Friday, April 2, 2010

Day 11 - Mt Hakodate / Hotel (Hakodate)

10th February, 2003 - After arriving at our hotel (Yunokawa Prince Hotel) from an afternoon tour of Goryokaku, we prepared ourselves for a quick spot of onsen time - always a good idea after a tough day. The onsen here are pretty good - but more of the modern type. There's lots of variety, but it lacks a lot of the traditional beauty that often is the attraction of smaller onsen. As with any large hotel in Japan - there was plenty of touristy shops to buy knick-knacks. Food is one of the favourite Japanese gift items - based on local specialty foods.

The room we had included a room-served dinner which was really quite nice. Having said that, we had snuck some beer in from the local convenience store to have for dinner... and in between the waitress bringing in our dinner - I accidentally knocked over the beer. That's most likely from tiredness rather than drunkeness. Or as T-chan would say, I'm just very clumsy.

Hakodate-yama View

After dinner we took the tour to the top of Hakodate-yama - purportedly one of the three best night views in the world. There are tour buses that pick guests up from the various hotels, and the price includes the cost of the ropeway. Though where this is decided - who knows. The Japanese like to categorise things. Was it such a good view? Well, it is a nice view no doubt - but in the middle of winter, I have to say you need to be prepared for the cold, cold weather. Ha-koDATE! You get to the top via a ropeway car, that takes you the 334 m to the summit where you can brave the cold night air to get the best views.

On retiring from Hakodate-yama, we returned to the hotel (as there's not much else to do in Hakodate), and enjoyed the small private onsen in the room... a strange thought given that we were perhaps 15 floors up! It might not look much, but it's heavenly to just sit back there in the comfort of your own room with the windows open to let the cold brisk air into to cool off your head, whilst your body soaks up the onsen-goodness. Hmmm onsen smell. I have to say that night was a late one, and a bit exhausting!.... Be warned - onsen can be a little dangerous if you over-do it. T2-chan (T-chan's best friend) has fainted at onsen through over doing it!

Speaking of onsen - here's a quick lesson if you're new to Onsen. Onsen are not a bath in the Western-sense, in that they are not for cleaning (i.e. with soap)... but are really about absorbing the salts and removing "toxins" from your body. As such, you should always clean your body before entering into the onsen baths themselves. They will have a wet area near the onsen bath where you wash yourself... normally seated... Make sure you get all the suds off! Very embarrassing! Of course, there are some older people that have long since given up on the niceties - and will forego this and just plunge in. Still considered rude.

Like many good nights of drinking and shinanigans, the morning after can be somewhat of a let-down. It's the view from the hotel room that reveals that Hakodate maintains a strange truce between development as a tourist attraction, and a more rustic rural city. It may have one of the three best night-views in the world, but the down and dirty reality is somewhat less attractive. Don't get me wrong... the panorama may not be great (ok we skimped by getting a city-view rather than a sea-view) but the stay was very nice.
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