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Regions of Japan – Nagoya to Hokkaido June 7, 2011

Posted by Dru in Chubu, Hokkaido, Japan, Kanto, Tohoku, Tokyo, Travel.
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Author’s Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “Regions of Japan – Nagoya to Hokkaido” complete with photos.  http://wp.me/p2liAm-EX


Japan is a small country that happens to be very long.  From end to end, Japan is well over 1000km long.  It is larger than Germany in terms of land mass and has a very diverse ecosystem.  You have the cold snowy north and the sub-tropical south.  It is a common misconception that Japan is a small country.  I would also argue that many people feel that any country that is outside of their own region is small, especially for Americans and Canadians.  It is important to know that Japan, while small overall, is actually very long which helps create the illusion that it is small.

Japan is divided into 8 main regions with a few sub-regions.  In the north is Hokkaido.  I have written a lot about Sapporo and the various festivals there.  It is a winter wonderland and also a great summer getaway.  In the winter, people head up there for skiing and to enjoy the delicious seafood.  In the summer, the seafood is still around but people go to escape the heat and humidity of the south.  Compared to other regions in Japan, Hokkaido is a relatively stable and sparsely populated region.  It isn’t the “wild west” but it isn’t like Tokyo either.  Getting from point A to point B in Hokkaido can be very difficult due to the sheer distances between cities and towns and the lack of trains can make it a difficult task.  Renting a car is definitely recommended if you want to see the local areas such as Shiretoko but it isn’t a necessity.  The bus network between cities is pretty good and you can get from Sapporo to most cities in Hokkaido by bus.  Planes are not so popular and trains are good for the major cities.  Unfortunately the trains can take a long time to get from place to place but keeping on the main belt from Asahikawa to Sapporo, then down to Hakodate via either Chitose or Niseko is relatively easy.  Be prepared for long travel times and you will have a good time.

Tohoku is the northern section of Honshu, the main island of Japan.  The main island forms an ‘L’ shape and Tohoku is at the top of the ‘L’.  It is a region that is very similar to Hokkaido yet also very temperate in nature.  The most common starting point is Sendai.  Including Sendai, all points north are considered Tohoku.  Points below Sendai are generally Tohoku as well but places such as part of Fukushima can be considered part of the Kanto plains.  Honshu itself is a very mountainous area with mountains bisecting the entire island into the Pacific and Sea of Japan side.  This creates a very distinct feel in each city depending on which coast you are on.  On the Pacific, the winters can be cold but there isn’t a lot of snow.  The Sea of Japan side which includes Akita and Yamagata receive a lot of snow in the winter.  In the summer, this area is more pleasant but the southern regions can be pretty hot and humid.  It is literally a transition between Hokkaido and the temperate south.  There are many local delicacies such as the Aomori apples and the beef tongue of Sendai.  It isn’t a popular place for tourists as there aren’t many things to see and do compared to other regions.  Hokkaido is well known for seafood and snow, but Tohoku doesn’t have a major drawing point for tourists.

Kanto is the centre of Japan.  It is a small section of Japan that includes Tokyo and located at the bend of the ‘L’ of Honshu.  It is where almost everyone goes when they visit Japan and it is a pretty small area.  The entire Kanto region can be considered as Greater Tokyo as many people do commute from the edges of Kanto to get into Tokyo.  Some would argue that there are major cities and industries as well such as Yokohama but the shear size of Tokyo makes Yokohama feel like a twin city similar to the twin cities in Minnesota.  Of course this is not the same however the idea that both cities can be considered the same city, rather twin cities, is true.  There isn’t really much to say or add to this region as most people know about the Kanto region already.  It is the heart of Japan.  Most companies and most people live in this area.  There are not a lot of historical places to visit anymore but places such as Nikko, Kamakura, and Hakone are excellent places with their own unique feel.

