A Grand Day Out – a lesson learnt.
I am not going to lie; the weather here is truly depressing. It is currently raining cats and dogs. Everyone is frustrated, testing levels of patience. Therefore, a necessary trip to Sapporo on a rainy day was a welcome change of scenery.
Two weeks ago, at Geneva Airport, I was denied to take on board one of my pieces of hand luggage. “Madame, that rucksack is NOT a handbag”.
Well, no it wasn’t, he was right, but then again I am not really a handbag kind of girl so therefore my rucksack should be allowed to go on board. He didn’t need to know there was a ski boot in it…
Anyway, my charm failed and I admit that we (sorry mum and dad for forcing you to treat your 27 year old daughter like a child, again) ended up shipping a bag as cargo to Sapporo on its own. I was embarrassed until I heard tales of others’ misfortune when travelling through airports; at least I had the right day, time, terminal etc…
The initial “your bag will be with you by the weekend” was a LIE. Today, finally, I was reunited with my rucksack.
Eri, in her role as translator, came into her element today. Having arranged that we would go down to Sapporo to pick up the rucksack (some extortionate costs were mentioned if it were to be transferred up to the resort) she drove me down the 2 hour route to the airport and took charge of the day.
I have never experienced such a ridiculous amount of paperwork to complete, discussions and running around between custom agencies all for a a few t-shirts, some clean knickers, a bar of cadbury’s (thank you Steph – it’s now got to last a week until Christmas), ski socks, and the other half of my bikini. I am told that the very kind man who was dealing with the whole situation even stamped us through a stage as he wasn’t sure I would have passed! 330 yen was paid (yes, that was it – roughly £1.80) for storing it overnight, and I was presented with my long-lost rucksack.
Lesson learnt – DO NOT send your luggage as cargo. It is cheaper and more efficient to send it by one of the international shipping services available online. They go door to door.
However, there were many, many giggles over the course of the day. Sadly I couldn’t photograph all of them so here is an account. I am sure some fall in to the ‘you had to be there’ scenario, but I hope you get an idea.
- Eri went to sit down on the imagined third seat of a row of chairs and sat smack on the floor. Oh how I wish I had filmed it!
- Every time we returned to the intial ‘base’ to deliver or collect more paperwork, we had to telephone to be let in and telephone to be let out of the parking bay. She couldn’t quite reach to put the phone back on its hook. This made me chuckle.
- “What’s the speed limit down here, Eri?”
“What are you doing?”
“75km/hr – it’s fine!” At least she wasn’t driving in her ski boots today.
- We had lunch in a restaurant to experience traditional Japanese Katsu (deep fried meat and fish). It had been suggested we nip into McDonald’s on the way out of Sapporo. We dismissed this idea almost instantly and swapped the KFC option for JFP (Japanese Fried Pork) option.
A Japanese gentleman, sat behind us, attracted Eri’s attention in order to kindly offer her two vouchers to get a discount on our lunch. He went on to explain, in English, that he had visited America and how hospitable the Americans had been. He proceeded to ask where I was from. “I’m English, I’m from England”. Awkward. After a moments pause he replied he had visited London and had enjoyed himself. Phew. He then produced his iPad with something about religions uniting all over the world at which point Eri looked at me with an urgent ‘let’s go now’ face.
5. Fuelling your vehicule in Japan is an experience. They fill the car for you and clean all your windows whilst you wait. I paid £7 for 15L of diesel. They then bow you out of the station. The ground staff at Tokyo Narita airport did the same as we took off to go to Chitose. Once they had finished preparing the aeroplane for take-off, they stood back, waved and bowed until the aircraft left its station. I thought it was great and waved back at them!
After a day in the car we decided a swim would be good. I’ve never swam in such a hot pool or room. Other than that, the experience was fairly standard. The lie down Jacuzzi was obviously not long enough and Eri got her giggle in for the day as she observed my knobbly knees poking out of the water.
We continued on to Kutchan where Eri wanted to sign up for Kendo classes. I had never heard of this before. Here is a link to trusty Google to give you more of an idea if you are as naive as I am. Once I had checked out the gym (there is some interesting kit in there. I am sure that will be another entertaining experience) we went in search of the Kendo class. Entering the room we had to bow to the occupants, then whilst Eri sorted out the paperwork and her equipment I watched with utter bemusement at what is probably a very skillful sport, but to me seemed to be children bashing each other over the head with a wooden stick. I was particularly gripped by a group of three beginners: two children, a boy and girl, who were tiny and could have been no more than 5 years old, and a slightly over-weight adult gaijan. I fully respected his enthusiasm and determination to learn and get involved. However, he was being whipped by these fierce 5 year old’s. Every “thwack” over their teacher’s head was received with a very vocal ‘bam’ from these little guys. I am merely an observer, but if I were to give the gaijan a tip, it would have been to stop being so polite. I wish I could have taken a photograph or two, but felt it was inappropriate. I will definitely be going to watch feisty Eri expel her rage.
In the meantime I am going to go and do a snow dance and wear a different t-shirt.