Every year after the Skills Development Conference in Aomori City, a group of JETs jump on a ferry and head to Hakodate, a city on the southernmost tip of Hokkaido, just a four-hour journey away. It’s known for its delicious seafood, beautiful scenic views, kitsch burger chain Lucky Pierrot, and more recently as the place where I broke my arm in an unfortunate piggy-back accident.
Despite the many hilarious jokes about broken bones thrown in my direction, I decided to try again and accomplish what I couldn’t last year. In Japanese this is called リベンジ (ribenji i.e. revenge): a classic case of Japanglish where it’s just… not quite. Another example of this, which I came across the other week, was when I asked my friend how I could say “repetitive” in Japanese, and he suggested ワンパターン (wanpataan i.e. one pattern). “This song is catchy but so one pattern!” Hmmmm maybe not.
I find it interesting how English words make it into the Japanese vocabulary, and I get where they’re coming from but it probably wouldn’t directly be translated like that. I wonder if we use foreign words like that and don’t realise that’s not how they’re used by native speakers?? Anyway, I digress…
This time in Hakodate I didn’t break anything and I got to see all the sights I wanted and eat everything I came for, including market seafood breakfast, Hokkaido curry, teriyaki burgers, miso curry milk ramen, gyoza, ice cream and crepes. Parts of Hakodate made me feel like I was walking around Disneyland: the cobbled streets, the tram system, the pink winter sky at sunset, the pretty pastel facades and red brick warehouses, the tinsel hanging from old-fashioned street lamps, the bustle of people by the port… it felt Western but in a weird, nostalgic, not-quite-genuine way. It’s probably something to do with how 150 years ago, Japan’s 220 years of isolation was ended when Hakodate became the first port to be opened to the public, which brought over many Western influences. The pale blue and yellow paneling of the old British Consulate in particular felt like a Disneyland attraction.
One night before going on the ropeway to see the night view, we walked around a hilly district called Motomachi, which was full of churches. We came up to the Russian Orthodox church just as mass was beginning, and we got to hear the bells ring. They weren’t like any church bells I’ve heard before, and with the clouds lit up by the moon like smoke and the trees with their spindly branches looming over us, it made the atmosphere really eerie! Alexander and I ruined it though by projecting shadow puppets onto the side of the church.
Highlights of the trip were my 2000 yen (£11) seafood breakfast in the market which I had twice! (freshly caught sea urchin, cod roe, scallop, squid and crab on a bowl of rice), strolling around the waterfront at night, having Japanified afternoon tea at the British Consulate, doing karaoke in a tiny bar, having an evening of games, drinking and eating in our rented apartment, seeing the night view of Hakodate, and generally being with great friends and getting to know new ones. I’m glad this time things worked out in my favour!!