Saturday, April 30, 2011

Toys and Food... A Good Day Out

8th July, 2010 - Shopping with L-kun can be great fun... whether that's in Japan or in Australia. Although I have to admit that we have more fun in Japan. The strange thing is that there aren't as many dedicated toy shops (that we've been able to find in Sapporo at least). Most of the toy shops are sections in other shops.

If you've experienced any good toy shops in Sapporo (or Japan in general), please let us know! I'll mention one that we found in Tokyo (KiddyLand) a little later on.

But the good thing about a 3 yo is that they can make anything into a thing of wonder. Like the fake food displays that sit outside many (if not most) cafes. They were a constant source of amusement for L-kun....and I have to admit the first time I came to Japan I was somewhat mesmerised by these very authentic and realistic looking food displays. I always wondered which came first - the food, or the food display (and they just made food to look like the displays). Still, it's one of the good things about travelling in Japan... you will always have a pretty good idea of what you're buying.

And who can resist poking their finger in to test if it's real or not?.... I wonder if the shops ever put the real thing out there?

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

LeTao - One of Many Sweet-Spots of Sapporo

6th July, 2010 - Hokkaido's famous in Japan for it's delicious foods, and one the shops that's starting to build up a good reputation is LeTao (which originally started in Otaru, a small tourist town just to the north-west of Sapporo). Actually - LeTao make a wide range of sweets, all of which are delectable.

I know Japanese sweets aren't for everyone, but for me the combination of beautiful appearance and dialled-down-sweetness is great. Now I can't say much about these goodies as it's hard to enjoy food vicariously except through enjoying the imagined taste. They make for excellent omiyage (or presents given typically of souvenirs from travel), and indeed there's a roaring trade within Sapporo for nicely packaged sweets etc. If only I could bring back a container load for here in Adelaide as I think our cake shops could learn a few things from Japan.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Satoland... A Rural Experience

4th July, 2010 - Now once again, I have to admit to being decidedly absent during this part of the trip, so these photos are care of my beautiful (though mysterious) wife, T-chan. Anyway today T-chan and L-kun went to a place called Satoland, just to the northeast of the city. Actually, it's really called something like Sapporo Facility of Agricultural Experience and Interchange... although that doesn't perhaps sound as fun as Satoland!

View Sapporo Map in a larger map

Satoland is one of those Japanese type amusement parks that I just couldn't see working well in say Australia. It's all about getting closer to agriculture, and food production... mixed in with lots of family-centred fun. Actually, many people may be more familiar with Satoland during it's winter stage when it's often been the site of part of the Snow Festival (with lots of slides and fun snowy things to do). That is definitely it's off-season face however.

Today T-chan and L-kun were joined by T-chan's best friend, T2-chan, and her sister and nieces... although I think that always makes people sound too old (like and japanese obasan.... hehehe). Anyhow, her nieces were very good with L-kun and looked after him very well. The bike ride looks like it was a great time, and I have to say I've never seen a bike quite like this one. Not sure where #4 goes however.

There's lots of fun things to do, and with 74ha of space, open air is something that the kids get to enjoy.

And of course, it wouldn't be a Japanese park without a good roller-slide, now would it...

Arigatou T2-chan and family for sharing your day with ours. L-kun had a great time, and I think he took a shine to being surrounded by a group of adoring women. Oh, I know it might sound fun for a young man... but the magic disappears quickly when the day out tranforms to a day out shopping (and eventually dropping). Still, these are lessons yet to be learnt, young apprentice... For the moment, enjoy the magic.

