The oddball: Okhotsk Tower. (Errata: Monbetsu, home of Hospitality)

Posted By: Creator of Zsup

The Okhotsk tower and museum.

The one thing that I really really wanted to visit in Japan.

So when I reached Hokkaido, it became part of the itinerary to visit the place.

Initial research pointed me to Abashiri, where there is a Ryuhyo (Drift Ice) Museum, The Okhotsk Drift Ice Museum. This was a link given by Japan-guide website. Which then became the second point of the journey in Hokkaido.

However, upon further research, I found another sea ice museum. The GIZA Okhotsk Sea Ice Museum of Hokkaido. Which was situated in Monbetsu, some far-ass place up North in Hokkaido. This was the place that the JNTO website pointed out as an attraction. It gave the address, and directions to the place, but no website.

Using the above information, I tried to cross-reference the two museums, to see which one the JNTO website was referring to. I then realised that there were 2 SEPARATE MUSEUMS BOTH SITUATED MILES AWAY FROM EACH OTHER!? In addition to that, I also realised that the JNTO website was EXTREMELY misleading. You see, although the JNTO website listed the Monbetsu museum, it gave the picture of the Abashiri Museum, which resulted in my inability to reconcile the two!!!

I then researched the location of the OKHOTSK TOWER, which was apparently in Monbetsu, which then concluded where I would be headed.

Anyway, with my newfound knowledge that the Monbetsu Sea Ice museum was the one that I wanted to head for, I tried looking up more information on opening hours, directions and admission prices. Turns out there is ZILCH, when it comes to finding out stuff about the Okhotsk tower in Monbetsu. All information is either is Japanese or lacking in figures. All I managed to find out was, the admission to the museum is 750 yen, it closes on Monday, and opens from 9am to 5pm, buses to Monbetsu go from JR Engaru, takes an hour, BUT NOTHING ABOUT THE TOWER!!!!

So after this fiasco, which took up the last few hours of my already belated bedtime, I decided to just head out into the wilds with whatever little information I have. Which is actually very little. ZZZ.

After a mad rush to catch the first train at 0917 from Nishi-Kitami to Engaru, we took the bus to Monbetsu. Which took about 1 hour to the stop that I wanted to get off at. It seemed like the correct stop on paper, but when I arrived, this was what I saw...

 Yes, desolation...

Hence started our long walk to what was to be our first destination, the Okhotsk Tower. We were rather clueless about where it was and how to get there, so when we finally found some building that had the words 'Tourist' in Kanji, we went straight in to check it out. Turns out it was the boarding terminal for the Garinko II Ice Breaker (Not what we wanted to take but at least it was a close idea to the stuff we were looking for). Suddenly, we were approached from behind by a person, who asked us if we wanted an English or Chinese brochure, which signalled the beginning of our EXCELLENT experience at Monbetsu. We were actually still very clueless, and just said Okhotsk Tower? Whereupon he directed us to a very nice van just outside the building, and DROVE US straight up to the lobby of the Okhotsk Tower!

 Really cool van, that drove us to Okhotsk Tower!

We headed up to the Okhotsk Tower and checked out the place. The view from the 3rd floor of the tower was not very astonishing, which I attributed to the lack of drift ice (understandable due to the time that I was visiting the place). The exhibits were of little interest to me, but reading some of the stuff made me think that ice research is rather cool (forgive the pun). The true beauty of the tower lies at the basement. The 10m deep section of the tower, for viewing what is in the Sea of Okhotsk. Within it, there were touch pools, fish specimens, and once again, the view of the sea was rather lacking but it is once again attributed to the lack of drift ice.
 The Tower!!!
 That would be the sea beneath me.
This would be what we had to walk if we didn't meet the nice guy!
Underwater place!!

