Icy cold burrowed into my fingernails, infiltrating my warm body. 6 AM. Bags fell heavily onto a bench. Long underwear and scarves leapt out of backpacks. Wrapped up, we stepped out of the station into Sapporo. The streets abandoned and wide, we picked a direction and stuck to it. The famous clock tower appeared a few streets south of the station. It was closed, but we admired its exterior, a mixture of church-steeple and craftsman style. Energy was low after a nearly sixteen-hour train ride, so we stopped at a café and ordered three breakfast sets. The Wall-E energy meter on each of us went up about 80%.
We wrestled our packs back to our backs and went back to the Sapporo Station. We first bought our tickets to Hakodate for the next day and then proceeded to gather tourist pamphlets from the information desk. At Starbucks, we spread the material we had gathered across the rosy wooden tables. Although our interests diverged, everyone was gracious to share the excitement in each new find. I had come to Sapporo with little direction except for my desire to see Hokkaido University. In that small Starbucks, my mind was blown with all the possibilities. I realized I needed to spend the rest of my available time in Sapporo.
Epiphany's agenda weighed as the best option for the day. We set off to see the Sapporo Art Park, depositing our bags into coin lockers before we left. The Sapporo Art Park has a Museum of Contemporary Art, a sculpture park, and arts and crafts buildings with pottery, weaving, and glass blowing. The Museum of Contemporary Art was closed in preparation for an exhibition called "Neoteny Japan: Contemporary Artists since 1990." I was once again ready to change my plans in order to see the opening of this exhibit on the 22nd of November. We walked around the park until we came across the sculpture park, but it was closed. We moped around, sorry that Epiphany would not be able to see what she had come here to see. Feeling a bit bummed and confused, we set off to see why it was closed because my written Japanese could not translate. Inside the art center, I asked the receptionist in Japanese-English, "Doushite sculpture park wa closed?" I closed my hands together to show her what I meant. I think she told me that during winter it’s closed for restoration. She then asked where I was from and if I had traveled far. I said I had, and that I really wanted to see it. "Totemo mitai desuka?" (Do you really want to see it?) she asked me. I said, "totemo mitai!" She called her boss and we got in.
We had to wear badges, but we were able to get inside the park. The Sculpture Park is on a hillside, so as you walk, you climb up and down. There were wind-propelled sculptures as well as human sculptures, which were abstracted at times. A school group also had access, so we had many young children running up to us and yelling "hello" at the top of their lungs and giggling to their friends. I would say "konichiwa" in response, which would spur more giggling. The snow began to fall. As I recorded with my video camera, a sculpture of a young girl looking saucy made me stop and take a photograph. Behind us was a square of trees and in the middle was a little meadow with stones. This was my favorite sculpture of the park because of its subtle, sheltering beauty.
By this point, my hands were in pain and I was ready to head out. We grabbed a bus and subway back to the station. We spent the next four hours shopping, which made me a little antsy and tired because there was no clear direction to our wanderings. I was thankful to finally reach our bags and check in to our hostel. We unpacked a bit and then went to the grocery store, where I found some tasty expensive bento dishes. Back at the hostel, we gorge ourselves. I realized I then that I’d gotten pickled bento, which was a little difficult to finish. I decided to save a little for the morning. The snow was beginning to stick, so we rushed outside and played in the snow for a while. I gathered a will to shower afterwards and then computed for a while before bed, thus concluding my first day in Sapporo. The subsequent days in Sapporo will be further discussed in my thesis, so I will only outline my adventures.
On the 20th, Epiphany and Stephanie left for Hakodate after we visited the Historical Village of Hokkaido. In the afternoon, I walked the halls of the Hokkaido University Faculty of Agriculture, and afterwards I saw a movie, Ichi, at the movie complex in Sapporo Station.
On the 21st, I visited Hokkaido University Museum in the morning, and then met up with Jane and her friends. Later I went to Satorando (a Municipal Farming Museum) and to Isamu Noguchi's park nearby.
The 22nd, I checked out of Sapporo International Youth Hostel, visited the Neoteny Japan exhibit, and walked around Odori Park. I went back to the Hokkaido University Museum, saw Blindness, and took a night train to Tokyo.
The 23rd, I arrived in Kyoto at about 1 pm, visited with family, ate lunch at a fancy restaurant near Kiyomizu-dera, and walked to my lodging at the Orange Inn near Kyoto Station.
The 24th, I woke up early and made my way to Osaka. I then proceeded to wander after dropping my bags. I found the Den-Den (Electric) district, which was filled with many otaku goods. I met up with my counterparts later, which completed my free week adventure.
(Article and photos by Todd)