I’m writing this on from our hotel in Toyko before we head to the Bullet train to Kyoto on Monday morning. This is the first time we’ve had strong enough WiFi to load pictures since we arrived in Japan.
We arrived in Otaru as noted previously on time last Wednesday after our crossing. A future post will cover the crossing and our time on the ship. The pier in Otaru is an industrial pier but was only a 15 minute walk into town.
There was a good information tent set up by the tourist board so for those that needed maps and such it was available. There were also some taxis waiting but not an abundance.
A group of us from the CruiseCritic rollcall had planned on riding the train to Sapporo. After seeing how cloudy it was and coming to the realization that all the two of us were likely to do was wander Sapporo, Mike and I elected to skip the train-though we did take advantage of the early group immigration number the Celebrity Special Events staff had provided.
As this was our first port in Japan, everyone had to go through immigration. Unlike some previous experiences (see Key West aboard NCL Sun with the endless 5 am line around the atrium) this was smooth. The Japanese folks were aboard by 7 am, and had at least 12 stations set up to take our fingerprints and welcome us to Japan.
Mike and I were soon walking towards town where I saw the chuckle inducing tsunami warning sign above.
We walked to the train station hoping to turn our voucher into a real rail pass. Alas the small station didn’t offer that service so we continued along to the restored canal. This along with a cable car to a nearby mountain and a streamclock donated by Vancouver are Otaru’s big attractions. The title picture of this post was taken of one of the vine covered warehouses along this canal.
It appears that Otaru hopes the former warehouses will become retail and restaurants but at the moment most are empty or serve as parking.
The older buildings through our town are quite beautiful I think. And we were intrigued by what we think were snow fences protecting some from the steep hillside.
We were also intrigued by some sort of tank we saw outside most residential buildings. Have yet to figure out what they are. Any ideas? water heater? Propane?
Otaru was also the scene of our first visit to a Seven Eleven. We had learned that they are very important here-in addition to most of the things once finds in the US version (except for slurpees and Bug Gulps) they also sail dress shirts, underwear, lots of prepared foods beyond the usual hot dogs we have and most importantly for us have their own bank and ATMs. So as you can see by Vanna’s finger, we were excited for our first visit.
And I love the tagline on their house premium brand. I may make it my own!
We visited the market in Otaru and were shocked by the prices of local vegetables and fruits. Apparently imported goods are cheaper but not as tasty. A cantaloupe was around $10 while the ears of corn below were about $7 am ear. And even an ear of presumably the poorer quality “grilld”at restaurants was much cheaper than fried chicken by about $2.50!
I loved running across this group doing their part to keep their city clean. Though given the Japanese tradition of not littering and taking their trash home with them (they don’t even have garbage cans on the street or in train stations) I’m not sure how hard a job these folks really have.
Before finishing our 6 mile death march by heading back to the ship, we stopped in one of the vendors at the market for our first taste of Japan.
We shared a grilled (grilld?) scallop (tastier than it looked), a shashmi scallop, and some tuna. All were so fresh and delicious…well the local Otaru beer may not have been fresh but it was tasty!
We got back to the ship after a lovely day in Otaru and were entertained by dancers and drummers as we left port. All in all a great first day in Japan!