A brief tale of my travels through Japan (in particular Sapporo, my second home). I started travelling to Japan in 2003, and have made 9 trips since then... I've been married (to T-chan), bought my first house, and had one child (our son, L-kun) and now a second one (our daughter, C-chan).
I'm writing this in 2012, so it's sort of like going back in a time machine. Eventually I will get back to current day!...
31st July, 2010 - Sapporo is a reasonable sized city - in fact, 5th largest city in Japan. Now whilst you might have in your mind the image that Japanese cities are sprawling megatroplii, the reality is quite different once you get out of Tokyo, Osaka and Nagoya... indeed, Sapporo is a fairly low-lying city, with few large buildings. That is partly to do with the population (only 1.9 million), and perhaps partly to do with weather (a lot of the city's commercial areas lay underground in a series of arcades).
The weather in Sapporo's generally on the, well... cool side.... but it might surprise some people to know that it's not that cold. The coldest month, January, just sneaks below an average maximum temperature below zero degrees Celsius... and in August it gets a warm 26 degrees maximum on average. Of course, when you throw in wind-chill into the winter temperatures it's a little bit of a different story. The one thing is they definitely have plenty of snow...with over an average of 180 cm in January... a good reason to build underground where it's warm and out of the wind.
The above was regenerated from the Japanese Meteorological Agency website for weather records since 1877 (except for snow depth which was from 1955). (Post-script... I realised after doing these, that I don't really understand the numbers. If I take my own experience ... the snow-depth in January / February is pretty deep... I would imagine that you might get a good 30-40 cm on a good day... and I can't say I recall that much rain during these months.... as compared to snow... so I'm not sure how to interpret these figures...)
The tallest building in Sapporo is the JR Sapporo Station building (known as JR Tower) - and it's a bit of a compass point for navigation within the city. Actually, there's a good observatory in the building, though T-chan and I have yet to go up to the top... next trip perhaps. This building has been around since 2003... but it must have been opened just as I arrived for my first trip (as I can't recall what used to be here).
JR Sapporo Station
Public transport in Japanese cities tends to be good - but I'm a little hesitant about saying it's that great in Sapporo. Basically, there's the main train line that runs through the city, and then there's the subway spokes coming out from Odori... combined with the trams (street-cars) and buses it's ok, but I'd have to say that there's a lot of attractions in Sapporo that are best seen with a car.
We're lucky in that T-chan's house has good access to trains and subways... and of course, we can always borrow the parents car if we need to.
The main thoroughfare is between JR Sapporo Station and Odori Kouen... down the green boulevard below. Actually, when we visited in 2010, they were still working on the underground arcade linking the two... literally underneath this street. They've since opened that arcade (and I'll post about it in my 2011 trip posts).
But Sapporo Station is definitely a focal point for shopping, and one of the best things to do is go downstairs in the basement of Daimaru... where (like many Japanese department stores) you'll find all number of different food shops.
I thought I'd just add a few photos... given that I'm starting to get hungry... The Japanese love their sweets, and they have any number of different brands. Hokkaido is relatively famous for it's chocolates and sweets... and they definitely aim at the tourist market as well (the Japanese tourist market that is).
Now Japanese cakes may not be for everyone (as they are light flavoured), but if you're like me and you don't like the super sweet cakes - especially the ones that you buy here in Adelaide - then it's a refreshing change. And like most things Japanese, presentation is all important.
And if you're wondering - 2415 yen is about $28-$30 AUD at the moment. Almost too good to eat.
And along with the big cakes you'll find all manner of small delicacies..
Man - I really am getting hungry now! Well - lunch time.