this cutie was taken by Crazyegg95 in 2005 and is from flickr

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Tuesday, 15 September 2009

day 8, Onuma Koen and Hakodate

Life is verily and mostly and something unexplained. But anyway, on with the journey. Photos for the next few entries and I'll fill in the text later.

Early morning. I set out before 8, I think, and cycled to the park, walked over the bridges that joined the lakes and then continued 14km or so around the circumference of the lake, taking me past Shinrin Park, past the camping ground I hadn't managed to get to the day before, past the youth hostel, and eventually back into the town of Onuma Koen (well, that's what the station is called). Past the many signs directing you towards evacuation spots in case Mt. Onuma were ever to blow (as it had threatened to do in 2000, I think, coating the township with ash).

About 12.30, 1pm, coming into the town surrounding Onuma koen. I had a lavender ice cream which did taste of lavender and was yummy. Hokkaido is famous for its lavender fields.

So I'd been hanging out to go to one of Hokkaido's microbreweries ever since missing the opportunity in Asahikawa, and not having the time to stop in Otaru, so I was really please to find the Onuma Craft Brewery as the sign reads in English. They had three beers on tap but had won prizes for others. I skipped the lager, though I'm sure I would have enjoyed it (or pilsner, or lighter beer, you know... I'll look it all up later, promise) and had the slightly fruity but very smooth alt beer I think.

I ate snacks of dried squid and other seafood. I then had the 8% beer. As long as they are not too dark, I usually like these beers. They have a light touch of malt-ish flavour which disturbs my taste buds a little, until I get used to it, but it is not so strong that I cannot drink it, which is what happens with a stout. However, I know it's always a dangerous proposition. I don't know why, but 8% in a beer is too much for me, whereas 11% or 13% in a wine is not and nor is the 40% in a Pernod. It was going to be a woozy afternoon.

I asked the best place for ramen and was told on the corner, but it was the tail-end of the tourist season and they had finished lunch for the day. The brewery, too, had just me as their only patron. But there were tourists about. A huge group of Chinese tourists had hired all of the low slung tricycle kind of bikes available, which could all join up, and join up they did. They cycled past me, down the road, towards the park, high-fiving the rental guy as they passed him, fifty of them, all joined together. One of the more bizarre sights of my holiday.

I had intended to go to Hakodate to seek out the amazing ramen that I had had at the markets the morning of my trip up to Sapporo, and I wanted to check out the beer hall which also featured any number of local, smaller beers. So, considering I could not get local ramen, off I went. I asked the woman in the Onuma brewery what the local speciality was. She wasn't sure, but then she said Jingis Khan, or Genghis Khan, which is a lamb dish, borne in Hokkaido, served in a dish which resembles an upturned Mongolian hat. I'm not a big meat eater, so I passed it up.

Onuma Lake Station (Onumakoen station)

The lake from the train

It was easy to find the ramen shop, and though it was nearing two or three, they were still open, even though I know they would have been open very early that morning, too. I don't know what their hours of business were. It was just a walk-in off the street place, which also had a table and chairs on the sidewalk. It could fit about twenty at the most. If they were a husband and wife team, it was the husband who did the cooking. He was eating lunch, but he stopped to serve me same ramen dish that I had ordered before. Full of crab, prawns and scallops. Yum. When I wandered past later I saw some more foreigners in there. I was slightly disappointed as I thought I'd wandered across an authentic 'local' place, but that's not to say that they hadn't too. The ramen shop was and is in a tourist area, so really, who am I kidding? All below ¥1000 too. That is the good thing about tourist spots in Japan. You can still always find somewhere good and cheap and of value to eat. Usually.

The owners, or workers, remembered me. It was fun to have a little chat with them.

Snail thingy

Hakodate is famous for its seafood

Hakodate clams

Weighing up whether to come into town or not is a bit of a concern, as I was still taking local trains and there could be an hour and a half between them. Even the faster trains didn't necessarily stop at Onuma or Onuma Koen (where I had left my bike), and definitely not at Ikadaen (the station closest to the youth hostel). So, a trip into town had to have some kind of purpose. I was pleased to get the ramen as the next venture was to the beer hall where I was hoping to sample some more of the produce of the micro-breweries of the area.

