Thursday, February 12, 2015

L. E. Fred: Travel Writer. (now, anyway)

Ahoy, wonderful readers!

I told you I had some cool things up on the horizon, didn`t I? The time has finally come!
As some of you may know, I`ve been living in Japan since last August. Though I have a separate I have not been very religious keeping up with either. 

So, I figured why not try to merge the two? 

I am –alongside with Reverie—working on a story chronicling my travels abroad with a sci-fi twist. Totally gives me an excuse to condense the two blogs, right? Anyway, it would be a shame to keep all of my amazing adventures from you wonderful readers, as I know these past few months have greatly influenced Devon & Co`s adventures.

If you want to read my previous travel posts, please go to this link:

But for now, let me tell you about my time in the great white north, Hokkaido!

I knew I had to get to Hokkaido during my time here. In a sense, the strangely not-so-Japanese part of Japan is the reason I reconsidered applying for the JET Program. I remember sitting on my mother`s sofa, my habitat for the 2 years after college, flicking through daytime television. An oldie but goodie of Anthony Bourdain`s No Reservations about Hokkaido was on. As I watched him eat and drink his way through Hokkaido, the desire to go to Japan had instantly been rekindled. While I wanted to come here for more reasons than crab ramen (which, honestly, would have been more than a good enough reason) it reminded me of all the things this great, big world has to offer. So, I blew a bunch of money to have my dreams come true!

I started off in Sapporo, of course. The annual 雪祭り (Snow Fest) was in full, melty swing by the time I rolled on out of Chitose Airport. It`s a shame the weather was just hovering above freezing so the sculptures were droopy, but I wasn`t complaining. 1 degree Celcius is still well cold, so I naturally had to make my pilgrimage to the world`s best ramen.

The most spectacular thing about ramen alley is that it`s not really a tourist trap. Really! Of course they have their “English OK” and “[Insert famous person here] ate at my shop,” but there`s still that authentic alleyway vibe that people come to this alley for. And, of course, there was ramen. Lots and lots of it. Now, I`m no stranger to ramen, but I didn`t know what to expect from the city that started the noodle soup craze.

It was delicious, I`ll tell you that. Crab, corn, scallops, pork, and the most clear and flavorful ramen broth? The only thing that could make it better was a beer. Oh, look! A perfect lunch! Ramen Alley is worth the hype. Trust me.

(I did not eat at this place. Figured one author per shop was a good policy to start.)

After doing some more Snow Festival sight-seeing, I joined fellow travelers at a 焼肉 (yaki-niku) all-you-can-eat party. What makes this 焼肉 better than the rest? More crab! And lamb! But mostly crab! It was my first time grilling the (already boiled) crab, and I`m not sure I`m sold on the concept. It supposedly makes the crab smokier, but it honestly just made peeling an intense and blistery process. Still, the beer was flowing, and the meat was sizzling, so it was a good time.

You grill your own meat. Sadly did not get a photo of the seafood plate, as it promptly ended up in my stomach.

We went from Sapporo up to Niseko for snow sports adventures. Coming from the Deep South, I have never stepped food on a snowy mountain, much less strapped boards to my feet to slide down it. The entire concept seemed like a stupid idea until I saw all of the other people having the time of their lives on the slopes. Niseko is famed for having some of the best powder, or so I'm told, so it would be a shame to waste the opportunity to shred some powder (see: fall my way down the mountain.)

 So I rented a snowboard and had a crack at it. It`s safe to say that I`m more of a water sports person, but snowboarding is easily addictive. Maybe I`m a glutton for pain, or maybe the snow triggered some sort of madness, but I will be out on those slops again one day. Best part was working for the amazing lamb chop plate at the resort`s restaurant!
Earned it. 

I finished up a tour of the northern island by visiting the seaside town of Otaru. This was definitely the most quaint, and coldest, part of the tour. The town was very adorable, a little town with a little port and canal, but it was too cold to really enjoy anything other than the heated glass shops and beer hall. The beer was delicious, though, and they served you a lot of it. 

The glass shops were also cute! Your grandma would probably love it! The biggest attraction was the snow illumination that turned the entire town into a Christmas decoration. It was adorable, heart-warming, and a sight to see, but man was it cold. Still managed to capture some of the magic before hauling it to the train station for my warm inn.

Overall, the trip to Hokkaido was well worth it. To come from central Japan to the far north was an eye-opening experience. Hokkaido, in many senses, is not very Japanese. The streets are too wide, there are way too many foreigners, and the portions are too big. In other ways, though, that`s what makes Hokkaido Japanese. Their hospitality is the essence of Japanese culture and their local festivals –even the tourist trap ones—screams Japan. Well done, Hokkaido, well done.

I will dream of the crab ramen to propel me to my next Southern seafood buffet. 

Well, that's it for now, y'all! I hope to keep up with this hybrid blog now that I have more reasons to do so. Will update you on all thins Lucid, give you good reads, and allow you to live vicariously through my travels.

Until next time, keep readin, dreamin, and doin! 


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