Hokkaido Day Four: A New Companion Enters the Ring

So this was my first day to leave Sapporo. The first destination is Obihiro. Looking back on it I am not sure why I chose to visit here. I think I was just looking for a 4th place to stop off on my trip. When I checked out the city online I found out there would be a matsuri or festival, so I decided to check it out .

I started off this trip with my new traveling companion <regal trumpet fanfare> Melon Panna-chan!!! (メロンパンナちゃん)! I’ve been teasing my friends on facebook that I’ve been traveling with someone possibly famous, female, and my girlfriend is okay with it.

You’ve probably heard of people traveling with lawn gnomes or some other type of toy, doll, or whatever and taking pictures of it at different places while traveling. I was leaning towards a Marimo doll, but then saw Anpanman.  I thought Melon Panna-chan was a good cross of the two, and not something instantly as recognizable as Anpanman. Besides Anpanman is a busy guy and has a lot of other commitments to keep to. Melon-chan (as I’ve taken to calling her, and is quicker to type) was more than willing to join me on my travels.

We first headed off to Midori ga oka Koen or simply in English, Green Park.  This is also where the first challenge card of the day (There will be 3-4 a day now) was drawn. First up is “90 degree bow.” We took this picture at the world’s longest bench (400m/a lot of ft).

Much respect is given to one made of bread.

I walked around the park for a while, ultimately heading to the other side to check out the art museum and the Obihiro Centenial Museum. On the way I found a stage and asked if I could do an impromptu stand up set (in Japanese, yikes).

Did you guys hear the one about the gaijin?

The crowd was not very responsive and by the end, only one audience member was left. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that she couldn’t move on her volition. Thanks for the support Melon-chan!!

Audience of One.

After that I pulled out the next challenge card (“Touristy photo”) and I headed over to the Art Museum, only to find out, it’s closed today! Ok, let’s go to the Centenial Museum. Wait! What?! It’s closed too? Shucks, guess I’ll just take the next challenge photo by myself.

Hey guys! This place is awesome!

I decided to head back to the station and to the opposite side of town to check out a statue of the founder of Obihiro. A one senor Yoda Benzo. He was a renown Jedi Master and tamer of the frontier. Sadly all that remains of his legacy is this small monument in a very small park off the highway. There was also no one else there when I went. The damn 400 meter long bench gets more respect and publicity.

Jedi Master (top), Bread Super Hero (left), Wannabe Sith Lord (right)

I should mention I drew another challenge card for this. The pose is “Boy Be Ambitious.” You may remember this from day three and the slogan found on Dr. Clark’s statue. For this card I need to recreate that pose.

After leaving the small park, I saw there was a shrine across the street. It was much like most shrines you see in Japan. They had some tea to drink, so I had a cup. I tossed 5 yen in the money box thingy (that’s the proper amount, I’m not being cheap) and made a little prayer. Mostly out of respect to the shrine people for letting me wander around and drink their tea.

I had lunch at a small, family owned restaurant. The food was pretty cheap and fresh. The pizza I had for my main course was delectable. For dessert I had a giant bowl of shaved ice. Melon Flavor. It was delicious.

Since my sweet tooth had been activated, I checked my map and made my way south back towards the station. My destination was the Taiyaki Factory (たい焼き工場). I picked up a cream filled, cold taiyaki. I had never had a chilled one before, but it was scrumptious. (Note to Japanese people: I have talked about three items of food so far. I have used different adjectives each time. oishii ne.)

After checking in to my hotel I headed on down to the festival. It was Bon Odori Festival. This means there is a lot of traditional dancing in the parades. I grabbed a bear and some yaki soba and settled in to watch.

It started raining so the dancing got stopped about half way through. They did dance in the rain for about 30 minutes though, so I give the dancers my applause.

I decided to people watch in the covered shopping arcade. An old man sat down next to me and started talking with me. We ended up talking about baseball, and the Fighters. Naturally, I turned the conversation to Darvish. (Totally Dreamy!) The old man bought me a beer and when he went to leave I asked to get a picture with him. He got a little weird and just said, “Sorry, I’m going home.” No, no, I just want a picture. “Sorry.” And he disappeared. Perhaps a mistake in my Japanese?? I’m going with weird old guy.

I walked around some more and came across a street painter/performer. He was mixing music and painting at the same time. It was pretty cool to watch. I wonder though if he just paints the same thing every time. Meh, I don’t care. I was entertained either way.

As I was walking back to look for a taxi I saw a booth selling “French Dogs,” which were just corn dogs. I don’t know about other parts of Japan, but in Tokyo they are called “American Dogs.” I decided to take a picture of this, and right as I am doing so, guess who turns around! It’s the old man!! Ha! Got your picture now.

Boo! Found you!

Why did you run away old man? Was it because you found out I was American, and you thought if I found out you like French dogs I might get upset? Old man, it’s nothing like that. I just wanted a photo to show my friends and family. I would have even left it off the blog, but you had to go and be a weird old dude.

Obihiro was a fun little town, but I think I got out of it most of what it offers in just one day. It gave me a good chance to bond with my new companion, Melon Panna-chan. Stay Tuned for more adventures…