Two years ago when I visited Hokkaido for the first time to witness the famous Snow Festival, I’m pretty sure I told myself I’d never return. Cold and I don’t quite get along. Yet somehow about three weeks ago, I booked a ticket to join my parents after my brother’s graduation from his Master’s program. We meet again, chilly land to the north.
I can’t deny it: I spent the first day regretting my decision, freezing and bored when I could have been enjoying sakura in Tokyo instead. And then the issue of sharing a room and finding the medium between drowning out my father’s snores and being able to fall asleep to music. I think I’ve got it down now. How did I make it through childhood family vacations without this formula???
To celebrate that first night/post graduation, we had all-you-can-eat ghenis khan (lamb) at the Sapporo Factory. I’m not sure whether we rolled home or not but I definitely was not functional after eating so much (even though I stuck mostly to grilled veggies). The next day, we visited the former government building in American style architecture. An old guide there chatted me up for almost half an hour. Guess I’d also be craving social encounters in his job.
Next up, the Maruyama Zoo, where we were “maa”‘d at by hungry sheep, saw lunch boxes prepped at the petting zoo and subsequently devoured (who knew raccoons wash their food… I thought they liked it dirty from the garbage), and observed a multitude of cute fluffy things from wolves to birds to baby polar bears. I love animals. On the way back to Sapporo Station in the late afternoon, we stopped by Hokkaido Shrine also in the park– it is beautiful.
That night was a delicious sushi dinner (so delicious we returned today for lunch before our flight) and early start Wednesday morning. Off to Rusutsu Resort, some 1.5 hours by bus, for skiing, snowboarding, a creepy in-house European village, snow capped amusement park, wave pool, and arcade zone. Yes, we verified that Americans use guns in the cowboy themed villain-shooting horseback riding video game. The carousel was particularly freaky (see blood snout pig photo for reference) and the music playing Disney-on-drugs moving character band nearby was a show-stopper.
Day one for me was snowboarding and day two skiing. Let’s just say my body is now happily sore. The snow was a bit icy as the day went on but the views were breathtaking. Despite the cloudy grey skies of our second day, my brother and I enjoyed two trips all the way up the highest mountain. Wow. I even survived a bumpy diamond course, my first since I was a child. Double wow and no broken limbs! Yay. The real miracle, however, was skiing at all after eating so much at the breakfast resort. Now back to the hotel: did I mention the indoor wave pool and slide? 😉 Very fun. And a nice sento bath for relaxing post-mountain beating (aka snowboarding). Food at the resort was prohibitively expensive yet our food court dinner was moderate and quite palatable. No complaints here. I only felt bad for my dad who couldn’t ski and was bored the whole time. Yet passing up on the optional arts and crafts?? Crazy man.
Back in Sapporo last night, we enjoyed an izakaya (small dish/tapas style) dinner and slept like babies. This morning we mainly visited my brother again and had an early and scrum-diddly-uptious lunch of sushi, sushi, sushi. Goodbye, Hokkaido! Will I return after this time? Never say never 😉