First morning in Sapporo, and my alarm went off at 7.15am. I flicked it on snooze for ten minutes, and then decided – you know what? – I probably actually need a lie in. So I set it for midday, made sure the Do Not Disturb sign was on the door and went back to sleep.
Then, when noon came, I felt great for having had a lie in. I was a bit annoyed with myself for missing the sushi breakfast, but decided that was something I could do the next day.
I headed to Sapporo Station, and thought I’d visit the Tourist Information Centre before getting some coffee and working out what to do and see over the next two days. The guy in there was soooo helpful. It made me look at Tourist Information Centres in a new light to be honest. We had a chat about what I wanted to see, he told me when to see them, how to get there, and then gave me loads of coupons and a free wifi in Japan for 14 days coupon. Thank you Mr Tourist Information Man!
Then it was the first tourist stop of what would be many on Thursday. I caught a bus to the Sapporo Beer Museum. I felt it only natural to pay homage to what the city is best known for. There’s actually two Sapporo Beer attractions in Sapporo – a beer museum and garden, and then the actual factory itself. I would have liked to have seen the factory, but it was 40 minutes away, and given my limited time I decided to make do with the Museum instead.
It was actually pretty interesting, although the displays were all in Japanese, you got a leaflet which explained things in English too. I learnt a couple of things – basically Sapporo as a city was helped to grow by Westerners, including some involved in setting up the Sapporo factory. Also, Sapporo and Asahi used to be the same company before they were split in two.
The museum had loads of olde worlde pictures of the people responsible for setting the company up, and then had an explanation of how beer is made. That all went over my head really – never was any good at science. But I did like the models they had showing how the product comes together.
Then you got taken through an area where they showed you old Sapporo poster advertisements, including one of what I would like to think I would have looked like if I was Japanese, this age in the 70s, and advertising beer.
Finally, I arrived in a beer hall, where you got to sample some Sapporo for the bargain price of 200 yen (about £1.10). I got served my Black Label by two lovely ladies. Who I asked if I could get my photo taken with. They said yes, but I wish I could describe the look of horror on their face when I went to go behind the bar. I had to stay in front of the bar grrr!
Suitably lubricated, I caught a bus back into town. If I’d been there in the evening, apparently a restaurant beside the Museum does a cracking barbecued mutton. But it wasn’t dinner time, so next stop was Sapporo Factory – not actually the Sapporo factory, but what used to be the factory, and is now according to tourist brochures ‘a really popular mall’. It was dead, and boring, so I didn’t stay long.
I had a quick wander round some shops, before heading to T38 – an obseration tower 38 floors high in Sapporo Station. It was dark by now, so I thought I’d get an aerial view of Sapporo by night.
I can’t explain how brilliant this was – it’s hard to describe really, but the city just looked amazing.
And the views from the men’s toilets in the Northeast corner are not to be missed either….
When I was entering, I saw that you could buy an annual pass at a discount, and I thought ‘who on earth would do that’, but having been up the tower, I can see why you would now. The place was full of couples and singletons just gazing at the amazing view. There was a really chilled out soundtrack playing as well. As a complete sucker, I bought the CD 🙁 And in another “they saw me coming move” I bought a souvenir coin and engraved my name on it. And then I bought another one and engraved my niece’s name on it – except I spelt it wrong, so I’m still not sure what I’m going to do with that.
Sapporo has it’s own unique take on ramen, which I wanted to try. Mr Tourist Information recommended I go to the top floor of a shopping centre in the station which promised a variety of different Hokkaido takes on ramen. I did go and have a look, but it was a bit theme-parky (though busy). Instead, I decided to go in search of the authentic Sapporo ramen.
I headed to the city’s entertainment area, Susukino, and in the pouring rain, managed to find Ramen Alley – it’s literally a tiny alley filled with authentic ramen shops, which have been there for years (so long there’s even a ‘new ramen alley’.)
I picked the busiest looking one (with three people in it) and headed in.
This was a real authentic Japanese dining experience. One man in a tiny kitchen, serving up hot, satisfying food to people sitting at a tiny bench. I ordered the miso ramen.
I wish I could say it was amazing, but it wasn’t really. It was just good and satisfying. Maybe I ordered the wrong one. But I’ve had better. Or maybe Sapporo style ramen just isn’t my thing.
After that I headed back to the hotel, and made my way up to the 18th floor for an open air bath.
Sitting in the night air with gentle rain falling was the perfect end to a busy day.