Monthly Archives: December 2016

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New Year’s Eve in Japan

I celebrated New Year’s Eve in Japan in 2015.

As it got nearer to the New Year, only minutes away now, everyone gathered inside. All the staff from TOWA, the soba restaurant next door, owned by the same one who owned the bar, came as well. Not like Norway at all. In Norway we all go out at midnight to watch the fireworks and wish friends and strangers happy new year. Here there were no fireworks, we all stayed inside the bar, the sake was passed around.

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Sapporo TV Tower

I visited Sapporo TV Tower in December 2015

The view was perfect. You could see Odori Park running through the city, leading your gaze to, far in the distance, the ski jumping hill. The one used in the 1972 Winter Olympics. On a mountainside on the edge of the city it stood, in direct line of sight from the tower, no high rise in the way, only the trees of Odori Park.

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A Christmas Market in Sapporo

I visited the Christmas Market in Sapporo in December, 2015

I have been to many different christmas markets, I happen to travel a lot around christmas, but I had only been to markets in Europe. When I saw there was a christmas market in Sapporo while I was there, I knew I had to visit. I have been to christmas markets in Strasbourg and Berlin, Trondheim and Gdansk. They are usually very similar, but all with small differences.

It was the same in Sapporo, at first sight the market could have been anywhere. It looked like any christmas market, but at a closer look you could always spot the differences.

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The Icy Roads of Sapporo

I experienced the winter in Sapporo for four days during December 2015

Sapporo, despite actually lying just south of Nice, France, can be a a city of cold and snowy winters. With the Siberian High front developing over Eastern Russia and the Aleutian Low front developing north in the Pacific Ocean, a cold flow of air comes from the north and down to West Hokkaido. The result is usually cold and snowy winters, almost six meters of snow on average. In Niseko, a few hours by car from Sapporo this results in a ski resort with some of the best powder snow in the world. In Sapporo this means freezing winters, much trepidation, but also warm periods melting the snow to water which becomes ice due to the Heave, the cold ground. A problem also known in Norway.

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Flying to Sapporo with Vanilla Air

I flew with Vanilla Air from Tokyo to Sapporo and back in December 2015

Usually when I travel around Japan I use trains. Shinkansen for longer distances and express or local trains for shorter distances. With a Japan Railpass I can ride the usually expensive Japanese trains as much as I want for a fixed price, and in Japan there is always a train leaving. Add the speed and comfort of the Shinkansen and train journeys become a great way to travel. It was first on my fourth trip to Japan that I had a domestic flight.

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Helios Beer in Naha, Japan

I visited Helios Beer in Okinawa in September 2016

I had seen the place during my walk through the city earlier in the day. A little too early for a beer then, there was still much I wanted to see in Naha, but now, a few hours later a beer would be just perfect. And an Okinawan beer as well. I love to check out the local beer when travelling. I had been walking for hours, having my first look at Okinawa and Naha. I was tired, needed a rest. To sit down in a bar with an ice cold Okinawan beer seemed like a nice way to relax, regain my strength.

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A public market in Naha, Okinawa

I visited a market in Naha, Okinawa in September 2016

These arcade markets are quite normal in Japan, you can find them in almost any city. A few streets closed for traffic, a glass roof built over to keep the elements out. Inside is row after row of tiny shops and stalls. You can find anything in a market like this. Clothes, shoes, souvenirs, dolls, food, art, swords, snacks, beer and fruit. And so much more. In a market like this in Nagoya I saw a store selling crumpled up paper, the kind you use to protect fragile objects in boxes when moving. A whole store sold nothing but that. Continue reading

Balkan Ghosts by Robert D. Kaplan

Balkan Ghosts: a Journey Through History by Robert D. Kaplan

I read Balkan Ghosts by by Robert Kaplan in October 2016

Balkan Ghosts is part travel book and part history book. The author, through his travels, is able to tell the history of the Balkan area, mixing his own experiences in with the story of this fascinating region. Completed in 1990 and published three years later, it is a book about the Balkans before the horrible wars of the ninetees, when Nationalism and corrupt politicians set old Yugoslavia on fire. The book did not sell well at first, but saw an increase in popularity when Presiden Clinton was seen with the book. In fact, the book is said to have made up Clinton’s mind not to deploy troops to aid the Bosnian Moslems, a choice the author actually disagrees with.

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