Tuesday, November 14, 2006

#195 Day 14: Kutchan to Hirafu

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The Road to Hokkaido Tour 2006
Day 14: Kuchan to Hirafu

Last night we stayed at Niseko Weis Hotel. It’s a 15 minute drive from Kuchan.
The ski season hasn’t started, so, not surprisingly we were almost the only people in the hotel. The room was nothing special – I liked the room at Towada better. I did like these pajama-type things they had instead of yukata.

The restaurants weren’t open – you had to ask in advance if you wanted to eat there - so we had to drive back to Kuchan to get something to eat.

The hotel was big and empty and outside was pitch black ... scenes from Hollywood movies started flashing through my head.

There was something slightly odd about two guys at the front. In Japan when you bow for a few seconds too long it stops being polite.
Maybe they were just nervous because we were their first customers. Or maybe they were cutting the phone lines as we were getting ready for bed ...

When I went into the bath there was one pair of slippers but the owner of the slippers didn’t appear for ages. It was raining and there was water dripping from the ceiling ...
It was kind of creepy.

But the lotenburo was great. There’s nothing like slipping naked into a hot bath while looking out at the snow.
We had another bath in the morning and there were no other people so we took some more photos.

Today we started looking for a place to live. We went to the information center, a few real estate agencies, the city office and drove around looking for posters on houses.

We stopped to have lunch and coffee by this potato field.

First we looked at an apartment. It was a 3DK for 64,000 yen a month. Next we saw a house. Before they would show it to us they asked us so many questions that I thought it must have been a really nice house and they were worried about the tenants destroying it.
But when I saw it I was like what… it was so run down that I was surprised it was still standing. House number three wasn’t much better.

Then I saw a poster on a shop and I thought “cool ... let’s live in a shop!” We rang the number and the woman on the phone said “mmm I don’t think it’s a very good place to live ...” but she was really cool and quickly came and showed it to us anyway.
She was right, it wasn’t a good place to live – it was just a shop, toilet, kitchen, no bathroom ... and no rooms out the back.
But it got me started dreaming about living in a shop. Hmm what kind of shop should I open?
My boyfriend told me to stop daydreaming and keep looking for signs because we were still homeless and the prospects weren’t looking good.
We were originally planning to live in Hirafu near the ski field. But according to the people at the information center – all the property in Hirafu has been snapped up by Australian developers.
So we changed our mind and started looking in Kuchan. Kuchan is about a 10 minute drive from Hirafu. It’s a small town with all the usual – train station, supermarkets, post office, banks ... Hirafu is just a resort town with bars, restaurants, and hotels... So it’s probably more convenient to live in Kuchan.
We got this list from the city office of people who have houses to rent. We rang them one by one and they all said full, full, full until one woman said her place wasn’t available but she knew one that was.

Thanks to her we found a place to live! And it’s a shop. It’s perfect. Just like my daydream. We’re going to move in on Thursday.

#194 Day 13: Hakodate to Kutchan

Watch today's show on YouTube or BlipTV.

The Road to Hokkaido Tour 2006
Day 13: Hakodate to Kuchan
Distance: 237 kms

Last night it was snowing in Hakodate.
As we braved the snow to search for food I saw from the all the big pictures of crabs and fish tanks everywhere that as I suspected Hokkaido is perhaps a kind of nightmare for vegetarians.
We headed for the Hakodate Brewery since I had spotted it when I glanced at a brochure. Unfortunately I had failed to check the opening times and we trudged all that way only to arrive just after last order. Oops.

We gave up finding an interesting place to eat and went into Warawara. Bad move. It only took a few minutes to realize that Warawara must be equally as bad all over the country. Warawara is a cheap, chain izakaya that I would recommend avoiding for many reasons. One of which being these terrible eda mame. I think I’m something of an eda-mame connoisseur since I almost always eat them when I go to an izakaya. And these get no stars. Not that all cheap chain izakayas are bad … I’m a Watami fan.

We decided to go home but then we spotted an interesting looking bar. It looked like it might have been a hostess bar .. but luckily there was a letter flap in the front door, so we could peek and check. Safe.
I thought it was a good bar. I was particularly impressed with the quality of the drinks. I’d only give it minus points for the tragic uniforms and the way the bar tenders shake shakers as if they are going to get fired if they don’t shake it exactly the same way as every other bow-tie wearing bartender in Japan.
But that is the norm in these kinds of bars in Japan … so maybe it’s just me. IMHO it doesn’t look cool.

We stayed at Toyoko Inn again. Wow, different picture. Toyoko Inn is cheaper on Sunday nights if you are a member, 5140 yen. To become a member it costs 1000 yen.

Today we drove from Hakodate to Kuchan.

I drove today for the first time today. I wanted to drive more but my boyfriend hates sitting in the passenger seat and he’s the owner of the car, so…. It was fun … you notice different things when you’re driving.

I decided to keep to the speed limit for several reasons. 1. It was raining. 2. I think driving slowly is an excellent idea and 3. being a foreigner the laws are always stacked against you so if I happened to be involved in a crash I think things would be easier for me if I wasn’t breaking the law.

It didn’t seem like anyone else was interested in sticking to the speed limit. Hundreds of cars and trucks passed me. The only time no-one passed me was when a police car also started following me.

We stopped at the Onuma Brewery and bought some beer.

We saw some people riding what looked like a series of large tricycles joined together. They looked like they were having a lot of fun.

We arrived in Kuchan at about 4:30.
Kuchan is our destination. Although the trip isn’t over until we find a place to live. That’s tomorrow’s mission.