What an amazing country! There were a lot of gasps when I said I was going there after the Fukushima disaster. One, I was nowhere near it and two, there’s a lot of sensationalization and false information of the situation. After a long flight and a layover at the amazing Icheon airport in the Republic of Korea (South Korea) I arrived late into Sapporo. I managed to get myself on the tram and going in the right direction but got off at the wrong stop. Luckily I had a notebook with all the information you could possibly need for the hostel and a very kind and very non-english speaking cab driver got me to the hostel. Two others lads coming to participate in the dig weren’t so lucky and wound up paying to stay at a 5 star hotel. The best part though is that they were only a 5 minute walk away.
Before going to Rebun Island for the dig, we had a few days in Sapporo for lectures. What us students were doing though, was becoming permanent fixtures at the cities Beer Gardens which are every few blocks. You gotta love that! Also the shops had three packs of beer, which seemed like an odd number to me but as I learned, apparently four is a bad number in japan.
At one of the Beer Gardens we had moved from a table that was far too large for our group, to make room for a group of men. It turned out they were celebrating a man’s (I can’t remember how many years) anniversary for being with the same company. They had bought us some small beers to say thanks, but we felt since it was his special day, we should buy him a big beer. The reciprocity exchange continued and he then bought us some food. One of which was a dried whole fish. To not be rude we made sure to eat it. It tasted… Well, we didn’t buy him anymore beer after that, let’s put it that way. If you visit Japan you can also expect to be asked to have your picture taken. It’s quite a strange experience but for some people they’ve never seen a foreigner. Just soak it up and pretend you’re a celebrity for a little while.
We eventually made it to Rebun Island. It is an absolutely unique place. It looks like the Shire but as an island. On clear weather days the domineering site of Mt. Rishiri can be seen across the water. We worked hard in the sun during the days and drank biru at karaoke Nomehodai’s (All you can drink. Yes, that’s a thing) or had some whiskey and bbq with the local fishermen. One of them, Cpt. Shu was a hilarious character. They hardly spoke any english but he could recite his liquors quite well, “Biru, sake, red wine, whiskey, all. We go. Now, Tom Cruzu.” Ah yes, and probably because I am short with brown hair and am white, they all professed how I looked like Tom Cruise (“Tom Cruzu”). I guess that’s all it takes! Though I later found out Tom Cruise is somewhat of an exotic Gai-Jin sex symbol (or so I was told), so maybe not a bad nickname. We were also there for the “Fire Festival” which was basically a huge beer garden in the streets with food vendors.
There were a lot of amazing hiking opportunities considering it was such a small island. The “lab” was also in an abandoned school which was one of the coolest places I’ve seen and it had a great view of Mt. Rishiri. There was also GREAT food everywhere. I was worried before I left as to how I would do but it wasn’t an issue. Some of the english names in the shops were always a little funny. Going to restaurants without anyone who spoke Japanese was tricky though, but I figured out how to order (see below). I also happened to meet a girl on the dig who I eventually ended up dating (Tom Cruzu sex symbol powers engage). She was from the Netherlands and with me moving on to Sweden after the dig, I wouldn’t be all too far away. Then after that, she would be moving to Canada for school. You couldn’t make this stuff up.
Without going into excessive details for events that happened almost a year ago, that was Japan. I know I’ll be going back, but I definitely suggest it to everyone!