Kitami –kŒ©
Kitami is a small city in the north-eastern part of Hokkaido, Japan's nothernmost island. It's about 50 to 60 kms inland from the Sea of Okhotsk and is a "bon-chi," which in Japanese means a basin or a place surrounded by mountains on all sides. Unlike the main Japanese islands, Hokkaido has plenty of land to spare. Kitami is well spread out with wide roads and open spaces. It can't be called a pretty city, with not many historical buildings or other (tourist) attractions worth mentioning. It's more of a functional city and like any urban area in Japan, is a very convenient place to live, in terms of amenities and facilities.

The good
Fabulous blue skies. Wide, open land, perfect for drives. Proximity to lake resorts and onsen (hot spring) spas. An hourfs drive to the Sea of Okhotsk where you can take a ride in an icebreaker ship that cuts through the ice floes floating down from Siberia. And in the city...The snow, which gives a pretty sheen to the otherwise drab setting. Wide roads and sidewalks. Malls and big stores where you can get almost everything you get in big metros. Great patisseries. Good yakiniku (barbecue) places. Fabulous sushi. Reasonably good Italian restaurants.

The bad
The snow, which though pretty to look at becomes a big chore if you have to clear it up. And also makes driving dangerous and makes walking scary. The malls and big stores that have sucked the life out of the city center where shops are rundown and empty.

The ugly
The ubiquitous concrete monsters, especially the one across the river, which spoils an otherwise spectacular view. The dying city center. The road condition when the snow starts to melt (better than a Kerala road on a good day, I must say).