Chubu is a very complex region.  There are several sub-regions to Chubu due to its geography.  It is a region that is bound by Mt. Fuji, bordering the north-western area of Kanto and extending west to Kyoto.  It is also one of the most “visited” regions in Japan yet most people never stop to enjoy the region.  I am also a victim of just passing through the region more times than not.  Most people will go up to Mt. Fuji or pass through on their way to Kyoto.  The few people who do go to the Chubu region will usually head off to Niigata and Nagano or do a little business in Nagoya.  Due to the geography of the area is further subdivided into 3 regions.  The lesser known is the Koshinetsu region that encompasses Nagano, Niigata, and Yamanashi.  This area is well known for its snow and excellent onsen however the use of the name Koshinetsu is not popular.  They are more commonly known by their own respective prefectures.  The Hokuriku region is an area on the Sea of Japan side that is bordered by Niigata and Kyoto.  It is considered a northern path to reach Kansai but it is often overlooked by people.  It is still a somewhat remote area that is easily accessible by plane.  Trains do travel to the region but the new Hokuriku Shinkansen isn’t expected to be finished for a long time.  The main sections allowing access from Tokyo to the heart of Hokuriku will be complete in 2014 but the final section to Osaka has yet to be finalized.  As it stands, this area is often overlooked due to its remoteness.  The Tokai region is the most famous region as it is the main route for the Tokaido Shinkansen that links Tokyo to Osaka.  Shizuoka is one of the biggest prefectures in Japan yet very few people will visit it.  The most famous area is Nagoya where you can enjoy many delicacies.  Nagoya is not a particularly interesting for those visiting other cities but it is famous for its castle, local deep fried delicacies, chicken wings, and Toyota.  Toyota has their main factories located just outside Nagoya with a large museum as well.  Nagoya is also one of the most popular cities for people wishing to see races at the nearby Suzuka Circuit, but the circuit is located in Kansai, not Chubu.

Note:  Due to the amount of information available, this is only part 1 of 2.  Part 2 will be posted next week.

Regions of Japan Information:

Japan:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_regions_of_Japan
Hokkaido:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hokkaid%C5%8D_Prefecture
Tohoku:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/T%C5%8Dhoku_region
Kanto:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kant%C5%8D_region
Chubu:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ch%C5%ABbu_region
Hokuriku:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hokuriku_region
Koshinetsu:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/K%C5%8Dshin%27etsu_region
Tokai:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/T%C5%8Dkai_region

Japan Guide:  http://www.japan-guide.com/list/e1001.html


Otaru Redux (2010) December 7, 2010

Posted by Dru in Hokkaido, Japan, Travel.
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Author’s Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “Otaru Redux (2010)” complete with photos.  http://wp.me/p2liAm-wH

In my last post, I talked about returning to Sapporo for the third time in my life. Being a third time in Sapporo, I decided to head over to Otaru for the second time. This time, I was going to visit Otaru in the late summer rather than mid winter. As I mentioned, the entire island of Hokkaido has two main faces, summer and winter. Winter is a true winter wonderland. There is snow all over the place, and everything is quiet and peaceful, thanks to the falling snow. It helped, of course, that on my last winter visit, it was snowing most of the time as well. This time, I visited in the late summer and I had a small mission. Thankfully, I wasn’t let down by Otaru, even on this second trip.

For those of you who have seen my previous post on Otaru, I visited during the Snow Gleaming Festival. It was a very beautiful and romantic time in the city. This time it felt completely different. It wasn’t the same romantic town that I remembered, but at the same time, I wasn’t expecting it to be that way. When I got off the train, everything looked exactly the same, sans snow. The train station hasn’t changed, and the streets are the same. One of the better things to note was that I arrived in the late morning with the sun shining, and there were no problems walking around due to the snow. There were no ice sculptures, or snow sculptures for that matter. Everything was very clean and the sky was beautiful.  It was also quite easy to get around.  There was no snow on the ground so I didn’t have to worry about slipping and falling onto the ground.

The first place I went to was the old disused railway which has been converted into a park. When I visited here in the winter, it was the focal point for sculpted snowbanks with hundreds, even thousands, of small candles. It took at least an hour to walk through and enjoy all of the sculptures and interact with everything. At that time, the snow was compacted and the snowbanks were up to 1 metre deep. Where the snowbanks once were, there are now railway tracks. When it was covered in snow, it was hard to tell that the area was anything but a small alley that was converted for the snow festival. The park itself was pretty empty as most people headed to two places, the Otaru Canal and the shopping street. Most people skip this path which makes it an even better way to access the main shopping street as it isn’t very busy.  It’s also a little fun to walk along the tracks, ala “Stand By Me” style. They even have train themed benches at one end of the park.

