Thursday, June 30, 2011

Sapporo - A Walk On The Wild Side Of Chaos

4th, August, 2010 - It was a quiet, hot summer's day in Sapporo. It really was a humid summer (at least by Sapporo standards). Otousan had wanted to take L-kun and I for a "walk in the mountains"...hmmm - Otousan did realise our son was only three... the sound of mountain-trekking seemed a little extreme. Still, I knew Otousan knew what he was doing... and it was nice to get out and see more of Sapporo. It also gave me an excuse to take photos.

Sapporo has mountains, but they're not the sort of places you'd typically take a  thee year old. It also has a lot of wooded hills that surround the city. It was one of these wooded hills that we ended up driving to... apparently Otousan and Okaasan often came for walks through here. It's called Miyano-oka Kouen... and actually I had been here before back in 2003... though at the time I hadn't realised that there were walking tacks nearby. 

View Sapporo Map in a larger map

Crossing the road via a wild and green overpass (you wouldn't know it was a bridge... it just looked like part of the hill), we came to a number of paths - and of course we picked the one leading upwards. The photo below doesn't do the slope justice, but then again, it wasn't exactly Mt Everest either. Sapporo has a lot of nature just at the doorstep, and I hadn't really gone out and seen that much of it on this trip. I've spoken before about the wildlife in Japan... and especially the bears in Hokkaido. Still, for all that, the wild in Hokkaido seemed fairly people-friendly to me (if a little on the lush side).

Only the day before, when we were visiting Sweet Decoration, I had asked T-chan about snakes in Sapporo... to which she had said, "no problem, we don't have snakes".... sometimes you have to be careful what you ask. Back to the bush-walk...I was walking along with L-kun and Otousan, happily taking snaps with the new camera when Otousan yelled out. Up ahead, only a couple of metres in front of me was a slithering something that shouldn't (by my wife's word) have been slithering anywhere near here - let alone near me.  My first (and so far only) snake in Japan! Phew. I was just a little put out (not least of all because Otousan said it was a nasty one... then again, in my books, most snakes fall in that category).

After we escaped near certain death from the jaws of the giant python (ok... a little over the top perhaps...), I suddenly started seeing a different side of Sapporo. A wilder, more primeval and less-people-friendly-side. Also a side that had a lot more interesting fungi too. Not sure what would happen if you were ingest this little baby below, but I suspect that the snake might be a better (and safer) way to go...

Onward we walked, the heat bearing down upon us through the green canopy overhead... well, to be more accurate, the heat was coming from above, below, left, right and well pretty well all around. There was some small relief walking uphill however, with just a hint of a breeze. And the light was beautiful too.. thoughts of snakes and such slowly receding...

Now this is more like it. Nice nature. Small... delicate and pretty. Like it was meant to be. L-kun of course just thought it was a butterfly. No, L-kun... even this little creature isn't so innocent. It has the amazing ability to set off tornados in Texas. Actually, the butterfly effect is normally related to those crazy Brazillian butterflies (that sounds like a euphemism for something) that set off tornadoes in Texas or typhoons in Japan - depending on which side of the Pacific you're talking to... 

Of course, what I'm talking about here is chaos theory... not a real climate-changing insect. Chaos theory is an amazing aspect of nature in which some systems are intrinsically sensitive to minute differences in how the system is initiated... such that you can't necessarily know where even apparently simple systems will go due to seemingly insignificant (and almost unmeasurable) variations. It's kinda like never knowing where a play will go even though you think  the actors say the lines exactly the same way each time...

Or how a story of a walk in the park will end....

If I had been just a few more metres ahead of Otousan whilst looking at the world through the Canon DSLR viewfinder, I might not have been stopped before walking right on top of that little slithering fellow... or - more scarily - if I had not asked T-chan about snakes the day before, or if she had said "snakes are everywhere... be careful!", would I have even come across the snake at all?

Now chaos theory actually relates to specific types of mathematical relationships - but who knows what inter-connections affect our lives as we journey, unknowingly through each days passing?

Hmmm - perhaps I did sample that fungus!

