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Thursday, February 10, 2011

February 10: The ‘Tundra’ of Japan~ Hokkaido

Four O’clock came way too early! Last night Chris said he took the 5:40am shuttle and woke up at 5am, but I reminded him that he was usually running out the door to do so… Cupcakes went just as planned and our bag was packed with his secret present tucked away safely at the bottom.
The one issue we encountered with taking the 5:40am shuttle was that nothing was opened on base, not even Starbucks. We stood in the cold outside Starbucks for 20 minutes, taking turns warming up in the bathroom. We didn’t really want any coffee because we wanted to sleep on the bus ride, but felt obligated to purchase some in order to warm up in their facility.
When we got to the bus location, all we saw was a sea of families with Children. One boy asked his mom if they could run back to the house because he forgot his DS. The mother initially said no since the departure time was in under 10 minutes, and boy oh boy was there an instant fit thrown. Caught me off guard, due to the age of the boy. Fortunately no screaming temper tantrum babies and children for us, our bus was an adult only bus! We did not know that this would be the arrangement, what a sweet surprise! We had a quiet hour drive to the airport. Some sleeping did take place by all.
Chris and I enjoyed walking around the airport since we were not able to when we arrived (at a different airport) on the first of the year. We saw what looked like $40 doughnuts that were about 4 feet long when baking, $100 hello kitty wallets, raisinwhiches, smoking rooms (this felt very odd to us), and odd advertisements.
What we were really trying to find was something to eat before the flight, the best we could do was a tray of three mini (one bite) sandwiches. Everything seems to be about presentation here, it looked nice but did not seem too practical to us.
It was a nice flight. Our first order of business was a 1 and a half hour schedule lunch at the airport. Chris and I made an observation comparing US airports to Japanese Airports: In the US it seems like most of the shopping centers and restaurants are after security, when in Japan, those places are before security. Speaking of security, that was a breeze! Left my shoes and coat on and for water bottles, they just make you open it up and then waft for a smell. I’m not complaining about US security, I really don’t mind it, I understand that it is a safety precaution, just felt strange. OH, and never once did I show any form of ID, crazy.
(Chris looking at all the plastic food, deciding where we want to eat. We finally picked ‘Bun and Burger.’ The funny part is that there was no bun. Fanciest hamburger patty I have ever had!)
(This place was insanely busy! Knick-nacks, souvenirs, fish, chocolate, ice-cream, everywhere!)
The first stop with out tour guide Yuki (we loved this guy!) was Lake Shikotosu. Now, I’ll be honest, when I first read this stop in our itenerary when we signed up for the trip, I was not excited. Big whop, a lake, my family is from Minnesota, I’ve seen plenty. Gosh did I feel dumb once we got there. Lake Shikotosu is a crater lake with an average depth of 265 meters (869ft) and a maximum depth of 363 meters (1,191 ft). The lake is surrounded by three volcanos: Mount Eniwa to the north and Mount Fuppushi and Mount Tarumaeto the south. The most enchanting lake I have ever seen, the trip was for the ice festival there but it was a toss up on which I enjoyed more- looking at the lake or the ice festival!
(One ice cave was covered in pine trees, gorgeous!)
(The lake looked like a calm ocean, felt like you could look out for days, very mystical.)
After the lake it was another hour and a half to our hotel. We had about an hour at our hotel before dinner. Instead of venturing out we napped.
(The bathrooms for hotels tend to be made as an individual unit that is placed into the room after the room is constructed. Notice the floor level difference.)
Dinner was at the Sapporo beer garden. It was a 100 minute all you can eat and drink! Before we arrived Yuki told us that we will need to place our clothes in a provided bag because it is very smoky inside and sometimes people don’t like it. It smelled like cooking meat, we didn’t mind. :-)
When we got back to our apartment we headed out to the snow festival. It was windy and snowing out, we wish we had an umbrella with us like most of the other visitors!

We were kicked out of the snow festival at 10pm. I wasn’t feeling tired on our walk home, nor was I tired when I laid down to bed, but I do not remember falling asleep. Chris said I was out about the same time my head hit the pillow.

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