Back to my Hokkaido road trip diary, now that one of my friends was able to help save my photo files off my old, and dying computer! Last time the adventure left off with me just leaving Shiretoko, and the beautiful Kaminoko Pond…
It appears that in leaving Shiretoko I forgot to pack my luck. I kid you not, after I drove away it was just one terrible thing after the next, domino style. I had promised to meet my friend from Fukui (who was visiting Sapporo with his parents) for dinner that night, but instead of a little luck of the Irish rubbing off on me, it appears I suffered the worst string of bad luck imaginable. I’m not looking for a pity party, but seriously, it was terrible! So terrible I know it’ll be therapeutic to write down and hopefully let go of the negativity forever!
My Series of Unfortunate Events:
- Typhoon like weather hit and I had to drive the 381km winding roads (which would not have been fun to begin with) in non-stop torrential downpour terrified out of my mind. This should have taken 6 hours, due to terrible weather, it took 8.5 hours.
- Had an absolute BLAST with my friend and his parents at dinner. Genghis khan BBQ is fabulous and it’s a must do if you’re in Sapporo! Unexpectedly, I then went out drinking with him and his parents (must be an Irish thing, but loved it!) where I guess I drank a little too much and proceeded to loose my iPhone getting out of my cab home.
- Spent the entire morning calling police stations and lost&found offices. Unfortunately nothing was open because it was a Sunday. Just my luck, eh? Seeing as I had no reservation to stay further in Sapporo, I was forced to leave…because, of course just my luck yet again, my hostel, and every other hostel was fully booked.
- Admitting defeat, I printed off driving directions and road maps because I was now about to commence the last 2 days of my road trip with no GPS. Checked out of my hostel and upon arriving at my car saw that someone had dented the passenger side door, which would later cost me 20,000yen (approximately $200) in damage fees to the rental company. UGH!
- Drove the entire way to Otaru and Niseko with no bloody idea where I was going and “winging it” in the truest sense of adventure. However, instead of the adventure and “liberated-at-long-last-from-the-ball-and-chain-that-is-technology” experience I was expecting, I instead proceeded to have numerous minor heart attacks on the Japanese highways with all of the road directions being written in kanji (which I am only so-so at reading).
- Oh, and the cherry on top I broke my kindle (e-reader book) screen, rendering it completely useless, not long after.
Even 2 months after this nightmare has ended, it’s still painful to recall. I can vividly remember parking my car in Otaru, after many harrowing driving experiences (for the record it’s only 40 minutes from Sapporo, a mere 40 minutes!), putting my head against the steering wheel and wanting to cry. I had made it, but I was barely holding it together. It’s at times like this that traveling alone is really the pits, you have no one to cheer you up and try to make you laugh. You are forced to delve into the depths of your own wandering-weary soul all by yourself and find that gem of hope and optimism in light of a terrible situation.
I took several deep breaths, told myself to just breathe, just breathe. I played my favourite Michael Buble song to rally my spirits and slowly began to calm down. I was in Otaru, and I was going to enjoy myself. I was in Otaru, and I was going to enjoy myself. I was in Otaru, and I was going to enjoy myself…It became my mantra, and after several minutes I took one last deep breath packed everything into my purse and stepped out of the car ready to spend my now limited time in Otaru (only a few hours at most) having fun. Only of my friends used to have a quote for times like these.
So true. I may not have been able to drink (I had to drive later) but I could brush my hair, apply a fresh coat of lipstick, smile at myself in a mirror, stand up a little straighter and go have an amazing adventure. That’s exactly what I did. So glad I did too, Otaru was simply delightful.
Otaru is a small little city very near Sapporo that is often called ”The Venice of Hokkaido” for its beautifully preserved canal area and the multitude of blown glass. Blown glass art is a specialty of this city so be sure to save time to go shopping! Nothing like a little retail therapy to turn a frown upside down!
My first course of action was to walk along the canal, breathing in the salty air and hunt down the famous steam clock. There is a steam clock outside the music box museum which was a gift from Vancouver (where I’m from) so I was determined to find it! It didn’t take me long and I arrived just in time to hear the main steam whistle which occurs on the hour every hour (it plays a little chime too, every 15 minutes). After that I strolled along happily shopping what felt like every glass store I saw.
When I was young and wild, or at least wilder than I am now, I dreamt of running off to Venice to learn how to blow glass. It has always been something that fascinates me. When I was really little, my favourite part of visiting Granville Island in Vancouver was dragging my parents to watch the glass blowers at work. It was nothing short of magical the way the artists blew the glass as effortless as if they were blowing up a balloon. About 3 years ago, after finishing university and before I moved to Japan, I actually took a night class at my local art college in Calgary. It was a dream come true and much more difficult than I ever imagined. Since then my appreciation of blown glass has increased even more. Therefore Otaru was like glass blowing heaven for me, I could have watched the artists at work for hours and shopped all day long. I think I spent more money shopping this day, than any other day the whole 2 weeks I was in Hokkaido.
Finally, if you’re looking for a nice little place to grab lunch, seek out PRESS CAFE. It’s right along the canal, and it’s a pleasant walk to get there. I know that sushi is a specialty of Otaru, but I was seeking somewhere quiet so I bypassed the expensive and busy sushi restaurants. The sushi in Fukui is plenty delicious enough that I don’t feel the need to seek it out when I travel. If you stroll along the canal away from the busy area you’ll probably be able to smell this restaurant before you see it. Wait for the tantalizing scent of curry being carried on the breeze. I followed my nose and I wasn’t disappointed. They serve delicious curries and have a unique drink menu. I ordered the blood orange juice and my taste buds were singing hallelujah after the first refreshing sip.
I loved the tall ceilings and general sense of spaciousness. I really savoured my meal here, relaxing in the tranquil atmosphere and gazing out at the Venetian canal before heading out. I guess the lesson that can be learned from this terrible, terrible day is that mindset when traveling is everything. Once I was able to tuck my bad mood under the rug and turn over a new leaf I was able to experience all the beauty of Otaru and salvage my day. Out of curiosity, any travellers out there, do you have any advice for a new solo-traveller for what to do when things just go unbelievably wrong? How do you deal with bad luck when traveling?