so yeah… we’ve had a rough run since making the transfer from sapporo to asahikawa. a 90 minute express train ride brought us into asahikawa station and i’ve been fumbling with an overly chunky carry on suitcase with a spare backpack to boot since i was worried about not having enough warm clothes for the snow-filled portion of our trip. i’ve now shrunk my suitcase and have about 10 pieces of clothing and an empty backpack that i will be donating/disposing/burning before i leave this city. back to the story at hand, we arrived in asahikawa on wednesday afternoon and our hotel was a 5 minute walk from the station. checked into it and it turned out to be a smoking room. we’re tired and cold from walking on the ice covered roads, so no big deal. step out the elevator onto our floor and it was like we walked into a smoke pit. opened our room door and the stench was everywhere. our wallpaper was even peeling with cracks running from the floor to the ceiling, possibly from age or even the air quality. it looked like cancer. i took a shower to clean up and i could have sworn that smoke was coming out of the shower head. yes, i almost stuck the shower head into my nose and the smell was definitely stronger. after some troubleshooting with an air purifier and an open window to sub zero air for two hours, we paid our cancellation fee and moved to the fujita kanko washington hotel next to the station. after spending a few hours dealing with our hotel fiasco we wandered out for some food. santouka ramen originated from asahikawa so that was our plan for dinner until we arrived at 932pm and they had closed at 930pm. smh. went to the grocery store and they were closing at 10pm so there were hardly any fresh items left. put together an impromptu picnic in our hotel room and called it a night.
fast forward to next morning. decided to spend the next two days together and explore the city. found out they had a snow festival that was ending today… score! walked the streets and noticed that 50% of the people were mainland chinese… damn! snow festival + chinese new years gave the city a very beijing/shanghai feel.
decided to go to the asahiyama zoo the next day as it was one of the top attractions in this city. wasn’t sure how i felt about seeing caged animals but sure, why not… bought our tickets at the information center and turned around to get onto the shuttle bus and the lineup was 50 people deep with the bus currently being loaded up. they brought over a second bus for the overflow and we still packed that one to capacity. standing, bumpy ride for the 40 minute ride to the zoo. arrived and it was like we got dropped off at the great wall of china… hordes of people everywhere. bust through the crowds to go grab some food as we had not eaten breakfast. get to the cafe and another lineup out the door for the tickets as well as the food counter. we split and conquer and due to people unable to decide on what they wanted to eat at the ticket machine, i start waving people past me in the food lineup. one by one, people walk by me and nod as they acknowledge me giving up my spot in line to them until i’m ready to jump in. mainland chinese bitch walks right through me, no nod, no thank you, no eye contact even. fuck you, bitch. we spend the day cringing as we walk from cage to cage, bearing witness to these beautiful animals being held against their will and walking and playing amongst their own filth (though to be perfectly fair, the snow monkeys looked like they were enjoying it). saw penguins up close and personal, beautiful colours. saw two polar bears in their small living quarters, very sad. saw red pandas but they look like racoons but infinitely cuter. i want one. i must have one.
left the park on a very low note after waiting 20 minutes to watch a pack of penguins walk a catwalk (ie: zoolander as they cannot turn left) and right before they popped out, a taiwanese mother allowed her son to push his way between haha and myself so he could snap 100 horrible shots of penguin heads. cold chinese people also do not realize that we use doors to keep the cold out of warm areas. bussed it home and was standing in the bus next to a shanghainese family that had their son fall asleep standing up. thank you to these people; they give me hope that we are not all savages. drowned our sorrows at the taisetsu brewery until it was time for dinner. could not find our dinner destination but ended up at a delicious yakiniku restaurant where we almost got it right except for the order of pork uterus which haha took for the team.
day three. the weather forecast was looking very bleak for the weekend with some rain on the way today (and we walked outdoors to +5 degree weather; compare that to -5 when we got here) so we stayed close to home. our post-lunch excursion was a taxi ride to the local snowboard shop outside of the city core. arrived to find out they’ve sold out of sole sleeves (lightweight board cover) which are mandatory for traveling on subways with your snowboard, so we hunt down a cab to take us to the sports ‘super’ store. found a taxi in a parking lot who agrees to take us there, drives us to the ramen village then proceeds to tell us his life story in addition to mentioning that he doesn’t know where this store is while hiking our rate up to a flat fee of 1,100yen. after 5 minutes we leave and ask for directions. our store is just down the street but not very close to walk to. we walk to it. buy my board sleeve and miraculously find the first bus that comes along that takes us back home. score! today was somewhat self inflicted so i’ll chalk this up to paying my dues.
all in all, adventures are fun when you have someone fun to share the experience with. having been dependent on my car back home for all my activities, i need to be better equipped and mentally prepared for dealing with the extra logistical steps. i’ve spent the greater portion of this saturday night planning out the itinerary for the rest of our japan trip. really looking forward to getting back into our groove. the food here has been keeping both of us sane, very thankful that we’ve gotten some good grub into our growing bellies.