“Do you really want to wake me up?” I asked myself as my tired eyes slightly squinted open. With a “crinkle, crinkle” of a plastic bag, a numerous amount of footsteps, a bunch of zippers being zipped and even more plastic bags being crinkled, I was angrily awoken at an all too early time for my sleepy self. Aside from this, the blinds were open and a bright sun shone through the window, directly into my vision. I clenched my eyelids shut, but it was of no use, as the sun got brighter and the girls noisier. Now they started to whisper while they crinkled their plastic bags. Finally, with the crinkle girls gone and the covers over my eyes, I figured I could sleep; yes, yes I could.
Just as it felt like I began to dose off (although it was actually much later), Jake came in to see if I was up and I responded with a bit of a groan and a mumble. He closed the door behind him as he left the room.
When we were both ready, we set out for a little walk to the Fish Market, working up a small appetite along the way, in preparation for what surprise the market held in store for us today. We narrowed it down to a few places, finally picking a crowded one right near awkward sushi man. Everyone looked happy as they munched on plates of raw fish and rice, giant grilled scallops or Hokkaido specialties like giant bowls of sea urchin and roe, and Hokkaido hairy crab. An old woman pointed inside and another woman led us to a table, not allowing us to sit up at the bar. After being seated and given a menu and cold green tea while we waited, we looked through all of the colorful pictures, both of us deciding on a mixed sea food bowl.
A few minutes later a good size bowl of delicious sea food was placed in front of us. Hot rice lay as a base and began to start to steam the raw sliced scallops, salmon and crab above it. A dish sat near by for soy sauce and wasabi and I dipped the slices of sea food into it. The salty soy with the sweet, fresh, fresh scallop was so good. We both sat there quietly as we devoured our bowls in a state of happiness like the rest of the eaters around us. Now and again we pointed out to each other how good it was, how fresh it was, how inexpensive it was compared to LA. It was probably our healthiest meal since I had arrived. Japan has got some great seafood.
After we paid our 700 yen each, the equivalent of about 7 U.S. dollars for a giant bowl of fish, we walked out of the restaurant, thanking the women as we left. The same old woman waiting at the entrance when we arrived, now looked at us and pointed to ice cream, trying to make more profit off of us Gaijin. Although I do love ice cream, I patted my stomach to show I was full and we walked out of the market. Jake had been telling me for a few days now that we might meet up with someone he knew who lived in Sapporo. On this day, we received a call from that friend and had about an hour to kill before meeting him at the East exit Saporro station. Since everything in Saporro was pretty much walkable and it would only take us at most, twenty minutes to get there, we had plenty of time, checking out a few shops as we frolicked along.
We stopped into one of Jake’s favorites and slowly becoming my new obsession, UNIQLO. Attracted to every bright color in sight, I made my way over to the leggings section, wanting to get some neon colors. Unfortunately there were none, so I debated for a good amount of time as to whether or not I really wanted to buy some, in the end not getting anything; a typical Jami move. Done looking around at all of the pretty colors, we scurried off to Sapporo station, entering at one entrance, and getting lost in an attempt to find the east exit. After a good 20 minutes of searching, we were finally close and as we looked around to figure out where we were, I heard a random Japanese guy calling out Jake’s name. Why was this man calling out to us? Jake went over and saluted him with a hand slap and introduced me to his friend Toru. Sometimes I am slow, what can I say, I take after my mother.
Toru was about six feet tall; a lengthy bean pole. He wore jeans and a striped polo shirt, black short hair atop his head and a sort of ambiguous expression upon his face (which sad to say, barely changed throughout the day). We wanted to go to the Sapporo Beer Factory and asked Toru if he thought it was good. He shrugged, having never even been there himself, he wasn’t sure what to say. He simply asked us if we were twenty, not knowing if they would card or not. Neither of us was twenty yet, nor did we care. Jake was almost positive it would be fine, as his age had never been a problem, since Japan was based on the trust system.
