July 27, 2008

Sapporo Beer Gardens!

Just a quick post. On our way back from hiking in the mountains of Hokkaido we stopped in Sapporo and ran across a big brew-ha-ha. There were several beer gardens in the same park that the snow festival sculptures were located in February. It seems there is always a party going down in Sapporo! Anyway, we took a few photos, here is the slideshow:

Hiking in Hokkaido


Hey everyone, we have been very very bad bloggers! What can I say... you see- hey look! New pictures!
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We went hiking in Daisetzuzan National Park on the northern of Japan, Hokkaido. The same place we went for the Yuki Matsuri... which was the last blog entry... in February. OK, geez, you don't have to dwell on it!




Click on the slideshow to view the album.

The park is named after Daisetzudake, a mountain in the park. We actually did not see that mountain. Instead, we climbed Asahidake, and other minor mountains in the area. The climb up the mountain was pretty grueling, but our spirits were raised by the droves of high school students hiking up the slopes with us. Unfortunately, we weren't rewarded with a great view at the summit, which was engulfed in clouds. In general the weather was pretty cloudy during our trip, but Tisha and I were pretty happy with this, as it reduced our sun exposure (we still got minor sunburns though).

The big highlight of the trek for Tisha was our stop at the natural hot spring bath on the backside of Asahidake. Tisha is quite taken by hot baths, especially Japanese Onsen. The hot spring was located in a beautiful little valley next to a rushing creek. The catch was that the valley also reeked of sulfur. Tisha didn't mind too much, but I thought it sunk like an egg McMuffin sandwich. We camped about 10 meters from the spring, and in the morning Tisha didn't hesitate to have a soak in the Onsen. I was a bit less enthusiastic, but perched on a rock I dangled my feet into the hot water, and I must say it was a pretty neat way to start our second day on the trail.

We wound up hiking around the park for three more days before getting out in the nick of time (the remnants of a typhoon were about to wreak wet havoc in Hokaido). There were many amazing landscapes to look out over. Also the wildflowers were in full bloom, and Tisha took many pictures of those. It was also great to mingle with the Japanese hikers, who are a very down-to-Earth-crowd. All in all it was a wonderful trip, and a great last impression of Japan (for now at least!)


February 15, 2008

The Yuki Matsuri



The city of Sapporo, Japan is world famous for its beer, and its annual Snow Festival, the Yuki Matsuri. Tisha and I were there this year, and we have plenty of pictures, videos and stories to share.




Because I am an unemployed slob, I decided to take off for Sapporo a few days before Tisha; and also to travel by sea instead of by air. My trip started with a 24 hour ferry from Maizuru (a port near Kyoto) to Otaru (near Sapporo). This was an interesting experience, as the path of the ship took us far out into the Sea of Japan, which made the trip my first real ocean voyage. While on board the ferry I spent most of my time messing with my laptop, and reading "Guns Germs and Steel", which I highly recommend.

The ferry to Hokkaido was 5 minutes late, and I barely caught my train and made it to my hostel in Sapporo before the front desk closed up for the night. In my rush to the hostel I met, Vivian, a Swedish college student who hadn't booked her accommodations yet. I suggested she try looking for a bed at my hostel, and luckily they had an opening.

The next day I hit up Odori Koen, the site of the snow festival. The sculptures were amazing. Some were huge, check out this video of an ice sculpture of the old Sapporo train station:

video

Others, such as this bear (Relak-kuma) were smaller:



There was a whole gallery of international sculptures. Here is Thailand's entry:



.. and Sweden's (one of my favorites):



Of course anytime you go out in Japan you must expect the unusual:

video

After getting my first look at the festival I headed back to the hostel, where I ran into Vivian, and an British gal named Rosie. Rosie and Vivian had spent the day checking out the sights together. The three of us decided it was time to check out the Sapporo nightlife. This led to a fun filled night of ramen, beer (both Sapporo specialties) and of course karaoke. The three of us had so much fun, we stuck together the next day as well.

After making snowmen, drinking sangria, and enjoying even more karaoke (this time with some Japanese salary-men) it was time for Rosie and Vivian to leave Sapporo. Fortunately, Tisha and a group of English teachers got into town the same day. The English teaching group was staying at a very nice hotel north of Sapporo, complete with an indoor pool and Japanese Onsen. It should surprise nobody to find out that I immediately bailed on my hostel to crash the hotel.

With Tisha in town, the good times kept on rolling. We met a fellow traveler named Megan, and made more snowmen:





We also went to an historic village outside the city where they transplant old buildings from the early 20th century. Here is a turn of the century police officer in front of his outpost:



And at the village, we also got to try cross country skiing for the first time! I was a bit nervous, but it went great:



All in all, this was quite a memorable trip. We met some great people, who I hope to keep in touch with, and saw one of the most amazing winter festivals in the world. If you ever want to visit a winter wonderland, I highly recommend Sapporo's Yuki Matsuri!

Slideshow:


January 24, 2008

Photos: Dinner with our English class

Tisha and I teach an English conversation course on Wednesday evenings at the local community center. Last December, we had dinner with the class to commemorate the end of the Fall course. It was a wonderful time, with food, drink, great conversation, and even an impromptu magic show! Here are some pictures from the event.

January 23, 2008

All the pictures from the vacation

It's hard to believe we've already been back for 2 weeks, but pictures from our trip are finally ready. More after the Jump.





Below you'll find several slideshows from our trip. Clicking on the slideshow will take you to the actual album (where the photos are higher quality).

First off, our first batch of pictures from Sydney. These were already linked in a previous post, but we'll through them in here just to be complete:



Next, Tasmania. We posted some pictures of Tasmania before, here is a complete album:



Now it's off to beautiful (and hot) Cairns for pictures of SCUBA diving:



We returned to Sydney for some New Years fireworks and fun, and stayed for a couple more days:



Finally we stopped for a few wonderful days in Hong Kong:



So that's all the photos! Stay tuned for some written recaps, and of course, videos!