Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Hokkaido Road Trip

Departure: Saturday, May 2nd.  Murakami, Niigata, Japan.
Sasagawanagare, Niigata: we stopped for a look at one of the top-rated beaches in Japan and what-do-you-know, a helicopter was about to land.
May 5th is 'Children's Day.'  People all over Japan hand koinobori, or giant carp flags in celebration for their children (especially their boys).
Zenpouji in Yamagata
a really REALY old shrine

monks were singing
the birds were chirping

I really like it when the sakura are 70% flowers, 30% leaves

Jenelle's in Akita-ken, Ruu's in Yamagata-ken

Taking roads through the mountains leads you to things like THIS
and THIS

but be careful of Bears
Fresh Spring Water on the side of the road.  Fill-er-up!!
Info about that fresh spring water in Akita
Kakunodate, Akita-ken
Kakunodate and it's hidden samurai houses ... and doors
Nenokuchie Campsite
Sunset over Japan's deepest lake: Towada-ko
First night of camping on the beautiful Towada-ko
This place was so nice, we probably could have made a couple day vacation of it.
LOVE コロッケ - croquet 
Nyuto Onsen.  Ruu found this place on the map.  Apparently it's been featured on TV as one of the best onsens in all of Japan.  
We even went in a co-ed onsen!!
Good thing we got there early; it got PACKED!!
Ruu whipped out the 'air-guitar'
Oga Peninsula
this guy seemed famous enough for a statue pose

Baba Aisu (grandma ice cream) - actually sold by grandmas ALL over Akita-ken.

Hokkaido waterfall
Hokkaido sake, not as good as Niigata's 
No one but us on the open road.
Hokkaido Sea
Billions of hanging fish on the side of the road.
Rebun Island

Ruu and our taxi buddy, Masashi
On and around Rebun Island 
The taxi driver cut us a deal, and we were able to go EVERYWHERE on Rebun.
Pretty view from Rebun Island
Sukoton, the most northern point of Japan
Opening a LIVE Uni
The insides of an Uni
Cleaning out the Uni
Eating a male Uni
Eating a female Uni
Ferry to Rebun Island
I just really want to learn how to ride a motorcycle!!
To: Futoshi.  With love, Ruu
Actually high-kicking a bell
Point to where you're from.
Statue pose
A Japanese tour group taking pictures at the most northern point of the mainland Hokkaido.
Finally, a Russian store.  Too bad for Jenelle it was closed due to the Golden Week Holidays.
Still practicing...
Apparently that stuff is GOOD.
Jenelle goes crazy when she sees waterfalls.
THIS much snow
We were hiking up this mountain thinking, this kind of looks like a skii-slope, and then we saw a skiier. 
Yup, we were definitely hiking up a closed ski-slope
Made it to the top ... or as high as we were up to going that day. 
Not going to lie, I was a little nervous about bears.
We met some snowboarders on the top, barbecuing lamb.  They had also hiked to the top of the mountain to practice jumps.  
Running and jumping down the mountain.
Lake Daisetsu was still frozen.
Hokkaido's pretty pretty.  
The reason Japanese farms look so perfect is because they do most of the planting by HAND.
We were shocked to see that we passed through a town called Saroma ... isn't that where Sean lives???  Yes, yes it is.  
Ocean, farm, mountains
Utoro sunset.
Made it to the Shiretoko Peninsula just in time to see a beautiful sunset.  
We made a couple friends from Tokyo while watching the sunset.  
Closed Campground = Free Campground
All these warnings about bear, but no sightings ... which is perfectly cool with me. 
Jenelle has never seen so many deer in her life ... AND she's from Canada!!
Cleaning and repacking the car while waiting for the visitor's center to open.  
Shiretoko National Park's Go-ko, or Five Lakes.  All but one was closed to it being too early in the season, or construction, or some other kind of BS
So we hiked around the one open lake.  
Tried to get around the gate to the natural waterfall onsens in Kamuiwakka-no-taki
Couldn't quite make it up the curb
So we hiked some more around that one open lake.
Disappointing but still stunning.  
Bear Onsen, why not?
FINALLY we see Russia
'Cow' mowed into the side of a hill
Grazing Cows
This was probably the first time I've ever worn flip-flops in the SNOW
Akan National Park's Mashu0ko, an ancient volcano crater that has become a beautiful lake.  
Good ol' suburban house.
Akan National Park's Kussharo-ko
Reminds me a little of Indiana
Free Open Campsite.  It must have been early in the camping season as we had the whole place to ourselves.  
Hanabatake-bokujo Caramel Factory
Nama-Caramel Shop
Holy crap this ice cream topped with hot caramel was delicious!!
Pretty in pink Nama-Caramel Ice Cream 
Futoshi to the rescue.  The place we went to for dinner was really interesting.  In the old days, all throughout Japan, little portable restaurants filled the roads.  With modernization, wide streets, and cars though, these little box-restaurants nearly went extinct.  In very few areas, they still survive.  We ate some pretty delicious Hokkaido karaage (fried chicken), omelette, and salad.  
Obihoro Hospital
Futoshi's Hokkaido ride. 
They grow GRASS to feed the COWS in Hokkaido!!  AMAZING!!
Waiting and reading 'Twilight' in the police station ;)
Inside a famous chocolate shop in Obihiro.
It's difficult for me to read kanji as it is, but this crazy Ainu-inspired Hokkaido kanji is impossible even for Japanese-Honshu people!
Bathroom break.
Actually, the reason Jenelle went walking around with a bandage on her head for a week was because of this very Ainu bear. 
The set of 北の国から, or 'From the North Country.'  Futoshi told us to sleep in the car while he secretly searched for Furano, the town of one of his favorite childhood TV shows.  
Futoshi, happy as a kid in a candy store ... or as Futoshi would be with good sake, on the set of his favorite drama.  
Pictures from 'Kitanokunikara'
Life on the farm

Shockingly, raw chicken is delicious!

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