Sunday, June 8, 2014

Japan Trip - Part 2 - Snow!

Time to write about the rest of this Japan trip. This part is actually the more crazy part. After the long, loud, slow, 8 hour journey on the overnight train to Sapporo, we spent a few minutes in the Sapporo station to use the bathroom, brushed teeth, and quickly stuffed our things into lockers and hopped on another train. This train took us to Asahikawa, the mountainous region of Hokkaido. Even though this train wasn't a Shinkansen, it was a pretty nice train and I got some quality nap time here. We arrived at the very nice Asahikawa station feeling very groggy. The town must get a lot of money from people on ski trips because the train station and the airport are both very nice structures that definitely cost a lot of money to built. Anyway, we struggled to find food and this mysterious bus that is supposed to take us to the mountains. After everyone ate, got food for lunch, we were in a bit of a panic since we still hadn't found the bus. I finally convinced the group to go to the very nice tourist center where the staff was able to point us in the right direction. I wish we had gone to the tourist center earlier since they had wifi, more food options, and lots of information about the area. Anyway, we found the bus stop with no problems and made it onto the first of the three times that the bus leaves from the train station.

The bus ride was long and drove us through the sparsely populated town. The group commented on how similar the town feels to suburban America. The roads were wide, most houses were standalone ones, parks had baseball fields, etc. We even came across farmland. The bus took us to the airport which is small but had very nice architecture. The architecture is on par with larger airports so this part of the region definitely gets a ton of money from people coming to ski. Speaking of skiing, we saw more and more snow as the bus goes up the mountain. We found out that the name of this mountain range is "Big Snow Mountain". We had a small snowball fight in the snow after getting off the bus. After we all finished going to the bathroom, repacking, looked through the gift shop, we ventured outside to look at the hiking situation. We found ourselves in knee deep snow, couldn't see any walkable trails, and a good amount of people skiing.

We asked the lady at the ski lift about walking around the area and she gave us a very pessimistic response but pointed us to the visitor's center. We made our way over to the visitor's center where the lady on duty took one look at us and was like, "you guys don't look prepared." Seeing how eager we still were to do something, she slowly talked to us about our options. We could rent heavy duty shoes for the snow, take the lift up to the top, and walk around there. Or we could rent real snowshoes and hike up the ski trails. Of course we chose to rent the snowshoes and hike around, even though only one person out of the whole group has had experience with hiking in snowshoes. The first part of this hike went pretty slowly and we took lots of breaks. It wasn't very difficult and I think we all got used to walking around in these things after a while. After about an hour or so, we stopped for food and then the real adventure began. We had reached the point of no return. We needed to get back down to take the last bus out. We had a choice of either going back down the way we came or go all the way to the top and take the lift down. From where we were, we could almost see the top so some people were pretty keen on going all the way up. I didn't doubt my abilities to go all the way up in time but there were two people in the group whose physical fitness was questionable. But time and again, this group really surprised me by pulling together and we made a team decision to go up, slow and steady with short breaks. We actually made it up 30+ degree slopes with lots of time to spare.

We took the "ski lift" which is actually more like a large cable car that holds a lot of people at a time. We went back down and got food from the souvenir shop. We all fell asleep on the way back and made it onto our train, again with very little time to spare. We went back to Sapporo and went in search of our Airbnb accommodation. It was a good thing that I printed the map out because the place was really difficult to find. We're not actually sure any of us managed to look up the right place but we miraculously found it. This was the first time I had stayed at an Airbnb place and this one was a two story apartment with lots of rooms. There were lots of other guests since it was Golden Week. The owner told us about a few places for dinner and we basically stormed into the first ramen place we found. We made a shower schedule as we walked back to the house but annoyingly, the other house guests decided to shower late as well. It was getting close to midnight when we all finally showered.

And then the big laundry fiasco started. The group (except me) had planned to do laundry once on the trip. I actually had a really bad feeling about this when the person who booked the place explained that the washing machine is one of those 2-in-1 machines. I was like, uh, those don't really dry well and we're leaving early the next day. And after everyone piled on their dirty clothes, the owner informed us that it would cost extra to run the dryer. So of course, the undergrads were not cool with that and made a decision to just hang everything up instead of using the dryer. Everything was still wet the next day and ended up running one cycle of the dryer (which didn't do very much) and this whole ordeal stressed us out. I didn't participate in this laundry business because I knew it wouldn't work out and I had managed to fit everything I needed for 6 days in my backpack. I'm starting to think I don't really need one of those really big backpacks. It would just make me carry too much stuff.

[to be continued...]

1 comment:

yalu said...

lol that's a smart decision (laundry)