Day 3 – Oh, Otaru, how do I love thee

As I stood at the train platform waiting for the train to Otaru, I saw a man queuing up a few rows away (everyone forms a line to board the trains in Japan), and smiled at him. I thought he had the kindest face I’d seen in a while and also, he looked just like Jim Broadbent! If they ever need a double for Jim Broadbent, he’s the man.

I snapped a few pictures of the train parked across the platform. The Twilight Express is a thing of beauty. Coated in dark evergreen and gold typography, it looked beautiful outside and inside. It’s a sleeper train, and one day, I hope to travel in the Twilight Express – wherever it goes. (I just googled, and it’s the longest train ride in Japan from Osaka – Sapporo/22 hours – Woah nelly!) Think of a hotel that moves. I tried to snap a few shots of it before it started rolling away, and my JR Super Express screeched in the distance and appeared in front of me within seconds.

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Sorry for the bad quality, it was moving!

The ride to Otaru took us only about 30 minutes or so. I wasn’t paying attention to the time. Actually, the most beautiful part about a vacation is not having to keep track of the day/time (unless you’re rushing for the next train or something). I had honestly lost track of the days in Japan and for obscure reasons, I kept thinking everyday was either a Saturday or Monday in Japan.

I reached Otaru, and at this point had no idea of what I wanted to do, apart from visiting the Otaru Canal; and I didn’t know where exactly this canal was and what else to do. I had reasoned to myself that I could use the handy portable wi-fi to find my way around Otaru. I was walking across when a man asked me “And where are you from young lady”? and that fortuitous meeting is the highlight of my Japan trip. And although I’ve met superbly amazing people along the way, the meeting with Ray, Satoko-San and Ayana was a blessing. I spent the whole day with them, exploring charming Otaru and every little shop as we went by.

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Picturesque Otaru Canal

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A lone busker along Otaru Canal

Otaru is lined with shops boasting beautiful, delicate and pretty glassware from beer glass mugs to gorgeous plates and bowls. They come in all shapes and sizes, with intricate designs carved on them. 

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One of the biggest glassware shops

Another major tourist attraction is their music boxes. Dotted along the streets of Otaru are shops selling music boxes of all shapes, sizes and sounds. You’ll know you’re walking past the museum when you hear sweet tinkling sounds teasing your senses. 

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Otaru Music Box Museum

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Ancient gramophone (i think)

Ray’s from New Mexico, Arizona and his wife was originally from Sendai.  He’s the Chief of the Pharmaceutical department in Hillary Regional hospital in Silver City, but they come to Japan every year for a month to visit Satoko-san’s family, and to explore Japan as well. Ray’s a hilarious man, witty and full of jokes. He’d say something with a straight face, and I’d laugh out loud, whereas Ayana would look bewildered for a second before realising he was merely pulling a fast one on us!

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Looks a little like Jim Broadbent, doesn’t he? 🙂

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From left to right: Ayana, Satoko-san, Ray

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Us, just before sunset

Ray also made sure I never spent a single cent on food and kept saying “save your money for your trip”. I insisted that ice-cream was on me, and made sure everyone had an ice-cream! Apart from making me feel like one of them, he also had the warmest and kindest words to say. He said I had the most beautiful smile and that was one of the reasons why he even approached me! I really couldn’t think of what to say except thank you and told him the truth; that I smiled at him because he had the kindest face. Happy day, this 🙂  Every time I feel fugly or unworthy of anyone/anything, I’ll remember his kind words. I’m going to type this out, and will come back to read it whenever I need to. He had e-mailed me this.

“It was a wonderful day, better than I could expect when it started thanks to your beautiful mesmerizing smile, and charming personality. You are an absolutely exceptional gorgeous lady. One of the top 3 most beautiful and charming I have met in my life. I will send pictures and see you in New Mexico, and show you the time of your life.”

Yep, I am going to New Mexico next year to visit them. I can’t wait for summer ’14. His house is absolutely stunning; the view from his patio is picturesque and breath-taking. Saw pictures, just in case you’re wondering. Just thinking about it makes me happy!

 

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After sunset at Otaru before leaving this beautiful place

After we left Otaru, we headed back to Sapporo where they invited me over to their hotel room to check out the view of Sapporo – they live on one of the top floors with a ceiling to floor window – and it floored me. Ayana left as she had to work, but we went straight to the hotel bar on the topmost floor, chilled with a drink before I bade them goodbye with a mix of emotions. They’re really a wonderful couple; extremely kind and smart. I enjoyed talking to Ray about everything, ranging from U.S politics to camping and hiking. We’re keeping in touch through e-mails and it’s amazing to know I made a life-long friend on my solo adventure. 

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