Day 28-32 – Time off in Sapporo and starting the push back to Tokyo

After Aomori, we took our originally planned train up to Sapporo. It was a short Shinkansen ride to Hakodate where we transferred to the local train (since the Shinkansen to Sapporo won’t be completed until 2031). We got to Sapporo station, at which point we realized that we actually hadn’t booked our accommodations after all, and the one we wanted was no longer available. After some last minute scrambling, trying in vain to contact our host and get a proper address, and doing a bit of detective work with the photos included in their terrible set of directions, we settled in for the evening to get some rest.

 

Chocolate milk doesn’t seem to be very popular here. It also tastes like crap whenever I do find it. This one tasted like cold hot chocolate.

This is what my bike looks like before it gets bagged up before the train. Wheel and handlebars held in place with rope.

The Shinkansen pulling into the station.

Mountain views on the train to Sapporo.

More mountain views on the train to Sapporo.

Over the next couple of days we relaxed and explored Sapporo a bit. We hadn’t planned much to do in the city, so we first decided to go and get some all you can eat and all you can drink. We ended up at a BBQ joint where you grill your own meat at your table, where we were able to satisfy our craving for endless meat and beer.

Starting off the meal with some tongue and rice.

Part way into the meal, as soon as we put new meat on the grill we’d order more.

Turns out everything was itemized on the final receipt. I’d say we got our money’s worth.

The following day, still full from the previous night’s meal, we opted to do a bit more physical activity, exploring Sapporo’s Odori Park, the Sapporo TV Tower, and the Sapporo Beer Museum. We also briefly checked out the NAMCO Wonder Park, a video game arcade in Sapporo Station.

Odori Park in Sapporo.

The Sapporo TV Tower, at the end of Odori Park.

The Japanese solution to busy intersections: elevated pedestrian walkways.

Sapporo Beer Museum.

Sapporo Beer Museum.

A giant fermenter, or something. The description was in Japanese.

Sampling some beers at the end of the self-guided tour.

Neat brickwork and chandelier.

Some booze in heels in a liquor store in Sapporo Station.

The next morning we started out Southward push back towards Tokyo. It was a relatively beautiful day in Sapporo – around 14 degrees and sunny, and our ride was only about 64km long. Our plan was to ride south to the port city of Tomakomai and get on the ferry bound for Hachinohe at midnight. The ferry would take 7 hours so we could sleep on it, before continuing to Morioka in the morning.

The ride to Tomakomai was surprisingly challenging as we faced a decently strong headwind for the entire ride. In addition, the temperature dropped around 10 degrees as we got further away from Sapporo. By the time we got to the ferry terminal we were exhausted and very, very cold (and it didn’t help that we hadn’t really packed any pants, just shorts).

Top of a tank that we saw on the way to Tomakamai.

Sunset in Tomakomai at the ferry terminal.

We waited around in the also very cold ferry terminal and ended up talking for a little while with a man who was curious about our bikes. We talked about our trip, and about Canada and Japan and the differences between our countries.

The man eventually left, and we sought refuge from the cold ferry terminal in a room meant for the elderly and disabled (which was empty, and also the only room in the place with a heater) until we could buy tickets to our ferry and board. We boarded the ferry around 10:45 and made our way up to the second class deck where just like the previous ferries we’d taken, the seating area was simply tatami mats. These ones were pretty decent though as they had fold-away cushions that we could use as beds. We grabbed a spot next to an AC outlet so we could charge our devices, and laid out our sleeping bags and pillows and went to sleep while the ferry made its way south.

Loading ramp, as seen from the deck of the ferry.

Pedestrian bridge onto the ferry.

Two fools on a ferry deck.

The ferry featured a 24h “restaurant” that consisted of a bunch of vending machines that produced frozen or hot food (complete with some microwaves to warm things up).

Hot food vending machine.

Stall in one of the bathrooms on the ship. I’m not really sure what this is supposed to be used for. It was much bigger than a conventional toilet, had no seat, and there was no door, it was directly across from the sinks.

Ferry’s wake.

Ferry as seen from the rear deck.

Hachinohe port.

We woke up shortly before the ferry docked and packed away all our gear. I felt kind of sea-sick from waking up to the rocking of the boat, but fresh air helped. After waiting what seemed like forever for everyone else to get off the boat, we were allowed off with our bikes and we made our way towards the train station where we would hop a train to Morioka. This was another section of the ride we opted to skip not only for elevation and distance, but also to help keep us ahead of the Golden Week crowds. Golden Week is a series of annual holidays in Japan at the beginning of May where many, many people travel and thus we wanted to be as close to Tokyo as possible by the time that happened so as not to get caught up in the crowds.

On the way to the train station we spotted a McDonald’s and stopped in for breakfast. I got a crispy chicken and egg muffin, which was a crispy chicken filet with cheese, butter (I think, it was kinda gross and yellow), an egg, and ketchup on an English muffin, with a hash brown for a side. Overall not bad, but not something I’d order again. We took our time eating and riding the ~10km to the train station as we wouldn’t be able to check into our AirBnB in Morioka until 3PM anyway. We got to the station, packed up our bikes, and got on the Shinkansen, which only took about half an hour to make the ~100km trip to Morioka.

Butter, cheese, fried chicken, a fried egg, and ketchup on an English muffin. Not bad, might have been better without the butter and ketchup.

When we arrived we still had time to kill so we hung out at a local cafe in the train station for a bit, then rode nearest 7/11 where we could withdraw some cash (since we were both running a bit low). We bought some snacks/lunch and hung out at the 7/11 until it was time to go to the AirBnB. Unfortunately the Google Maps directions we had were a bit confusing and we had a little trouble finding the place, and when we did, our host wasn’t home, though another guest was, and they let us in (as it was a shared living area). We went to the local grocery store for some dinner and supplies for the morning and shortly after we got back our host arrived.

Cafe outside of Morioka station. Everything one could want out of a cafe: coffee, craft beer, donuts, pizza, and sandwiches.

We all sat around our host’s kotatsu (imagine a table with a blanket and a heating element underneath) and chatted for a bit. I also helped Kuya, the other guest, with the grammar on a letter he was writing as part of an application for a University program in Australia, where he wants to study forest ecology / management / preservation (there may be a better term for it that I’m forgetting at the moment). His English was pretty good, but English is a tough language so there were a few mistakes, but I worked through it and did my best to explain my corrections, and he was very appreciative. He seemed passionate about the program so I hope it helps him with his future endeavors.

The next day we were scheduled to ride around 93km to Ichinoseki. Much of the route was downhill, though the temperature forecast was calling for the weather to be a little cold (~10C), wet (100% chance of rain), and windy. Really the three worst things we could hope for, so we expected to be quite miserable, but at least we were getting closer and closer to our final destination, Tokyo.

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