Aomori to Hakodate
Distance: 30 miles
Total Distance: 1526 miles
Photo Album

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Although we slept well at our camp in Hiranai, we had to wake up early since we did not know the exact ferry schedule from Aomori to Hakodate and we wanted to give ourselves as much time as possible to figure things out once we rode into the city. It was a little cold when we woke up so we put on a few layers and rode out of the park to a Sunkus convenience store for breakfast. We got on the road and enjoyed the ride into Aomori, warming up gradually as we went. For the most part, we rode through small fishing villages along an interesting coastline, but this gradually changed into a more industrial area as we moved west.

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Riding along the coast towards Aomori

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A little island shrine out in the bay

Within a couple of hours, we were in Aomori itself–I was surprised how big the city is! I had passed through here a few times when I lived in Hakodate, but never really saw much except for the train station and a couple other isolated locations. I wished we had a little time to visit the Munakata Shiko museum before getting on the ferry, as I thought Vicky would have enjoyed seeing some of his work, but unfortunately we didn’t have much time. Instead, we headed straight for the ferry landing, eventually getting there a little after 10 am.

Once at the ferry landing, we bought tickets for the next boat and had an hour to wait before it left. We spent the time cleaning up and arranging our baggage for the 4 hour ride across the Tsugaru Strait. We were really looking forward to relaxing on the ride over and enjoying a hot lunch, since we had not had a chance to eat after our ride into Aomori. All of the ferries we have been on so far have been a lot of fun and have plenty of options for food and drinks.

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This is one of the floats from an Aomori Neputa festival

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Waiting to board the ferry

It was only after the boat left the terminal that we realized this ferry was different–the only seating is on the floor of a medium-sized carpeted room, and there is no food to be found anywhere on the boat! Of course, all the locals knew this and immediately unpacked massive picnic lunches as soon as the boat departed; Vicky and I had to content ourselves with some green tea and peanuts that I had in the bottom of my handlebar bag :(

Despite being hungry on the four-hour ride, we enjoyed the ferry to Hakodate. There is a lot of coastline to watch, especially as you move north past the Shimokita peninsula. The coastline looked very sparsely populated, but also beautiful–lots of impressive cliffs coming
right down to the ocean, with tall mountains looming in the fog above.

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Mountains on the Shimokita peninsula appearing out of the fog

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Me

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View from the ferry

I have been looking forward to visiting Hakodate since we started the trip, and it was very exciting as the ferry pulled into the harbor and familiar sights started to appear: Hakodate mountain and the ropeway, the brick warehouses by the marina, and the central pier where I used to teach English to the customs inspectors. After getting off the ferry we still had a few miles to reach our hostel near the Motomachi area, so we climbed on and started riding.

One of my favorite words in Japanese is natsukashii: this is almost always translated as “nostalgic” but it really doesn’t capture the feeling of the word. Think of the the times when you’re sitting around with friends and hear a song from when you were teenagers. Or when you smell a food that your mother used to cook when you were a kid. In Japanese, you can just say “natsukashii, ne…” and this simple word captures all of the meaning of “wow, this really brings back memories of when I used to…”.

For me, that ride from the ferry landing to our hostel was very natsukashii. The wide streets and crazy taxi drivers, the Seicomart convenience stores (only found in Hokkaido), the loudspeakers on every street corner blaring out commercials, and the quaint buildings around the base of Hakodate mountain. We rode slowly through town until we found ourselves in front of our tiny hostel.

The owner was out, so we went down to the warehouse area and had a small lunch outside. When we returned, we were able to check in, clean up, and unpack. After resting up a little bit, we went out for a little celebration at the Hakodate Beer Factory right down the street: even though it had been tiring, we had finally made it to Hokkaido! We had some fried squid and squid somen (a local specialty), and then headed back to the hostel to relax. It had been an exciting day, and we had a long list of things we wanted to see tomorrow!

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Our celebration feast, including local Hakodate beer!