I’m on the blogging downhill slide again now where I’ve started to procrastinate more and more. So I’m forcing this one out like a fibre free porcelain python… so to speak. I’ve tossed up reducing my photo count per post by 50% but the thing is if I do that, then what the hell do I do with the photos? The whole point of me putting it up here is so I can actually look at them otherwise they’ll be relegated to the forgotten realms of archival storage in the deep dark recesses in the corner of some hard disk somewhere. So no choice… will have to bear with the effort of pushing it out like a…. oh never mind.
So anyway, I’m finally done with Tokyo. With the heart of Japan out of the way, it’s time to travel north to Hokkaido. Now I couldn’t wait to get to Hokkaido because the areas we were going to had one thing that Tokyo didn’t have…. snow! I love snow because snow is awesome. Except yellow snow… that stuff ain’t too awesome. Given that I’ve never had the privilege of living boring daily life with snow blocking my driveway, screwing up public transport, or shrinking my wiener at inopportune times, I think there’s no situation that couldn’t be made better by snowfall.
And Hokkaido had a shit load of it. Wunderbar! From the moment we went feet dry over the Tsugaru Strait to departing again from Sapporo days later, it was snow snow and more snow. Our first port of call is Norboribetsu. After the bustling city of Tokyo, I was looking forward to staying in a small town somewhere and just soaking up the peaceful and relaxing ambience of snowy small town life. Well, it’s not even really a town. It’s just like a little cluster of buildings more accurately. You know how in movies you always have those tiny little towns in the middle of nowhere that gets assraped by vampires or some mysterious plague? Well it’s kinda like that.
Norboribetsu, as far as I know given that I have done zero research, only has 3 things worth doing. The bear park, the ninja park, and the sulfur mines/springs area. We opted to visit the former two because we only had time for two given that were were staying here only one night. And Hell Valley would probably be quite similar to the sulfur spring place in New Zealand, I can’t remember what it’s called now. The one that smells like rotten eggs, has mud pits, and looks what what I imagine it would be like inside Satan’s ass.
The plan was to just spend the first day relaxing and wander around town, if you could call it that, for an hour or so. Given that we were staying at a pretty nice place called Noguchi, with it’s own hot spring in room and also outdoors, we wanted to spend our time enjoying enjoying the facilities. This is probably the nicest place we would stay in all trip and so wanted to milk it for all it was worth.
Now the Noguchi would be my first encounter into what I would soon discover to be a very common, disturbing, and annoying Japanese cultural thing. And that would be tiny fucking pillows. Yes, the Japanese do everything smaller apparently. Tiny people, tiny houses, tiny food servings, tiny chairs, tiny naughty bits and tiny fricken’ pillows. This is arguably the thing that annoyed me the most about the whole trip. I’m a bed person, I love my bed. I can stay in it all day because I’m both a lazy bastard and also an aficionado of all things comfy. And a pillow is a big part of that. But Japanese use these tiny little pillows that just don’t hit the comfy spot. What is up with that?
Anyway, the room was pretty sweet what with it being quite large and having it’s own hot spring tub. The hot spring tub is pretty damn hot. We had to drawn some of the water out and mix it with cold water so I wouldn’t have 2 hard boiled testicles after my first 10 seconds of immersion. After that, it was nice. Sure the smell of sulfur takes some getting used to, but I naturally have a high tolerance for weird smells and Erica now does too after being married to me and sharing my bed for 2 years. Dutch ovens ftw.
Fancy hot spring water is meant to contain all sorts of natural minerals and stuff which is supposedly good for your body, and for those of you whom are wondering if it felt any different… no it doesn’t, unless you’re high on sulfur fumes and think that your skin is melting or changing colour. The best thing about having your own in room hot spring? The fact that don’t have to see another man’s wang, or for that matter show mine either. But I’ll get more into that later when I succumbed to the temptations of the pretty outdoor public tub.
