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Sapporo: More than just a beer

Three Sapporo beers.
Three Sapporo beers.
Nighttime Sapporo.
Nighttime Sapporo.
From the JR tower observatory.
From the JR tower observatory.
This is as good as Otaru gets.
This is as good as Otaru gets.
Numbers 5, 6, 7 and 8. There were more to come.
Numbers 5, 6, 7 and 8. There were more to come.

Sapporo is famous mainly for beer. I think you knew this already, because when you saw the word ‘sapporo’ in the title of this post you most likely thought ‘ah, that’s the same name as that Japanese beer.’

But Sapporo is actually also a perfectly nice place in its own right. It is in fact the largest city on Japan’s northern island, Hokkaido, and is home to almost two million Sapporans. We were Sapporans as well for several very happy days last week, during which time we did these things.

We went to the Sapporo beer museum, which is very reasonably free to get into, and is housed in an old Sapporo brewery of the beer bearing the same name. You start on the third floor in the museum, where you get to look at some interesting models of the brewery as it was many years ago; then you go down to the second floor and spend some time looking at interesting old poster adverts of Sapporo beer, and some interesting old fashioned beer bottles; and finally you go down to the ground floor and get to drink beer. Which, lets face it, is the bit you’ve been looking forward to the whole time.

500 yen gets you three half pints (ish) of three different Sapporo beers. There’s also a shop which sells Sapporo beer souvenirs, and bottles of a strangely pleasing substance they call oyster beer, brewed remarkably enough using actual oysters.

We went up to the observation deck of the Sapporo TV tower, where we spent a very happy half hour looking down on the city during day time. It cost us 600 yen each to go up.

We went up to the even higher observation deck of the JR tower, over Sapporo station, where we were joined by several dozen remarkably enthusiastic and entirely too noisy teenage school children, who seemed determined to reduce everyone else’s lives to a very loud, completely miserable hell.

The view was, however, utterly smashing, and the great big windows you can sit right next to make it even better.

We went on a half-day trip to nearby town of Otaru, which turned out to be a very broad waste of both time and energy, since the town’s sole and underwhelming attraction turned out to be a broadly uninteresting 150 meter stretch of canal flanked by marginally pleasant paths and large but generally unremarkable warehouses.

We ventured into the Sapporo red light district during the evenings where we tried to identify prostitutes targeting drunk businessmen, and young lads trying to entice excitable women into ‘host clubs’, where ladies pay a large amount of money to be joined in conversation by one such male ‘host’. I’m assured that ‘conversation’ is absolutely all that is part of the deal.

We wandered up and down the pretty city centre stretch of Odori park, several times, within which we also spent time looking at an interesting flower festival, which could very well be the most elderly thing I’ve ever said.

We went shopping in The Factory, a large and potentially extortionate shopping mall, where I was again forced to counter my remarkably short sighted decision when packing for this trip to not pack a single jumper by purchasing a very nice new red sweater and matching wooly hat.

We ate ice cream and chocolate brownie crepes. We ate Japanese chicken curry. We ate remarkably good food and didn’t break the bank.

We ate doughnuts. Hokkaido is home, it seems, to a chain of doughnut vendors named Mister Donuts, which sells a range of doughnuts at enticingly affordable prices. Thus between us we managed 15 doughnuts in less than 3 days.

An intensely busy few days were thus passed, proving there is more to Sapporo than just beer.