My main goal of the trip was to visit a famous glass maker, Kitaichi, or literally “North One”. It is located near the end of the shopping street close to the music box shop. As you walk down the main tourist shopping street, you first come to a bunch of shops selling various Hokkaido foods. Freshly grilled scallops are popular, and so are other various foods such as corn and potatoes. It depends on the season as well, but the smells and aromas are intoxicating. Once you pass these shops, you start to reach the souvenir shops and then Kitaichi’s area. They have three or four shops. A foreign brand shop, the main shop, a discount shop, and a crystal shop. Being a famous glass brand, and the fact that all items are hand made, things are priced accordingly. Don’t expect to enter and find really cheap products. If you are looking for something nice, this is a great place to go. Comparing it to western glass products, Kitaichi is very good. They have a very western feel, and yet they have Japanese style. Once you finish with Kitaichi, it’s a good idea to head to the music shop. Many people love this shop for the fact that you can enjoy buying a personal music box that will play everything from classical music to modern pop music.

Being summer, there wasn’t any real theme in the town. On the way to the main canal, there is a small access canal between the shopping street and the main canal. Along this canal, they placed various glass wind chimes along the way. It was a beautiful and peaceful experience to see. It’s easily skipped over by most people, but if you take the time to just enjoy it, it can be wonderful. The sounds of the wind chimes ringing and the hustle and bustle of people moving by can be very calming.  I also took a little time out to look at a small corner across from the main canal. There is an interesting set of shops where you can enjoy some good food at tourist prices. The good thing about the corner is that it has a Chinese theme to it, which makes for interesting photography.

On this visit to Otaru, I had to visit the main Otaru Canal. It was a beautiful hot sunny day, but not humid so it was enjoyable. The summers of Hokkaido are a wonderful change from the typically hot and humid summers of Tokyo. It was extremely busy as all of the tourists pushed their way to get the best vantage point for photos. The canal was as beautiful as ever and looked crystal clean with various tour boats plying the waters. In the winter, there are candles set up across the canal, as it’s too cold to take tours up and down the canal. In the summer, there are various artists willing to do a sketch of you and your family if you are willing to wait for it. They are, by all means, willing to do one of you, as long as you pay for it.  I wouldn’t say they are exceptionally good, but they aren’t terribly bad either, from some of the pictures I had seen.  If you feel adventurous, in the summer, you can also take a rickshaw ride around the town for a fee.  Most of the rickshaws leave around the canal area as the station is too busy with cars.

From here, I headed to my final destination, another visit to the Otaru Soku No. 1. It is one of my favourite places in Japan. It’s a little expensive, but the beer and food are great. I loved going the first time, and I had to go a second time. Needless to say, I spent several hours just relaxing, eating, and drinking. It’s not something that everyone would want to do, but after visiting Sapporo two times already, and Otaru once, there wasn’t too much left to see, at least I didn’t think so. I needed to have a good relaxing vacation, and this was one of the best ways to do it. It was mid afternoon when I entered and it was close to 5pm when I left. It wasn’t busy at all and service was really fast. The quality of the food was excellent. It hadn’t changed, aside from the seasonal specials. My favourite dish has to be the “Mozzarella and French Bread Bridge Roast”. It is a French Bread arranged into a bridge with slices of mozzarella places within the bread and toasted. It is wonderful to eat. As for beer, that’s really up to whatever you like to drink. I’d avoid the Hokkaido wine though.

A day in Otaru is more than enough, and the town probably changes even more at night. Unlike other small towns in Japan, Otaru actually changes like most of the big towns. I heard it gets even more romantic. It’s a town that I love to visit, but to be honest I probably won’t be going back anytime soon. If I do go to Sapporo, unless a friend of mine requests to go there, I won’t make any effort to go. I’d rather try to go to some of the other areas in Sapporo that I’m only starting to discover.

This is an update to my original post about Otaru in 2009.  To read more about Otaru, please head over to the original post on Otaru.