We headed up and prepared to leave the tower, when the counter staff told us that the same car would come to pick us up. We were delighted by that, and when the same person came to drive us down, he said that he would drive us to the Tokkari Centre (out next destination) and then afterward tell us how to get to the bus stop of mystery. When we mentioned that we also wanted to visit the Sea Ice Museum, he immediately suggested that he drive us there so that we can check out the place! [I was blown away by the hospitality and courtesy shown to us]

At the Tokkari Centre, we had a really cool experience up close and personal with sealions. They did funny tricks like rolling over, slapping their bellies to say goodbye and taking photos with us!
 The sealions!

We returned to the Garinko II terminal to find that it was mostly closed inside, with the lights off and stalls closed. However, the same person mysteriously appeared again, and once again we were off, this time to the Sea Ice Museum of Okhotsk! Let me introduce him now.
 One of the Best Service Staff I have ever encountered!!

His name is Yoshiyuki Kosaki, and he was the first person who approached us lost souls at the Garinko II terminal. I APPLAUD his EXCELLENT SERVICE and INITIATIVE shown to us, for without his timely aid we would probably be lost and wandering around, totally failing to see the attractions that we came so far for. Thank you very much, Kosaki-san, for going the extra mile and driving us around, even all the way to the bus stop, before going to the Museum, so that we would know where it is. I am extremely moved by the extent of service, and personal touch you provided us with.

We hurried into the GIZA Sea Ice Museum and were greeted by several staff, who tried their best to explain how to buy tickets and showtimes even though we had a communication barrier. When we finally bought the tickets, they ushered us in to the highlight of the place. The Low-Temperature Simulation Room, where temperatures were set at -20 degrees Celcius. 
 Yup -20.2 degree C.
Frozen Fishies!
Freaking HUGE SUNFISH!!! The box was about 2m X 2m X 2m.

It seemed we had what we considered a personal guide through the entire museum, whom I will introduce at the end of this post. He showed us and explained to us in English the stuff in the Simulation room, from frozen bubbles to frozen blocks of ice with fish and plants in them! It was really really amazing especially when we saw one of the staff chipping away at a HUGE Sunfish that was frozen! 

After viewing the exhibits, our guided tour came to an end and the staff member who took us around asked us where we were going next, whereupon we mentioned that we were heading back to Engaru from the nearest bus stop. We then looked around the place a bit, and before we knew it, he came and told us that he would be driving us to the bus stop! Quite a shock to us actually, because we actually still had quite a lot of time to spare and could walk up to the stop. It wasn't until I checked my paper, that I realised he was trying to get us on the next bus which was coming in about 10 mins! I also realised when I went out to board the vehicle that it was his own car that he was driving us in and not the van!!  He then drove us up to the bus stop, and told us when the bus was coming.
 The aforementioned Personal Car!
Guide for Sea Ice Museum, and going the extra mile to drive us out!

This is Kuwahara Takashi. Our guide to the Sea Ice Museum. Once again, I am awed by the service provided to us. He rushed out to get his OWN CAR to drive us to the bus stop!! This is not something I would expect of staff at an attraction, and he has really shown me what Initiative and Service Excellence truly is. I am VERY VERY GRATEFUL to you, Takashi-san for going the extra mile to make sure we could catch the bus to return to Engaru.

There was also one more person that I could not feature here, because I couldn't get a name or picture in time. He is a staff from JR Engaru, who assisted us with our bags as we couldn't fit them into the lockers at the station. This was the first thing that amazed me as I couldn't believe that service staff could go so far to ensure the service provided to the customer is tip-top.

Our first view of Monbetsu was bleak, and our journey there was made worse due to me stopping two stops earlier. However, with the effort and service and hospitality showered upon us at the attractions, our day made a 180 degree turnabout. To Takashi-san and Kosaki-san, all the staff at GIZA Sea Ice Museum, the JR staff member from JR Engaru, ありがとうございます!!!! All of you made Okhotsk Monbetsu so much more beautiful. 

I strongly recommend that anyone who goes to Hokkaido, make Okhotsk Monbetsu a trip on your itinerary. It is TRULY an uplifting experience!

