Underground again

Since I couldn’t see the sea cave on Monday I decided to compensate that by visiting a limestone cave. This one actually has a website with opening hours and other information so a fairly ‘save’ place to choose.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACar park at the cave

However I couldn’t find any information about public transport.
It’s only about 10km from Tōma station but I didn’t want to walk again especially since it was very humid and warm, as always. Thankfully a lovely shop assistant at the stations small grocery store gave me the number of a taxi company.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANext to the cave entrance. The dragon seems to be the symbol of the town.

The cave is located outside of Tōma surrounded by fields, forests and mountains. A few hiking trails start there as well.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACascade at the rock garden near the cave

It’s an absolutely amazing and fairly large cave. Full of limestone of all shapes and sizes. What’s special about this cave is that a lot of them are unusually clear.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASurprise, it’s a cave, it’s dark, pictures turned out shit.

The paths are very narrow, maybe 50cm/20″ wide most of the time, and the ceiling gets really low in some places as well. There was an about 3m/9.8′ long passage where it was only 1.5m/4.9′ high (maybe, just guessing). And of course with a lot of tiny stalactites pointing down.
There were also some small ponds.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt was way more beautiful than the picture shows.

The only really annoying thing was that they apparently thought it was a good idea to play some informational audio really loudly throughout the cave without interruption. It was just the same stuff over and over again, not different information of different spots.


As I got back to the town I had to wait for two hours for the train so I went for a short walk but returned to the station because it was cooler. Temperature wise. And thus also metaphorically.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThat street led to some park


Trains, trains, ancient carvings, and TRAINS!

In order to not have to hurry for a change I went to Otaru. It’s quite close to Sapporo about 40 minutes by train and there’s an express train every 30 minutes in addition to a few local ones. (Also I went there before in winter.)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASince Otaru is known for its glass work the station is full of fancy lamps.

So I left fairly late and was there at about 11am. My destination was the Temiya Cave. It’s located a bit outside the town centre so I took a bus. And then walked up a steep hill for a good amount of time. Unfortunately that was the wrong direction. (What’s new?) But I did find a nice park.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADon’t get fooled by the fog, it was really hot.

The cave is next to the Otaru General Museum so I just went there first. And it turned out to be a most amazing place. The first floor was about science with one room containing a lot of experiments to try yourself and the other displaying examples of technology mimicking nature (like rainwear which like lotus leaves repels water).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is in the engine that stood inside the museum.

The ground floor had information about the history of Japanese/Hokkaidō/Otaru railway.



And outside were an abundance of old engines, wagons and other train things from different time periods. Almost all of them were open to enter even the driver’s cabs. So many buttons and levers and wheels and no ‘Don’t touch!’ signs!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere were more than you can see here.


There was one engine that was moving, not sure where though because all the tracks ended at the end of the museum area which wasn’t too big.
And there was a separate building with a lot of train/engine/(I don’t know technology) parts displayed.


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANo, it didn’t smell too nice in the wagons to be honest, especially with the heat. But so what?

So yeah, it’s an absolutely awesome place.


Then I went to the cave and was kinda disappointed. It was more like a small room with some information boards and a glass window behind which you could see the cave wall with some really old carvings. They also had some old dishes/pottery displayed, presumably found there. The entrance fee was only 100¥ and it was nice and chilly, so I don’t really have a reason to complain.



Rain and a mine

JR Hokkaido has various discount tickets, one of them a ‘foreign student pass’. It allows you to travel with any train on Hokkaido – including express trains- for three or five days. Also seat reservation is free of charge. I decided to get the five day pass because so far I haven’t done much travelling.


All aboard...

The first day I went to Yūbari. There I wanted to visit a coal mining museum as well as a waterfall park with a waterfall power plant near by.
My train from Sapporo Station left 10:18am and it took about an hour to get to Shin-Yūbari from where a local one-wagon train led to Yūbari. So far everything went well.


Like most mining towns Yūbari experienced a massive decline in population as well as financial difficulties when the mines closed down.

Then I had to wait about an hour for a bus, unfortunately it went in the exactly opposite direction so it took another hour instead of a few minutes until I finally arrived at the park like area where the museum was supposed to be. But I couldn’t find it. After walking around for a while I finally found someone to ask. Meanwhile the light rain that had been falling suddenly turned into a heavy downpour and by the time I finally reached the museum I was completely soaked.


At a café/art gallery near the museum

It’s not particularly big, but seems to cover all important aspects about coal, coal mining and the Yūbari mine. Also it has some information plates in English which I greatly appreciated. The ground floor is all about the formation of coal and it also covers some more earth history and geology. The story above starts with information about the usage of coal –for energy, fertilizers, plastic, etc.- followed by a lot about the history of the Yūbari mine. Intersecting with that was some general mining history, like how tools advanced over time.


