So before I start to regale you with the epic of day two in Hokkaido, I forgot to mention something cool about the trains yesterday. If you notice on the map I put in the last post, Hokkaido is not attached to the main island of Japan. But I rode a train to Sapporo. Anyone confused? I honestly didn't even think about it until a few days before we left. Hokkaido is connected to the main island of Japan by awesome train tunnels that dig so far down they go under the floor of the ocean. I went under the floor of the ocean. Cool? Super cool. Yes.
So we get up on Sunday and have some yumful hotel breakfast (there was a waffle, I was excited) before checking out because that night we were getting on the sleeper train again. That means we needed to return to the station to dump our bags in the giant lockers there (thank goodness for lockers, it would really suck to carry around that much luggage all the time). After that, it was still too early to go do the karaoke-ing that we were too tired to do the night before, so we hung out at Starbucks until 11 when the place opened.
It's subtle, but I may have mentioned on Facebook that I've developed a thing for mugs in this country. I have many. And in that Starbucks, they had a Hokkaido-themed mug. Of course I needed to get this. And since I got that one, I might as well get the ones for Osaka, Kyoto, and Tokyo. Gah, mugs.
But anyway, then we went to karaoke. On the way up to Gunma my allergies/sinuses decided to explode, so I was pretty ticked that I was going to have difficulty. But the night before, I had remembered something awesome: I had (accidentally) left one Aleve Cold & Sinus in my backpack from America (Aleve C&S are a major nono in this country). So for one magical day, I was healed and could karaoke! Woo! It was glorious (and if you're wondering, as soon as I came back to Shizuoka I was almost immediately better. I'm allergic to the North, haha).
At this point, my friend wanted to visit an onsen for the rest of the afternoon, and since I have not had that particular adventure yet (and didn't have any things to cover my tattoo / didn't want to get kicked out and waste the day) I had some other things to do in mind. Mainly, eat my last Hokkaido famous food for lunch at finish Hokkaido Bingo: Soup Curry.
The day before, we had passed a soup curry place on our way to the ramen street. I simply walked over to it; there should be no problem. Well I opened the door and the line was completely down the stairs, so that place wasn't going to happen. And on the door I could see that there was a sign that read "Sorry we're busy, you should go to our affiliated restaurant at such and such," but I couldn't read exactly where such and such was.
No problem; that's what Google Maps is for! A quick search revealed a verifiable list of soup curry places (luckily soup curry wasn't as rare as lavender ice cream). I click for the closest one, and it requires a ride on the cable car. I walk to the cable car, get off at the right station, and then....promptly walk in the wrong direction. Realize this, correct myself, and then Google Maps lead me to the back of the building. (Because apparently Google does that because it's the address where the mail is delivered). Figured out it was the back of the building, walk around, and find the soup curry place....is closed! It was apparently some kind of soup curry bar thing that didn't open until dinner. -__-
Fail of all fails. So I click the next soup curry place on the Google list and despite saying it's farther from my original location, where is it? Two feet from the original soup curry place. >.<!! I was not happy. So I hike it back over there and finally get to sit down and eat some delicious soup curry. But I didn't get out of there until 3:30, and this poses a new problem. Of the things I wanted to do this day, I wanted to see Hokkaido Shrine, which was a half hour away. Shrines and temples typically close at either 4:30 or 5. But, close at hand was the anime store that I wanted to check out. Why would I come all the way back here? That would waste time.
So I check that out really quick and book it to the subway to make it to Hokkaido Shrine. I get out at the right station, aaaand promptly start walking in the wrong direction. Again. But I realized it quicker this time! So I turn around and hike it to Hokkaido Shrine, which is in a park that reminded me strikingly of Ohio (Snow everywhere, spitting cold rain, wind, faint smell of burning wood, come on). Hokkaido Shrine itself is huge--the grounds are huge, there's a bazillion buildings, it's just huge. But I wanted to find the main one so I could check it out and get the stamp book. Because stupid here forgot to bring her stamp book again, and I was just going to get the slip again to stick in the book. But then I realized, I'm in Hokkaido. How COOL would it be to have the actual book from Hokkaido? I wanted this.
So I find the correct building (and promptly felt like an idiot because I haven't been to a shrine in a while and the kind Chinese lady that was in a tour group had to direct me how to wash my hands before going in, fail) and walk in just as the man is saying they are closing soon. I walk around (taking speed pictures) and miraculously find the corner they directed me to where they do the stamps. I asked if it was the place and the man said sure, I can be the last one. And then there was some confusion as to if I just wanted the paper or the book. Something like this happened:
"Can I buy the book, please?"
"Yes, the book."
"The book. The actual book? Not a paper?"
"Yes, a book. I forgot mine."
::guy comes out with the paper:: "Well, don't you just want this then?"
"No, I want to buy the book please."
Other guy in English: "Piece of Paper じゃなくて?" [Not the piece of paper?]
I couldn't exactly explain that I wanted their book because it was super cool and I was from very far away. I didn't want to accidentally offend their religion by somehow implying the collecting of cool things was more important than the religious significance of the book or something. I really didn't want to be touristy when they are super cool and nice. So I got the book and it is so cool! I geeked out and victoriously made my way back through the park on the way to the station. Happiness.
The final thing on my list to do this day was hit up the Ferris Wheel. Because apparently that's what I do in this country is ride a million ferris wheels. It was a rainy cloudy and overall crappy day to ride a ferris wheel, but too bad I wanted to. So (after some map failing AGAIN, but after I saw the giant ferris wheel I had no problems haha) after finding the building the ferris wheel was in, I started riding escalators to the 7th floor where the entrance was.
Well, a couple floors below, I accidentally ran into what basically equates to a thrift store of anime goods and toys. Crap. So I spent some more money before heading up to the ferris wheel. -____-
Then I rode the ferris wheel, yaaaaaaaaay.
At this point, I had a lot of shopping bags that I was going to have to some how miraculously carry back with me on a thousand trains. I was stupidly naive and didn't bring any of my eco/tote bags with me from Shizuoka, so I decided to make my life easier and go buy one. I check a convenience store, no luck. I also decided that at this point, it was going to be easier for me (and the life of my phone) to go underground and be guided back to Sapporo Station by signs. I go down the stairs, and right in front of me is a 3 Coin store (where everything can be paid with 3 coins; like 300 yen plus tax) that has eco bags! Yay! So I get one and head back to the station to meet my friend and consolidate my stuff into the bag. Then, my friend and I get dinner in the station ("Irish" pub, fish and chips, cool with this) and buy some food souvenirs for people back home. Then we sit around for an hour to wait for our train to arrive at the station, get our stuff out of the lockers and prepare for the epic journey back!
The train ride(s) back was supposed to be an anecdote at the end of this blog entry, but it got so screwed up that it gets it's own blog entry.
Yay. Get excited.
Almost forgot! Pictures Day One & Pictures Day Two!