Anyway - back to our story... As we were walking through the woods, I was amazed at just how well L-kun was holding up. I mean, this was a fairly serious bush-walk we were going on. Especially in the middle of summer. Especially as the hills were only getting hillier. And did I mention the bears?...

Look dad, we must be getting near the place where the teddy bears have their picnics! Once again, the realities of life in Hokkaido's wild came into sharp focus. I mean... this was just a friendly reminder... wasn't it... to give the tourists and the elderly something to tell stories about.
The gist of the sign was something like this:

In this resident's park, please be careful of bears!
  • Don't come here at night, morning, late afternoon, when it's foggy etc etc (tick)
  • Don't travel alone, but always walk with 2 or more people (tick)
  • Bring a bell or radio... or at least walking making noise if you can't see well (tick)
  • Don't throw rubbish away, or bury it - as rubbish attracts the bears and it's very dangerous (tick)
  • If you see a bear (or signs of a bear) leave immediately (extra big tick)

Unfortunately, I only found out all of that after the event (my kanji being near non-existant).

Well... I can tell you. I didn't need to know Japanese to get the idea, and I got it good. Especially a little later on, when as we were walking along we could here the sound of underbrush yielding, breaking and snapping off in the not too far disntance. I kept a close eye on Otousan... taking my queue to grab L-kun and run like hell from the faintest of indicators ... a twitch of the eye, a tensing of the back, a small and otherwise innocent venting of gas.... anything could be a sign that danger was approaching.

Of course - Otousan ploughed on oblivious to the sounds of branches breaking... now that I think about it, I assume that he did actually hear them. Perhaps he knew that the crazy ramblings of a nervous Australian were as good as any bell or radio. Indeed - Otousan himself carried a horn that he occasionally (discretely) fired off every now and again.

Then... after over an hour of trumpeting through the woods, we came out on to civilisation again! A childrens park, with of course the obligatory roller-slippery-slide. Chaos, it would seem, had let us go on by untouched. L-kun couldn't give a fig about chaos, karma or fate's folly. Indeed, he barely raised an eyebrow at the snake, let alone the mysterious rumblings in the forest (now... if I had said it was the Gruffalo... that would have been a different story).

And I have to say, after so much walking up, walking down, and the odd bit of jumping around avoiding mosquitoes, I was amazed that L-kun had enough energy to get stuck into some serious playground playing. Or Otousan for that matter.

It did end up being a tiring day for all. And yes, we had our fair share of chaos (especially in the playground afterwards) - it was still a great "boys adventure" in the wilds of Sapporo.


  1. Sapporo looks like a great place to go for a walk or hike. Very green and lush and full of nature.

    Japan Australia

  2. Well, Sapporo's definitely that - but to be honest, most of Japan (except for the cities that is) could be described as lush and full of nature. Sapporo's wilds look quite a bit different (IMO) to the forests of Honshu for example. Perhaps the slightly different climate?... I've not been to the higher/colder parts of Honshu however - so can't compare.

  3. Sapporo in the summer looks like a lot of fun, here in Tokyo it is getting a bit too hot for any outdoor activity. The first photo is gorgeous.

  4. Thanks - Sapporo's summer is generally much milder than in Honshu. When we were there however it was pretty hot as well (and humid). It was definitely hot weather; but ok for outdoors.

    BTW - the first photo is a favourite of mine. I was lucky, but also a little bit of post-shot treatment really spiced it up. Hehehe... I'm so lazy though, 99.99% of the time I just use Picasa which doesn't allow you to do much more than play with shadow/highlight, and apply effects such as Sepia etc...very basic sort of stuff. But a bit easier to use than getting out PSE (my alternative).

    It's hard when you've got children running around to spend too much time taking nice shots. So you have to get what you can when you can.

  5. yeah, that first pic is really cool. an eerie invitation to travel down the road less traveled but with an offer of light at the end of the tunnel.

    are there many bear attacks in them parts?

  6. Cheers.... as for the bear attacks. It's a real concern - and as indicated, you don't need to venture far out of the city. At all. From memory there's about 3-4 deaths a year at least (I will check with T-chan).