I returned to Sapporo Station from Sapporo Art Park in good time.
In my marathon session with the ticket staff at Sapporo, I ended up with a four-day Sapporo-Furano area pass. Furano is a small town east of Sapporo. It takes about two hours by train, and you must change trains in one of two places. I took the fast train for the first leg and my connecting station was Takikawa.
The train journey was picturesque and, at one point, I was mesmerised by these low clouds nestling against some hills.
At Takikawa, I had about five minutes to swap platforms. When I got to the right platform there was a small, one-carriage train. I asked the station staff if I was on the right platform and they said I was. I wondered how the actual train was going to pull into the platform with that tiny train in the way!
I looked at the time and the train was due to depart. It was only then I realised that the tiny train was the Furano train! Coincidently, when I got off the Sapporo train, I saw a couple looking across the track at this train, debating something. When we got to Furano, I spoke to them. They were on their honeymoon and were from Taichung in Taiwan. They said they were saying to each other that since Furano is popular, the one-carriage train couldn’t possibly be their train!
When I told the couple that I’d been to Taiwan, they were surprised. They were even more surprised to hear that I’d heard of Taichung and been there!
We wondered if were heading to the same accommodation, but they were staying elsewhere. When I got to my ryokan the owner gave me a choice of two rooms. I chose the more traditional (with tatami mats, a futon, and a low table) after some hesitation (the other room had a double bed!).
The following day, rain was forecast. My ryokan owner gave me an umbrella and told me it was sports day at the nearby school. I didn’t know where the school was. However, when I started exploring the town, I accidently came across it. There were lots of people sitting around the racing track. There were many races going on. I watched for a while. They had an interesting system for noting the first three finishers. Slightly older children than the ones in a particular race had numbers one to three on their bibs. When a race finished, the person with “1” on their bib ran to the winner, the one with “2” ran to the second-place finisher and similarly for the one with “3”. The bib wearers decided who the first three finishers were. It was all conducted calmly and there was never any disagreement.
The officials took the race seriously even though some of the children were young. At one point, there was a false start and the race had to be restarted. There were no disqualifications, as can happen in professional races after one false start!
After leaving the sports day, I randomly walked around town, which was mostly deserted, perhaps because it was raining. Furano is atplace its busiest during the ski season, but the region has diversified to attract visitors during other seasons.
Whilst walking around town, I noticed there were very few restaurants open. My ryokan owner had mentioned a vegan restaurant in town. I went there and miraculously it was open. I ordered a set menu item. It was delicious. I normally don’t eat in the same restaurant several days in a row but I was looking forward to eating here for three days. I asked the owner which days they were open. When she replied they’re open every day except Monday and Tuesday, I gasped! We both laughed. I told her that I was here only for another two days: Monday and Tuesday! I asked her (this was all happening via Google Translate) if she was free to open the restaurant on one of the two days! I didn’t expect anything but was astonished when she said she could open on Tuesday! She even asked what time would be convenient for me. I asked in return when would be convenient for her. She replied 12-2 and I said I would be back then. I was incredibly happy because I loved everything about the restaurant: the food, the wooden interior, the music being played, and the general ambiance.