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The Beer Factory

Posted By: Kimberly

We got into Kitami late the night before, and wandered around like lost sheep for a bit (because we WERE lost) before we pulled into our pasture for the night. Awaking this morning, we realised heyho, it's MONDAY and thusly postponed our Okhotsk outing for a day.
For those of you who are not with it on the Japanese schedule, Monday is the fashionable rest day for most things of touristy interest. Which means any attempt to make a trip to the very obscure museum (more on that later) might potentially end up a wasted one. As it was, we decided to toddle around Kitami to see what we could see.

Lo and behold, the Tourist Information Counter (TIC) at JR Kitami confirmed our suspicions. "Well, it's Monday... so... everything is closed." Yay. However, after having had our spirits tested by Toyama and Takaoka, we figured this town couldn't possibly be as bad. After all, it had a functional TIC, and with one sweet lady who spoke wonderful English no less! So we fudged around about where to go and what to do, when suddenly she mentioned that we ought to try the local speciality if we had the time. YES WE DID and we are very glad for it!

Following her precise instructions, we arrived at the recommended restaurant:
The decor was simple, but quite lovely - of course this opinion comes from someone who has been eating primarily streetfood and convenience store stuff here, but still. It has a number of seating areas, able to suit anyone's whims, from glass-fronted sunny patio type seats to raised stage-area seats, second floor seats and regular restaurant seating. They led us to a strategically positioned table on the raised stage-area, where we got a nice view of the entire restaurant floor as well as the beer brewing window. Plus, it was positioned in such a way that we were able to plonk servings from the freeflow table to ours. (YAY!)
We ordered separate items after deciding to skip dinner (the price of a lunch like this, alas). ZsupCreator got dibs on the local speciality, shio yakisoba (salt fried noodles), while I picked a beef stew with rice (Hokkaido beef, Japanese style).

Our spirits lifted when we were told we could make free with a little table of goodies - hot onion consommé, onion-laden salad, onion pasta salad and fruit cocktail (no onion). Also free flow of tea and coffee. Wondering about my emphasis on onions? Well, you guessed it... the local star produce is ONIONS. And peppermint, actually.

Those who know me would know I usually shun this vegetable. However, Japan is turning out to be a wonderful place for plant-chomping me. The raw onions tossed into the salad was more sweet than pungent, with hardly any of that nippy taste that usually makes me avoid it. I had several helpings of everything on that table... would blame it on my Singaporean background, but really, it was THAT good. None of the usual cheapozoidal squishy cocktail either. The stuff was firm in texture and just right in sweetness, Del Monte, I believe?

The dishes we ordered arrived in due time, and I have to say I rather like the fried noodles. Served on a hotplate ringed with metal to look like a regular dish, it came with caramelised fried onion and lemon juice for toppings. This was very easy to polish off between the two of us and well worth the 880yen price tag.

When I first saw my beef stew though, my heart sank a bit. Stew, to me, means a healthy helping of soupish portions. The splatter on a plate hardly sufficed. And it was a flat plate, at that, rather than a deep dish... However, the first taste just blew my doubts out of the water. We could hardly believe that the meat in the dish was beef - it was fatty and soft, more like ter bak than gu bak. The taste was all COW though. Tender and just enough to chew on so the teeth can squeeze the tasty juices out into the rest of the mouth. At 1000yen with rice on the side, I felt pain for my wallet, but this was worth forgoing dinner and supper and tomorrow's breakfast for.

Of course, with the restaurant being named as it was, I could hardly pass up the opportunity to try their unfiltered ale. It went very nicely with the stew, although I can't really say it would be good with the noodles. Pilsener for that, perhaps?

Thumbs up to the Kitami TIC for the great recommendation. This was a clear winner - in our two hours there we saw a constant stream of people coming in for the shio yakisoba and beer, though most left before us (we attribute this to their inability to down multiple helpings of salad/dessert/soup/tea/coffee). All Japanese, incidentally... Kitami is a little bit off the main tourist map, I believe?

