Part 3: Perfect R&R destination: Sapporo
Our 3rd and final destination was to the island of Hokkaido, famous for its milk products (think ice-cream, milk-cake, milkshake) and for the city of Sapporo, a former winter Olympic destination as well as a ski town. Although most popular in winter, it was a nice place to be in September too. It was much cooler than Tokyo or Kyoto. Because of their long winters, they almost have an underground city vibe to it. You can do all your shopping and eating underground. We did both. Since it was cooler than we expected we all “needed” to go shopping and bought a bunch of clothes.
Then Sapporo is famous for Japanese chocolate brand Royce, so again we went out for chocolate shopping and stumbled upon a huge depachika, which we promised to return to the next day.
Sapporo is also famous for a type of Japanese cuisine popular everywhere in the world called Ramen. They have two alleys of just ramen shops. I was very happy to get a hot, spicy, vegetarian meal after so many days and really enjoyed my Ramen experience.
Sanjay really liked Sapporo because it felt like a large city minus all the crowd, noise, and dirt- almost like a “Goldilocks city”; just perfect.
We spent one day taking the local train to Otaru- a nearby fishing village. It was amusing because although considered a fishing village, it had a pretty large French bakery, our only spotting of Pizza Hut and KFC in Japan.
But it did have good sushi, great ice cream, a very beautiful blue coast (which was visible from the train itself) and lots of good sake. We were able to take a factory tour of a Sake factory, which everyone in our group (except me) was fascinated by. We all came back happy and ready to head back to home after 2 weeks in Japan.
One complaint we had of the country, which probably needs to be investigated more, is they use a lot of packaging on their products- both paper and plastic and they don’t believe in displaying trashcans. My guess is that they haven’t figured out how to make trash cans look pretty yet. So we had to more or less carry our trash with us or offer it to some store or city officials, who gladly took it away to dispose of it ‘who knows where’.
But besides that, we all really liked Japan- for its pace, sense of beauty, hospitality, and for Japan’s futuristic adaptability but without forgetting its past and its culture.