Hokkaido Trip: Days One and Two

I left for the airport late Saturday night even though my flight left Sunday morning. You see, I booked a 7am flight and that meant I had to be there about 6. It's impossible to get there from my house that early in the morning so I spent Saturday night in a karaoke box. I actually had a real good time by myself just picking song after song. Yes, karaoke is fun with friends but going solo is okay too. 

I caught the first train to the airport and made my flight okay, but I arrived in Hokkaido to find the trains were all delayed about two hours! I didn't get to Sapporo until lunchtime. I think I slept for most of the flight and a large part of the time sitting on the train at the airport. I managed to stay awake long enough on the train to adjust my day's sightseeing plans. 

I turned my walking tour of Sapporo around and eliminated two stops (Hokkaido University and Hokkaido Shokobutsuen). My first stop was the Sapporo Beer Museum. It was nice with some materials and equipment on display, as well as old packaging and advertising. At the end of the museum, you are dumped into the gift shop and tasting room, where you can try small glasses of beer for ¥200 yen each, or get a three-beer sampler for ¥500. I went with the sampler, which came with cheese or crackers (I went with crackers though I want to try some Hokkaido cheese soon). The beer was good - the Sapporo Black Label beer was the best and maybe my favorite in Japan. 

From there I took the 30 minute walk to the TV tower, a replica of the Eiffel Tower and copycat of the Tokyo and Osaka towers. I saved my money and didn't go inside, and walked over to the famous clock tower. It's not that big but it's old for the area and perhaps second to beer as the town's icon. Again I saved my money and time by just taking pictures outside; from there I walked back to the train station to get a bus. 

There are a couple ways to get to Okurayama from Sapporo station, including two different tourist bus lines. I took the city tourist bus and within 45 minutes or so I finally saw my first ski jump in person. It's amazing to see how steep they are and how steep the landing zone was too. It's September, so there is no snow, but it was impressive regardless. I explored the museum and the interactive games, and I enjoyed it enough. 

Finally I caught the other (JR) tourist bus back to the station, grabbed curry for dinner (I was planning on going to a certain ramen shop recommended by my coworker but couldn't find it), and crashed at a capsule hotel in Susikino. 

The next morning meant another early start. Today's train left at 7:21 and I was there in plenty of time. About five and a half hours later I finally reached Abashiri station. Like yesterday, today brought a steady downpour. I saw a lot of very full rivers on the ride over and the umbrella I bought the day before proved useful again. 

From Abashiri it's only a seven minute bus ride to Abashiri Prison. I was quite impressed with the scope and quality of the exhibits - I probably could have breezed through in an hour and a half but I took my time reading the English displays and exploring the cells. I ended up staying about four hours (including a bit of time in the gift shop and waiting for the return bus). Since I didn't have any other plans today I wasn't worried; I finish my journey to Shiretoko tomorrow morning for a chance to see bears in nature!

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