Anyway, if anyone is traipsing around Hokkaido in future and doesn't mind a little detour for some fantastic food, The Beer Factory in Kitami is the place to be!

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Update on Agion Website

Posted By: Kimberly

Woohoo! The site is up and taking clicks again... so feel free to contribute anytime! Just remember, one click per person... or per IP address, really. So if you are using the same network as your friend/classmate/family/village, the website is only going to take one vote!

Thanks everyone for your support and Many Thanks to Joel M. and the Agion team for their efforts to get the bugs fixed :)


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Fizzy Fuzzy Head >.>

Posted By: Kimberly

Been carrying flu for a couple weeks, and in the last two days it finally decided to make a stand. Losing battle, I know, but it did bring me down for a bit so I made good on my travel insurance and picked up some nice tasty meds from a doctor.

Nasty virus goes *rawr*
Up yours, evil viruses! Well, actually I didn't have to take the ones in the foreground - just in case I ran a high fever. I did have to add the rest to my current diet, though.

This means we didn't do much around Hakodate even though we stayed here for 3 days so far... our actual exploration has only covered one evening and a day, really. But we like what we see anyway!

So our first foray into the touristy rounds of Hakodate had to be its Number One attraction, of course. Mt Hakodate's night view from the observatory up top!

Lucky us, we had a lovely blanket of mist obscure the city view for much of the evening. Although it was a thin sort of blanket, so my DSLR came to the rescue by pretending the mist didn't exist at all in the photographs...

The horror of having 1/3 of the photograph bathed in mist.
The mountains have vanished and Hakodate looks astonishingly flat.

Ooo la la... good camera = Hakodate looks pretty anyway!

I have to say it really was quite beautiful, though I would have appreciated it more if the winds on Mt Hakodate had left more of my fingers and nose and ears alone. I really like the photographs I managed to get, but I really had to earn these!
This morning the flu has backed off to a dribbly sort of standstill (better than the green slime I've had to cough up before, anyways), so we also twirled around the Hakodate Morning Market, where ZsupCreator tried his hand at squid fishing and hooked us a nice fresh breakfast! It was everything squid sashimi should be... firm, with that squidly sweetness bursting into the mouth. ZsupCreator hooked one with egg, too. So I had extra nutrients because he didn't like its slimy texture.
Selecting the most succulent one...
Amidst the filleting process, the guy suddenly picked up the decapitated head and scraped it on the cutting board a few times. Then he put it back on the board, whereupon the head rose up upon the tentacles and attempted to run away! *curiosity + shockhorror*
I wonder how many karma points I lost today T.T

We did some walking around after, running through the Red Brick Warehouse shopping bits and the waterfront area (where we had lunch), toddled up the hill to see Carl Raymon's museum (not much to see, really) and ended up in Goryokaku Park (star-shaped, but no pictures of this because we were stingy and didn't want to shell 720yen to go up the tower).

ZsupCreator: "Why? Why did you have your museum so obscurely hidden up that steep slope?"
C.Raymon: "It seemed a good idea to have my house on Mt. Hakodate at the time... good view, you know."

View of expensive tower from the eyes of a garden-goer...

I love what I have seen of Hokkaido so far... I wonder what comes next?

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Agion in the Interim

Posted By: Kimberly

I am still having fun anyway!

A sort of quickie note to those who have been helping me test out the link:

Thanks much for your dedication, ladies and gentlemen. I really appreciate your support and I have to admit that I very much would have liked to get that prize ;D

Alas, it seems that the link isn't going to be fixed anytime soon and the competition is swiftly catching up. It is kind of sianz, especially after everyone put in the effort and helped to spread the word, but I guess what will be will be?

In any case, I just wanted to thank you for clicking for me. I still hold faint hopes that they might fix it, but figure it also might not happen. Ah well.


Yayness! A miracle breakthrough! We are back in business again :)

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Blazing hazing hectic days!

