Master’s dissertation week 5+6: leaving Hokkaido and Tokyo/Nagoya

Friday 22nd: I took the earliest train I took over to Obihiro. The only time I actually used a train for a long trip but I felt it was ok this once. I met up with my couchsurfing host there – a Japanese girl who had lived in Ireland. The weather had cleared up down in Kushiro but it was still very foggy in Obihiro for 2 days. We went to Shikaribetsu lake, which wasn’t too exciting but we found the spot where there are pika (nakiusagi in Japanese). Being there in the afternoon in wet weather meant they weren’t really coming out so we went home.

Saturday 23rd: we went off to try and find more pikas this morning despite the low-lying fog and rain, this time with success – a little wait but they popped out as well as a fox and a squirrel. The afternoon was off.

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Sunday 24th: I hitched my way over to Furano today. It was a late start so it took me about 4 rides to get through 2 hours. Its funny, a lot of Japanese have started using facebook since the film “social network”, so now people that give me a lift want to be my friend after 30 minutes. How to say no politely…? I met my final couchsurfing host there, and had my last visit to an onsen – a great one with a sauna, bubblebath, and several normal baths inside and out.

Monday 25th: The first day in at least two weeks where there was sun! And how! I got a massive sunburn on both shoulders after walking around Biei for 4 hours trying to get my final photograph. I was headed to Tomakomai port that night to get the ferry down to Ibaraki prefecture to go to Tokyo, and I thought I’d maybe have to take public transport as I started late considering the distance I had to go (about 200km). But it was a typical hitch-hiking adventure – one ride to a convenient crossroads, from where I got a ride all the way to Sapporo with 2 Japanese ‘punks’ (well, one really likes Miffy so I use the word punk lightly) from Osaka driving around Japan. It was a lot of fun, and they even treated me to miso ramen, despite on of them getting a speeding ticket of over £100. I took a bus from there to the port, and was able to get on the boat from 22:30 onwards, even though it only left at 01:30. There’s a nice big bath on the boat, so I soaked myself and got into regular clothes for once!

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Tuesday 26th: spent most of the day on the ferry looking for whales/dolphins – I saw something but too briefly. In the evening I took the train to Tokyo and met my friend Kristy. How nice it was to see her!!! But what a shock to be in such a big city again all of a sudden – going from Utoro (pop 1200) to Tokyo (12 million).

Wednesday 27th: I quickly got used to Tokyo again, and actually felt so at ease that it didn’t feel like I’d left, or that it was strange to be there! I spent the day catching up with my old friend Nicole and we had dinner with another friend of ours – Nat.

Thursday 28th: Had lunch with a former colleague and Nicole and I went to see the Tokyo sky tree – the tallest free-standing building in the world at 634m. However, to get to the top you need to reserve in advance (no free spaces until at least August) and it’ll set you back about £20. No thank you! In the evening I met up with another friend and relaxed with Kristy back at her place (the friend i’m staying with).

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Friday 29th: I went to Shin-okubo with a friend, which is known a ‘little korea’. It basically has all these random beauty products and face masks, as well as selling hottoke pancakes. The latest beauty thing is called shi-nake -> a combo of snail slime and snake venom. Iew. Our evening plan was to go to an alice in wonderland-themed restaurant – it looked quite cool, but the only thing that really made it feel alice-y (apart from the waitresses dressed in costumes) was the small cups of liquid that had drink me on it – it turns out it was corn soup. I couldn’t identify it any further than sweetish milky something. A final purikura shot, and then off to meet some other previous volunteers to revisit ishinomaki, an area badly hit by last year’s tsunami. I wanted to see how it was getting on so we drove up the Friday night and came back Saturday afternoon.

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purikura-style photo

Saturday 30th: see Ishinomaki: Revisited

The next few days I took a bus to Nagoya and literally just went from one gp of friends to the next until the afternoon of the 3rd, when I took a bus home and early on the 4th I went to Narita only to make my long way home.
I was, again, very sad to leave Japan. Having lived there for 2 years, speaking the language a little bit and even though it’s fast-paced and strange and crazy, I love it.

Video log:

Hitch-hiking, shibuya, purikura and karaoke

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