Thursday, February 12, 2009

-21C and -41C

From the airport, our group of 70 broke up into 2 groups and we rode the tour bus towards Sounkyo (Soun gorge), at one of our bathroom breaks at a rest stop along the freeway, Satoshi and I shared a nama caramel (soft caramel) soft serve. We really enjoyed this. We also received these cookies by Kitakaro from our tour guide, which were like wafers with milk chocolate in the center. (The rest stops along Japan's highways are really interesting places, you can find interesting souvenirs as well as different local food things. I've heard that some rest stops are upscale by having hot spring bath may never reach your destination!)

From the rest stop, we visited the Ice Pavilion, this place lets you experience -21C (-5F) and -41C (-41F) temperatures. I must say that mohair is such a wonderful resource! I used my mohair scarf as a mask to block the wind from hitting my face. A gross but neat experience was that you could actually feel the water in your nose freeze before it dripped out (sorry! too much info, I hope you weren't eating while reading this) The most exciting part was seeing "diamond dust", the sparkly "dust" that I think is formed with snow and certain light reflections. That river in the photo is the Ishikari river, according to the guide, in Autumn you can see many salmon swimming up stream.

After visiting the Ice Pavilion we went to check-in at the Choyo Resort Hotel near Sounkyo (Soun gorge). Sounkyo is located in the Daisetsu-zan National Park.

About a 5 minute walk from our hotel was the Sounkyo Hyobaku Festival. These huge ice objet are created by the hotel workers in the area every year. They build the structures and shoot water at them for several days. Each night various travel agencies and vendors sponsor firework displays. They started this festival in hopes of luring tourists to the area during winter.

The temperature according to the front desk was -10C (14F) and windy. We had wrapped our scarves around our faces, but poor Satoshi, his glasses would fog up and he couldn't see anything. At times I had to lead him around like a blind man.

Since we didn't see the shuttle bus when we were ready to head back, we decided to walk back to our hotel. On our way back to our hotel, we stopped at Seicomart, a local convenience store and picked up a sujiko musubi. 120 yen (about US$1.20) Sujiko is the sac with the salmon roe inside. This type of musubi is only found in Hokkaido and was highly recommended by our foodie bus guide. Satoshi said it was really delicious.

For breakfast on Saturday, we went to the hotel buffet and I enjoyed this yaki-onigiri (grilled rice ball) doused with a thick hot mushroom soup and topped with shiso (perilla).

p.s. actually because the temps were so low, I noticed my digital camera was acting weird, whenever I would turn it sideways (perpendicular) to take something, the camera would vibrate so much that I would only be able to take a photo with the camera parallel to the ground.


2kamuela47 said...

SNOW! I miss that white stuff! Soft serve carmel looks ono reminds me of the pineapple ice cream/soft serve from Dole Cannery. Okay that's a stretch but from the picture it looks the same.

Okay hot springs at rest stops? Oh yeah it would take forever in a day to get to your destination. Have fun!

islegrl said...

I love Hokkaido! I was there in December but, unfortunately, the snow wasn't sticking yet. The food in Hokkaido is so good! Especially, the corn, crab and the dairy products. Yummmm!

That's so funny how the weather had that weird effect on your camera. Anyway, looking forward to more of your entries. Aloha! : )

K and S said...

Thanks Laura, most soft serves look the same unless they add a color to it :)

Thanks Islegrl, the tour guide mentioned that February was the time of year the it snowed the most.

Take care you two.

Kathy said...

Whoa, the Ice Pavilion sounds fantastic! I can't even imagine what that sort of chill would be's been unusually warm in NYC the last few days. 55 F today! :)

Excited to read up on the rest of your trip! ^_^

K and S said...

being from Hawaii it was definitely something to experience, Kathy :) 55F sounds nice...I think our temps will go up to about 57F :)

Take care.

KirkK said...

Wow looks and sounds wonderful....don't know about the hana-buddah freezing thing though....

K and S said...

I know Kirkk, had to share that tidbit though :)

Take care.

Debinhawaii said...

Sounds a bit too cold for my blood but how cool to see all the ice, the river and the sculptures. Quite the adventure!

OkiHwn said...

That's really cold!

OkiHwn said...

KirkK - the hanabata flows more in the ice cold weather!

TonyM said...

I can't imagine temperatures that low! I thought we had things bad in London. Food looks great though. Tony

K and S said...

Really cold Deb, but still a great experience :)

Very cold, Nate!

Thanks Tony!

Take care everyone.

Tamakikat said...

Hi there Kat!

Sounds like you had a delicious time.

You're very brave facing those temperatures. I don't think I could do that.

The caramels, musubi wouldn't be a problem though:)


OkiHwn said...

Coldest I've ever been in was when in college in upstate New York it hit -27°F one year. About this time of the year. Usually it would be in the minus teens.

K and S said...

Thanks Tamakikat :)

Wow, that is cold Nate!

Take care you two.

Alisa@Foodista said...

My first time here, your adventures sound wonderful! Ive always dreamed of going to Japan! Love the photos and the stories that go along with it! Do tell us more!

Rowena said...

I was shaking in my socks when I first read the title -- minus 21 and lower???! Kat, that is just insane! Kinda like, how low can you go below zero! Glad that you went!

Jenster said...

Love the photos, Kat!

I had to laugh when you mentioned ice in your nostrils. I remember walking around in below-0 temps before with a high wind and I not only worried about my nose drying out, I also worried about my contacts freezing and cracking. Thank goodness for scarves and squinting.

K and S said...

Thanks Alisa!

It was something to experience Rowena, though I would never want to live in conditions like that!

Whoa, never thought about contacts Jenster, that would be dangerous and scary!

Take care everyone.