Saturday, November 26, 2011
13th August, 2010 - I thought I'd add a new post with just a few more photos from the evening... starting off with some good old fashioned neon. There's something about Japan and neon. Like BBQs and snags (Aussie vernacular for sausages), or Kath and Kim (another Aussie-ism). Can't imagine one without the other. Neon signs beyond anything else perhaps let you know that you're in the heart of a big Japanese city.
Tankuki-koji is one of the main shopping malls in Sapporo that runs parallel to Odori Koen and goes for about half a dozen blocks or more. It's also a must visit if you've got more than an afternoon in Sapporo. Lots of little shops to visit.
A haircut anyone - not sure why the barber's pole... but the Japanese love symbols. Especially ones that have a somewhat hypnotic feel. Then again, it's amazing what sorts of things - or people - you'll bump into when travelling....
As an example....we were all heading to the izakaya when we came across a young asian woman with a rather large suitcase, looking obviously lost. Well, needless to say we all decided to help her find her hotel. Not so easy as you might think - even with a bunch of smart-phones at the ready when the address was wrong. That wasn't the interesting part though - turns out the girl was from Australia. In fact Adelaide of all places. Not only Adelaide, but only about 5km from where we live... not that we knew each other of course. Adelaide's a bit bigger than that. She was over in Sapporo attending a Christian mission, and whilst we didn't talk long, it was amazing to think of a young person packing their suitcases for the great unknown for their faith alone. There's a lot of people that do however, and hats off to them. Not that Sapporo was quite the deepest darkest Africa (no offence to any Africans). I hope she had a good time in Sapporo.
It was also about that time that we came across this little Buddha, perched high atop one of the buildings. I'm sure T-chan's friend told me some incredible story at the time - but the reality is a little less mysterious. The shop below sells Buddhist religious items such as Butsudan - or Buddhist prayer alters for the home. Just in case, they also sell Shinto items for good measure - part of the complex fabric of Japanese life.
And speaking of symbols - you couldn't get any more a culinary symbol of Sapporo than a GIANT CRAB! Yes, kani is well worth trying in Sapporo - so fresh and delish. Not quite a staple in Hokkaido, but not far off either. It really is a seafood delight. Of course - if crabs really grew this big, that might be a different matter.
The Japanese are renowned in the West for their desire to change - to always be re-inventing themselves. Actually, this is not entirely correct. Or at least not the entire picture. There's a strong element of resistance to change in Japan (Ok - that might not surprise people). But what might surprise people is the extent to which individuals feel empowered to fight development. I'll talk a bit later about Narita Airport (the most startling example of this)... but for now, we see yet another example of progress enveloping, but not destroying, the past in Japan.
Now there are a few things that are odd about Sapporo - for example - why you stick a ferris wheel on top of a building - or why, oh why, do you stick a great big clock in the middle of a busy intersection. I can't quite imagine checking my watch for correct time as I'm driving through... oh, and trying not to hit any other cars or pedestrians whilst I was at it. This is the same Nikka corner that I mentioned in the previous post. I seemed to spend a fair bit of time around here....though I might hasten - not for the food. In Japan, McDonalds is known as Ma-ku-do, or Ma-ku-do-nal-do (very South American sounding... think Ronaldo). That's not the only thing that's a little different. For example - try getting an ebi (prawn) burger in Australia, or having green tea. If you're ever stuck for an idea of what to eat in Japan - don't be too embarrassed or insecure about going to McDonalds... it's a perfectly valid cultural experience. Every now and again.
And for evidence that McDonald's isn't quite the universal constant that everyone thinks... let's just have a quick look at some of their Japanese advertising. Not quite what we're used to here anyhow.
And I mentioned the famous Nikka corner... well, I suppose it's also rightfully known as the Kirin corner. Depends on whether you're a beer person or a spirits person. Not sure what you call it if you're both (or don't drink alcohol). This is looking away from the clock in the middle of the road...
And Japan is a beer country - they have a number of mega-brands. Asahi is one of the more well known ones, though not my go-to-beer if I have a choice. The fact that in the heart of Susukino, Sapporo, their signs are written more in English says more, perhaps, about the investment opportunities they see for their beer than anything else - that and that Japanese actually love to appear international.
And as is often the way of things - we ended up back a Tanukikoji....where we had started. There's an underground shopping district (see the stairs going down) that heads to Odori Koen, and is known simply as Pole Town. Not a pole in sight however... but it's a good place to shop if your in Sapporo. The shops may have closed at this time however, but there was still plenty of life in the city.
And so all good things must come to an end. At midnight (around the time of the last subway from Odori station), it wasn't quite as deserted as this photo makes out. Indeed, the last subway is always a bit popular. And you'll find plenty of people that have had just a little too much good cheer during the preceding hours. But people pretty well keep to themselves, and behave remarkably well considering. In fact, I've never felt unsafe at all in Sapporo at night - though I have to admit that my wife has may stories of coming across MANY unsavoury characters on her way home from the train/subway at night. Being a single woman at night in Japan is not always quite so safe or pleasant... but that's another story.