Otaru Information:

Otaru (Japan Guide): http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e6700.html
Otaru (Wikitravel): http://wikitravel.org/en/Otaru
Otaru (JNTO): http://www.jnto.go.jp/eng/location/r…ido/otaru.html
Otaru (Sapporo City Tourism Site): http://www.welcome.city.sapporo.jp/e…ces/otaru.html
Otaru (City Website – Japanese): http://www.city.otaru.hokkaido.jp/so…/otaru-map.htm

Kitaichi (English): http://www.otaru-glass.com/english/a…_08/index.html
Kitaichi (Japanese): http://www.otaru-glass.com/japanese/index.html

Otaru Beer (English): http://www.otarubeer.com/main/compon…mid,1/lang,en/
Otaru Beer (Japanese): http://www.otarubeer.com/main/compon…mid,1/lang,ja/


Sapporo Redux (2010) November 30, 2010

Posted by Dru in Hokkaido, Japan, Travel.
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Author’s Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “Sapporo Redux (2010)” complete with photos.  http://wp.me/p2liAm-wd

In a previous post, I mentioned that I went to the Japan Rally in September of 2010.  It was a great trip and I had a chance to visit a few new places in and around Sapporo.  Sapporo is one of my favourite cities in Japan.  In Sapporo, each season is extremely different.  In the winter, you have the snow festival where you can see huge snow sculptures along the main park, Odori Park, and ice sculptures in Susukino.  When you visit in the summer, Odori Park becomes one large beer garden where you can sit outside and enjoy several beers on a nice hot summer’s day.  You can also head out to Furano as a day trip and enjoy the beautiful fields of lavender.  On this trip, I obviously focused more on the Rally itself, but thankfully, there were a few things I wanted to try that I didn’t have a chance to do before.

The only new place that I visited was the Hitsujigaoka. Literally translated into “hill of sheep”, it’s a nice little getaway that is located next to Sapporo Dome.  To access the site, you have to take the Toho subway line to the final stop (Fukuzumi), followed by a short bus ride.  You also have to pay the entrance fee to access the main park area.  Walking is possible, but it’s very far from the station itself and not recommended.  The public access area is located at the top of the hill and there is only a small area for people to roam freely.  Unfortunately, when I visited, there were no sheep.  This could be due to the foot and mouth disease that afflicted the southern island of Kyushu earlier in the year, so they decided to protect the sheep from infection.  It could also be due to the season, but I’m not entirely sure as to why.  At the hill itself, there are only a few buildings of interest, and it only takes a few minutes to enjoy them.  One of the more spectacular buildings is the Hitsujigaoka Wedding Palace.  It’s a tall building that’s pure white inside and out and many weddings are held there.  If you are thinking that you’ll see a traditional Japanese wedding, you’ll be disappointed as the weddings here are almost always done in a western style.  I didn’t get a chance to go inside, but I did see a wedding and did get a chance to see the building itself.  Another building that is of interest is the Austrian House.  It’s an Austrian styled building that houses a souvenir shop and a small snack shop.  Inside, you can also get your palm read among other touristy things.  The last main building is the Sapporo Snow Festival Museum.  It’s a small building where they feature posters, photos, and miniature models of past snow sculptures.  There are also videos on how they run the snow festival every year.  Unfortunately, the video is in Japanese, and on a very old TV.

The main claim to fame for Hitsujigaoka is the statue of William S. Clark.  William S. Clark was an American Professor who moved to Japan for 8 months in 1886-1887.  His main goal was to set up and establish the Sapporo Agricultural College, now Hokkaido University.  He had a huge influence on Hokkaido and helped with its colonization.  His influence on this island was tremendous and he’s famous throughout Japan.  He even helped introduce Christianity to this area of Japan by creating an ethics class that utilized the Bible when the Bible was outlawed.  When he left Japan, he gave three parting words to the first class of Hokkaido University, “Boys, be ambitious”!  There are several variations added on this, but these three main words are what stuck.  Throughout Japan, many schools use this motto to help motivate their students, and it’s hard to find anyone who wouldn’t know what you meant if you said “boys be ambitious”.  At Hitsujigaoka, the statue of William S. Clark is prominently displayed with him pointing to the distance, probably to Hokkaido University, and the famous motto written under him.  It’s common for people to run up and just point in the same direction as William S. Clark’s statue for fun.  If you walk around a little more, you’ll also see another small monument that is dedicated to the Nippon Ham Fighters.  I believe it commemorates the move of the Nippon Ham Fighters from Tokyo to Hokkaido in 2004.  It’s a small, often overlooked monument that is probably not interesting to most foreign tourists.

