This week I am fortunate enough to be in what is probably my favourite city in the world: Sapporo.
I came here two years ago in late autumn for a conference, and was stunned by the colours of the trees, the crispness of the air, and the wonderful atmosphere of the city. So much so that when an opportunity presented itself to come back this year, I jumped at it.
The reason I was here was obviously work-related, namely an international conference on applied ethics. Hokudai’s campus is amazing, covering many square miles of parkland right in the heart of the city. There’s even a working research farm at the north end of the campus. While in Hokkaido I also took the opportunity to present on some work I’ve been doing to the environmental sociology research group – it was the first time I’d ever given an academic presentation in Japanese, and people understood it and asked questions afterwards which I was able to understand, so hopefully I did something right.
Running horizontally along the middle of the city is a big park by the name of Odori Koen (literally ‘big street park’), which is where they hold the famous festival with the crazy ice sculptures every year. At one end is the Sapporo TV tower – like Central Europeans, the Japanese love their city-centre TV towers. I’ll come back tomorrow and get a better photo during the daylight.
Came across this rather odd exhibit at the city’s town hall. The town hall itself is a big red-brick building set in luscious leafy grounds, with a big lake on the way in. Inside, though, there’s more than a hint of faded grandeur with musty display rooms, peeling wallpaper, and stains on the ceiling from water leaking in. One room is devoted to Hokkaido’s links with Russia, and includes this display where you are encouraged to sign a petition calling for the return of the Northern Territories (disputed islands around Sakhalin if I understand rightly) to Japanese control. Given the recent events in the news on island disputes this seemed like a timely and interesting exhibit.
This is why I will leave Sapporo a stone heavier – the ramenyokocho. It’s a small alley full of ramen restaurants, which once played host to a music video by Japanese rock supergroup B’z. The ramen itself is delicious, but the people of Hokkaido – like the Scots – add a bit more butter and oil. Must be the cold. In any case it was wonderful, and I left barely able to squeeze out of the narrow alley.
More updates from the east soon!