The trip thus far

I’ve had my fill of going out this evening, as I ventured through the crowds gathered for the Port Festival and was witness to the rather strange Ika Odori (squid dance), and dealt with copious amounts of staring (some by wide-eyed kids, some very appraising and disapproving/disdainful sneers by adults), people acting as if the gaijin speaking Japanese was the most hilarious thing they’d ever seen, and people (at the front desk of the hotel) keeping up very basic and bare-bones conversations and looking at my alien registration card that states I’ve been here for two years and then complimenting me in simpering and overly obsequious tones on how wonderful my Japanese is. Yeah, I’m really enjoying Hakodate so far.

Anyway, since I doubt I’ll have any opportunities to get on a computer for an hour or so again to type out this entry in full before I leave, I may as well deliver the bullet points right now.

MONDAY (2007 July 30):

  • the wallet/bus fiasco
  • train to Okayama, shinkansen to Kobe (probably my last shink ride in Japan)
  • doria lunch (with ZUCCHINI–the first time I’ve eaten zucchini in two years)
  • caught my plane, slept the whole time, woke up as the plane hit the tarmac in Sapporo
  • went to the hotel (super-tiny Toyoko Inn room, right next to the elevator), meant to lie down for an hour and then go out, and ended up sleeping from 5:30-6:00 PM all the way till 7:00 the next morning

TUESDAY (2007 July 31):

  • phone calls to my boss and landlords about apartment/internet stuff (my last keitai calls… *sigh*)
  • amused by how many college students were around, because my hotel was across the street from Hokkaido Daigaku, and especially amused that I think they thought I was one of them
  • went to Sapporo Art Park, visited the Museum of Contemporary Art (saw Modigliani paintings/sketches and African masks), had lunch, walked around the sculpture garden (too much modern/abstract work; there were a few human statues that I liked)
  • got a stamp that refused to dry–even 4 hours later it was still more than half wet
  • Engrish sightings: “SWEET / INVITATION / a body of fascination” (on a shirt) and “Chesty” (name of a boutique, printed on a bag)
  • spent 2 hours (and a fair amount of money) at the 4-story Sapporo Loft
  • saw an older woman with bright lilac hair
  • Italian food for dinner, hung out in Starbucks afterwards

WEDNESDAY (2007 August 1):

  • 2 weeks and a day till my Japan departure, 4 weeks till my 26th birthday
  • totally misread the train schedule–wanted to visit Shiraoi, a town with a lot of Ainu (indigenous northern Japanese tribe, like the Native Americans/First Nations people) artifacts and whatnot, but I read the time the train arrived in Shiraoi and thought that was the time the train departed from Sapporo, and I soundly missed it
  • just barely made an hourlong bus to a small Ainu museum/exhibit outside Sapporo–small but very fascinating; I was really enthralled by it
  • went to a restaurant called Delhi for dinner–run by 2 Japanese people, serving “Indian-style curry” (not exactly, but still tons more authentic than Masala in Tokushima is)
  • wandered around, ignored lots of staring (1. gaijin, 2. solo), holed up in another Starbucks for the night

THURSDAY (2007 August 2 – today):

  • caught a morning train west out of Sapporo, sat next to a girl around my age and we had a pleasant conversation about the world and Italy and Japan
  • got off at Toya Station, after seeing Showa-Shinzan (volcanic peak formed in WWII; Showa = that particular imperial reign, shinzan = new mountain) from the train
  • caught a bus, got off at the Nishiyama Crater Promenade (part of the Usu-zan volcanic complex), walked around several very active craters belching volcanic steam into the air, as well as ruins from that eruption, including a fence and a patch of road that looked like they’d been treated like accordians, scorched and half-buried phone poles and signs, a heavily-dented car, and more, all of which was really amazing and eerie to behold…the Nishiyama crater and others were formed in a big eruption in 2000
  • caught a noon bus to Lake Towa, which was when the cellphone fiasco began (the last time I saw my keitai was at 11:54 AM, when I was checking the time as I waited for that bus)
  • went to the volcano science museum, which I was very happy with
  • as I left around 1:50, prepared to eat lunch and then catch the ropeway up to the top of Usu-zan, I noticed that the bottom pouch of my bag was hanging open, so I closed it, and when I got to a cafe around 2 PM, I took inventory of my belongings, which was when I realized my keitai was missing
  • retraced my steps to the volcano science museum, and the staff totally went above and beyond in terms of helping me look around the premises, calling the police to see if anyone had turned in a phone, and putting me in touch with DoCoMo to suspend my account (and on top of that, they gave me a free pack of Lake Toya postcards, even though I was the one imposing on them!)
  • as I was leaving, I noticed the same pouch had come unzipped AGAIN! I zipped it and looked through my stuff right there, but nothing had fallen out
  • I bought 5 bottles of tea and brought them back to the museum for the workers as a small thank-you gesture for their wonderful show of kindness (and got a totally strange/clueless look from one employee who was there but hadn’t been present when the keitai thing went down, heh)
  • retraced my steps back to the bus terminal, but no phone–checked with the lady at the terminal, but no phone
  • had coffee, went back to Nishiyama, had the bus driver wait for a minute as I got out and looked around the bus stop, but no phone
  • realized as we were heading back to the train station that I could have asked the lady at the bus terminal to figure out which driver was driving that route at that time and ask him to check his bus…but it was too late in the day, a thunderstorm had swept in, and I really needed to move on
  • caught the train to Hakodate, checked into my hotel, dealt with idiot kids cracking up at my Japanese at the Sunkus as I bought dinner, dealt with staring at the Port Festival/Ika Odori, ate, came back to the hotel

And as for tomorrow…I was really set on going to Osore-zan, this geologically active area that is believed to be the place where the souls of the dead reside, but I’m tired and I’ve spent so much money on accommodations and especially on train fare so far (much more than I anticipated; the train fare from Sapporo to Hakodate was 2-3 times what I thought it would be), and it’s pretty far out of the way. I should have rented a car–probably less money, definitely easier to get around. I think I may go to Aomori, hang out there and try to catch part of the Nebuta Matsuri (big float festival), and then head down to my hostel just outside of Hachinohe. We’ll see, though.

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