After reviewing Rough Guide’s list of must-sees, I’ve concluded that I’ve seen most of which are possible to see in May. And I have three days left, so I decide to return to Tokyo.
I quietly gather my belongings and leave the hostel to catch the 7:30 a.m. train out to Hakodate.
As I load my bags in the overhead rack, I feel a pair of eyes on me. At this point, I’m used to this. I’m not used to hearing, “Excuse me, do you speak English?” being uttered by an Asian person.
Jing Lee is a young Chinese woman studying at a university in Vermont. She’s been dying to talk to anyone who speaks English. We embark on a wide-ranging conversion about Asian people, white people, America versus Canada, travel, and Chinese versus North American culture. Jing Lee is visiting a friend in Toya and has a cake for him, which leads to us discussing drinking culture (she does’t understand it at all).
At 9:30 we wish each other well, and she leaves to deliver her cake. I’m left with no one to talk to. The passing scene occupies my eyes: I had travelled at night and missed the beautiful hills layered in fog.
After a while I shake off my ennui and search for a place to stay. Unfortunately, the Anne Hostel is fully booked, so I reserve a room in hotel.
Arriving at Hakodate at 11:20, I change trains for Shin-Aomori. Two hours later I change trains again, this time in Aomori. I don’t remember if I did this the first time. Did I board the wrong train? It’s all a blur at this point, but I’m going to Shin-Aomori . . . again . . . I think. At 1:52 I’m finally leaving for Tokyo, with no idea how long this leg of the journey will take.
The travel guides advise you to pack a snack or buy food outside the station to avoid being fleeced. Uh huh. Not happening. I inhale an ¥1100 bento box and an apple juice. Later, I scarf down a package of potato sticks washed down with a cola. Still no idea when I’ll hit Tokyo. My watch strap breaks. I pull out my book and escape to Discworld.
At 6:00 p.m. I arrive at my hotel, accompanied by a young mum and her adorable baby. The woman tells me her husband is from New Zealand. I sense she’s keen to break up her day with adult conversation with a foreign tourist.
The room is a bit stale and soulless. I was hoping for a better send off. Oh well. It’ll feel better in the morning. Meanwhile I need supper.
I wander around the district a bit. It boasts plenty of neon but so little character that I forget what it’s called. Eventually I land in a family restaurant called Jonathan’s, because I lack the appetite for ramen and the imagination to try anything else. My meal? Fried chicken sandwich with a sweet sauce, fries, and a small beer. Not great.
Lying on my bed later that night, my mind wanders. I want to plan a trip to Spain or somewhere where I have a better handle of the language. I miss the ocean and I need a proper beach. When I get home I’ll spend more time at the lake. For now, I need to sleep off my glum mood.