Hakodate, Hokkaido

Took an express train for several hours down to the southern end of the little bit of Hokkaido that sticks out on the bottom near Aomori. Hakodate is a wee fishing village with some interesting history in that it was a major port and has some of the first foreign buildings like the British Embassy Office and various churches. Again lots of cool late 19th and early 20th century architecture, a cool blend of Western, Japanese, and both.
Also rode about on the trolley, ate some killer seafood, and saw stunningly significant historical landmarks.

sapporo, hokkaido

Took the train from Otaru to Sapporo, grabbed some ramen for lunch, walked a couple blocks downtown and checked into the lovely Okura Hotel. Spending just one night in Sapporo, so we only had two missions:
1) Eat "Ghengis Khan"
2) See the holidy illuminations
Mission Accomplished!
Ah, the taste of fresh lamb cooked over real charcoal in a smoke-filled closet!
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Ooh the glitter of lights and holiday cheer!
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otaru, hokkaido day two

After a massive breakfast we shuttled down to the train and rode a couple stops to Otaru City proper. First we bussed down to the former villa of the Aoyama family, barons of herring fishing from the turn of the century. Lucky for me I am unable to read the Japanese signs that say "No photography", so I took lots of photos.
Herring fishing was obviously good for the Aoyama clan, because they spent a fortune on this house and the details are stunning, from the ceiling beams made of a single piece of timber (no more trees long enough to make such a thing anymore) to the staircase made of rare wood and put together without nails, the sinks carved out of a single block of marble, and the family heirlooms formerly owned by the Shogun.
We bussed back into town and wandered around the historical section, full of old brick warehouses and glass shops. There are also many brick buildings built at the turn of the century, including the old Bank of Japan branch and former post office.
Getting hungry we stumbled through the backstreets until we found Naruto, Otaru's famous fried chicken.

otaru, hokkaido day one

Landed in New Chitose Airport near Sapporo and hopped on the express train up to Otaru, a wee hot spring resort kind of town on the north/western side of the little southern bit of Hokkaido that sticks out below the big mass of Hokkaido to the north.
Van picked us up and took us to Kuramure. Wow. Awesome blend of modern/traditional Japanese architecture that Hiroko and I do so love. The building looks like a collection of old warehouses, and each room is it's own building; a full suite with bedroom, main room, second room, and a stone bath with hotspring water. There is also a main indoor and outdoor bath for men and for women, awesome common areas including a cool lounge, library with all kinds of old books, and a tea room. Meals were taken in the dining room, in our own private room. The food was, of course, stupendous.
Oh yeah, and ALL drinks, anywhere in the place, at any time, are included in the bill. Too bad Hiroko and I don't drink professionally, but she got to taste some lovely sake and I discovered that sweet white wine gives me a thumping headache and an allergic reaction after the forth glass.

pre-flight boot polish

pre-flight boot polish, originally uploaded by renfield.

kuroda family

kuroda family, originally uploaded by renfield.