Posted By: Kimberly

We've been in Tokyo two days and I have to say that it has been quite an experience being here! It feels like Sendai and Yokohama and Osaka all rolled together, and yet somehow a world apart.

Our highlights so far include:

1. Discovery of the Most Amazing Taito Clawgrab place ever
We are staying right next to it, and have been making off with Gloomy cloaks, MonHun Pig towels, Gloomy Claws and random keychains which have cost us an average of 200 yen. The staff there are very helpful, cheerfully resetting the machines on request and all. Not to mention that for once, the machines are actually playable!

2. Freshly Baked Melon Pan

After visiting Sensoji Temple early in the morning, we hung around a store nearby awaiting its opening. We scoped out the place the night before, and the displays of melon breads was just too tempting. The moment it opened, we made our orders and were rewarded with the freshest toasty melon bread ever! It was not too sweet, with a crunchy texture to the top crust while the interior was downy soft... we nearly squashed the bread trying to pull it out of the paper wrapping!

3. DisneySea
Well, it's Tokyo, and it's Disney. What else can I say? While we had to deal with the sad disappointments of having the night's fireworks extravaganza cancelled due to bad weather (just a very cloudy sky) and some key thrill rides not being open, it was still a good experience just going through the various themed areas. I have to say, Disney isn't much for thrill, just flashy over the top showiness mostly. I really liked the obvious effort put into the background stories of the rides and areas, but felt there was too much storytelling and wanted more ZOOOOOOM. I shall have to make up for the lack of real excitement elsewhere.

4. 3D Movie Outing to Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland
Though here it should be more rightly called Johnny Depp's Alice in Wonderland. The cinema was chock full of memorabilia and merchandise featuring his very prominent orange do. It was an interesting experience, being in a cinema in Japan. For one thing, the audience was SILENT. Like if you so much as rustled in your seat, you would be the only source of sound not from the screen. Such a lovely change from the Singaporean movie watching scene! Secondly, the lights in the cinema don't come on till the credits are over. While this isn't great news for those waiting to use the toilet at the end, I think it shows due respect for all the people who put in the effort create the movie. Even if those people aren't there to see it. It does show just how much dedication to respect there is in this society. I must say though, that it was during the end credits that people started putting on jackets and folding up lap blankets. As quietly as possible, of course ;D

Well. This isn't an exhaustive list of the things that we actually did... I mean, we also visited Akihabara and Ueno, and waltzed through Shibuya as well, but they are the things that made my day in Tokyo so far!

One more day left, I wonder what tales I will have to tell after?

Playground fun time!

Wheeee group shot!

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What a Rush!

Posted By: Kimberly

Aye, it has been, indeed. There is so much backlog to clear, Agion-related postings, sweet, sweet memories of Kyushu, Hiroshima, Miyajima, Tateyama-Kurobe... OMG.

But one must move with the times, and I will simply have to update for what is the latest ;D Simply consider that I have taken a holiday from working on the blog to celebrate my 30th birthday, eh? :D

In any case, we are now in Tokyo at last, usually the first place that anybody visits when they come to Japan for the first time.

We arrived at Shinjuku from Matsumoto Castle, the temperature is about 16 degrees and we are killing ourselves in our layers. So now the new outfit is Agion at base layer, and a light jacket on top. Heattech just for pants, with my usual trackpants over.

It was a painful arrival, after all the hiking we did around Matsumoto yesterday. Back is aching, bags aren't feeling any lighter with the layers stacked on them instead of on our bodies. So we went and checked out what we thought was a nice place to eat - Royal Host. While resembling Big Boy, we do think that the latter is better value for money for its excellent salad bar and drinks selection. Royal Host has pretty good food at similar prices, but likes to control what the customers get to eat - they give a choice of 3 pre made salads... Bring on the salad bar, I say!

First home in Tokyo: Gera Gera Manga Kissa. Nice place that let us park our bags there while we went and ran all over the place with Edward and Dennis!

