+crowded world++japan++hokkaido++hakodate++may 17 2011

 north east asia galleries
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YOU notice a change in the landscape right after emerging from the long Seikan Tunnel, into the green land of Hokkaido. After living in Tokyo for 10.5 years, I had come to expect that all of Japan would look as industrialized as the capital. Once you emerge into the meadows and coastal scrubs of south Hokkaido, however, a different kind of Japan presents itself. In some ways, it is a European kind of Japan. The buildings look European too with their pastel colors and steep rooves. Near Sapporo there is a Scandinavian style housing development called Sweden Hills. Yes sir, the Japanese love creating little worlds all over their islands... the whole country is like Disneyland in that respect. I didn't have a chance to check out Swedish Hills, but I enjoyed the ride to Hakodate nonetheless. First stop out of the tunnel was Kikonai, in the Oshima subprefecture. The track follows the coast east by north, offering sometimes splendid views on the right-hand side. I sank back in my seat, drinking green tea sold by the tea ladies on the train. In due course, Hakodate presented itself, on a dramatic peninsula to the north. I would have liked to have stayed there for the night, but we were bound for Sapporo today! ..