Thursday, June 6, 2013 – Otaru and Sapporo
Posted on June 6th, 2013
With a morning at sea in our future, several of us seized the opportunity to sleep in and rest. Others got up early to take advantage of this time out on the ocean, doing early morning laps on the upper deck and some yoga in the Main Lounge led by fellow passenger Maria Palomo. As we headed north up the west coast of the island of Hokkaido, flocks of shearwaters took off from the water’s surface while rafts of rhinoceros auklets dove under water upon our approach. These cousins of puffins nest in burrows in the rocky headlands we’d been passing throughout the morning.
Naturalist Rich Pagen gave a marine mammal presentation after breakfast, which was particularly timely considering many of us had only just seen small groups of Dall’s porpoise out the window from our breakfast tables. Rich’s talk, “Marine mammals local and global: A look at conservation issues and solutions,” highlighted some of the challenges facing marine mammals today, and closed with a group discussion of the factors influencing our opinions of Japanese whaling.
Before lunch, the ‘Clipper Odyssey’ came alongside the pier in the city of Otaru, famous for its canal zone where barges once transported cargo from the ships at the port to the warehouses along the canal. The warehouses have since been refurbished into shops, museums and restaurants, and the area is now quite a vibrant part of the city.
After lunch, some of us disembarked for a tour of the nearby city of Sapporo, the largest city on the northern island of Hokkaido and the fourth largest city in Japan. Sapporo hosted the 1972 Winter Olympics — the first ever held in Asia. We saw the famous clock tower and visited Hokudai Shokubutsuen, a beautiful garden with more than 4,000 plant varieties.
Others saw the sights of Otaru, starting with a visit to a sake brewery founded in 1899, where we had the opportunity to sample five different types of sake. We then went to a glass workshop, where we learned about the art of glasswork and had the chance to make our own glass beads with a torch. We then had free time to roam the Otaru Canal zone and the business streets in the vicinity. Used kimono shops are particularly popular, though we also spotted countless glass shops and cafes selling ice cream.
Back on the ship in the evening, we gathered for our Final Recap, during which Expedition Leader Suzana Machado D’Oliviera Harker summarized the trip and thanked the staff and crew who made it all possible. We then watched a slideshow presentation from our journey together compiled by the staff. Dinner followed, which some of us enjoyed on land at one of the many excellent restaurants within walking distance of the ship.