Sapporo – Hokkaido – Japan!

I got to Seoul’s main airport with plenty of time to look around. Once again, there was some sort of parade going on! The South Koreans love a parade!

I’m flying to Sapporo in Hokkaido, a part of Japan I’ve never visited. There are over 14,000 islands in the Japanese archipelago, of which 260 are inhabited. Hokkaido is one of the four main islands, the others being Kyushu, Shikoko, and Honshu — the largest and most populated — and home of Tokyo.

The flight was less than three hours. At Sapporo’s airport, there were various animals on display.

I didn’t buy a pre-paid transport card during my last stay in Japan. I probably wasn’t aware of them but I now knew how convenient there are, having bought them in Taiwan, Hong Kong, and South Korea. At the train station, I just had to make sure that the card I bought could be used all over Japan, not just Hokkaido. Each region has its own card but some of them can be used nationally.

I now had the full set of cards! From top left, clockwise in the photo below: Taiwan (EastCard), Japan (Kitaca – Sapporo), Hong Kong (Octopus), and South Korea (T-money).

As expected in Japan, it was easy to get to my hostel by train. After I checked in, I went out, looking for food. I walked around the area and ended up at Tanukikoji shopping arcade.

The arcade was busy even though it was a Sunday evening. I’m getting used to places coming alive in the evening in East Asia — it was a common pattern.

I was especially looking for places that sold fruit, veg, nuts, wholemeal bread, non-dairy milk, and muesli or oats. I can live on these if I can’t find a suitable restaurant.

The hostel’s receptionist had told me that there’s a Don Quixote store in the arcade. Don Quixote is a chain of massive shops selling lots of stuff, including food. This Don Quixote store had all the items I was looking for apart from bread. They had only the usual milky/buttery/sweet bread.

The following day, I wondered what to do in Sapporo. A bit like my first day in Taipei, I realised I knew nothing about Sapporo apart from their beer and bears.

When in doubt, start walking! The first thing I noticed in daylight was that I was next to a fish market. The stalls went around the block and there were statues celebrating fishing. I’d taken a photo the previous evening but hadn’t appreciated its significance.

I continued and ended up walking along Odori Park, a 1.5km green stretch in the centre of Sapporo. A curious sight was seeing people wearing masks and queueing to enter a “Smoking Site” — a room for smoking located in the park.

After that, I went to a place called TechLand, which sold electronic goods. It was mostly mainstream stuff. I’ve been thinking of getting a new camera. So, I did enjoy trying out some of the mirrorless cameras.

I was feeling hungry and remembered I’d seen a veggie restaurant in the arcade I went to yesterday (called LOHAS). The staff were friendly and the food was good.

Finally, I went to Sapporo Factory, another place recommended by the Sapporo Guide Map I’d picked up in the hostel. The guide has lots of suggestions for places to visit in the centre and wider area.

Sapporo Factory, a shopping mall, was built on the former site of Japan’s first beer brewery, and the complex includes a red brick building that is reminiscent of Hokkaido’s early development in the late 1800s. You can see a small, functioning brewery in the building, and try the beer in one of the bars.

The shopping mall itself had few customers and I wondered how the shops stayed in business. Maybe, I thought, people came in the evening. There were quite a few hiking shops, reflecting Japan’s love of hiking and the many mountains in Hokkaido.

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