2008 May 24 Saturday and May 25 Sunday.

I was hoping that Ikuko and I could get get on the road to Otaru by about 13:30 or so, but we were delayed until about 15:45.

It was hot and sunny this afternoon, so I dressed in short pants and a short sleeved shirt for the drive to the coast.

The route I always use when driving to the Sea of Japan from Asahikawa is as follows.

First I get onto Highway 12 at the border between Kamui and Chuwa.

I drive along Route 12 through two long tunnels until I get to the KamiKoTan 神居コタン area.

There, after the end of the second long tunnel, I turn right onto Route 57 heading towards FukaGawa 深川.

At FukaGawa, many people turn off onto Route 223 which leads directly to downtown Rumoi 留萌.

I don't. Instead, I continue on along Route 57 driving through FukaGawa and then on into MoSeUshi 妹背牛.

There, I turn off onto Route 628 which is close to the PePeRu OnSen ペペル温泉.

After driving for about 8 kilometers along Route 628, I turn left onto Route 94 which is also known as the 稲田増毛線.

This Route 94 will take you all the way to Sea of Japan Coastline and Route 231 at a point about 3 kilometers south of Rumoi.

This is by far the most scenic way to drive to the beach from Asahikawa. After taking a rest at the rocky beach at the end of Route 94, we headed south down

Route 231 towards Mashike Town 増毛町.

Right after passing through Mashike Town, there begins a long series of tunnels which last all of the way down the オロロンライン until you get into HamaMasu Town 浜益町.

We stopped along the way in HamaMasu to eat some Sea Urchin Rice Bowl うに丼 and other delicious foods.

Then, we got back on the road for the remaining 90 minutes or so drive to Otaru.

I know exactly how to get to Authent Hotel, because I have been there many times before.

They even have free parking inside one of those Vertical Parking Elevators 立体駐車場, which is located right next door to the main entrance of the hotel.

When we drove up to the entrance of the hotel to unload our bags, the person who came out to greet us, remembered me right away.

He said; "You came here last year too, didn't you?"

I said; "Yes, I did. And the year before that, and the year before that, etc."

It is nice to see a familiar face again, when on the road. We checked in at about 19:30 and then immediately went back outside again, for the short walk to the Canal Plaza Area 運河プラザ and the Otaru Beer Factory in Warehouse Number One.

Before we left Asahikawa today, we already knew that the PALOSIKS would not be performing tonight.

However, we were looking forward to drinking the Helles German Style Beer ヘルス which is only available during the springtime and early summer of each year.

This beer is truly a masterpiece of this brewery, and only costs 1,680 yen per liter.

ONLY???!!! Let's see, that is about 10 times more expensive than gasoline! Yeah, well,..... what the hell. Helles is damn good beer.

Unfortunately for us, we were both still rather full from our late meal in

HamaMasu, and we couldn't drink as much good beer as we usually do.

Did we save any money on the deal?

No, not really. Sea Urchin Rice Bowl costs about 2,600 per serving, making it rather pricey for a single meal.

But who cares anyway. Money is just dirty paper.

After spending about 90 minutes at the Otaru Beer Factory, Ikuko and I walked around a bit along the famous canal area.

There were far less people than we expected, but then again, it was just another

Saturday night in Otaru, with no special consecutive holidays for the Japanese Salary Man.

Even though the air temperature was about 15 degrees C., the air felt colder than that because of the Sea Breeze moisture in the air.

We hurried back to the Authen Hotel so that we could use the Mist Sauna and other fine bathing facilities.

It felt very good to warm up again, and drink some brandy as we watched TV until about 02:00.

On Sunday morning, we woke up at about 7:30 and went up to the 11th floor for a Western Style all you can eat 食べ放題 breakfast.

They also offer a Japanese Style breakfast on the 3rd floor of the hotel, for those customers who prefer it that way.

We always choose the Western Style Breakfast with its scrambled eggs, bacon, crispy rolls, plus plenty of strong coffee and fresh Hokkaido milk.

I almost never make this kind of meal for myself at home, even though I could do so very easily.

I prefer brown rice 玄米 and natto 納豆, with various seasonings like kimchi, or hot mustard and soy sauce. But this morning is different.

A once or twice in a year, experience.

As such, I really shoveled it down.

Tasted sooooooooo good.

Just like my typical childhood breakfast in Spokane Washington.

Anyway, today it is raining in Otaru, and other locations in Hokkaido, as well.

So, instead of driving back to Asahikawa, along the same route on which we came, we decided to first visit Wing Bay Otaru and take a look around.

We haven't been inside this shopping complex for about 10 years, and many things have changed.

One of the differences that I really liked, is the fact that, they have a stage on the first floor, for musical artists to perform upon.

Our timing was just right and we caught the performance of two guys on amplified acoustic guitars, with excellent vocals.

Asahikawa should have more of this type of stuff, in the AEON Shopping Mall.

After looking around there for about 90 minutes, we were back on the road, Route 5 heading towards Sapporo, where we got onto Route 12 for the remaining trip back to Asahikawa.

Distance wise, this route is shorter than taking the coast highway, but there are so many stop lights and traffic jams along the way, that it usually takes more time to arrive at our final destination.

However, Ikuko's younger sister was recently transferred from Tokyo to Sapporo for her job, so we decided to drop in at her office and say hello.

She had to work today until about 19:00, so we were only able to talk to her for a few minutes.

Finally, Ikuko and I arrived back home at about 19:30 and immediately stretched out with a beer or two, to unwind.

Driving through the big city, really makes me tired.

That's why I always take JR if my only destination on a trip, is going to Sapporo.