Autumn Trip to Hokkaido

In September of 2014 I took a ferry from Niigata City to Tomakomai in Hokkaido. It was a quiet overnight journey. I always enjoy taking the long distance ferries in Japan.

I spent two nights at a ryokan, or Japanese inn, on Lake Shikaribetsu. The autumn weather was very pleasant and the leaves were just starting to change color. Next I traveled to Sapporo, where I visited the Sapporo Beer Museum and other sights in the city. I ate “Genghis Khan” and other Hokkaido specialties such as fresh ice cream and local vegetables.

From New Chitose Airport, I boarded a plane to Rishiri Island, off the northern coast of Hokkaido. It is very close to Russia. I took a bus tour of the island and met some local people. Everyone was very friendly and helpful. From Rishiri I rode a ferry to Rebun Island and walked along the steep seaside cliffs. There were many amazing views and interesting sights.

My next stop was Wakkanai, the northern most point of Japan. I rented a car and drove through central Hokkaido, stopping in Furano to enjoy the flower fields and fresh fruit. Along the way I stopped at a Reindeer farm and stayed overnight in a farmhouse. I also hiked up Mount Tarumae. It was my first time being so close to an active volcano.

Next was Otaru, it is a wonderful small town and I highly recommend you visit if you have the chance. I ate many wonderful seafood dishes, including fresh crab and squid ink ice cream. Finally, I returned to Sapporo where I went to a baseball game at the Sapporo Dome. It was my first baseball game in Japan and a lot of fun. Overall, my trip to Hokkaido was great and I hope to go back soon!

My First Summer in Japan

In 2014, I spent July to September teaching at the International University of Japan in Niigata Prefecture. The university is located in Minamiuonuma, a very small place with many farms and beautiful mountains. The students came from all around Japan, and many other countries in Asia, to study business English and economics. I had a great time that summer and have many good memories.

There are many rice and watermelon farms around the university. I was very surprised how expensive watermelon is in Japan. Luckily, the farmers would sell us the imperfect watermelons at a cheap price. The taste was delicious! The koshihikari rice grew very fast, from a bright green in July to a golden yellow in September. I would often ride a bicycle after class and enjoy the long summer evenings.

I also enjoyed many festivals that summer. There was a local festival with okonomiyaki and fireworks, and a snow festival at the top of one of the nearby mountains. I even visited the famous Fuji Rock Festival, where I saw many music groups and enjoyed the atmosphere. Niigata Prefecture is famous for Japanese rice wine, known as saké to English speakers. I took a tour of the Midorikawa Sake Company and learned how saké is made.

At the end of the summer I was sad to leave such a beautiful place. In Niigata city I boarded a ferry for Hokkaido. I will write about that trip next time!

Golden Week Trip to Wakayama

Hi Everyone!

I want to tell you about the short vacation I took during Golden Week 2022. This was the first time I have been able to do any extensive traveling since the pandemic began, so I was very excited. I first went to Nagoya by Shinkansen. I spent two days visiting friends and eating Miso Katsu and Tebasaki. It was so delicious!

Next, I took the Nanki (南紀) Limited Express train along the east side of the Kii Peninsula (紀伊半島). I love riding trains, and this was a great journey. The cars have large windows and the view was amazing as the train passed through forests and along the coast. My final stop was Kushimoto. I stayed there for two nights, enjoying sightseeing. Luckily, my hotel was across the road from the Hashiguiiwa Rocks (橋杭岩). I got up early to take photos of the beautiful sunrise. I spent that day visiting Cape Shionomisaki (潮岬) and the southern most point of Honshu. The view was stunning and the weather was perfect. I also learned about the interesting history of Kushimoto. In 1890, the Turkish ship ‘Ertuğrul’ was sunk by a typhoon and many sailors died. The people of Kushimoto helped to rescue 69 Turkish sailors, which led to a strong friendship between Japan and Turkey. Today there is a museum and memorial, and a movie was made about the event, “125 Years Memory” (海難1890). There is even a small Turkish cafe and shop, where I enjoyed a delicious lunch.

Returning to Kobe I took the train from Kushimoto to Shin-Osaka. Again the views from the train were amazing. The trains went along the east side of the Kii Peninsula, passing through Shirahama and Wakayama. I arrived home tired from the long journey, but happy and relaxed. Please let me know if you have any questions!

Thanks!
-Stew