May 28, 2010 6:32 AM
According to the lonely planet: discover Japan book my friends gave me, the "Northern Honshu (Tohoku in Japanese) is a place of rugged mountains and remote valleys, terminating at the very tip of Japan's main island. The time-honored travelers' route through this region takes you along ancient watercourses that feed fertile rice paddies, and around hulking volcanic massifs that fuel natural onsen (hot springs)."
In many regards, fate played a role in my impulsive decision to escape from Berkeley and O.C. to study (actually vacation) at Tohoku University. From the "rugged mountains and remote valleys [to] rice paddies and natural onsen," I was given a chance to forget the exhaustion I constantly felt to fully appreciate the innate simplicities of nature without worrying about deadlines to meet. During moments like these, I am glad my major is plant biology... It did not take much effort to understand how the natural wonders of Tohoku have taken the breaths of countless travelers over the centuries with its sublime beauty. Mine were no exceptions.
Towards the end of April, my fellow EAP friends and I decided that it was only reasonable that we explore Hokkaido the very first chance we got. Thus during Golden week, Mary, Vincent, Brian, David, Tanner and I packed our bags, took the shinkansen at 5am in Sendai station and headed north.
Now, what was Golden week? The equivalent of our spring break, Golden week consisted of a collection of national holidays that occur (for the most part) one after the other. The names of these holidays made me wonder about the historical significance behind these established yasume (break/rest) days. Although I still do not fully understand why and how they all occur during the first week of May, I cannot complain since my friends and I were able to travel throughout the Northern regions of Japan, affectionately called Hokkaido, and visited 5 different cities in 5 days.
To be more specific, the holidays were:
4月（がつ、gatsu）29日(にち、nichi): Thursday; しょうわのび（Day of Showa）
4月30日: Friday; Molecular Cellular Biology class was canceled, but we still had Aikido class.
5月 1 日: Saturday
5月 2 月: Sunday
5月 3 日: Monday; けんぼうきねんび（Constitution Memorial Day）
5月 4 日: Tuesday; みどりのひ（Greenery Day）
5月 5 日: Wednesday; こどものひ（Children's Day）
My friends and I decided to delay our vacation and start on Saturday because of the difficulties we had while trying to make hotel and hostel reservations for 6 people. As a trade off, we extended our Golden week by one day, took the overnight ferry back to Sendai Wednesday night and missed lab on Thursday (which was perfectly a-okay with the professors here!).
Our itinerary was*:
Day 1 (Saturday): Matsushima
Day 2 (Sunday): Hakodate
Day 3 (Monday): Lake Toya
Day 4 (Tuesday): Otaru
* I've included links to the places where we stayed/visited at.
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