Speaking of whom, WELCOME TO JAPAN!
We will be moving in a group and messing around Tokyo for the next few days before we abandon them for Hokkaido and they will go forth to the delights of Osaka instead.

Messing around in Asakusa ;D

Anyway, we met up and had dinner part II, courtesy of Werd's pocket (YAY YAY thankew!) and then went crazy at Taito Station Asakusa, collecting a pile of stuff in winnings. In case anyone thinks we have forgotten our pathetic budget, let me just say that we won an average of 1 item per 200 yen. And both ZsupCreator and I got a GLOOMY BEAR CLOAK - BLACK each for that price, so it was more than worth it! ;D Werd also picked up the same, in pink! ZsupCreator also picked up more stuff because he was trying to get a stuck Gloomy paw... it's all good!

Taito Station Asakusa - The place to Play!

We visited Sensoji Temple after ditching our bags after, and will be returning tomorrow morning for daytime shots!

Sweet night glow!

Giant Lantern Jump Shot

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Toyama. Japan's most boring prefecture.

Posted By: Creator of Zsup

Next morning, we decided to find out more about Toyama and its surroundings. The place seemed out of a DREAM, because the streets were empty even at 10am in the morning? We went to the TIC which was located in a shopping centre, and when they couldn't give us much info in English, we headed to the other one near the Station. Who somehow spoke better English and told us to visit, Takaoka, apparently a place of sightseeing, with old houses and what-not.

We took a train, that cost us 320 yen to Takaoka. And was greeting by railway construction, a nice facade, a stamp and it seemed perfect. So we decided to put our stuff into a locker, to check out the place, which seemed to have a HUGE buddha, and some shopping areas. Lo' and behold, what greeted us when we reached the shopping street was this.

A street of nothing? At 1pm?

So we decided, maybe, just maybe, the people wake up late here, or there is more to be seen? Hence we trudged on, in hopes that the place would betray its dreamy looks.

Guess what? We were wrong. The place was such a DREAMland that EVERYTHING we walked past was closed or half open, i.e. the open ones didn't even seem to have anyone staffing the place. In fact, when we asked the very nice TIC, they told us of an internet cafe that wasn't even one? It was a place with computers, that's about it, most definitely not a cafe. The place was such a DREAMY place that the most populated place was this WINGWING plaza, that houses the library and seemed to double as some sort of information counter.

The most interesting part of Takaoka was probably the multiple brass statues and sculptures we found all over the place, some Doraemon, Musicians of Bremen, etc.

Desperate to awake from this DREAM, we headed back to Toyama, hence incurring another 320 yen cost, PLUS locker fee which kept our bags for about 2 hours @ 600 yen. On the way to Toyama, we realised that the place seemed to have awoken from its DREAMLIKE state, because we actually saw people walking around!?

The TIC told us before we left that there was an internet cafe on the third floor of the stations. So with a nagging doubt in my head, i headed to the third floor to check it out. LO AND BEHOLD. I WAS RIGHT. The purported internet cafe was a CUBICLE.

I decided that since we had nothing to do, and we had some maps of internet cafes in the vicinity to try ONE LAST TIME to find out whether there were any 24hr internet cafes nearby. So I asked the nice lady, "Do you know any 24 hour internet cafes near here?"

Her reply was. "VERY FAR, take bus to (place name) and it will be called (place name)"


Here I am in a place which seems to be well developed, but it has no internet cafe within walking distance. I conclude that this place must be out of someones DREAM.

We took the bus out to the supposed place, and on our way passed by the shopping arcade. Guess what? It was DESOLATE. I guess nothing like that really surprises me anymore in Toyama.

Finally after disembarking from the bus at what seemed to be along a highway exit, we found our VERY NICE INTERNET CAFE. Which offered 24 hour rates. The first internet cafe we have been to that offers it though. And I can probably guess why, the Otaku's who have no jobs, and NEET's can't possibly survive in Toyama the place of nothingness?! So to provide supply to the demand, 24 hour rates are offered! Much to our delight.

