Hot Spring Lakes, Ainu Village and Back to Sapporo

Trip Start Aug 11, 2010
Trip End Sep 02, 2010

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Where I stayed
Best Western Hotel Fino

Flag of Japan  , Hokkaido,
Sunday, August 29, 2010

Up at the crack of dawn (well 6 am), packed up and went down (and up) to breakfast at the Noboribetsu Sekisuitei Hotel, I found that there are some tastes in food that aren't so appealing...they usually turn up in vegetables for some reason.  But I had all sorts of good things so I could leave a few of the less appealing ones.  There were stewed lichees (I think) still in their thick skins so that rather surprised me.  I had coffee for the first time in many days so that was nice.  It was definitely my big meal for the day.

I dropped my bag off at the desk and tried walking up the hill to the foot springs path but it was still closed:  The hot springs on the same path was being unpredictable so they roped off the path.  I then had to retrace my steps and go back down the hill past the hotel to a path going upstairs that would connect me with the Mt Funami Nature Trail going to Lake Oyunuma.  This trail was a  bit hilly but not too bad.  I could enjoy the vegetation - lots of bamboo and oaks plus shrubs and wildflowers.  There were interpretive signs with English identifying different plants and insects, animals, etc.  There were also a number of little statues along the path with their red aprons around their necks.  I really haven't found out the significance of that yet.  I took a wrong turn and ended up on the road but not far from the lake so I walked along the road and took photos of the steam coming out of the lake and the clusters of hydrangea along the banks.  I almost forgot, but I did get my bubbling mud.  I heard a sound and started looking more carefully and finally spotted the one mud bubble.  Thrilled and totally satisfied now.  Across from the parking lot was a smaller lake or pond called Oku no Yu that I checked out as well.  After I saw a woman put her fingers in the stream from that lake, I did too.  It was hot enough that I didn't want to keep my fingers in any longer than getting them wet.

From there I took the Oyunuma Nature Trail back.  I was in the jungle again with the humidity and heat and mosquitoes.  My camera cases and tote bag were damp with moisture.  It was mostly the mosquitoes though that made me decide to take a lower trail on my way back to the hotel. 

Once back at the hotel, I picked up my bag, walked to the bus station and found out it was going to be an almost 2 hr wait for the bus to Shiraoi for the Poroto Kotan, or Ainu Museum.  Luckily there was an info desk at the station because I was back and forth in there to make sure I got the right bus - these local ones didn't have destination signs in English.  On the bus itself, I was getting anxious about when to get off.  Even though I knew the name of the place, I couldn't always distinguish it when it was announced on the speaker.  I kept asking the young woman in front of me...when it was finally time and I got off, she and her friend both waved goodbye to me from their windows.

The driver had pointed down a street and nodded yes when I asked if it were the Museum but I ran out of English signs without finding it.  After a couple of inquiries, I did find it, bought my ticket and left my bag in the office.  The dance was going to start in less than 20 minutes so my timing was pretty good.  I checked out the poor Hokkaido dogs and bears pacing in their cages.  The bears were getting hosed down by the keepers and one was licking water off the cage wires.  It was a sad sight but then I saw the old Ainu wooden cages for keeping bears and they were even smaller.  The traditional dance and music performance was prefaced by a man speaking for quite awhile.  First he opened by asking where people were from....I could understand that part.  That was when I discovered my fellow countrywoman - Ms. Alabama.  He had a whole bunch of jokes - I could tell because people were laughing.  He went into word etymology and which common place names came from the Ainu language, but after that he went on and on and I had absolutely no idea what he was talking about.  I was starting to get fidgety.  Then a woman came on stage and she introduced the young performers who did a bear-spirit sending back dance, a baby lullaby, an intriguing mouth harp performance and a few others.  They had great costumes and I kept trying to think of what other cultures seemed to have similar features.  Some of the designs looked a lot like patterns used by Native Americans in the Southwest. 

After the performance I asked Ms. Alabama and her male companion whether they knew how I could get back to Sapporo by public transportation.  They didn't since they drove there but they spoke Japanese and inquired from the Museum staff.  I found out there was a train leaving at 5:20 so I started to speed up ... or so I thought.  I kept talking to Ms. Alabama and asking her about Japanese customs since she had lived in Japan now for 15 years.  They offered to drive me to the train station if I wanted when we were all ready to go.  They went off to hear another instrument and I rushed through the artifact museum part.... the rest was an outdoor reconstruction of houses and other buildings. 

I left and followed the directions for the station and had to climb stairs to get over the tracks.  I got my ticket by saying Sapporo and showing the man the time I wanted from a slip of paper.  The ticket was all in Japanese...usually they seem to have English also for car number and seat number.  So I was mystified with this one.  Luckily there were only 3 tracks and he did tell me which track and tried to tell me which car but I couldn't understand what he was telling me.  Just as I was ready to board the train, I hear someone calling out for Ms. New York.  It was Ms. Alabama and I should have told them I was leaving the Museum because they worried about me.  They sent me off with their good wishes and I got in a car, took a random seat by the window and no one questioned me so I guess it turned out OK.

At the Sapporo station I wanted to pick up some food for breakfast and a light dinner.  I found cheese....I haven't had cheese I don't think since I got to Korea...I don't count tofu.  It was all very pricey so I picked a cheddar.  It was in a box, in molded plastic and the little wedge had a wax coat.  It is a soft springy cheese more like jack but it was fine...only I couldn't find any crackers in the store so I went without them.  I headed to the North exit of the station but I couldn't remember if that was right or not.  It turned out OK but I really didn't recognize anything until I got to my hotel. 

I was delighted that they had taken my bags from storage and put them in my room.  There is no tipping according to something I read so there is also not that uncomfortable need to hold your bags tight if you don't want to have a bellhop taking them to your room.  In fact, I haven't really encountered any bellhops where I have been lately...maybe in Korea in Seoul.  There are Western rooms and Japanese rooms.  When I am offered a choice....I try to take the Japanese with tatami mats on the floor, futon, hmmm, what else?  Oh yeah, no shoes, just slippers when you're in the room.  Both types tend to have the high tech toilets, big bottles of shampoo, conditioner and body soap, hard mattresses and pillows - sometimes the pillows are crunchy.  Sometimes you get a yukata robe.  Computer stuff varies.  I have had cable here and in Hakodate in the bigger hotels.  The rooms tend to be quite small... that was why I was so surprised about my room in Noboribetsu Onsen.  The rooms have been pretty comfortable. If I can't hold my laptop on my lap, I need a chair otherwise after awhile I get tired of sitting on the floor as I did at the ryokan in Kyoto.

That's it for today.

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