Hokkaido, Winter 2012 Part I

After a semester of studies in my first year of college, holidays finally arrived, and I was able to spend my well-deserved break in Hokkaido, a winter wonderland. In the eyes of a Singaporean, Hokkaido is like a heavenly place full of mysteries and wonder. Firstly, we dont see snow in Singapore. Secondly, there is no nature surrounding us like what Hokkaido offers.

I visited Hokkaido 10 years ago, during autumn, and I really wanted to revisit the same places again and relive my memories of my childhood. I wasnt disappointed. The scenery was different. 10 years ago, I was in a sea of vibrant colours. This time, everything was covered in white. As the plane took off from Changi Airport towards Tokyo Narita International Airport, I promised myself to play really hard for the next whole week in Hokkaido, because holidays are really precious when we are in college. 

After touching down at Narita Airport, we had to take a bus to the domestic terminal, to take another plane to fly us to Chitose International Airport, Hokkaido. After about an hour and a half later, I was greeted with a land full of coniferous trees and snow. Ah. Christmas has really arrived. After retrieving our luggages, my family, relatives and I sat in our tour bus and set off towards our first destination, Date Jidai Mura, a historical theme park village highlighting the Edo Period, one of the most attractive era in Japanese history. This village manages to capture the charm of ancient Japan as we mingled with the Ninja and Oiran courtesans so symbolic of the Edo Period. Edo Period (1603~1867) was the time when Japan was under the Tokugawa shogunate. By restricting the trades with foreign countries, the unique cultures based on the Japanese climates flourished and the urban life of citizens dramatically developed. Edo was one of the biggest cities in the world with a population of more than 1 million.

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After that, we proceeded to Jigokudani, (Hell Valley). It is above the town of Noboribetsu, displaying hot steam vents, sulfurous streams and other volcanic activity. It is a main source of Noboribetsu’s hot spring’s water. When we arrived, there was a strong stench of sulphur in the air, and I had to cover my mouth to prevent myself from choking at times. Other than that, I thought it was really a breathtaking sight. Breathtaking indeed.

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The last itinerary for the day was Mt Showa Shinzan Bear Ranch. I have lots to say about this bear ranch. Yes, it is a tourist attraction which gives visitors information about bears living in the forests of Hokkaido, but after looking at the living conditions and the enclosures of the bears, I felt heartbroken, and really wanted to do something to release these animals back into the wild. They do not deserve such treatment at all. I really hope some animal rights groups will take note of my post and do something about this.

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The bear seems to be begging for food, but this is it’s reaction when people throw food into the enclosures. Kinda cute and funny, but depressing.

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After that, we set off towards one of the most beautiful cities in Japan, Otaru City.The city was an Ainu habitation, and the name “Otaru” is recognised as being of Ainu origin, possibly meaning “River running through the sandy beach”. The very small remaining part of the Temiya Cave contains carvings from the Zoku-Jōmon period of Ainu history, around A.D. 400. Otaru was recognised as a village in 1865, and in 1880 the first railway line in Hokkaido was opened with daily service between Otaru and Sapporo. It was designated as a city in 1922.

One of the most picturesque landscape was the Otaru canal, which has an European city feel to it.

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We explored the city, and managed to find our way to Otaru Music Box Museum, where I was there 10 years ago. Everything inside the museum has not changed a single bit, as I can vaguely remember. The only difference was everything I see now seemed so much smaller compared to what I saw when I was only 12 years old.

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Inside the Museum shop:

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To be continued…

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