After a look at a map and a quick question to someone who worked there, Jake and Toru figured out the correct train to take and we ran over to it crowding in with the rest of the people. During the ride, Toru began talking about his grandmother, saying “she was gone.” I kind of looked at him not sure of what to say, and instead went with “I’m sorry.” He looked back at me and went, “That’s okay.” Then it was explained that she wasn’t dying, but just sort of mentally out of it. I asked if it was Alzheimer’s to which he started replying that she lives in Kyoto and he was only visiting. Apparently he thought I asked if he was with her all summer, so I asked again. He paused and started answering with some other response, until I explained what Alzheimer’s was and he shook his head and began talking of something else which grew into silence. We all just kind of stood there, not making eye contact and nodding. You could cut the awkwardness with a spoon. Needless to say I was glad when we finally got to our stop a mere five minutes later.
Outside of the station, we debated which way to go.Toru took the lead, pointing out the beer tower in clear view, meaning we were nearby. Ten minutes later, we were walking through a row of houses, not seeming to be heading on a route. When we hit a dead end and a rapidly barking dog, we headed back, finding another way to go. Well which way is that? you ask; well, through the mall of course.
The mall, near the exit of the station, was air conditioned and refreshing. Aside from an amusing dollar toy machine where I could get different color and expression faced pieces of poo, it led us almost directly to the beer factory. We walked through a tiny strip of park and finally we were there. Inside a sign clearly stated not to go in if you were under 20. We defied the trust and went in anyway.
The Japanese have a strange idea of how beer is made, or at least that’s what they project to their audience. The display case explaining the process of making beer is depicted by a magical beer world of little elves and a skinny Santa Claus looking man sitting on top of the foam of a large mug of beer, while cheery tunes play and lights flash. Basically the process of making beer is simple and magical. The waters around the beer plant are magically turned from blue, to a golden yellow and thus beer! It is then put into giant vats by the little elves and brought over to a happy land where everyone can enjoy it, and thus, beer! Wouldn’t it be great if the world really worked like that? I think this idea was thought up by a drunk man.
Another display case held little jars of different plants that were used to make beer. They sat with covers over them on top of a table, making it look as if you could open them and take a whiff of the substance inside. This was deceiving as they were glued shut and glued down to the table, providing great amusement for us to watch. Person after person came by trying to open the tiny containers, walking away from it disappointed; an urge still lurking to know what was really in there. We laughed watching the people try to pry the tops off and lift the containers from the table, as we had done ten minutes earlier.
Apparently this was the beer factory, a tiny beer museum. We walked down the stairs to the drinking section, along the way, passing a sign for “no running” where a man with 2 legs, one longer than the other, resembled slightly that of a swastika. Honestly, a little frightening to the Jews. Down at the bar, Jake bought himself a 3 beer sampling of the best Sapporo had to offer which came with a complimentary snack. Jake selected a tiny cheese from the pile of offerings, amongst other choices of crackers or onion flavored cheese, truly all things Japanese. We sat down to watch him drink, tasting a few as well. The cleanest lightest version was my favorite, not being much of a beer drinker.
After skimming the gift shop and finding a few weird items, too expensive for the average person to waste their money on, such as corn kitkats, melon jellies and beer caramels, we walked back, once again heading through the mall; checking out a few stores on the way. Of the few shops and stalls we saw in passing, the one that struck us all was a little shoe stand in the middle of the walkway housing “Holy Soles” shoes, a rip off of Crocs, with a Canadian maple leaf as their logo. When we nearly reached the end of this mall, Toru asked us if we wanted to go to another shopping area near by and we agreed, following him to what we thought was the train station.
We ended up in sort of dark stairway that crossed the street instead and walked for a while longer. In passing a conveni, we stopped to get snacks and drinks and then continued on. We reached the next shopping center in what seemed to be like forever; we had nearly walked back to Sapporo station. Inside the mall, some sort of show was going on; the audience was clapping for a young girl and she took a bow. A petite Japanese woman got on stage next and began speaking and then sat down at what appeared to be a normal piano, while a large screen behind her broadcasted it for everyone to see, and a small audience sat in black chairs in front of the small stage. She started playing, the noise came out sounding more electronic “videogame-esque” and then she began playing beats with her feet too on this crazy system they had set up.
