Sapporo, Hokkaido 北海道

 

Out of a sudden, I lost my balance and I saw my bronze Sony Xperia being flown away more than five feet away. I was too surprised at how it even kind of leaped out of the outside pocket of my bag. I was still trying to stand my ground or else I would be tumbling down the ground when I saw a man run after my cell phone and grabbed it.  After I said my “Arigatou Gozaimasu” to him, I immediately ran beside a post to keep myself from being blown away.  There is a department store just a few steps from where I was standing.  I decided to take shelter in it and let the strong wind pass by.

I arrived in Sapporo the previous day.  I decided to spend my holidays in Hokkaido for this year. My December doesn’t seem complete if I don’t experience a white Christmas.  The place has been in my must-see destinations list in Japan.  I only booked for three nights in the hotel because I didn’t know if I could handle the temperature in Japan’s northernmost island.

I had just crossed the street from Otaru Station when the strong wind blew.  I was holding a walking map that I got from the tourist center.  With the unfavorable weather at hand, I deemed it much comfortable to rely on Google map. It took me at least 10 minutes to get to the Canal.  It was hard to take photos as the snow was pouring down heavily and at the same time, I was trying to protect my camera from getting wet. After I walked to the other end of the canal, I decided to head to Sakaimachi Street.

The walk to Sakaimachi Street was terrible.  The pair of gloves I bought from the convenience store was not giving my hands enough warmth.  For the past few weeks, my hands have been having small cuts because of the winter cold in Japan.  I had not eaten anything and I was keeping my eye specifically on ramen restaurants.  I kept getting disappointed as I saw mostly seafood restaurants and cafes serving sweets.  I was too hungry that I ended up eating in 3 cafes that I passed by.  There were actually museums and shops along the way but I didn’t bother to go inside anymore.  I decided to just head back to the station. I just couldn’t take the cold, the wind, and the heavy snow.  At one point, I decided to buy an umbrella because the weather was just too much.  The man told me the umbrella cost 540 yen.  I knew I was being ripped off, but probably I just couldn’t think and act well and so I still ended up buying it.  I honestly felt so bad afterwards not just because I decided to pay for it but because of the illusion I had in mind that everybody in Japan is honest and trustworthy.  It didn’t help that I kept seeing the same plastic umbrellas in other shops with a 200-yen price on it.

I finally reached Otaru station after taking shelter in multiple shops every few minutes.  There was a moment I wanted to cry and kept telling myself I just want to reach the station already.  That’s how bad the condition in Otaru was.  And when I finally was about to buy the train ticket back to Sapporo, the ticket machine was not in service. The train service going to Sapporo was stopped because of the weather condition.

My first travel day in Hokkaido might not have gone well but it didn’t mean I did not enjoy the region.  My friend met up with me on Christmas Day.  I thought I was going to spend the holidays alone. I tasted the most delicious vegetable soup curry in a restaurant called Garaku. I had a beautiful view of Nakajima Park from my hotel. And I finally understood what it means when people say Hokkaido has some of the best powder snow in the world.

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