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North to East – Tokyo to Sapporo hitchhiking!   

Hello guys! I haven’t been in Sapporo lately, so those who regularly drop by Chit Chat Café probably have not seen me. I recently got back from working in Hakuba, Nagano Prefecture in a ski resort. I also went and worked there last year. This year was actually my fourth season working in a Japanese ski resort! While travelling through Japan on a working holiday visa I was able to work two winter seasons.

I flew back to Sapporo on the 28th of March from Hakuba but after spending less than a week in Sapporo I decided to enjoy my spring holidays just a little more. Many of my new friends from Hakuba were in Tokyo after the ski resort closed for the year so I wanted to go hang out with them a little more before university started again.

A spontaneous flight to Tokyo is expensive however! Almost 10 000 yen even for JetStar! And I wasn’t enthusiastic about going through the annoying airport security procedures yet again in the same week. So rather than sacrifice my hard earned money on a flight I resolved to have an adventure to get to Tokyo instead.

In Hakuba I challenged myself to learn how to ski. I can snowboard, but never had I tried to ski. Trying something new was enthralling and a lot of fun (but pretty painful when I crashed all the time). But it was a great experience.

So I decided my next challenge: To hitchhike from Sapporo to Tokyo to see my friends.

Was it easy? No. But was it worth it, definitely yes!

I made it from Sapporo city to Tokyo in three days. I rode with approximately ten different people for the duration of my travels, my average travel with each ride was two hours. I had an enjoyable hour with a family and their two dogs who sat on my lap and kissed my face.

However, my first night I found myself stranded in the tiny town of Date in Hokkaido. Fortunately I had two offers by kind families to stay with them the night. In the end I stayed with an elderly man and his cat with a stub for a tail.

My second night I stayed in an Internet café in Aomori city after riding the ferry from Hakodate ferry terminal where the elderly man dropped me off. Waving goodbye to him I had tears in my eyes as he hesitated looking outside his car window in the rain. We had talked for hours on end about many things, about his crazy childhood and the way he moved around for work. Yet I will probably never meet him again. In Japanese you would call this kind of meeting 「一期一会」which in English could translate to “once in a life time meeting.” Yet in the end I had hadn’t even spent an entire day with him.

From Aomori it was straight to Tokyo, a distance over 700km and 9 hours of driving according to Google sensei. In one day I passed through Aomori to Akita then Iwate, Miyagi, Fukushima, Tochigi and Saitama prefectures before reaching Tokyo.

Jessica (Australia)

by chitchatcafe | 2018-04-14 15:45 | 札幌 英会話 国際

There’s something fishy going on…   

Dear all, thank you for reading our blog series and for working so hard to improve your English language skills. This is my first blog for the Chit Chat Café, having started working here this month. I hope I get to meet many of you in person in the coming months!

This week a friend came to visit me from Kyoto, so I thought it would be a good idea to go out to eat delicious fresh Hokkaido sushi. Normally for kaiten-zushi I visit my local branch of Toriton, which is always fantastic. However, this time I thought it would be more convenient to go somewhere in the city centre, so we decided to try the Stellar Place conveyor-belt sushi restaurant, Nemuro Hanamaru.

I knew that this restaurant is very popular, so we made an effort to arrive early for lunch – around 11.30am – but we were surprised to see that there was already a long queue of customers. We took a numbered ticket and waited patiently. After about 45 minutes our number was called, and we were shown to our seats, but during that time the queue had grown to at least double the size. Thank goodness we arrived early!

I am pleased to say that the food was worth waiting for. I have always been told that in sushi restaurants the best thing to do is to try the special seasonal dishes and to order directly from the chef so that you can eat the freshest ingredients. Of course, the sushi on the conveyor belt was very good, but it was the special orders of mekajiki (swordfish), nishin (Pacific herring), hotate (raw scallops) and uni (sea urchin) that we enjoyed the most. The kanijiru (crab soup) was also amazing.

As a British person who loves fish and seafood, I always find it so interesting living in Japan. Every time I go to restaurants like Hanamaru, I end up trying varieties of fish that are not available to buy in the UK. Even visiting the supermarket here becomes a learning experience, as there are so many fish and shellfish that I have never seen before. It is exciting that in Japan, you know that spring is here when nishin becomes available, and that autumn is approaching when sanma (Pacific saury) arrives. Nishin and sanma are not available in Europe.

Japan and the UK are both island nations, with the ability to catch lots of fish, so I find it very interesting that the attitude towards fish and seafood is completely different. In Japan, fish is a main part of everybody’s diet, and many different types of high quality fish are available everywhere at very cheap prices. In the UK, there are many people who rarely eat fish, or don’t eat it at all. At most shops the fish is very expensive, and at supermarkets there are usually only a few varieties available, which are often poor quality or not very fresh.

The UK town where I was born is a fishing port and is famous for its big brown crabs (kani), whelks (tsubu) and oysters (kaki), which are very tasty. I remember my parents used to buy live crabs directly from the fishermen at the harbour when I was a child. However, most British people I know don’t know how to cook or eat seafood, or don’t like the taste. This is quite common all over the UK. Unfortunately, this means that most of the delicious seafood caught in my hometown isn’t sold in the UK – it gets exported to France, or recently even as far as China!

Luckily, British food culture is improving, and fresh fish and shellfish are becoming more popular, especially in good restaurants. But sadly, our most famous dish is still ‘fish and chips’ – which is not a very good representation of British fish! I hope that the UK will learn from Japanese food culture to make the most of all the fish and seafood that is available around the British Isles. I am certain that if British people tried dishes such as the kanijiru or scallop nigiri at Hanamaru, they would fall in love with seafood. Maybe then they would buy some of the delicious fish caught in my hometown, instead of it being exported to other countries!

Oli (UK)

by chitchatcafe | 2018-04-10 15:01 | カフェ 英会話 札幌