Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Day 6 (Tuesday, June 3)

How We Spent Our First Full Day in Hokkaido
For Day 6, we planned an all-day tour through the central part of Hokkaido. The main part of tour was a visit to Asahiyama Zoo. This Zoo is one of the most famous in Japan and is known for its attempts to recreate the animals’ original habitats. This Zoo differs from the Atlanta Zoo in that it has animals from colder climates, possibly due to the latitude. (Atlanta weather, even the humidity, is similar to Osaka, the city we had left on Monday morning.)

When we arrived at the zoo, we headed towards the animals my boys wanted to see first: penguins and polar bears. When we lived in Portland, my boys saw these animals often at the Portland Zoo. They were their favorites, so they jumped at the chance to see them again. We got to the penguins first. The boys watched raptly, as some obviously not so camera shy penguins stood and posed.

We headed to the polar bears next, but the seals were on the way so we stopped by. After that, we went to the polar bears, staying there until I looked at my wife and noted ironically, “Penguins. Seals. Polar bears. We’re going up the food chain. It’s making me hungry.”

From the zoo, we headed to a local viewpoint to gaze at a mountain range. One of the things that differentiates Hokkaido from the rest of Japan is its wide-open spaces, giving it a feel similar to the U.S. Roadsides stands were nearby, offering food and bathroom break. I was taken with the scenery. My boys were taken with the food at the stands and couldn’t care less.

From there, we went to a popular Japanese resort and headed back. We’d been touring nearly 11 hours.

Nighttime found us taking a walk in downtown Sapporo, one of favorite Japanese cities. We ate at a Genghis Khan-style eatery, a popular restaurant style where the patrons prepare barbecued lamb at their table. After that, I made a stop at The Fruitscake Factory, a local dessert chain. (Yes, the place is ripping off the name, but their stuff is delicious. If you click on the link, click on the third strawberry in the column on the right hand side to see the menu.)

With the boys tired, we headed back to our hotel. Andrew went off with Mo’s Mom. Christopher went with us to our room. I helped Christopher get a bath and then he went to sleep. And there, in our first quiet moment of the day, my wife looked at me, kissed me, and said, “Happy 13th Anniversary, Honey.”

The trip to Japan had been our present to each other.

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