It truly wouldn't be a trip to Japan or a trip to see with Miwako without some kind of fantastic adventure involved. When Miwako asked what I wanted to do in Japan, the first thing I said was "go stay in an onsen", which is pretty much my favorite thing to do in Japan. Besides karaoke. And eating delicious things. And drinking in public. And going to shows. And CD hunting. And... okay fine, whatever, it's one of many things that I like doing in Japan. We tossed some ideas around, and then settled on going to Hakodate. I was excited about this for many reasons. Hakodate is one of the bigger cities in Hokkaido (I guess), and along with Otaru, one of the most attractive cities in Hokkaido to tourists. Yet, I had never been there. In fact, looking at a map of Hokkaido, that weird dangly peninsula-looking thing at the southwest part of Hokkaido is about the only part of the entire island [with stuff in it] that I haven't been to.
So we woke up grotesquely early and took the train to Sapporo, and then a taxi to the bus terminal (there are like.. 8 bus terminals in and around Sapporo station, so this was the first time I caught a bus somewhere else). I would like to mention that the taxi driver hung pictures of his cat up next to his driver permit license thing. Ready for an exciting 5-hour bus ride, we got on the bus and discovered that it was the least comfortable bus possible. Seriously... one row consisted of a single seat by the window, a foot-and-a-half-wide aisle, another single seat, a 2-foot-wide aisle, and the third seat, by the other window. We had reserved two seats together, and since they have assigned seating on highway buses of this sort, they placed us together. On either side of the wide aisle. Miwako sat in the middle so I could have the window. Then they placed another woman on her other side. Once or twice, the bus stopped to let other people on, but for the entire 5 hours, there was no one in the aisle in front of us, and no one in the aisle behind us. Not only was it the least comfortable bus possible, it was also the least romantic. We couldn't even hold hands. Jeez. Oh well, at least the scenery was incredibly pretty when we were awake to see it. We drove through heavy snow most of the way through rolling hills and mountains and tunnels, with snow-covered trees everywhere. When the mountains opened up, there were incredible views of the ocean and small towns on the coast. Getting closer to Hakodate, there was a very impressive double-peaked volcano that was solid white and dwarfed everything around it. When we got to Hakodate, I didn't notice much of the city because the bus took us straight to our onsen. I did, however, notice an amazing view of the ocean where you could see across to Honshu (aka mainland Japan). Nice.
After checking in at Yu no Kawa Onsen, we went to our room to check out the highlight of the place: we had a private bath in our room. I don't mean a bathtub... I mean a bath that is kept at a very high temperature, and is being supplied with water from actual factual hot spring in the area that also supplies water to the large community bath in the hotel. It's also located on our balcony. Fucking awesome (sorry Mom, I know you read this thing, too, but I can't think of a better way to express myself than with profanity).
We immediately changed into our Yukatas (aka "those things I stole from onsens many years ago that I often wear as pajamas") and... took a nap until dinnertime. I mean, besides being the most disappointing bus ever, the seats were uncomfortable and hard to sleep on. Anyway, just like how IDIOTS will go to a place like this and get a room without a private bath (though... I guess for families and stuff... whatever, they're IDIOTS), there was a banquet hall for IDIOTS. We, however, had our own private eating area in the in-hotel restaurant thing. There was a hot pot filled to capacity with tasty things (we couldn't eat it all) waiting for us, as well as various kinds of sashimi (Hakodate is famous for squid, and the squid we ate was AWESOME), and crap legs. There were also other random tasty things. Plus we had a sweet view overlooking the courtyard of the hotel, which was illuminated at night. The best part, though, was that right next to our dining room was the self-serve boozeohol room... and it was a nomihoudai. Miwako was ridiculously excited by this prospect, and before we even tried to start eating, she went and got us beer, then went back and got TWO things of sake, then went back again and got a thing of shochu. She's so adorable. So we ate a million tasty things, and drank a million tasty things, and it was great.
After dinner, we took some time to explore the hotel, which is one of my favorite past times. Considering that the place was filled to capacity, it was a Friday night, and there should have been a wave of tourists in Hakodate, it was pretty empty. Or everyone was in the bath or eating after we finished. We found a ping pong room that had no paddles, so we played with our slippers.
Then there was a game room where we proved to each other just how unskilled we are at games like Go and Shogi by playing Othello on the Go board, and Miwako's version of Jenga on the Shogi board. After exploring a kind of creepy wing of the hotel that looked like a museum's rendition of what a night life street looks like where we couldn't tell if the various establishments were just closed, or actually part of some weird exhibit, we took to the streets to find a convenience store to stock up on booze, and then hit up the hotel's actual factual baths. I feel like a jerk and a half for not secretly taking my waterproof camera into the bath with so I could show it to you, the viewer, because at first there was no one in there. It was also really steamy in the room and hard to see anything. There were only about four different baths, one of which was painfully hot. But the real draw was (of course) the rotemburo. I spent most of my time outside enjoying the cold air, the hot water, and the fact that I had an amazing view of Mars from where I was sitting. We didn't spend too much time in the big bath, of course, because we didn't need to. We met up and returned to our room, opened the windows on the balcony, opened our bottle of sake, and enjoyed our own private onsen.
Fucking awesome. Times a million billion.