It was getting cold, rainy and approaching the latter part of the day. Four-thirty or so. Anything I wanted to do I had to fill into the next half hour to hour. The train, of course, was not available until about half past five.

This was all that I got to see of the beer hall. My time for travel was perfect. It was just outside of the tourist season, so all the buses and so on that catered to tourists were still running, and the weather was still warm, and tourist traps were not tourist traps as they were not overrun with the tourists that made them so. The downside, of course, was that many of the tourist must-see places closed due to lack of interest, I guess. On a now become rainy, grey Hakodate afternoon at 4.30 the beer hall had given up the ghost. Closed.

Well, I took photos of the sign, as you can see, and the possible sacrilege of some very inventive shandies (on the menu); let's see - grapefruit beer, green apple beer, Cassis beer. Returning to the train station I took photos of the above seafood, and the profusion of flower baskets that adorned the light poles. They just wouldn't survive in Australia. Not just the heat, but vandals would attack them or steal them. I wonder why we don't have a sense of everything belonging to all. I guess it is being such a mix of different nationalities origin-wise, and the rugged individualism that is the spawn of capitalism.

I was full, still slightly tipsy, and kind of out of the hours for museums and such. I guess I could have gone shopping, and I did buy some Hokkaido chocolate, but mostly I found a room on the second floor of the train station, looked out across the railway tracks, went back to my seat, rested my head and had a little nap. Then wrote, then texted, then transferred pictures, then finally caught my train. The waiting, the waiting.

I had to return the bicycle by 6.30 and the train arrived at 6.10 to the weather seen above. Quite a contrast to the morning's weather. I also wanted to wash my clothes. I was travelling with two pairs of cotton trousers, three shirts, three pairs of socks, and enough undies. Great travel companions, let me tell ya. Washing needed to be done every day, if possible.

However, when I got back to the hostel the owner offered to take those of us who wished to a local onsen (hot spring). Cost, only ¥370, about $4.00. It was after dinner, and I could have put on a wash, but at the hostel you needed to ask the owners (who were busy with dinner) and it took a good ninety minutes to dry, and I know they'd be thinking 'She just did them yesterday', or at least that is what my 'fear of imposition self' told me.

The onsen was great, though, keeping with its low cost, shampoo and body wash was not provided. They usually are, and I had almost run out of my supply. Even so, after washing myself down with shampoo, hair and body, it was wonderful to relax in the creamy, buttery water. And for a good price. There are local onsen nearby, quite famous, but I think their cost is about ¥1500. Of course, they are all modern and shiny and new. Going to an onsen was the one thing I hadn't done on my Hokkaido trip, too, so it was a nice way to wind it up. There were huge paintings, not abstract but not in the school of realism, either. Pretty old. The girl behind the counter said that the artist was well-known in the area.

Heading towards the onsen the hostel owner had asked me if I'd seen any wildlife while I'd been out walking that day. There were lots of foxes, he said, in the forest and greenery that surrounded the lake. 'Ka', I said 'Plenty of ka. And a kaeru.' Mosquitoes. Man were they bountiful. You didn't want to stop for a moment - the dangers of standing still to take a photo. They actually prevented me from going further in the woods in Shinrin Park. The frog, I can't remember where I saw him, I just remember saying that.

Two guys also went to the onsen, one from east Hokkaido, where I had wanted to visit before I realised I just didn't have the time, and the other from Honshu. It was a full moon that night, having risen over the hostel just before our departure to the baths.
So, I left early again the next morning, my train coming through Ikadaen at 6.15 and taking me through, with the inevitable stops and waits along the way, to Aomori where I was going to catch a 13.40 bus to lake Towada, or Towada ko.

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this cutie was taken by Crazyegg95 in 2005 and is from flickr