HAL guest Sharon Wilhelm is currently sailing on Amsterdam’s 75-day Grand Asia & Australia Voyage. While aboard the ship she will chronicle her cruising experience for us on the blog. Enjoy!
October 2, 2012
The Amsterdam arrived on schedule and the immigration process began at 6:30. In typical Japanese fashion, the process was very well organized and thorough including taking finger prints of both index fingers. A bus shuttle to the JR train station, taking about 20 minutes, was provided for those “doing it on their own.” We were greeted by high school girls who were there to answer questions and to provide maps and other tourist information – and of course, to practice their English skills. A short walk from the drop-off point is the Hakodate Public Market.
As described by Barbara, the ship’s port of call ambassador, the market was fascinating. The seafood most noted for in this area are the squid and the hairy crab. There were numerous squid tanks located in the food display areas at the entrance to restaurants. The beautifully bronze colored squid were happily swimming away for all to observe. In addition to the live squid, there were several other forms e.g. dried, vacuum packed and some that had been processed into what looked like a small rounded shapes.
In addition to the famous hairy crab, there were several more species of crab that we had never seen before. One variety, in the shell, was being sold for the equivalent of $31.05 / pound. The market also was the place to purchase flowers and vegetables of all kinds, including a wide selection of potatoes, a food I would not normally associate with Japan. This is a reflection that the island of Hokkaido certainly affords a unique introduction to another “side” of Japan. We did have lunch at one of the many restaurants associated with the market. The restaurants proper are typically located to the rear of the retail food section that is in front restaurant. We had a lunch special made up of a bowl of miso soup, slices of pickled radish and a bowl containing a combination of rice, small soba noodles topped off with shredded fresh crab – variety unknown but the food was “oishi” (delicious). It was imperative to taste the beer that also helps make Hokkaido special – Sapporo.
The Motomachi district is the result of the trade treaty which opened up Japan to the west in the 19th century. There are Christian churches and other buildings the design of which are clearly European influenced. This area was perfect for a stroll through. The cable car taking tourists to the top of Mount Hakodate is also located in this area. We did not have enough time to take the ride.
Following our walking tour, we returned to the shuttle bus pick-up location where once again the high school girls were still being ambassadors for the city. Mark continued to use his limited Japanese language knowledge, vintage 1974, while chatting with the students. When he asked them in Japanese “how are you doing today?” they looked totally confused and asked him to repeat the phrase again. Finally one of the girls looked up the phrase he was using on an electronic dictionary. Much to their amazement, the phrase did translate into “how are you doing today?” While we will just have to chalk this one up to Japanese language lessons of years ago that are now outdated, I believe the students really enjoyed the exchange.
Prior to departure there was a sail away party put on for us by an extremely energetic group of youngsters performing to Japanese music on the pier adjacent to the ship. In addition, a contingent of high school students also participated. It was a wonderful conclusion to what was an interesting day in the port and city of Hakodate.