15 hours in Sapporo

Finally I got to Sapporo city and the riotous bit of Hokkaido. Checked into a youth hostel – again, it has a shared bathroom with a steaming hot bath. I don’t mind the shared bathroom concept really, especially after a whole week of cultural and aquatic immersion. But this “bathtime is until XXXXhr” thing is too restrictive. I call it the “bath curfew”.

Decided to spend a night in Sapporo so as not to risk missing my flight. But after looking at the train schedule in Asahikawa yesterday, there are actually a lot of direct trains from Asahikawa to Sapporo’s Shin Chitose Airport which takes only about 2 hours. So really there is no absolute necessity to stay over in Sapporo to make your way to the airport unless you want to visit the city. Anyway here I am. With such little time, there’s little I could do. The most important thing that struck me was the bicycle commuting culture. Back home, I want to commute on my bike too! But the traffic in the city is scary…

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Whoever says that Japanese people are a compliant lot should see this: right outside the bike parking lot is a heap of bicycles parked illegally, and right in front of the sign that says no parking.

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Back in the dorm, it felt like a sauna. I swear the ventilation is actually a heater rather than cool air-conditioning. Yet my dorm mates are all sound asleep. I tossed aside the fluffy duvet. I’d rather sleep in my tent outdoors…

What could I do in Sapporo in this short amount of time? I could wake up at 5am again to explore. What would be opened at that time? Perhaps the fish market. Walked about 3km to look for Nijo fish market, which is nothing more than a tourist attraction; nowhere else have I been to on this trip has anyone ever asked me whether I was from Singapore or Malaysia. I usually get mistaken as someone from Chiu-gokku or Corea/Kan-koku. Except here. These guys are good.

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Walked around. There is very little to do so early in the morning.

In an alley not far from the fish market was a restaurant that at 6 in the MORNING, had a number of people QUEUING outside it. Curious, I also went in.

This was my breakfast.

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A Japanese man sat down at the bar seat next to me with a magazine in his hand. His magazine was flipped to a page that featured this restaurant. I have seen a number of these foodie-trail type of magazines on this Hokkaido trip.

I have some mixed feelings about Japanese cuisine. No doubt a lot of the food I had eaten on this trip is delicious, with a decided emphasis on fresh ingredients. The presentation, in the humblest of eateries, is immaculate if not refined. But the cuisine, even though broad in range, is simple in taste. The South-East Asian in me rather misses the complex flavours of food in Malaysia and Singapore.

Wandered into an old government building. I didn’t have much company except for some mallards and gulls.

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This is the pretty tree-lined campus of Hokkaido University.

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Wanted to check out the library and museum but it was still too early in the morning and nothing was opened to visitors yet.

Water lilies. Love them.

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And then off I was to the airport.

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