Now, to get an idea of what the place is actually like? Replace ALL instances of DREAM with NIGHTMARE. There, now you get the idea.

Conclusion: Unless you have time to burn? Or maybe the day Toyama has a properly built up tourism infrastructure? Don't go there. There is nothing. NOTHING. Of course it is the transit point for Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route, but since its transitting, you won't get depressed seeing the whole amazingly empty city.

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The Sights, Scenes, and Horrors. Takayama Spring Festival.

Posted By: Creator of Zsup

It's been a long time since my last post, because I really lacked the inspiration to post anything that I thought might be of interest to readers. But today, after reaching the lowest point in my travels in Japan, I figured it would be a GREAT thing to share this with everyone.

Its been 45 days.

In Japan.

45 days of fun, excitement, tiredness, and spending.

On the last day of my Japan Rail Pass. It was the first day of the Takayama Spring Festival. Apparently one of the top 3 in Japan.

So early in the morning after the stop over the night before in Nagoya. We caught the first train to Takayama at 7.43 a.m., and it took just over 2 hours to get there. Reaching at 10.01 a.m., we realised that Takayama was REALLY COLD, in fact just as the weather forecast had shown me, it actually snowed! 2nd time I have seen snow in my life and just within a month away from the last time in Japan!

We started off trying to find out more about the festival from the TOURIST information centre. Rainestormyr went off to do so, while I searched around for stamps (our everlasting quest). Turned out, that even though the TIC was placed in a prime position and there were so many non-japanese tourists, AND they spoke English, all the information they could give us was a very unhelpful pamphlet and repeatedly telling us that ALL HOTELS ARE BOOKED OUT, even though we were asking about 24hour internet cafes. With that, our festival experience started. ZZZ..

 TIC of Nothingness

When we finally found out about the performance schedule, we headed out to check out the Kakuri Doll performances. Which apparently needed in excess of 10 people just to operate ONE DOLL. Which I found quite amazing, considering that it is only 1 doll.
Yes, there were many people.
 One of the dolls.
After the performance, we headed out to enjoy the sights of the old town, the festival food and just plainly to check out Takayama.

After hours of walking around, we finally obtained the information we needed. Which came from an English pamphlet given by a POLICEMAN. Seriously that just goes to show how lousy that TIC was. ZZZ. The pamphlet told us that the highlight would start at about 6.30 p.m. We decided that since we could catch the last train to Toyama (our next location) after the performance, we would stay and watch it.

As time went by, the temperatures got colder, and colder, and colder. I believe that if weather forecast was right, it hit about 1 degree and we braved that cold to watch what was supposed to be a spectacular festival. The festival itself was quite a scene. The lights on the floats, being pushed by 8-12 people down the road, all of it was pretty. However, one must comment harshly on the conduct of the festival.

The crowd control was the worst we have seen since the first festival (Tagata Jinja), the festive crowd control in our area consisted of 1 man. That's a ratio of about 1:300? The start was pretty ok, as the people listened and stay within the boundary set by the oraganisers, but soon, it was hell with people rushing up to the floats and running across the path that the floats would be taking. What was supposed to be a sight to behold became one of sight of assholes. Not to mention all the old people would be pushing through and causing everyone to move while taking pictures.

By about 8p.m. the festival ended, and we were well on our way to Toyama. With frozen fingers and hands. The train to Toyama took about an hour and a half. And when we reached there, it was dreamland. The streets were empty, and it was cold, well not as cold as Takayama, but it was cold. And it started raining. And we had no clue where to go.

So in the end we settled for an expensive night at a hotel. Toyoko-inn (Lol. Considering our last experience there, its quite funny, read back to Yokohama to get an idea) We managed to get a special night rate because we reached at an unearthly time of 1a.m. and I signed up with them for membership (lifetime). Total damage? About 7500 yen. Freaking expensive night.

So ends our journey through Takayama.

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