After a long night of switching park benches and walking aimlessly around the city of Aomori, I finally found a wooden bench behind some building that was well sheltered from the wind and just good enough to sleep on. The funny ironic punchline to this long adventure is that when I woke up, I found that the building I had been sleeping behind was actually a police station! I’m not sure what the loitering/vagrancy/homeless laws of Japan are, but I hear that many business men who miss their last train home often will sleep on park benches and it is a somewhat accepted practice. I also think that if a police officer had come out and lectured me, he might not of known enough English to tell me what I was doing was wrong. And even if he had, I think the Japanese are too polite to incarcerate ignorant foreigners.
Anyhow. Got up early and went to the station. I slept again in the waiting room for a little bit before heading to the visitor center. Of course they weren’t of any help so I tried to figure things out on my own. The guy at the ticket office offered me a price to get up to Hakodate, but when he saw I was very discouraged at the price he then did something, and the price lowered! Apparently he wasn’t giving me the cheapest price because he thought I didn’t want to take the local trains, which are a lot cheaper.
I finally got onto the local train and was on my journey again. Luckily I had warned Sean, my soon to be host, that I did not know the exact day I would arrive. On the local train the scenery was beautiful and totally worth the slower relaxed experience.
I went through one of the world’s longest underwater tunnels – correction, the Seikan Tunnel is the longest and deepest operational rail tunnel in the world AND the longest undersea tunnel. All in all, it was completely black and not interesting at all. But afterwards the local scenery was amazing. Hokkaido is known for it’s natural beauty. I finally got to the next main city, Hakodate. At the station I bought a Hokkaido rail pass, which gave me I believe 3 rail uses over a period of time. I studied the time schedules and map and decided to use the first leg of the pass to get to Sapporo.
In Sapporo I was able to find a hostel, I think I found it through the visitor center, or maybe using wifi. I walked there and the people were very nice. I put my stuff down and took a shower, then lounged around the hostel for just a little bit. I was hungry so I went out to Sapporo’s famous Ramen Alley. This is about 2 or 3 alleyways with ramen shops lined up on either side. I found a place that was rather normal looking, assuming the more normal a place looked the better chance it would taste good.
The owner was very curious about myself and I told him all about my travels and where I was from. We related over some movies set in San Francisco, like Dirty Harry and Bullit. I told him my birthday was coming up and he bought me a beer! As I said, foreigners get free things all the time in Japan. After a good meal I headed back to the hostel. I talked to people around the table in the evening, specifically chatted with a guy who had missing teeth but he was very cool. And finally to sleep after a long journey.