Sunday, February 28, 2010

Winter Weekend Getaway in Furano

I hadn't been to the central-Hokkaido town of Furano since my great flower-trek of 2008, so it was awesome to get away with the hubby last weekend to enjoy the town for its other famous feature: snow. Lots and lots of snow. I'm talking "make you forget all about those famous Furano lavender fields" snow:

Of course, with this much snow, its pretty much inevitable that Furano has made itself known as one of the leading destinations in Japan for skiing and snowboarding. Hosting the World Snowboarding Cup a few times in recent years has helped out a bit too.

Saturday started out, as most snowy getaways seem to do, with beautiful weather for hitting the slopes:

(Our friends, Ross and Risa)

A light, little snowstorm on the mountain made for fresh powder and less bruises...

...but soon gave way to a mountain-fleeing white-out! Mother Nature always seems to have some funny little ways to let you know that it's indeed time for a beer instead:

Okay, so the "real" reason that we headed to Furnao for the weekend was for our winter HAJET (Hokkaido Association for the Japan Exchange and Teaching Program) meeting, followed by a delicious seafood enkai (all you can eat and drink party) with some JETs from around Hokkaido:

And I think one of the things I like best about this little mountain town are all the little discoveries that are tucked away, waiting for curious individuals to find them. Example one: a secret snow cave/mystic ice lair:

Example two: an amazing little organic bakery which utilized straw bale construction for its walls and benches...sooooo super cozy (and tasty):

Example three (and beyond): A ton of little, colorful coffee shops, an amazing restaurant which specializes in stone-fired pizzas using Hokkaido wheat and other local ingredients, a brewery known as much for their homemade spicy sausage as their beer, and a whole new desire to come back and poke around this little gem of Furano a bit more:

Monday, February 22, 2010

Thiessen Twosome is Now a Lonely Planet Blogsherpa!

Thiessen Twosome Does Japan has been accepted into the Blogsherpa program by the nomadic folks over at Lonely Planet, who are brilliantly enhancing their own travel website by linking to their favorite travel bloggers!

For those of you who aren't familier with Lonely Planet, they are THE biggest and most recognized travel publication (guidebooks, website, etc.) company in the world. You will find links to TTDJ (as well as a host of other great travel blogs) on relevant destination pages (Hokkaido, Sapporo, Japan, and Southeast Asia in particular) over on the Lonely Planet website!

It's such an honor to be recognized for some of the things I LOVE doing: photographing, traveling, and blogging! Thanks everyone for your support and following!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Snow Light Gleaming Festival in Otaru

The folks over in the little town of Otaru always know how to come together for a great little festival! When compared with the Sapporo Snow Festival, the Otaru Snow Light Gleaming Festival is definitely the favorite of mine. Little community-made ice lanterns, snow sculptures, illuminated lanes, and the like fill the downtown area and making it a romantic, winter wonderland!

Unlike last year's light rain, this year the cold was bitter...seriously chilling right to the bone! Good thing the ice bar stepped in to satisfy all of our hot wine needs:

Of course, the old warehouse and canal area was as pretty as it usually is:

And to finish off the evening, beers and warmth were waiting for us at the Otaru Brewery:

If you're ever in Hokkaido for the Sapporo Snow Festival, make sure to make the 30 minute trek over to Otaru for this magical event! Definitely one of the highlights of the winter festivals here!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Sapporo's Brilliant Beer Museum

We currently have some friends up visiting us from Osaka and it's been wonderful! Having people come and visit always makes me get out and do the fun touristy stuff that I rarely get around to doing otherwise! One of these was visiting the Sapporo Beer Museum, located in the old, beautiful, red-brick building that was once a sugar factory (and later part of the Kitaku-shi Brewery). This is also the only, and I repeat, the only beer museum in all of Japan! How lucky are we:

The inside displays are full of old documents, photos, brewing equipment, and beer bottles, advertisements, and the like! A lot of the stuff is pre-WWII and is actually pretty interesting whether or not you have an appreciation for beer:

After walking through the museum, you are then shot out into a large, colorful bar serving what they consider "the freshest beer in Hokkaido." As we learned, it's actually the cheapest beer in Hokkaido as well, making us wonder why we hadn't stumbled upon this place a lot sooner!

I have to say that the Sapporo Beer Museum is a brilliant way to start the day (or afternoon, if you prefer)'s to hoping for some more visitors to accompany us back there soon!