Monday, March 24, 2008

Pod People

Before coming to Japan there were only a handful of things that I knew about Japan. They ate raw fish, they made really good tech stuff, the people were small, and there were pod hotels. While I adjusted to life here in the past 8 months I have come to learn much more about this culture. However, one thing I still get excited about is the pod. I've slept in a pod and its not that bad. The novelty is a great kicker, but its just darn efficient. You have a row of pods, maybe 10 long by 2 high, in which about 20 people can fit into the space that maybe 4 or 5 people would fit in a normal hotel. Genius I tell you! I had my friend Katie do a short descriptive overview of the pod and how it works. If you want to see that please visit Oh, and by the way, they aren't called pods, they are capsules.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Hokkaido Yuki Matsuri (Snow Festival)

This past weekend my friends Alison, Brian, Cindy and I drove to Hokkaido for the Sapporo snow festival and I spent two out of the three nights propped up in the front seat of a car, or face down on the floor of the ferry. Not the best sleep I've ever had, but I really enjoyed the trip and the festival.
If you don’t know, Hokkaido is the northern most and least densely populated of Japan’s Islands. It has a harsh winter climate, something I think is comparable to a Wisconsin winter. Hokkaido is also famous for its cheese and beef, kind of like Wisconsin. It felt a little bit like home getting to freeze my butt off and eat good cheese for a couple of days.

Driving to Hokkaido was surprisingly easy, too. A little more expensive than driving in the states, but it was cheaper than taking the train or flying. We took the expressway north to Aomori Prefecture where we caught a ferry in Hachinohei; a very industrial town littered with cranes. The ferry ride lasted about 7 hours and put us in Tomakomai, which was littered with oil depots. From there we had to get to Tomamu, a few hours east of Sapporo where we were to meet Brian and Kiyoe who had flown up to Hokkaido a day earlier, only we found ourselves driving around for hours desperately searching for a gas station in a town not far from Tomamu instead. Apparently gas stations are either non-existent or closed after 8:00pm in Hokkaido because we ended up purchasing 20 liters of gas as well as a JAF membership card (the Japanese equivalent to AAA) from a JAF station. We made it to Tomamu around 11:00pm, too late to visit the ice village and ice hotel where Brian and Kiyoe were staying, but our hotel was quite nice. The next day we crammed Brian and Kiyoe in Alison's car and drove to Sapporo to see the snow festival. It was quite impressive. I especially liked Inuyama Castle. That night we met up with some of my friends who lived in Hokkaido and we all sang karaoke together. We had to leave Sapporo around midnight and head back down to Tomakomai in time to catch the ferry home at 5:00am. Once back at the car, however, we discovered it had been chained to a fence. We had accidentally parked in the lot of a pornography store and they demanded we pay 8000 yen (about $75) for the eight hours we had been parked there. Our own fault I suppose, but what a rip off. We made it to the ferry on time and fell asleep for the duration of the trip. Once back on Honshu Alison and I took turns at the wheel and we got home to Aizu around 9:30pm. Overall, I think it was a very successful road trip. To see Brian’s awesome video of the trip please visit this page.
Brian usually does a good job with his videos and if famous among all the JETs here for his tagline, “Where are we know?” My tagline in all the videos I am in is Brian saying, “AND Kevin was there!” and I say, “And I was there” There are now five videos of his in which I appear with my famous line; Sendai Jazz Festival, Sukagawa Fire Festival, Tokyo Disney, Hokkaido Snow Festival and Thailand.