Saturday, December 31, 2022

Friday, December 23, 2022

Christmas, Hokkaido and A Certain Kind of Woolly Mammoth

Merry Christmas! Long time no see! 

Things have been quiet around here, but I have been busy writing — homework, in Japanese, for my teachers' eyes only. Every couple of weeks I write a short essay on something, anything, just to work on my skills. Writing is probably the best way to improve your grasp of a language, but it does take forever and a half to finish anything, leaving me with little energy to write anything here as well.

Christmas light festival in Sapporo.

Meanwhile I've also become active on Mastodon. It is a distributed social media system that can be used as (but is not limited to be) a sort-of replacement to Twitter. I tried it once before but gave it up. Due to certain shenanigans at Twitter lately there's a lot more people and more activity there now, and I find myself sticking with it.

My address is I mostly follow other people but I also tend to post shorter comments that just don't fit well in a blog like this. Another reason I post here less nowadays I guess.

Toya train station.

In other news, Japan has had another round of "Go To Travel!", a travel promotion system to help the hospitality industry recover (and promote bad English slogans, but I digress). You get a heavy discount on your travel costs, and vouchers to spend on site. 

The promotion is well designed; at check-in the hotel hands you 3000 yen of vouchers per person and night to spend. But you have to use them by the next day so you really have to spend them locally on food and drink, gifts and so on, not take the vouchers home to pay for groceries. It makes sure more of the money is spent in local travel destinations, not just the major cities.

Lake Toya, a crater lake in Hokkaido. To the right is an island in the center of the lake. In the far distance you can see Mt Yotei, another volcano, and already snow-covered even though we had no snow in Toya yet.

The lake village is a strip of resort hotels along the shore, then a few streets worth of houses behind them. Shame about the view, but I guess it pays the bills.

A cozy cafe with good coffee.

We took the opportunity to stay a night in Sapporo, then two nights at Ko No Sumika, a ryokan by Lake Toya in Hokkaido, about as remote and free of people as you can find without ending up camping or something — COVID is still very much a thing on one hand; but we do want our creature comforts on the other.

First place I've stayed at with coffee filters and an actual coffee grinder. Made the morning coffee before breakfast all the more enjoyable. 


We had a traditional dinner the second evening.

It's a cool place (literally - bring warm clothes). There's absolutely nothing there except the crater lake. You have no choice but to relax and take in the scenery. The place has an onsen of course, and each room has its own bath with a view to the lake.

It wasn't cold enough for snow, but the views were still very beautiful, and the whole trip really relaxing. Even the train ride along the coast is an event with lots of views - if you go, do take the train, not a shuttle bus.

A view from the rooftop onsen. Life could be worse.

It's been a very pleasant mini-holiday. Three nights is perfect - long enough to experience a place, but not so long that you get bored, or have to make arrangements for your plants at home or anything like that. We're already planning another one for next year.

Mt. Yotei at sunrise