K drove us to Narita in her Honda Vezel (sold as HR-V in the USA). This was the first time she had it on the Expressway since getting it last September and she was a little nervous as her previous car, the Honda Insight, felt a bit unstable at those speeds. To our relief, the Vezel behaved well - rock solid in fact - though the fuel efficiency dropped from her usual 52 mpg or more to around 30 mpg at around 65 mph. Oh well, it was only a 40 minute drive. We left the car with a car park company which gave us a ride to the airport just a few minutes away.
|Must be fun to work on the ramp in the blazing sun. Not.|
|The cabin crew finally boarded and we were soon to follow. Note that the pilot has put up a shade in the cockpit windows.|
We took an inexpensive ride in a crowded Airbus A320 (with apologies to my youngest daughter, who works for Boeing). It was a quick trip, just 1.5 hours to New Chitose Airport in Sapporo, from where we boarded a JR train to the JR Sapporo station.
Why didn't we take the Shinkansen?, you may ask. Well, I for one would have loved to, however, at this time the Seikan Zuidou - the tunnel which connects Honshu and Hokkaido - is not wired with the high voltage necessary for a Shinkansen line. So far, people have taken an overnight sleeper train from Tokyo to Hokkaido. That train will soon be removed from service when the higher voltage wiring is installed in the tunnel.
he sleeper trains are also being eliminated because ridership is off something like 80% of what it was in the 1980s.
So sometime in the next year, you will only be able to reach Hokkaido by rail on a Shinkansen train. Many people will be sad to see the romantic "Blue Sleeper" trains (the Cassiopea and the Hokutosei) go. But it takes 16 hours from Tokyo to Sapporo and for us, 16 hours is time we don't have to spare on a short vacation - nostalgia or no.
We stayed at a hotel Hotel Monterey Sapporo, which is just a five minute walk from the JR train station.
|Our fourth floor room had a view of sorts of the Sapporo TV Tower.|
In the morning we caught a highway express bus (at the train station) for Yoichi City - about an hour and twenty minutes with some scenic shoreline for the last 20 minutes or so of the ride.
Within minutes of getting off the bus, we were standing in front of what looked for anything like the entrance to a Scottish castle. What is this thing doing in Hokkaido of all places?
つづく (to be continued)
Until next, sweet sailing.