Japan Trip 2 – Day 13

Tuesday was a day of travelling. Looking back on it, it was perhaps a bit adventurous, but I’d decided to visit Hokkaido – Japan’s Northern island, having never been there before. I wanted to see a bit of Sapporo, and also the countryside, so I’d booked a night at a ryokan (traditional inn) by Lake Akan. But it meant a very early start, two buses and two planes. This is the journey I would be making…

It started at 5.30am when my alarm clock went off. After getting up and checking out, I dragged my suitcase the 15 minutes to Kyoto station to catch the bus to Osaka’s Itami airport. That took about an hour. Then I checked in for my flight to Tokyo. Breakfast offerings at the airport were pretty slim, so I took my chances and ordered a meal at Mos Burger – it’s like a down market Japanese version of McDonald’s. If you remember Wimpy, I’d say it’s more like that – you order at a counter and then they bring the meal to your table. My breakfast was this:

Some broth, japanese pickles, and a hot rice cake with something vaguely fishy sandwiched between. It was ok to be honest.

Then, after a quick trip to the lounge and firing some coffee in to me, it was time to board my first flight of the day – to Tokyo. I was amazed at just how massive the plane was for a 1 hour flight. It was the kind I’d flown on to get to Tokyo from London. It had three classes of service, sat eight across and was packed. I nabbed a (not very good) photo, which doesn’t really show how massive it was.

The plane had wifi, so I thought I’d take advantage of that to write my blog post for the day. As we tore down the runway, I closed my eyes, and woke up just as we were landing. So much for that!

My next flight was to Kushiro – up in the very North West of Japan. Now typhoon wise, I thought I’d be completely safe, as the weather in Tokyo and Kyoto had been fine, and the typhoon should have passed off the North coast of Japan by now. So I was a bit surprised when I looked at the departure screen in the lounge and saw the message “This flight may return to Tokyo or divert to Sapporo due to high winds”.

Obviously the typhoon wasn’t done with me yet! It’s probably the first time I’ve ever boarded a flight not knowing exactly where I was going to be landing. Thankfully it was a jet, rather than a propeller plane, and even though stewardesses were instructed to sit down 35 minutes before landing, and us constantly being told to expect turbulence, the flight wasn’t really that bumpy. And thankfully we landed at Kushiro!

I had an hour to wait at the airport before catching my bus to my final destination. There wasn’t really much to do. The airport did have a weird collection of large model animals all over the place though, including an intimidating massive bird outside. I also had lunch from the airport cafe – a slightly depressing hot dog 🙁

Eventually my bus arrived – I was the only person on it for the first twenty minutes or so, then we picked up a couple of schoolkids. The weather was atrocious – presumably the tail end of the typhoon, as we made our way through twisty country roads.

I must admit by this point I was beginning to question what I’d done. I was absolutely wrecked, on a bus to what looked like it would be in the middle of nowhere, and put in quite a bit of effort to get someplace where there probably wasn’t that much to do. For one night.

When the bus arrived at Lake Akan, I was really surprised to see a driver waiting for me to take me to the hotel. I couldn’t even remember telling them when or how I’d be arriving. I was driven 20 seconds down the road, and then given a welcome green tea while the staff copied my passport. Sitting at the bar facing the lake – despite the horrible weather – made me feel a bit better about my decision to come here. The view was pretty amazing.

And once I saw my room, I was sure I’d made the right decision. After the hustle and bustle of cities in the last few days, this was a welcome relaxing retreat. I had a massage chair! Loads of bathroom amenities! And best of all, a shower that was open to outdoors, and a personal bath constantly running with hot spring water on my balcony. It was pretty amazing. I had a shower (in Japan you must be clean before entering a bath, and you don’t ‘wash’ in a bath), and sat in the bath.

It was sooo relaxing – and literally made me feel like a new man. I got dressed for dinner and was taken to a private tatami mat room, and was given a menu in English which looked pretty impressive.

Probably the highlight of the meal for me was the sashimi course – despite the rather terrifying looking beastie that arrived with it.

After the meal, I headed to the bar and had a wee glass of wine before going back to my room, where my futon had been laid out for me. I rented a DVD from reception (Buffalo 66, sounded interesting, was ‘experimental’) and before I knew it fell asleep.