The weather gods quit smiling on us today. Hakodate is supposed to be a particularly beautiful city, located on a narrow peninsula. At the sounth end Mt. Hakodate, an extinct volcano, rises 1100 feet and provides wonderful views of the sea on both sides of the city - if it isn’t buried in clouds as it was today. As tours often do, we disregarded the weather, and took the Mt. Hakodate Ropeway, an aerial tram, to the top and peered at nothing until it was time to leave. Luckily, the rest of our tour went to places less affected by the weather.
We went to yet another fish market and are feeling like experts by now. Seeing king crab for sale that weigh nine pounds and are waiving their antenna at you, never ceases to impress. The hairy crabs which have little red tufts all over their bodies are something we’ve never seen at home. Many Japanese come to Hokkaido just for the opportunity to feast on shellfish, which are cooked on the spot in these markets and served as fresh as can be. However, we’re thinking they must have to rob banks before they come. That nine pound kind crab costs well over $100. People buy tiny little containers of this and that in a more affordable price range and graze through the markets. It makes me think of eating tapas in Spain. A speciality here is ice cream flavored with squid ink, which only cost $3 for half a cup. It looked like charcoal, but if I closed my eyes it tasted pretty much like vanilla. It was definitely much better than the garlic ice cream I tried once in San Francisco.
We keep hearing about Commodore Perry who launched a soft invasion of Japan after it had lived in isolation for two hundred years. (Makes me think of North Korea.) The locals took one look at his five sailing craft and knew they had nothing like it and quickly made treaties with the invading Americans. One area of Hakodate still has a nice collection of restored European/American looking buildings from this time. The Catholic church was nearly full of worshippers on this Sunday morning. We had to take off our shoes to go inside, of course. In an ecumenical approach to life a Buddhist Temple and Episcopal Church were also on the same street. We also saw some homes built in the classic old style with wooden boards and decorative timbers. Trees and bushes in their gardens were sculpted and clipped to within an inch of their lives. The azaleas which must have been blooming beautifully yesterday, were beaten into a pulp by the rain. Sigh…..
In the evening a local dance group came onboard to perform some classical dances in our theater. They were inscrutable, but fun to watch. According to the translated explanation, they involved bestowing various blessings like good health, good luck and just all around goodness on us all. At one point the dancers shot arrows into the audience in the name of world peace - go figure. Then a figure made of two men that reminded us of a Chinese dragon came into the audience to bite people in the parts of their bodies that hurt and cure them. On a ship where almost everyone has gray hair and wrinkles, that dragon could have been busy for hours!