After two songs, we moved on to look through the shops, stopping at nearly every t-shirt store they had to read the hilarious English printed on the shirts. The Japanese have this slight infatuation with clothing having words from the English language on them. The only problem is that it’s usually not correct, or in the least, makes absolutely no sense; therefore being a fine source of amusement for native English speakers like us. Most of them contained the word happy in big letters and why not?
At least an hour had gone by and we had gone through most of the shops, so it was on to the next. It took us twenty minutes to walk back to the center of town. We stopped into another department mall-esque seven story building, going up to the 5th floor where a store by the name of, THANK YOU MART awaited us. Skimming through the tees, Toru and I were summoned over to where Jake was standing to look up at a bright pink shirt saying: “The penis mightier than the sword”. It made complete sense as to what it was meant to say, however the lack of space between “pen” and “is” caused us all to rupture into a laughing fit and me to buy the shirt, plus a few more. Don’t judge, they were cheap! I bought four Ts for less than one normally costs and left with a smile; so thank you THANK YOU MART.
A few more shops later, we began to get hungry and walked to what appeared to be yet another five level shopping center. Toru was taking us to get the best ramen of which he knew. It was supposedly the first miso ramen shop of Sapporo, but I didn’t understand why it would be on the 4th floor of a department store. Toru shrugged and said once again how it was good. I tried to rephrase my question, where after a little help from Jake and a few more attempts, he told us it had moved. When we reached the restaurant, it was closed. We headed to Sapporo station to eat at one of its many restaurants instead.
Toru thought that of all of the Japanese restaurants around on the first floor, perhaps the Curry House on the 7th would be better, so we followed him. When we got there, we looked, most of it being Indian or Thai curry. Once again Toru shrugged saying he didn’t know and so we just decided to eat there. We were seated and ordered. As we sat there waiting, Toru randomly started smirking and quietly laughing to himself; Jake and I were unsure as to why. My Thai green curry came out first and sat on the table for at least twenty minutes before the others’ arrived. Then we ate, mostly in silence and when done, left to walk around more shops of the station.
I think all of us by this point were slightly less amused by shopping than when we started and it was getting later, so we headed down to the bottom of the station again.
“Do you want to go check out more downtown?” Toru asked.
“Sure.” Jake responded. Silence for a minute or so followed, as we all stood there waiting for Toru to lead while he sort of looked out into space.
“Well, actually, I need to catch my train.” Toru blurted out. A little strange, as he just asked if we wanted to go do something else. We sort of stood in a circle for a minute or two, saying good-byes, Toru shaking my hand and then Jake’s, kind of going in for a hug/handshake, but not. It was almost painful to watch and I couldn’t help but to start blurting out laughing. Then Jake sort of looked at him saying something like “Thanks this was fun”. We all just continued to stand there for a minute nodding our heads, me biting my tongue, until finally Toru departed.
With an “Okay, I should go” wave, he walked towards his train. When he was gone, I looked over at Jake and started cracking up once more. Toru is a sweet guy and a bit socially awkward. Jake and I left the station and walked down to Odori Park to see if anything was happening with the jazz, but it was over by the time we got there. We walked back to the hostel, finally passing the disappointing clock tower. On one hand, since we had expected to be disappointed, we weren’t disappointed, but on the other hand it was worse than expected, therefore disappointing what little hope I had of it being slightly better than bad. Overall it was basically a western style white house, almost southern church looking building, with a clock on it; it was pretty lame.
Back at the hostel, after a nice shower, I strutted over to the conveni in my pajamas with Jake for a late night waffle ice cream. When we got back we sat around chilling with our computers in the common room, eating creamy chocolaty crunchy goodness and listening to Jin’s latin jazz he had playing softly over his speakers. The Croatian’s entered later and we all talked together, mainly listening to Tin in amusement as he told some more of his comical stories of what their group had done earlier that day. A negative undertone always seemed to seep through in a playful, humorous manner. Finally I went up to bed, leaving the Croatian’s on their own. Up in the room, all of the girls slept peacefully, leaving the light on a low dim for me when I finally decided to come in. I, for some reason, always scared the Asian girls staying there, and they always seemed leave some sort of light on for me. I could never figure out why, but it was always easier to see. I shut the light off and hopped into bed once again; it was at least 2 a.m. before I fell asleep.