did you know they have video games where all you do is try and pick up girls?

We walked a long way to the Sapporo Beer Museum. We went on the tour, all in Japanese, and Kel again gave me joking sarcastic flak for choosing 'all the most interesting places to go'. We finished the tour and I got a free glass of beer. Yum. But my alcohol tolerance is seriously wimpy now. I didn't realize Sapporo beer owned Guiness! Out back, we found the Beir Garten where we almost had dinner last night. Oh and I wish we had - 4300 for beer, crab, shrimp, steak and scallop TABEHOODAI / NOMIHOODAI (all you can eat / drink) !! Those who know Japan will know how cool this is. Two full hours of crab and I missed it. We walked back to Odoori park, then over to the Clock Tower where Kel again bombarded me with sarcasm. Hours to go and nothing to do.

We went into the endless underground mall and got Italian for lunch. This made Kel very happy although we were looking for the kaiten-zushi place. Kaiten-zushi is where you eat sushi served on a conveyor belt and pay by number of empty plates. We wandered around the mall for a looong time and bought a Castle of Cagliostro (anime) Playstation game. I still can't get over how popular Bean is here. They have Bean cell phone straps, watches, and picture albums.

We did find the kaiten-zushi place, but we were both too full to get some. We eventually got bored and headed back to the main station, where we stopped into a smoky Mister Donut, the only donut shop I've ever seen with Bud Light on tap.

We went back to the lockers and yanked out our bag, then headed back to the other side of the station to get some drinks from the convenience store. I said goodbye the crabs (there were numerous shops selling frozen crabs for souveniers) and we headed down to the sleeping car train.

It's kind of nice, actually. There are four bunks; Kel's on the bottom of our side. A nice lady is across from her, whom i had a polite conversation with. She had a crab with her for omiyage (gift given after a trip, usually indicative of the region, in this case, crab) and she agreed that while extremely tasty, crab is very expensive. She also thought our trip was very difficult and told us to 'take care of our bodies'. I must say my Japanese has improved dramatically. It's at least back to where it was when I left Japan last time. That makes me very happy. :)

We explored the rest of the train and found the shower car, the tv lounge, and dining car. We'll be in Kyoto for three days, so I called from the train and got reservations, although the connection was bad. I couldn't find the number for the temple, but we'll at least go visit. i had to lift the durn suitcase waaay up to the top bunk, so it's hard to get to. Kel already went to bed, but I'm just sitting in the lounge writing this. I think I like sleeping trains better, much more comfortable and more things to do. I think they serve crab on the dining car. Maybe I'll go see... -- M

:: Beginning : Tokyo : Matsushima : Hakodate : Sapporo : Kyoto : Hiroshima : Beppu : Shikoku : Tokyo : The End : Travel Notes ::

Marc Hernandez :: Kelly Bickford