Actually, apart from the fun stuff, there is also a strong (experiential) education program in place for children and adults to see first hand how some products are made (such as butter, sausages and icecream... hmmm... not sure about the first two, but the third sounds fun). The park also includes allotments that can be used for growing vegetables. I guess this is not a bad idea for a society where a lot of people live in small high-rise apartments and yet would like the opportunity to grow their own food.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

On Top Of The World (Unlike Sapporo's Soccer Team)

2nd June, 2010 - Today's post is a continuation of the survey of playground in Sapporo. OK, it's not like we're trying to go to every single playground in Sapporo (though sometimes it feels that way), it's just that if we go somewhere, we tend to look around to see if there's a good playground around the area. How useful is this to you, the 0.75 readers of this blog? Perhaps only marginally more useful than knowing the stock levels of the local drink vending machine.. However, it's perhaps not a side of Sapporo (or Japan) you might have seen that often. And if you have children, and you're thinking of moving to Sapporo (the odds of this being my 0.75th reader are astronomical), then perhaps it's sort of interesting.

Enough of the verbage. Let's get on with it.

Today, I'm writing about a small playground that T-chan took our son L-kun to. Not an overly remarkable playground (but not bad either). The playground is just across the road from the Ishiya Chocolate factory (hmmm - did I mention having a good reason to be somewhere?) and right behind the Consadole Soccer Club rooms (and pitch). 

View Sapporo

Now the Consadole Soccer Team is Sapporo's black sheep (or is that prodigal son?) that is still at centre of Sapporo's other sports dreams (the Sapporo Nippon-Ham Fighter Baseball team is the number one attraction). Now whether you call it Soccer or Football, it's a universal game. And Sapporo's Consadole's team is an almost universal constant in terms or relegation to the 2nd division from the 1st division. You gotta give it to them, even though they've been relegated three times since it's inception in 1996, they still keep plugging away (and of course, being relegated that many times also means they've been promoted that many times as well... taking the glass half full view).
Consadole club rooms
Consadole, as a name, comes from a very bizarre (alchhemist-like) formula where they took the name of the iconic Hokkaido draft horse (known as the dosanko), and reversed the Japanese syllables (do-sa-n-ko = ko-n-sa-do) and added a bit of Spanish exclamation (ole!) to the end. And all of that turned into Consadole. A word of advice... keep it simple, stupid. Sapporo's baseball team, the Nippon-Ham Fighters might be an odd name, but it at least well reflects their team sponsors, Nippon-Ham.

Enough about soccer. And baseball.

The thing I like about Japanese playgrounds (a clue, it isn't the ground cover) is the variety of play equipment. Back here in Adelaide, Australia, there's a certain... hmmm... predictability of the equipment you'll find. In Sapporo, there seems to be (outside the very small local suburban playgrounds) something equating to pride at the uniqueness or variety of their playgrounds.

There also seems an infinite variety of contraptions that make up the play equipment... and whilst some of it sometimes seems to have come from an SAS training course, I always feel impressed at the imagination. And the proof is in the pudding... or more precisely the eating of the pudding (what happens after that is perhaps best not discussed on this blog). L-kun loves playgrounds in Japan. Ok, he loves playgrounds everywhere, but he seems to love them particularly in Sapporo.

There's always a slightly different challenge, or skill to master. After all, there's only so many slippery slides you can go down... hold on... they have them too (but the in thing in Japan is the roller slide). L-kun's quite partial to those as well.

Neighbourhood playgrounds tend to (strangely enough) have neighbourhood children... and that means there's a certain degree of calm, or community and of camaraderie amongst the children. As a case in point, T-chan told me a story about this particular playground where L-kun was playing. L-kun's always a bit nervous in a new environment, but two older children decided to take him under their wing and look after him. It was nice to see children being so supportive of each other (and not just hitting one another).

But at the end of the day - it's all about having fun. After all... shouldn't that be what life's about (when you strip away all of the social convention, mortgage stress, peer pressure, and all sorts of other largely self-induced angst and anxiety). As we get older, we just seem to forget it, wrapped up in our own social balance statement.
Ok - I know that I most probably should rely on L-kun to pay for our house back in Adelaide, but I often wish I could take up a few more of his other skills. Like seeing the world for what it is. Naturally wonderful.

Now if only Consadole can show a little bit of wonderful as well!

(note - we'd actually been to Ishiya and the Consadole club rooms on our first trip to Sapporo in 2003 - but then it was covered in snow, and snowmen... and where we went into the Guinness Book of Records).