From Lake Akan to Sapporo by Car
It was a rainy day for the long drive back to Sapporo, but it went by without any difficulties at all. We checked out of the New Akan Hotel before 9:00am, and returned the rental car in downtown Sapporo at about 3:00pm; unlike our experience with the extra expense of the car rental in Miyakojima, from the parking lot mishap I had, this return was quick and without any surprises! Hooray!
We left the car rental agency by foot with our backpacks, and went over to the JR Station a few blocks away. We checked our backpacks into a locker at the Station, and got the train schedule for Hakodate. Tali got her hair done at a beauty shop on the top floor of the mall next door to the Station, while I did some writing. We also ate dinner at the mall, and then walked over to the Cross Hotel to check in.
From Sapporo to Hakodate by JR Train
After checking out of the Cross Hotel, we walked over to the JR Sapporo Train Station and first went to the Tourist Services Desk to exchange our Rail Pass vouchers, which we had bought in Auckland, for the actual Rail Passes themselves. This took a few minutes, but was easy to do, and soon we were having tea at Starbucks, waiting until it was time to catch our train to Hakodate. As our departure time approached, we went over to the coin lockers and retrieved our backpacks (it cost 1,400 yen to store them overnight, as the lockers charge by the calendar day, not by the 24 hour period), and then headed to our track to board our train. The whole process was very tourist friendly, and really anyone can make these arrangements by themselves, as we did.
Our 10:30am train out of Sapporo arrived in Hakodate right on time, at 2:00pm, and with the help of the excellent mapping service which came free on our rented iPhone, we easily found Hakodate Henmi Ryokan, a small downtown guesthouse that is our home for the next two days. As we checked in, we chatted with our hostess, the owner, as best we could in Japanese. We decided to first catch up on our laundry, which was convenient to do at the coin operated laundry nearby. While we waited for the wash and dry cycles to finish, we walked around the downtown area of Hakodote, which is not at all a part of the conventional tourist circuit, that runs along the waterfront, and then turns uphill, to the Motomachi district at the base of Mt. Hakodate. We saw some funky vintage clothing shops, small cafes and restaurants – what looked like entrepreneurial businesses taking advantage of inexpensive rents in a part of the downtown that looks like it’s trying to compete with the swankier renovated warehouse areas that get most of the tourists’ dollars.
The Kanemori Red Brick Warehouses, a commercial business connected with maritime trading, were first built in 1887, and have recently been beautifully restored and filled with reasonably priced tourist souvenir and food shops similar to what we found in Otaru, about an hour north and west of Sapporo.
Once our laundry was clean and dry, we brought our clothes back to our room at the guesthouse, and headed out for a stroll, to have a look at the Hakodate waterfront and Kanemori Warehouses. We enjoyed a bite to eat at one of the restaurants there, and then as the clock reached 7:00pm and everything started to close for the night, we headed back to the guesthouse to relax.