Hokkaido

Hokkaido is the North-most island and prefecture of Japan is famous for Saporo beer, melon, very fresh seafood among other things. Although I did not see any, Hokkaido is also the home of the square watermelon.

Furano

field
A field in Furano

farm
Tomita lavender farm in Furano

david
Trick art museum in Furano

woman1 woman2
Changing images

The two photos above are from the same painting. When the painting is viewed from the left, the woman's legs appear long. When you move around and viewed it from the right, they appear short.

trees
Trees in Furano seem to be father, mother, and child.

Saporo

sapporo
Nighttime in Saporo

tower
Saporo radio tower at the center of the city

navi
Rental car and on-board navigation system

Although nothing to do with Hokkaido specifically, I thought I would mention the navigation system in my rental car. Navigation systems are very popular in Japan and after using one, you would understand why. At the airport, we simply punched in the Furano Hotel phone number and the navigation system plotted our 2+ hour journey to Furano. You can enter destinations by phone number, address, landmark name for museums, etc., and manually by maneuvering the cursor around the map and clicking on the location. The system talks to you (in Japanese of'course) and tells you, "Right turn in 800 meters...", "Right turn in 300 meters...", "Make a right turn here". A pop up shows the exact turn marked with a red arrow, and goes away once the turn is completed. Your car icon is updated on the map via GPS signal and your time to destination is updated based on your speed. The car continues to update even in tunnels when there is no signal based on your speed. The map is littered with little icons of the local convenience store, banks, ATMs, gas stations, etc. "Nabiko", the name given to the NAVIgator with a female voice, must not be paid well. She kept on trying to save me money vs. time and I had to override her plan a couple of times to get on the freeway sooner. I am sure there is a setting somewhere to fix this. However, the couple of times I missed a turn, Nabiko rerouted the plan for me to show me how to get back on course.

This system was a basic one. The more advanced systems have animated icons and sounds. So when you pass a bank you hear a cash register sound for example. Also traffic conditions are updated via radio, and roads with construction or traffic jams are displayed in red and your course is rerouted to avoid these roads. Nabiko even pops up when speaking and is wearing a different outfit based on the time of day. The top of the line systems have up to 3 cameras on the vehicle. One in the back for backing up, and two in the front to "see" around corners by inching your bumper forward. When you switch into reverse, the display automatically changes to the rear camera. These models also double as CD and DVD players. The fully integrated models also have radio and TV capability! A very very cool toy I wish was more readily available in the States.

crabs
Crabs; two for 10000 yen, or about $85

sealmeat sealcurry
Seal meat, canned "Spicy Seal Curry", and walrus meat (not shown)

It's all fun and games until the beloved Tama-chan, the celebrity seal of Japan, ends up in a can of curry! Then the crowds will be up in arms! Where is Panawave to save Tama-chan now?!