August 31st, 2008 Posted in Hokkaido, Travel | No Comments »

Our first stop in Hokkaido was Otaru, it was a natural starting place since it was where the ferry dropped us off.

Before arriving we knew that Otaru was famous for two things – glass and a canal. From our inspection, that’s really it. We had two nights to spend there (one full-day in-between) and it ended up being really relaxing. A nice slow place to start our nice slow vacation.

Otaru sort of fancies itself as the “Venice of the East.” But, so far as I can tell, it has very little in common. Sure, it has a canal, one single canal that is no more than a few kilometers in length. It is a pretty canal, it is a fine place to spend and evening strolling, but nothing to warrant the self-given title.

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August 30th, 2008 Posted in Hokkaido, Travel | 1 Comment »

One of the places we spent a couple of nights while in Hokkaido was Asahidake-Onsen. A little chain of hotels and lodges all surrounding the hot springs at the base of Asahidake, the highest peak on Daisetsusan, and the highest point in Hokkaido. Daisetsuzan is a huge volcano, and it is active. Daisetsuzan shares its name with a national park that covers almost the entire system of peaks on top of this giant volcano. We enjoyed walking around the top just under peak of Asahidake. There were lovely little lakes and a bunch of fumaroles. Made it easy to understand where all the hot water was coming for our evening baths.

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The Ferry Boat

August 21st, 2008 Posted in Travel | 1 Comment »

As many of you know we decided to take a bit of a less conventional mode of transportation when we made our visit to Hokkaido earlier this month. We had heard about the passenger ferries available earlier during our stay, and always thought that it would be a fun way to travel. So, when it was time to make arrangements for our trip to Hokkaido, the idea reentered our minds and we decided to go for it.

There were several ferries to choose from and we ultimately ended up deciding to catch the Shin Nihonkai ferry from Maizuru. The schedule was the most convenient for us, and it was one of the fastest ferries available.

The ferries here are essentially enormous cargo ships that they decided to slap a hotel onto the top of. Their primary purpose is hauling goods between ports, secondary to that purpose was hauling people and vehicles. As a result, the schedules were created much more with the shipping industry in mind than the humans that ride the ship.

Ferry at Night

When we arrived at the port at about 10:00pm at night we spent a little time watching semi trucks drive onto and off of the boat. I was actually pretty surprised at what a big ship it was and seeing those big trucks offered the perspective I needed.

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Leaving on a . . . Boat

August 3rd, 2008 Posted in Travel | No Comments »

So, the blog will be pretty quiet for the next week. We are leaving tonight on a boat bound for Hokkaido and we won’t be back for a week.

We have no specific plans while we are there, so we are going to do whatever comes up and I am sure it will be a great time.

When we come back we will have plenty of stories and photos from the trip, so come and check it out then!


Insiders Look Into An Onsen

July 31st, 2008 Posted in Daily Living, Tokyo, Travel | 1 Comment »

We always are mentioning onsen around here (in Tokyo and at Oku-Hida) and we have tried our best to explain the concept. But, it is a bit difficult for most foreigners to wrap their heads around it. You simply have to come to Japan sometime and see for yourself, the Japanese really are on to something with the whole onsen idea.

To help you understand a little bit more, we decided to sneak a few pictures when we were on our anniversary get-away. Now, don’t get too excited, there aren’t any people in any of the pictures you are about to see. We took pictures of our private onsen in order to show you how the whole onsen process goes.

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July 23rd, 2008 Posted in Takayama, Travel | 2 Comments »

Peeking Out

Aaron and Garden

During our visit to Takayama we made a stop at Takayama-jinya. Takayama-jinya served as the local government house and it had many rooms including bathrooms, kitchens, rooms for sleeping, rooms for entertaining guests, and rooms for torturing them. It was in official use until 1969 and is now open as a museum.

Truth be told, the two things I found most interesting about the museum was the torture room…umm…i mean “advanced interrogation room” and the implements of “advanced interrogation,” and the different textures around the government building.

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Ryokan Breakfast

July 22nd, 2008 Posted in Food, Takayama, Travel | 6 Comments »

Breakfast Flat Fish

After waking up at the ryokan, we slowly made our way downstairs for breakfast. I knew that it would be a traditional Japanese breakfast, and I was open to the idea (and quite hungry), but when I approached the table and saw this flat fish in front of my place. I lost my appetite, almost entirely.

Breakfast Set

It didn’t help that the other foods offered (tofu, poached egg, pickled stuff, miso soup, etc) also didn’t resemble breakfast foods to me.

I tried to eat it. Really, I tried. But I just couldn’t.

Danielle Not Eating Breakfast

I left the table feeling pretty embarrassed because I had barely eaten the food put in front of me. I had a bit of everything, but just couldn’t manage to take it all down!

Food at the Ryokan

July 18th, 2008 Posted in Food, Takayama, Travel | 2 Comments »

Eating at the ryokan is part of the experience; few ryokans will allow you to stay without also paying for the meals. Most of the time, they seek to prepare uber-traditional meals with a focus on foods and ingredients that are specialties in the region of the ryokan. Soeno, the ryokan we stayed at last weekend, was no exception.

Dinner was served in the dining hall and each room had their own, semi-private area. We were seated across from one another and, in the center of our table was a large open pit with a few coals on it. Before we even arrived, they had begun grilling some fish in our pit and they had set out a tray of starters.



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Oku Hida Ryokan

July 17th, 2008 Posted in Takayama, Travel | No Comments »

So, as I mentioned a few days ago, we went up to Takayama for a weekend to celebrate our 5th anniversary. With the help of a friend, we made a reservation at Soene, a ryokan that is part of the Fukuchi Onsen area.

This was definitely a flash place, perfect for a special occasion like our 5th wedding anniversary. With prices over $200 per person per night, it isn’t somewhere you go when you are just looking for a place to rest your head. It is more of an experience.

From the get go we felt totally pampered and relaxed. As we were walking down from the bus stop a man from the inn stepped outside and greeted us and directed us to the entrance. He gave a brief chuckle when he asked if he could carry our luggage, since we only had our two small day bags. (If we have learned anything this year, we have definitely learned how to travel light)

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July 14th, 2008 Posted in Takayama, Travel | No Comments »

Purply Hydrangeas

This past weekend Aaron and I went to Takayama for a stay at a fancy ryokan in an onsen village to celebrate our fifth wedding anniversary. As we walked around Takayama and the onsen village I was especially taken with all the hydrangeas growing everywhere. They were in full bloom and totally lovely.

Smelling Hydrangeas

They were even growing around the graves at one of the graveyards we visited and explored.

Graveyard Hydrangeas