from the foreign female perspective
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After raiding the hotel restaurant less than half an hour before they closed and taking our sweet time about it, Aaron and I set out to find the 踊りバスセンター (Odori Bus Center) where we were supposed to board a fancy tour bus to our next hotel in 層雲峡, the 層雲閣グランドホテル.
Since we were lugging our luggage (are those words related?), we thought it would be worthwhile to take the subway to the Bus Center after we discovered it was a few blocks away. Normally walking less than a kilometer while towing seemingly weightless suitcases on their little wheels is hardly a chore, but given the massive sheets of ice and potholes of slush covering the sidewalks, it would have been a miserable, if not impossible, task. So we descended into the depths of the subway station and looked for signs pointing towards the 東豊線 (Toho Line). This was the beginning of a remarkable journey.
It started with toting our suitcases along wide, underground hallways lined with numerous large stores and restaurants. This turned into pulling our luggage through narrower passageways past bakeries and 弁当 shops, following an endless path of signs pointing towards the elusive 東豊線 (Toho Line). Bakeries turned into a tiny escalator, which became a cramped ¥100 shop. We were reduced to lifting our suitcases over cardboard boxes and employees who continued to stock shelves as we struggled to find a path through the store, still following the signs. After being directed through the checkout line, we went down yet another one-person wide escalator, where we finally saw the ticket barriers. We had arrived at the entrance to the subway after nearly 20 minutes of searching and following arrows.
It took about 5 minutes and one stop to get to the Odori stop, where we spent another ten minutes carrying our luggage up stairs after abandoning all searches for non-existent escalators or elevators. The Bus Center was easy enough to find once we got out bearings on the surface, and we found the door where we were supposed to wait with only minor mishaps. The ride there provided beautiful highway scenery and mountains, and gave me time to catch up on sleep.
The hotel was gorgeous. The view was amazing. The room was absolutely wonderfully massive after our cramped quarters in Sapporo; the tatami section of the room alone was easily 十二畳 (12 mats, or Super Huge for a Japanese room), which doesn’t take into account the bathroom, shower room, or wooden sitting sections.
The bathroom. My friends, let me tell you - they know how to make a toilet in Japan. For starters, there’s nothing like a heated seat, especially for women who have to brave icy toilet seats far more often than men. It’s even nicer when you come inside after freezing your ass off in three feet of snow, only to plop down on a pleasantly hot piece of plastic to take care of business. I found myself longing for more quality time in the bathroom to enjoy this wondrous feature. Then of course there was the ridiculous multitude of bidets to choose from, an option I was reluctant to try as I don’t trust water spraying in certain areas. But I figured it would be the best time to try, so I did. It was weird and that’s about all I have to say about that.
After taking care of hospitality and getting tickets for our meals from a hotel worker who knocked on our door, Aaron and I chilled in the room watching TV and working on a comic idea we had jokingly conceived on the bus.
When it was time to eat, we took our ticket and went to the main dining hall area. The lady at the entrance directed us off to the side and down a dimly lit, moody wooden hall, where we discovered a beautiful restaurant filled with traditional Japanese tables and booths for couples. Dinner was fabulous, but there was way too much food. I hate not being able to eat everything and feel like I’m wasting perfectly tasty (and paid for) cuisine. Thankfully Aaron was up to the challenge of finishing that which I left untouched. There was wonderful seafood なべ (fish, crab, scallops, and veggies cooked in a pot in the middle of our table), 刺身, mysterious dishes of varying colors, brown rice, soups, tea, and desert included slices of WATERMELON, which I have been missing like crazy, as well as なし, which I hadn’t tried yet.
After resting for a while, Aaron and I decided to give the 温泉 a try once it was past midnight and we could avoid the crowds. I’m getting used to being naked in front of other people, but it’s scary when you’re friends aren’t there to talk to and ease the tension. So I ventured into the women’s bath alone, clad only in my yukata and then nothing, and did my best to ignore the stares. I figured I should be proud that people want to look at my body, whether out of curiosity or admiration or whatever, but it was so hard. I knew a pair of middle-aged women were talking about me, but they had the grace to whisper so I could only catch a few words. It’s worse when the people speak at normal conversational volume, assuming that I can’t understand what they’re saying about me.
I only stayed for maybe 45 minutes and then left. My circulation is so bad and my blood pressure is so low that sitting in hot water for too long makes me faint like an old-fashioned Victorian Lady. It can be funny or embarrassing, depending on the situation.
And that concluded Day Four of kaytay’s Hokkaido Adventure.
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