The entrance to the museum area

And then it had an elevator leading down to the mine. By this time I had lost hope to actually get to go underground many times, especially since the museum closes at 4:30pm.


Miner at work?

It started more as a smooth concrete tunnel with scenes from different time periods displaying how mining used to be done. The generally had a lot of dolls involved especially in the underground part. (And with quite impressively real looking faces as well.)
After they showed a few bigger machines, some in action, visitors were given helmets with head lamps and the route continued in parts of the mine. Most spots were still fairly well-lit though. Also in this part they used dolls and machines to show how work was done although I remember mostly modern equipment.


Miners at work… a few years earlier I suppose.

After leaving the coal mine I went back through the rain to the station. I figured it would be faster to walk than to wait for another bus. It took me about 40 minutes, including stopping several times to take pictures. Then I had to wait for one and a half hours so I went to a nearby restaurant and had some hot noodle soup and tea to warm up.
Since it was already quite late and I didn’t want to miss any last trains I decided not to go to the waterfall.


The town hosts the annual ‘Yubari International Fantastic Film Festival’ and there’s a lot of film posters everywhere.

Also the reason there aren’t many pictures from the museum is 1. I wasn’t really sure if taking pictures was allowed and 2. Museums (and mines) don’t tend to be too well-lit and my camera doesn’t like that (and I don’t like flash, ew).


And the train keeps rolling…

Also also because someone apparently is interested in food stuff, here’s what I had today.


-Pumpkin okara karintō. Store bought and quite nice.
-Bagel sandwich. Just some vegetables I had in the fridge with some sauces. Nothing special.
-Udon noodle soup with onions and soy sauce? Again, didn’t make it myself, so not sure.
-Fried carrots, egg-plant and tofu, all fried in sesame oil and some soy sauce, I put black pepper to the vegetables and fresh grated ginger on the tofu. Also fresh paprika and baby corn.
-White rice and hijiki-salad with edamame, carrots, aburāge and sesame seeds. Again, added some soy sauce as well as vinegar and konbu dashi.
-Bluberry bagel. I’m boring you, aren’t I?

Places, Uncategorized

More snow and kitsch in Otaru

While in Sapporo snow and ice was used to create giant castles the neighbouring town Otaru had their annual “Otaru Snow Light Path” which we went to see. Shop owners, school children and volunteers make snow sculptures to put candles in turning the town centre into a magical fairy tale place at night. Since it takes place around the same time as the Sapporo Snow Festival there are already a lot of tourists in the area plus Otaru is a very touristic place all around the year. Understandably: Many pretty old houses (I could only think of like three buildings here in Sapporo that look older than 50 years), a beautiful canal promenade, the sea and more.


At the canal

The snow candles range from simple bucket-moulded piles with a hole over coloured ice with flowers to whole walls full of ornaments and candles. There are some spots around the town where they are especially focused but as it attracts customers a lot of shops have some in front of them (usually just small ones, but still).


Sculpture inviting customers in front of a shop

We wanted to see the lights at the canal but some other people seemed to have had the same idea. It was really crowded and almost impossible to see anything. So the many small lights in the streets were very welcome. Unfortunately I didn’t take many pictures during daytime and my camera sucks in the dark.

more light

Lights made from coloured ice in a shopping arcade

As mentioned Otaru is very touristic with many gift shops most of them sell fancy glassware. According to Wikipedia, ‘Otaru’s prominent industries are arts and crafts’.


In one of the many glass ware shops

There also is a music box museum. ‘Though I’m not sure whether it deserves the term ‘museum’. Most of the building is used to sell music boxes in every shape, colour, size and material and other decorative things. But there are some old music boxes, gramophones and similar machines displayed as well as some information on their history. I would have loved to learn something about how they work or how they’re built. But love that place nonetheless because kitsch. Another plus is that there’s relatively a lot of English.


Steam clock music boxes

In front of the music box museum is a steam powered clock, originating from Gastown, Vancouver.  Instead of bells it has whistles and white steam telling the time.


The inside of this pile of snow is full of candles

We also went to see the sea for a bit before we headed home. It was a lovely moment ‘cause no one was there, the only light came from one warehouse at the docks (and omnipresent light pollution, duh), but just 5 minutes ago we were surrounded by thousands of candles, street laps, billboard signs and so many people that my classmates said it’s just like in China.


Round light made from ice with leaves

Definitely want to go there again when it’s a bit warmer.