I hope everyone has had a great break! Hakodate was excellent, I really loved it there. I'll give a run-down of what we did.
There were some issues meeting up on the first, but eventually we got it together and got on the bus in time (had enough time to wait for like, 25 minutes at the station). I sat next to Lauren, Ben and Jordan sat together -- and seemingly got along pretty well. I am really glad as everyone seemed to get along for most of the trip, there was really only one incident that blew over pretty quickly so I won't get into details about it. Apparently there was a snow storm, so within the first stop or so (no bathroom on the bus -- but a stop every two hours) we hit snow! I was pretty excited and it kept me awake and in good spirits for basically the rest of the bus, as every two hours I could get off and play in the snow. This happiness basically lasted till we got to Aomori, around 12pm - two hours or so late.
Our first impressions of Aomori were unimpressive. It was a small strip and very cold with lots of snow. We got separated for a while, which was extremely terrifying -- we almost wen to the police -- and then walking to the ferry terminal...through back-roads. It didn't work very well. We ended up catching our ferry, very uneventful, and took us 4 hours or so to get in to Hakodate, from which we took a cab to our hotel. From the cab we got to see the port all lit up, very pretty and put us in good spirit. I got to take a nice, long shower/bath before going to sleep which basically relaxed all the tension from the day, the trip could have ended there and I would have been rather pleased.
For our first day of Hakodate, we pretty much all slept in till about 2:00pm. Then we went to get lunch at this place called "Lucky Pierrot" which was very Christmas/Santa themed! It was amazing and the food was good! Great way to start the day, we decided to come back for milkshakes the next morning before our ferry. Afterwards we went shopping in this area near the port, the "Red Brick Warehouses" which were pretty nice, kind of expensive, and mainly import stores. The area was pretty and there was some interesting wares, so it was a nice diversion.
From there we kind of wandered around and looked for these two churches the town was famous for. On the way, we got side-tracked by a Shinto Shrine -- a guy working there (maybe a priest?) invited us in and showed us around, which was great. From there we made it to the churches, which were beautiful kind of high up on this slope. Basically Hakodate is set up like a tinier, colder San Fransisco if that helps put the layout in perspective. After the churches we went to an Italian restaurant, which was absolutely fantastic. I have not been so happy with mozzarella, tomato, and basil since I was in Italy.
Afterwards we headed to an onsen (public bath), one of the goals of the trip. None of us had ever been before, but all had a loose idea from movies and anime. For those unaware, there's a men's side and a women's side, and three pools - hot, cold, and warm. Even though it was pretty empty, Ben and I were rather concerned about accidentally doing something socially unacceptable at first, which made the public nudity somewhat less awkward (not to mention there were very few other people there). However, after a few minutes the whole feeling of the place overtakes you and it's much easier to relax. It was a very nice experience. Though, I think relaxing with everyone in the lounge afterwards might have been the most stress-relieving part. From here we basically walked around the lit up port and went to sleep, all of us wanted to get up early for our last day.
In the morning, Lauren and I went to "Viking Breakfast" - that is how the Japanese refer to all you can eat. It was very nice, it had lots of both Western and Eastern food. After, Jordan, Lauren, and I decided to go to the "Morning Market," or fish market, while Ben went to some sort of fortress on his own.. It was full of fish, and kinda gross/interesting. Laur got to show off some of her Japanese skills, and impressed the locals. I think both of them enjoyed it a good deal. Afterwards, Laur and I went to the Red Brick Warehouse to scrounge for some gifts. It was much less exciting the second time, so I didn't really find much of anything. I was personally feeling a tad ill, so I skipped out on milkshakes.
The cab and ferry were pretty uneventful - though I did get some cool things at the ferry terminal on Hakodate side, and finished reading "Self-Made Man" on the ferry. Aomori, however, was great this time. We found a strip of shops we hadn't noticed and basically just explore for a while. We ended up dining at a Japanese style restaurant, that was extremely tasty and had really friendly keepers. One of which makes chopsticks and taught the table how to properly use them (I was doing it fine, but apparently everyone else was doing it Chinese style?) It was kind of silly/entertaining. After we got some ice-cream and caught the bus -- this time we got to sit all together in a row of four. We were very chatty at first, to the detriment of the grumpy man in front of me, but were quiet once the bus started, kind of. Lauren and Ben made friends with this guy next to us, a student at Tokyo University. Thankfully this driver got us back on time, and we all went our separate ways. All-in-all it was a great trip.
As for me, I got a few hours of sleep and then hung out with Jordan for a bit in Takadanobaba. Tomorrow classes start up again, and I have some final papers due throughout the next three weeks. Then classes end! So excited! This week I hope to start planning my two month break!