Japan Travel · Rodeogirl

Sapporo Weekend

Last summer when I visited Sapporo for a pair of Granrodeo concerts, it was smack in the middle of three typhoons. One had just moved on, one was in residence, and a third was almost there. When it wasn’t pouring cats and dogs, I found Sapporo to be very charming, and because I didn’t get in much sight-seeing (just a damp visit to the city’s major shrine the Monday morning before I left), I hoped to get more in when I came back this year for, yes, another pair of Granrodeo shows.

I had big ambitions of visiting sea-side city Otaru on Sunday and swinging down to the south side of the island for the Ainu Museum on Monday before my flight. But I chucked Sunday’s plans in favour of a morning visit to the Nijo fish market for breakfast, followed by a visit to a lilac festival happening in nearby Odori park. And I vastly overestimated the impact of two live shows and a lot of walking around would have by Monday morning, so I settled for visiting the nicely picturesque former government building that’s a short walk from the main station instead.

Saturday I flew in with just enough time to check into my hotel, change, freshen up and run to Zepp Sapporo for an awesome opening night for the PieDan (Pierrot Dancin’) tour. Sapporo crowds are polite and easy-going and I had a great view up front, and no one trampling or squishing me, which is always a win. After, my friend Yasmine and I headed to the nearby Suskino area for grilled lamb dinner at one of a very popular chain, Genghis Kahn (so popular that we tried the lines at three different branches within five minutes of one another before we found one with a reasonable wait). We had two kinds of lamb with onions and peppers that we grilled ourselves, plus kimchi and drinks. Very tasty and inexpensive; two thumbs way up.

Sunday was the aforementioned Nijo market, where I ran into yet another little old lady entirely enamored of my hair. And found a lot of ridiculously expensive king crab for sale. Settled on a little restaurant inside the market and had frozen raw tuna belly, steamed scallops and a delicious baked potato with divine Hokkaido butter (seriously, Hokkaido dairy products are the best I’ve ever tasted). After, headed over to the lilac festival happening in the ginormous Odori park (think the Mall in DC; it’s that size, at least). While there were lilacs a-plenty elsewhere, the park seemed oddly short of lilac trees (though were plenty of lovely coral-colored azaleas around). But the festival itself was a veritable cornucopia of food, putting every other festival I’ve been to here in Japan to shame. Thai, Indian, Vietnamese, Turkish and a lot more was to be found. I was full from breakfast, but found room for kabocha pumpkin sherbet … served up in the pumpkin itself. A steal for 600 yen, and very tasty.

After too short a visit to the park, it was off to the Zepp for goods. A few minutes later, with all but one sold-out good in hand, it was cafe time (I joked my day was going to be fish and ice cream) for a parfait (for me) and pancakes (for Yasmine) before show number two. Second row this time, still no squishing, excellent time was had. It was back then to the lilac festival, this time for steak, fried mutton (tasty) and berry sangria. I really do regret I have but one stomach to donate for the cause of eating my way through Japan — there was more I would have eaten, if I could have.

I was moving rather slowly the next morning, but determined to sight-see anyhow. So I walked over to the former Hokkaido Government Office, a Western-style brick building with a very lovely setting. There were still a few sakura trees in near full bloom, and a carpet of pink petals underfoot. Despite looming rain clouds, I spent quite a while wandering around the grounds taking photos. It was quite peaceful and beautiful and I’m glad I stopped by. All too soon, though, it was time to head to the airport, where I found the frozen yogurt stand I’d gone to last year, this time trying sakura, roasted corn and blood orange flavors (tasty, each and every one). I couldn’t find quite the kanimeshi (crab rice) boxed lunch I wanted, so settled for fried tofu skins stuffed with rice and crabs — delicious!

I definitely need to schedule an actual trip to Hokkaido, so I can make it to Otaru, Hakodate and beyond. Perhaps next summer.


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