Back at Fukuzumi Station, there is a short walk to reach Sapporo Dome.  Sapporo Dome is a very interesting area. While you may not need to go to watch a game, you can definitely go and enjoy the park behind the dome.  As you approach the dome from the station, you’ll see a very futuristic looking building.  There is a large observation platform that is easily viewable from the street.  You can enjoy a tour of the dome itself with a chance to actually walk on the baseball field, but I’m not too sure if that is possible.  Of course, both of these tours are paid services.  If you don’t want to spend money, walking past the front and approaching the park in the back is great.  It’s an amazing sight to see the football pitch sitting outside with the potential for it to be brought in for football games.  You can watch videos of this happening on their own website.  Even if you aren’t too interested in the football pitch, or the technology, the entire park has several modern art sculptures.  I couldn’t grasp the meaning of each sculpture, but it was a nice place to spend an hour or so.  You could also just lie on the grass and enjoy the nice weather, if you are lucky.

I may or may not have mentioned this in the past, but the food in Hokkaido is amazing.  If you enjoy eating, Hokkaido has everything you need to be stuffed.  Going to the Sapporo Beer Garden, you can enjoy Ghengis Khan, a type of barbecue, or a seafood buffet.  You can also head to Ramen Alley and get a nice bowl of corn butter, or seafood ramen.  Delicious is an understatement.  Recently, Soup Curry has become popular.  There are several shops located throughout Sapporo and all of them are delicious.  Keeping things traditional, you can still get seafood doburi all over the city, and being Hokkaido, chocolate, corn, and milk products are extremely popular.  When visiting Hokkaido, it’s a must to eat as much as you can.

Unfortunately, there isn’t much more for me to see in Sapporo, so I may not return for some time.  I have been there almost every year for the last 3 years and each time has been different.  The weather and season plays a huge part in how things look and feel.  The people are all the same, very relaxed. When visiting Sapporo, it’s best to just enjoy things and take it slow.  You’ll never know what you’ll discover just around the next corner.

This is an update on what is happening in Sapporo.  To read more about Sapporo, please continue to the original post on Sapporo.

Sapporo Information:

Hitsujigaoka (Japanese): http://www.hitsujigaoka.jp/amusements/fighters.html
Hitsujigaoka (Wikipedia): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hitsuji…servation_hill
William S. Clark (Wikipedia): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_S._Clark

Sapporo Dome (English): http://www.sapporo-dome.co.jp/foreign/index-en.html
Sapporo Dome (Japanese): http://www.sapporo-dome.co.jp/index.html

Sapporo (Japan Guide): http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2163.html
Sapporo (Wikitravel): http://wikitravel.org/en/Sapporo
Sapporo (Official City Website): http://www.city.sapporo.jp/city/english/

Hokkaido (Official Tourism Website): http://en.visit-hokkaido.jp/


Shinkansen – North Routes March 2, 2010

Posted by Dru in Hokkaido, Japan, Kanto, Tohoku.
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Author’s Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “Shinkansen – North Routes” complete with photos.  http://wp.me/p2liAm-kJ

Heading north, rather than south, provides a very different experience using the Shinkansen.  Unlike the Tokaido/Sanyo/Kyushu Shinkansen, the lines heading north share a main trunk and branch off at various points.  There are three main lines, and two “mini-shinkansen” that start from Tokyo Station.  The longest line is the Tohoku line.  This line started at the same time as the Joetsu line, but the Tohoku line will become more important in the near future.  The Tohoku line currently runs from Tokyo all the way to Hachinohe.  By the end of 2010, this service will be extended to Aomori, which is the larger than Hachinohe.  Ultimately, the line will be extended further from Aomori to Hakodate, and then Sapporo.  Unfortunately, Hakodate won’t be open until 2015, projected, and Sapporo may not open until 2020.  It will be a long time, but when finished, it will cut the time from roughly 12 hours, to just under 4 hours for the most direct services.  This will severely affect air travel as it currently takes 3 hours for most people to reach Sapporo from Tokyo.

