My name is Janne and I'm 23 years old traveler from a cold and dark country called Finland. About 3 months ago I started to travel without any bigger plans and ended up in Greece. There I did some volunteer work for 3 weeks. After this great experience I came to Japan through Italy, Thailand and Malesia. Here in Japan I spent some time with my friend in Osaka and visited Kyoto and Nara. I didn't really feel like home in a big city like Osaka, so after some research I found Emina Backpackers from the HelpX website. I got really interested immediately because the backpackers' is located in Otaru which seemed to be much like my home town in Finland. We changed few emails with Motoko and I booked a flight to Sapporo where I took the train to Otaru.
Motoko and Chad offered me a nice and warm meal straight away when I arrived and made me feel very welcome. Infact I felt much like coming home. In my room I met Shungo which turned out to be a really great guy. He's been helping me a lot with my Japanese studies and sometimes I've had the chance to teach him few words in English.
I know some people that would say that there's not so much to do in a small city like Otaru. They are quite wrong because there are many nice restaurants, cafes and of course MT. TENGUYAMA where I went skiing few days ago. I was looking foward to go there and I really had a blast. It had been many years since I skiied and I had to learn everything again. Fortunately it didn't take too long and soon I was going fast as a Hornet. The view from the hilltop is just amazing and it made the skiing a bit difficult because I had to stop so many times to take a picture.
Yet the best thing about Otaru, in my opinion, are the people. I think that in a smaller city like this, it's somehow easier to get in touch with the locals and make new friends. Just two nights ago we had a delicious dinner with two Japanese guys that I got to know through Couchsurfing. After the dinner we had an excellent night that ended in pretty dizzy circumistances after few glasses of Sake.
I've been helping with the snow shoveling here and it's been a great experience to do something with the locals. My Japanese skills have improved with few new words and muscles have been growing faster than the grass in the summer. Okay, maybe the latter isn't quite true but what I'm trying to say is that it has been something I like.
So, I've been really happy that I made the decision to come here. I think that it's hard to find a place that makes you feel more welcome than Emina Backpackers. The house is small, clean and so cozy that you never want to leave.