We were up early partly to have plenty of time to return the rental car and partly because I was excited about our trip on one of the famous Shinkansen trains from Sendai to Hakodate on the northernmost island of Hokkaido. Sendai station was full of new shops and restaurants so we had pancakes and then went up to see the trains departing before ours. No wonder they are known as bullet trains – their elegant shape looks like the rounded end of a bullet. We were so early we had time to kill watching Japan’s equivalent of Mary Berry demonstrate how to prepare bamboo shoots on the large screens tv in the waiting area.
Of course our train was on time, the white gloved guards make sure of that. We used to phone to try to measure the trains speed – about 190 mph! We had bento boxes for lunch – these are different from whichever stations you buy them from. There are lots of tunnels, but the last one
Japan’s 53.85km Seikan railway tunnel passes beneath the Tsugaru Strait and connects the Aomori Prefecture on Honshu Island and the Hokkaido Island. It is 150m below the seabed and is the world’s longest and deepest railway tunnel, with 23.3 km of the tunnel under the seabed. Impressive, but nothing to see!
The weather in Hakodate was cold, grey and miserable, so we toured by car to see the sites. It was the first port to open up to foreigners, following the treaty with the US in 1854 and ten countries established consulates in the next few years. The old British consulate is now a tearoom. There is a Russian Orthodox Church, a Catholic Church and an episcopal church and many foreigners are buried in graveyards there. It is supposed to resemble San Francisco, but in such wintry weather, we couldn’t see the resemblance. The only bright spot were the colourful old trams.
The next day before we left we visited the Asa-ichi fish market. They offer you the chance to catch fresh squid and then eat it as sashimi. I am not sure the little boy who caught one would eat it. A large cruise ship was berthed and its passengers snaking in the drizzle after their tour guides. The stall holders were trying hard to get them to buy the seafood delights in offer, but they were probably still full from breakfast. We however, managed to sample a delicious rice steam bun filled with king crab.