And so we frolicked about in the snow for a bit as lovers too and then all went to explore the township. As you can guess, there’s not all that much going on here, but that was part of it’s charm. I absolutely loved walking the length of it’s single main strip, in the snow, amongst the Noboribetsu lights in it’s wintery night. It’s just so romantic. The whole ambience of it was almost palpable. I wish I could have captured how I felt, bottled it up, and put it on my shelf. It had that romantic small town rustic charm. It probably wouldn’t have been the same in the summer. Again, I love snow.
There wasn’t all that much here except souvenir shops and a small number of eating establishments. Like I said it’s a very sleepy place. We just wondered around and bought some random snacks and explored some random shops. One interesting thing I noticed is that a few of the hops had strange little snowmen out the front of the place. Don’t know if that has any special cultural significance, or they just like snowmen with abstract faces. I think we spent just over an hour pottering around before the hotel driver picked us back up at the appointed time.
When we arrived back at the hotel, we decided to go for what they called a Bedrock Spa I believe. We had no idea what it was, turns out it was just a slack of heated rock in a heated room on which you lie on. Just think of it as like a sauna but you’re laying on your back. You have an hourglass which use you to keep track of the time. I’m not a huge fan of sauna’s in general, ergo, I wasn’t a huge fan of this. We stayed for about 10mins before getting kinda bored… and hot… and the just messed around in the room. Well I messed around anyway, climbing out the window and trampling around in the snow. Not very pleasant when you’re wearing slippers and walking in snow up to your calves. Also not very pleasant when I trudged snow back in and all over the floor of the room 😛
After this, we were famished and time for dinner it was. We didn’t have dinner in town because the accommodation already included dinner with the nights stay.
Dinner was a fancy degustation affair. The degustation menu was in Japanese and so I have NFI what everything specifically was. On the plus side, the waitress serving us spoke perfect English and so, at the time, we knew what everything was. They also had this cool eye dropper thing for soy sauce delivery, never seen that before. Pretty cool. Dinner was very enjoyable and quite different from all the traditional style Japanese food that we’ve had prior to this. Cept’ for the sashimi of course.
It looks quite little but like most degustation, it proved to be a lot more filling than it actually looked.
And after dinner we checked out the outdoor hot spring. Initially I didn’t plan to go, but after checking it out I changed my mind. It just looked like it would be a fantastic experience. Out there, amongst the snow with more still falling on you, completely immersed in the divine warmth that is granting you immunity from the snowy winter chill. And it looked to be pretty empty and so the chance of eyeballing random Japanese penis was at a minimum, so much so that I felt confident enough to take my camera in there.
Now I will admit, I have a slight phobia when it comes to public nudity. It just makes me squirm and I don’t know why? Repressed homosexual tendencies or because I have a tiny asian wang you say? Well FFFFFUUUUUU!!!!! Just kidding. Don’t know why, but I’m just not used to it. We never had any communal showers in school so it blame it on that. And the fact that the skin flute is the most hideous thing on Earth. The last time I had to tolerate high levels of male nudity was during my ice hockey days… *shudder*. Damn you shameless Canadians! Don’t just stand there trying to converse with me naked when I’m sitting down with my face just a foot away from your naked tool!
Thankfully, there were only a few people that came and left as I was in the tub. Which leads me to add that there’s an etiquette that has to be followed when you’re going to a hot spring. Firstly you have to take a shower before you enter, then you have to be naked when you do. The confusing thing for me was that there were these towels of various sizes for you to use before you enter, and I had no idea what to do with them. I only realised after that the small towels were for covering your modesty, of manly bits if you will! I thought they were there for sponging water on your face! *facepalm*
So whilst everyone was walking in and out with these little squares of cloth covering their privates, I was the only noob that did so with this big massive bath towel wrapped around my waist. Oh well, live and learn. Another thing is that the springs are not mixed genders, and so the males and females are separated. That sucks because you can’t get to enjoy the wonderful experience with your significant other. Understandable I guess as it keeps the water cleaner that way… 😛
Anyway, I’ll get to bear and ninja park in the next post.