The Tohoku line is also connected to the Yamagata and Akita Shinkansen lines.  These services are slightly different compared to regular Shinkansen.  These lines use special trains that are narrower, and run at grade with various level crossings.  They are usually coupled with regular Tohoku trains, but branch out at their respective start points.  For this reason, it’s very important to know which train you are boarding.  It’s very easy to be on the wrong train from Tokyo Station, but the signs are usually clearly marked, and train staffs usually check tickets while the train is between stations.

The Joetsu Shinkansen is far simpler as there is only one line with no connections.  The complex part is that it shares the tracks with the Tohoku Shinkansen from Tokyo to Omiya.  This is due to costs.  It’s very easy to see trains along the Tokyo portion of the line due to the volume of trains passing.  Recently, it has also become popular for hotels to create “train” suites.  These are rooms with views of the train tracks.  This is popular for “te-chans”, slang for train spotters in Japan.  You could also make it derogatory by saying “densha-otaku”, but that’s a different story.  It has also proved popular for young families with boys who love trains.  What better way to “take a trip” and not spend too much money.  As always, kids love boxes more than the toys that are inside them.  The Joetsu Shinkansen itself was built to service Niigata, but it also serves a small ski resort called Gala-Yuzawa.

A relatively less used, yet equally important Shinkansen line is the Nagano line.  This was built in time for the Nagano Olympics.  Currently, it shares over half of its line with both the Tohoku and Joetsu Shinkansen lines.  There are relatively few trains that travel this section due to the limited service range.  It basically follows the Joetsu route from Tokyo to Takasaki, where it branches off on its own to Nagano.  There is a planned extension from Nagano to Kanazawa by 2015.  By this time, the line should be renamed to the Hokuriku Shinkansen, further extensions to Tsuruga Station has been planned and will be built.  The line will ultimately link up with Osaka someday in the future.  The main purpose of this line is to connect the major cities on the Sea of Japan side of Japan to the main cities of Japan.  Whether it will prove popular or profitable will remain to be seen.

All three main lines utilize the same trains, while the Yamagata and Akita Shinkansen use their own specialized trains, for reasons mentioned above.  The trains have a similar styling to the southern route trains.  They used to use similar naming methods as their southern route cousins, but now they use the prefix E before their designation.  Due to this naming convention, you can still ride the 200 series train, which is very similar to the 0 and 100 mentioned in my previous post.  The first “modern” train you can travel on is the E1, a wedge nosed, bi-level, Shinkansen.  In 1997, the E2, E3, and E4 were introduced.  The E2 is similar to a duck billed train, but it isn’t as strongly pronounced.  It’s also one of only two trains that have been exported, the other being the 700 series.  The E2 was exported to China for use on their high speed railway.  The E4 is a bi-level train, like the E1, but with a duck bill nose.  The E3 looks like most European high speed trains, but used only for the Yamagata and Akita lines.  By 2011, there will be a new rain, the E5 entering service.  This is expected to take the system into Sapporo when that line opens.  It will be the fastest train in the entire Shinkansen fleet.

The final impression of this fleet is that it’s great!  Coming from Canada where high speed rail is non-existent, this would go a long way to connecting any country.  Countries such as China have begun their own high speed networks.  President Obama has also pledged to start thinking, and possibly building it soon.  If done right, it can earn money and save a lot of fuel.  Connecting Vancouver to San Diego is a viable option, so is Toronto to Miami.  While we must never forget how we get the electricity to power trains, it’s still probably cleaner overall compared to planes.  Can they replace planes completely?  Conventionally, they cannot replace planes at the moment.  We’ll have to wait for maglev trains before that could happen, but even then we are limited to specific ranges.  If you do travel to Japan, do try to use the Shinkansen.  It’s a fun, if expensive, way to travel.  Be sure to buy a JR Pass if you are only visiting.  It’s worth the cost if you head from Tokyo to Kyoto, even for just a day.

