I am absolutely in love with this city. I got some bittersweet news today when I found out I have my 3rd (and final) Gaba interview on Thursday, which is great, but means I must leave Hokkaido tomorrow. I would have stayed through the week if not for that and explored both Sapporo and the rest of this island. The Japanese people I have spoken with on the main island tend not to come up this far North, which is really a shame because it's such a welcomed departure from the hustle and bustle of the major cities on Honshu. And I can only imagine what this place is like covered in a blanket of snow... I don't want to just imagine though, I plan on coming back as soon as it starts snowing. This place is magical.
I'd have been very curious to have come to Sapporo without knowing it was Portland's sister city because it was the first thought I had this morning when I left Bob's apartment. Something about the width of the streets and the layout of the city, not to mention being surrounding by fall leaves and blue/gray skies with occasional showers, made me feel right at home. Except all the hipsters were replaced with Asians and the fixed gear bikes were replaced with... well no, they have those here.
|Change the architecture a bit and you've got Portland!|
|I did manage to find this baby though.|
North Face, Colombia, Timberland and a dozen other Japanese equivalents. Some of the nicer shops I went into sold Pendleton shirts and blankets, and I even managed to find some Shwoods (shout out to their newest employee, Aubrey!) I purchased my first article of clothing here in Japan: a color-blocked long sleeve shirt. Color blocking is alive and well here in Japan, in case anyone was worried.
I hopped back on the subway after some window shopping in order to meet Sammi at 1pm. In my quest to find a place to stay, I messaged a 51 year old mother of 3, music teacher, traveller and piano player. She said she was unable to host me but would like to get lunch and show me her 101 year old Steinway. She took me to a fantastic ramen shop and we quickly slurped our miso ramen. Apparently Sapporo has the best ramen in Japan and the silky miso broth and tender pieces of pork certainly set the bar high for the rest of my travels.
We immediately hit it off, talking about music and our travels. She insisted that I come back to her home to play the Steinway piano she had purchased in Pittsburg, while attending music school. How could I say no? We found her car and drove about ten minutes from the restaurant, up into the hills and past the changing foliage.
Her home was a perfectly sized house for a family of 5; just big enough to be comfortable but still efficiently designed in that Japanese way; providing maximum usage with minimal space.
|Entering Sammi's home|
|Dogs are great when you travel because they speak the universal language of petting.|
|Sammi and I sang a medley of Beatles songs over tea.|
When our tea and duet was finished, Sammi suggested she show me the ski jump that was just up the hill from her home. Sapporo had been the location of the 1972 Winter Olympics and the ski jump they built is still in use today. Apparently during the winter there are weekly events, so I will have to return for those.
|A view from the bottom|
|Sapporo in the distance|
|I'm pretty sure he tested positive for.. you know what, I'm going to stop. The pun was going to be lame, even for me.|
Sammy invited me to stay for her English lesson that she was giving, but because it was my only day in Sapporo, I asked for a rain check so that I could explore the town in the daylight. She pointed me in the direction of town and suggested I walk through the park and visit some shrines. When I got to the park, I was so taken by the beauty of the trees that I forgot to find the shrines, I just wandered through a myriad of colors.
|Park entrance selfie|
|You can't even begin to fathom how short the woman who took this photo was.|
|As close as I got to the shrine.|
As the sun began to set, I decided to make the 30 minute walk to the heart of town where my shopping had been cut short. On the walk to the park I found a blog from another person who spent a year in Japan and who wrote extensively about Kit Kats. She had mentioned special Hokkaido editions (including sweet corn!) so I set out to find them.
Spoiler Alert: I did not find them. But I did encounter a number of other great things along the way:
|Sammi told me to watch for bears on our hike as they're very common here. Apparently bear bras aren't...|
|A great corridor with random animal tiles|
|That's what you think it is.|
|A place dedicated to croquettes|
|and Freedom Fries!|
|Corn, Meat, and Pumpkin|