Flying the 優しい Skies

Today we set out for a ski weekend in Hokkaido on our first conventional domestic flight within Japan. I say conventional because in October we flew to Okinawa on a low cost carrier called Peach Airlines that was so low cost that we didn’t even use a regular airport terminal, but rather a cargo terminal with air conditioning. 

Today we headed for Haneda airport to catch an All Nippon Airways flight to Hokkaido, the northernmost island of Japan. Most of you likely know that Japan is very train-y, and you can get pretty much anywhere by rail–even the airports. That said we usually drive because training with four people and a mountain of ski luggage is a hassle. Unfortunately parking at the airport was completely booked and taking no more reservations as of a few days ago–so train it was. 

The biggest hurdle was getting to the station from our house. It’s a not-terrible 15 minute walk from our house to Negishi Station–not terrible when you’re just carrying a bag or briefcase, that is. We live partway up a giant hill, so that means 187 stairs between us and the station level, which is less fun with multiple 35 lb. duffles of ski gear. So Mark drove us and the luggage to the station, drove home to park the car, then walked back to the station. 

After about one hour, three trains (one “bonus” train when we got on in the wrong direction at one point), and 500 yen (about $4.50 USD)–we finally arrived at the airport. 

We checked in at the counter, where no one checked our IDs–standard for domestic Japanese travel. Mark mentioned that he met an American who makes a point of using a fake name and buying airline tickets in cash, just because he can. I’ll let you fine readers contemplate the security implications of that for a moment…

Good food at U.S. airports happens by chance; great food at Japanese airports is the norm. After check-in we headed for the food court and checked out the usual offerings: ramen, sushi, Korean, Thai (uncommon in town, but always at the airport food courts), and burgers. Tessa and I decided to try a burger. 

I’m sure that many of you are judging right now. *I’m* judging right now. But as soon as Tessa suggested the burger I realized that I hadn’t ordered a burger in a restaurant since moving to Japan over a year ago. The bun looked good so I gave it a go. 

It was ok. 

Wielding those chopsticks like a pro!

Cy stuck with his standby, ramen. Mark had a savory Korean pancake that’s called chijimi in Japanese, buchimgae in Korean. It’s a street food staple and totally delicious. 

Mark definitely scored the most delicious lunch

After lunch we flew 90 minutes to Sapporo and arrived at New Chitose Airport. The languages on the signs in the terminal reflect the nationalities that pass through the most: Japanese, English, Chinese, Korean–and Russian! Hokkaido is way up there. 

Mark and the kids consider the udon and ikura choices
Before our two hour bus ride to our rental, we stopped for another round of snacks. The kids ate ikura (salmon roe) bowls at an eat-while-standing restaurant, while I picked up a convenience store meal: onigiri (rice ball wrapped in roasted seaweed) with shrimp and mayo inside, pineapple, Pringles, and chocolate almonds for dessert. My feast cost a whopping 670 yen, or about $5.50 USD. Also Mark got a beer for the bus ride because he loves me. 

We’re on the bus now. It’s snowy! So excited. 

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