Saturday, June 15, 2013

The Hokkaido Train Tour (June 1 - 7): 5. Otaru

For the final city (June 6) before returning to Sapporo I chose Otaru. Otaru is only about 40 minutes by train from Sapporo. I wanted someplace close for that final ride into Sapporo. However, Otaru is nowhere near Nemuro. It was a 10.5 hour train trip. The first leg on a local train again, the second on a fast limited express. Not a bullet train though. I haven't done that yet. It is in the future, for the return to Tokyo from Kyoto. 

It turned out to be a rainy morning for the departure. Nevertheless, I decided to walk to the station. The hotel was not across the street from the station, but only a six minute walk. The rain was only a mist by the time I had breakfast and checked out; I didn't need an umbrella. It wasn't an unreasonably early departure (8:20), but very foggy and early enough that I saw a lot of deer during the first part of the ride. Unfortunately no shots, I didn't know when they'd turn up. You can understand that, can't you? 

That train car is at the very last place on the line. Nemuro is it. I am headed in the other direction.

Fellow travelers. I was relieved, I thought it might be full of school kids.

Only one way to go from here.

My hotel. I guess it kind of looks like a prison too.




Has to be a small town.

Somebody harvesting something.

I'm there, 10.5 hours later...



Otaru is the first city I've been to since Fukuyama that I would call a tourist city. It was a bit of shock seeing lots of Westerners and businesses that cater to them. Refreshing in its way. Otaru had a slight San Francisco feel to me, with all those inclines and super-hip folks. 

What you see when you walk out of the train station. The brown building on the left is my hotel.

View of the train station from my hotel room.

Otaru, like most of the cities I went to has its own brewery. Their's is really German based. 

Styled after a German beer hall with German band music playing...

painted eggs and...

beef paté. I had the dunkel. 

Buses for bus people.

They even have a short canal. It is so short you wonder why they bothered. You can take a boat ride on it though.

The hotel clerk recommended a restaurant for me to have dinner. She even gave me a tourist map and circled the place, drew an arrow from the hotel; should have been easy. I am pretty good with maps. I was a boy scout, for cryin' out loud. Couldn't find this place to save my life. I even stopped someone on the street, showed him the map and asked for help. He did the Japanese thing that you often hear about: rather than trying to explain, he took the map and tried to walk me to the place. I say "tried," because ultimately it didn't make any sense to him either. I walked around for another 90 minutes trying to decide on a place. One place I decided on closed between the first time I saw it and when I decided to go back to it. There was a place I saw the back of a couple of times. I found the front on dark, narrow street. Turned out to be the place for me...

The environment.

I don't know what these are...not shrimp. Tasty.



Some kind of snail.
Hoke (hoki).

Fellow diners; they are from Nara. That is the dog of the restaurant. 

The chef with his wife/business partner and their dog. And me. No English. 

The hotel in Otaru (Route Inn) has a tradition for the cold months, that I guess they feel haven't ended. Between 9:30 and 11:00 PM, go up to the restaurant, show your room key and get a complimentary bowl of ramen. I wasn't hungry, but I had to try it.

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