Sunday, February 3, 2019

Destination - Hokkaido!

We must be crazy! The things we do to save some money. There was a bargain on a group tour to Hokkaido; Hokkaido in January! Ice cold, blizzards, airports snowed in, flights always being canceled... so, of course we decided to go!

Surprisingly we arrived at Tancho Kushiro airport and it was a nice day. First stop on our three day trip was to visit this birch tree lined avenue that was featured in the NHK TV drama "Massan".

Meet the tour bus. The bus was actually very nice and despite it being a full booked tour and every seat on the bus occupied it was quite comfortable. Also, the driver was outstanding.

Typical Hokkaido farmland. Rows of trees to help block the wind.

Passing through a large city (I forgot the name of it) (my wife just informed me it's Obihiro city). We stopped here for some unremarkable free time. I was happy to be back on the road.

A view of the ocean as the sun sets in the distance,

Since Hokkaido is so big, and the distance from point "A" to point "B" can be so far, this was our pee stop (public restroom not shown in the picture.  Our next stop will be in an hour and a half; pee now or suffer!

Our next stop was for a cook your own charcoal grill seafood extravaganza!

Emi was using the two-hand chopstick approach to getting the oyster out of the shells.

After dinner we drove another hour to our hotel in Kushiro city. Next morning this was the view from our hotel window.

This view too. Baby it's cold out there. We stayed in the Prince Hotel. The buffet breakfast was outstanding.

First stop after checking out of the hotel was Kushiro city's Fisherman's Wharf.

Another beautiful day.

A different view of the Wharf.  Our tour guides kept telling us how lucky we are to have such nice weather.

The view from the Kushiro Marsh Observatory.
The first rule of group tours: you go where the bus takes you and you enjoy it even if you don't like it. Luckily for us we do enjoy it!

Not far from the observatory we stopped at a bird refuge for cranes.

Beautiful birds.

Welcome to lake Mashu.

Lake Mashu: The world's leading transparent lake, the color is called Mashu blue.
It a mysterious lake where the water level does not change despite no rivers flowing in or out.

Our luck had changed, we visited the lake in the middle of a snow storm.

For a brief moment the snow stopped and this was as good a view as we would get.

After departing the lake our next stop was to see the seven trees in the middle of nowhere. I guess anything can be a tourist destination.

Next morning we wake up in the Abashiri KankĊ Hotel. This is the view from our room window.

One of the tour options was to get up early and take a boat out to see the ice flows in the ocean. We didn't take that option but after checking out of the hotel we went to pick up those brave group members that did go. A view from the bus window.

Out here on the east coast of the Okhotsk sea the town is cold. This is the road after the snow plows did their best.

Here comes the boat with our tour group members.

Back on the road we followed the coast to this small isolated train station.The lady by the door was one of our tour guides. Welcome to Kitahama Station!

Emi is checking out the train platform.

The train runs right along the ocean coast, the sea water is frozen and covered with snow.

I'm staring at the train tracks waiting for the train to come. My face is frozen.

We all jump with excitement... the train is coming!

It's a single car train, the driver is peering out the window, he looks cold.

The train comes to a stop and I start to wonder why we were so excited to see a train that we won't be riding? I guess the tour guides have us doing whatever they say and we're loving every minute of it. They are truly great guides.

Next up. another bird preserve. The one swan is giving us a nice view of it's butt.

This is lake To-Futsu-Ko. It's very peaceful here.

Time for lunch. I looked at my lunch and my lunch looked back.

All kidding aside, this is a 5-star seafood donburi.

The restaurant was located on the edge of the frozen Okhotsk sea.

After lunch it was time to visit the Abashiri Observatory. A view of the ocean from one side...

...and, a view of lake Abashiri on the other. The lake is also frozen. Everything is frozen.

Last stop of the tour before going to the airport to go home.

Welcome to Abashiri Prison Museum. This was the original prison that was shut down and relocated.

Our prison tour guide.

Solitary confinement. I stopped taking pictures of the prison after this. The stories the guide told us about prison life were too depressing to keep taking pictures. The prisoners had a hard life. Many of them died here.

Back on the road and we're heading to the airport.

A sunset view from the bus window.

Last shot of the trip - passing by the seven trees in the middle of nowhere as we wheel our way to the Memanbetsu airport.

It was a great trip and I'm ready to do it again... in any season other than winter!

Thanks for stopping by!

Bonus shots!

Images shot with the Fujifilm X-Pro2 and Fujinon XF 35mm f2 lens.

Images shot with the Fujifilm X-Pro2 and Fujinon XF 35mm f2 lens.

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