Day 4: Sapporo

Breakfast arrived early today and it happened to be Genghis Khan curry soup! Tasted similar to a minestrone soup, jam packed with vegetables and a little bit of lamb, all washed down with some black tea with lemon.

Today Jacinta planned a full day of adventures. First stop was the Asahiyama Memorial Park. We caught the tram back to the ropeway and walked along some residential streets. Everything was peaceful and calm as a typical Sapporo day should be, then 5 fighter jets went overhead in a loop. Unsure if we felt reassured that they are on the look out for possible missile strikes or, concerned that they are actually on patrol for missiles! Whilst still walking towards the park, we came across a shrine (which we later found out is called Fushimiinari Shrine). It was built in 1898 and thought to help bring “good luck for good relationships”. Knowing our luck, the area to purchase Omikuji (fortune telling cards and advice) was closed so we weren't able to pray for good relationships.

After further walking down the streets, we came a fork in the road and had no idea which way to go. We asked for directions and with a little game of charades, we managed to find the Asahiyama park. There were many steep pathways that lead to a central location of a grassy area overlooking Sapporo. It was another wonderful sight to be seen! It was also the first time we saw some wildlife other than birds. Squirrels!

We soon took the very steep descent down and found signage in English for Maruyama Park through a small township that appeared to only have a handful of shops. Two of them being a convenience store and an architectural shop selling bomb shelters. We kept walking in the direction headed towards Maruyama Park… or so we thought. We ended up getting a little side tracked but with some assistance from locals we found it, walked past it and went to Starbucks as we needed a drink for a perk up. Maruyama Park was initially constructed in 1875 but wasn't officially opened until 1957 after the trees began to mature and take form. The central point of Maruyama Park is the Hokkaido Shrine. It was originally built in 1869 (it was destroyed by fire and then rebuilt in 1978) by an order of Emperor Meiji to enshrine three Shinto deities: Okunitama, Okuninushi and Sukunahikona. We purchased our omikuji and prayed to the gods for good fortune and health then casually strolled through the gardens. It was so tranquil.

We were starting to get hungry, well we had walked for about 4.5 hours! We went to the Sapporo open market which sells fresh seafood and other produce from around Hokkaido. Hokkaido is known for its crab (kani) and sea urchin (uni) which was being sold readily next to the sweetest yellow and white corn and rockmelon. We went upstairs to a restaurant and had an array of menu items to choose from and I was starting to salivate from the endless seafood options.

I ended up ordering sashimi don (bowl of rice topped with seafood). It came with fish roe, crab, fresh salmon, fresh squid and fresh tuna. I also had a side of sea urchin. Jacinta ordered sliced lamb with rice (lamb is cheaper than beef) and a creamy baked Hokkaido potato with butter. I don't think I've ever had fresh tuna so red and melt-in-your-mouth before!.

With full bellies, we hopped onto the subway back to central Sapporo. Our last stop for  our jam packed adventure day was the botanical gardens. It was 4.15pm and as we turned the corner for the entrance, IT WAS CLOSED. It is only open between 9am and 4pm. Just our luck. We turned up at the same time as another fellow and he was also from Melbourne, also spending four days in Sapporo, and, also leaving tomorrow! We might see him again during our travels.

We walked back to Odori Park in central Sapporo and checked our the huge array of food stalls for the ‘Sapporo Autumn Festival’. The food stalls showcased different cuisines from all over Hokkaido from dairy products, whisky, beer, oysters and of course, crab. We were on the hunt for cheesecake as it is meant to be on another level to regular cheesecake. We eventually found it after walking through three street blocks of food stalls. They had, and I quote, “number one cheesecake” and “double cheesecake”. Number one cheesecake was definitely creamy and moorish whereas the double cheesecake was a bit too cheesy for our liking.

We then washed it down with some alcohol. Jacinta got the fruit punch cocktail and I got a sake tasting paddle. The lady selling the sake tried to get me to buy the tasting paddle with the mild sakes. I declined and went for the sweeter, stronger sake and I was not disappointed. 4 out of the 5 were tasty. The milky one was a bit gross, I think due to its sediment.

Back at the hotel we chilled for a little bit before we ventured out in the dark for dinner. I had to wear my Kathmandu jacket as it was a bit icy. We went to a curry house place specialising in Japanese curry and crumbed fried pork. On entering, we sat down but were swiftly pointed to the vending machine in the corner where you order before taking a seat. We got the Katsu curry but with added vegetables. Very very filling so we rolled home!

There's a dessert shop close to our hotel and because we are both suckers for sweets, we bought a few cheesecakes and chocolate mousse to eat. We only managed half and saved the rest for tomorrow. We finished the night off with a stiff drink and headed to bed before having depart Sapporo for Hiroshima tomorrow.

Thanks Sapporo, you've been a wonderful city. Cheers.