It’s almost 4PM, and we all agreed to meet up in the lobby. We’re off to see Otaru Canal, a popular tourist spot here in Hokkaido, and right now I have no idea what’s so special about it. We went out of the hotel and started walking. We have decided to take the bus going to Otaru because cab fares are so expensive, so the first thing we need to do is to get to Otaru Eki Mae Bus Terminal. What we didn’t know is that Japan has a not-so-easy-to-understand address system, especially in Sapporo.
Google Maps pointed us to walk towards a specific location and the only English word we could make out from the directions was “4 chōme”. So we thought, “Okay, let’s just follow the walking directions and we’ll get there safe and sound”. When we got to the place which was supposedly be 4 chōme, we cannot find any signage indicating that we are indeed in 4 chōme. So we continued to walk, and walk, and walk, until we realized that we’ve been walking for almost an hour already and we still cannot find the bus terminal.
It was getting frustrating, because we know that we’ve been following Google Maps and yet we have no idea if we are really getting to the right place. I later found out that chōme is just an indicator of the distance of the block from the city center – the east-west distance to be more specific, while the north-west distance is indicated by jō. No wonder we cannot find a place called 4 chōme. I also later found out from a friend that Google Maps isn’t really reliable when you’re in Japan. But that was after we got lost too many times in this trip.
It’s almost 5 o’clock in the afternoon and we are now in Tokeidai Mae bus stop after numerous lefts and rights on the random streets of Sapporo. I guess Google Maps re-routed us to this bus stop instead because we are nowhere near Eki Mae bus terminal. But who said our dilemma already ends here? We now have to figure out what specific bus to ride in this bus stop. There are no English signs on the bus, so that means we will just depend on the arrival time of the Otaru bound buses indicated in Gmaps. I wish I could record in this journal that we have successfully managed to ride the correct bus and that we eventually got to see the famous Otaru Canal on our first night in Sapporo. But nope. That wasn’t what happened.
It’s already getting dark, and my hands are almost literally freezing. I am beginning to regret that I didn’t bring the heat packs I have in my luggage — the ones my sister gave me from her previous trip to Japan. I bet it would be really useful at this very moment. We are now tired and hungry, and we are beginning to think if it would still be a good idea to continue our journey to Otaru at this hour. After much deliberation, we decided to just cancel this initial plan and headed back to the hotel to look for a nearby place where we can have dinner. We can just do this tomorrow, we thought. For now, we can just continue to be spontaneous and just go with the flow.
On our way back, we passed by the Sapporo Clock Tower, another tourist attraction in the area. It’s design is definitely of a Western style and it’s currently the oldest standing building in Sapporo. We also passed by the sculptures being made in preparation for the Sapporo Snow Festival in February. At this point, my feet are starting to feel a bit numb. I only wore one thick pair of socks because I got too confident that it would be enough since I’m wearing fur lined boots. I’m taking a mental note to double it tomorrow.
We wanted to have some good beef for dinner so that’s what we looked for when we got back to the Tanuki-koji shopping arcade. We eventually found one and it certainly didn’t disappoint. The place looked a bit posh as they even have this foyer where you’re supposed to take off your coats and leave it there before heading inside. Once you’re past this foyer, you’ll be greeted by a big meat display chiller and a staff will assist you to be seated, and hand you not your ordinary printed menus but a tablet instead because their menu and ordering system is digital. Amazed and hungry at the same time, we immediately tapped away on the tablets given to us and after a few minutes, our orders were delivered to our table.
It was the perfect meal after our struggle of understanding the complex address and transportation system of Sapporo, Hokkaido. Tomorrow, we have plans to visit North Snow Land and enjoy the different snow activities they offer. After that, we can go straight to Otaru and finally see the Otaru Canal – the one we failed to accomplished today.
After dinner, we are so ready to go back to the hotel and call it a day. We stood up and headed back to the foyer to get our coats and I am starting to get how much effort it takes to remove and put back on your winter gear. Imagine, I had to wear my gloves, ear muffs, scarf, and finally my coat before I could eventually go out of the restaurant. I now understand why Blair is so lucky to have Dorota to help her do these things. We’re already walking back to the hotel when we thought of getting some ice cream first. Hokkaido is the largest producer of milk in Japan, so it’s really a must to try their soft-serve ice cream even if it means doing it in winter.
It’s 7:40 PM and we are now back in our rooms. It still quite early to go to bed, so I decided to soak my feet in hot water for a few minutes before taking a shower. Well, I ended up soaking my whole body in the hot tub. My body must be thanking me for this wonderful experience after an afternoon of walking around in the cold. Tomorrow, I might do this again.