This is the second part of two in the Shinkansen series.  To read more, continue to the Shinkansen – South Routes.


Wikipedia:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shinkansen
Japan Guide (Great page for a snapshot of major services): http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2018.html
Japan Railways (Lots of information on what to do in Japan):  http://www.japanrail.com/
Japan Railways (Shinkansen Page):  http://www.japanrail.com/index.php?page=JR-Shinkansen-bullet-train
JR East:  http://www.jreast.co.jp/e/routemaps/shinkansen.html


2009 Sapporo Snow Festival (Part III) May 12, 2009

Posted by Dru in Hokkaido, Japan, Travel.
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Author’s Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “2009 Sapporo Snow Festival (Part III)” complete with pictures.  http://wp.me/p2liAm-an

Note:  Any and all descriptions of sculptures and activities are for 2009.  The sculptures are guaranteed to change, and some of the activities may also change.  It’s best to check just prior to going.

10-chome saw a return of large sculptures.  The first was a medium sized zoo.  It featured various animals that could be seen in Asahikawa.  They called it the Snow Festival Zoo, but in reality, it was almost an exact copy of the animals in Asahiyama Zoo.  However, it was a nice sculpture.  The main attraction has to be the Northern Animal Families.  This was sponsored by STV (Sapporo Television).  This sculpture featured three families, the Blakiston’s fish owl; the Steller’s Sea eagle; and the Ito (a type of salmon).  Unfortunately, the bird’s beauty and size overshadowed the fish, and I doubt many people recognized them.  I really enjoyed this sculpture and I feel it was the most beautiful large sculpture of the entire festival.

11-chome and 12-chome could be rolled into one block.  11-chome had an “International Gourmet Corner” and the 36th International Snow Sculpture Contest.  They had 12 entries from 12 countries.  Thailand’s “Garuda and Naga” won the competition with Lithuania’s “GLOVE” coming in second.  I agree with the winner being “Garuda and Naga”, however, I didn’t like “GLOVE”, but it was artistically pleasing compared to the others.  In 12-chome, you will be able to see various different sculptures made by volunteers and locals alike.  They tend to be simple and feature a lot of characters that are well known in Japan.  By the time you reach this area, you will be tired of sculptures and in need of a break.  I would, however, advise against going to this area at night as there aren’t enough lights to truly show these sculptures.

After you finish with Odori Park, Sapporo Dome offers something for everyone.  Outside the dome, you can do various activities such as snow rafting and tube slides.  You can also build your own snowman and make your own skis.  There are a few places to get a good beer and food and various other sculptures.  Inside the dome, you can enjoy the Snow Market, eco advertising, and various other corporate booths promoting various things.  I never made it to this area as it’s focused towards families rather than single adults, so I never even thought about heading to this spot.  If you have children, I would definitely recommend this place as it looks like a lot of fun.

The final place to visit during the Snow Festival is the Susukino Ice Festival.  The ice festival is 6 blocks of small ice sculptures.  The entrance had a sculpture of Hokkaido’s famous clock tower.  From there, you will be greeted by various peacocks, angels, and everything you can think of.  Some notable sculptures were a few bars promoting the different Japanese drinks such as Sapporo Classic (beer), and Suntory Whiskey.  While I never visited this site during the day, I’d highly recommend visiting at night as the sculptures look extremely beautiful under the street lights.

My final impression was that this is definitely a festival to visit.  I think it’s beautiful and very impressive.  Aside from the people and the cold, it’s great to go north and see the beautiful snow.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t do everything that I wanted to do.  That’s the problem with visiting and not living in this beautiful city.  If you do go, try to visit the festival, both in the day and at night.  You will see different sides of this festival.  Unfortunately, after a few hours, you will be sick and tired of all the snow sculptures and everything will start to look the same.  Dress very warm and do as much as you can in the short time you have at the festival.


Sapporo Snow Festival (English): http://www.snowfes.com/english/place/index.html
Sapporo Snow Festival (Japanese): http://www.snowfes.com/
Sapporo Snow Festival (Wikipedia): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sapporo_Snow_Festival

Note:  Part III of a 3 part series .  (Part I) (Part II)


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