Thursday, May 10, 2007
Golden Week: Otaru, Hokkaido
On our first full day in Hokkaido, Jun, Rie, Kae, and I headed out to Otaru, a harbor city near Sapporo. It has a very picturesque touristy area near the canal with old winding streets and quaint buildings. In the distance, some of the high mountains still were covered in snow!
We had a day of snacking- no low blood sugar for me! We started off with coffee & pastries, then moved on to free samples of sashimi at the fish market to piping hot Hokkaido potatoes with melted butter and a beer on the street, went to Otaru's "savory" version of Krispy Kreme, where you watched (behind glass) the factory of huge machines and "chefs" hand-mixing fish paste and spreading them onto fresh baked bread or stuffing hollow bread rolls with cheese "tubes" and then getting deep fried.... we visited several shops offering free samples of chocolate & candy, wine & sake tastings, and saw all kinds of shops selling everything from huge pots and pans to boots to mutant tomatoes. After all this, we feasted on a decadent lunch of soup with crab legs & chirashi sushi with all kinds of local, fresh fish.
Otaru's history has been preserved with its gaslights and old buildings, but has also successfully blended old and new. Modern new buildings are nestled in between brick and stone warehouses which have been converted into restaurants, shops, galleries, and museums. There were all these shops selling glassware & music boxes- and sometimes it felt like we were in some European village with the random (non-Japanese) architecture of some of the buildings.
I especially loved the Interactive art, sculptures, and small details like wooden fish on a storefront, or a wall of evenly spaced little lights in a chocolate store.
It was a trip of making new friends and reuniting with old friends.... we had a blast hanging out and of course, acting about half our age taking all the silly pictures.