Saturday, November 13, 2010

My Birthday & Sapporo

In Hokkaido, the northernmost prefecture of Japan, Sapporo is the big city.  All the new ALTs of Hokkaido were required to make it to an orientation conference in Sapporo from August 15th  to the 17th so of course I was looking forward to a paid trip to hang out with other JETs from the area.  

I had the fortune to be able to hitch a ride with a few fellow Kitami-region people to go to Sapporo a day early so that meant I celebrated my birthday with a whole bunch of fellow ALTs!  The trip up was mostly uneventful – I mostly slept – and then spent some time with the people I came with shopping at COSTCO! Yes, Sapporo has a Costco and you can buy almost any American good – written in English – in bulk.  It kind of felt like entering a mini-America, especially after trying to navigate grocery stores that are entirely Japanese for the past few weeks.  One thing did stand out as being out of place, and that was in the jewelry section where I saw most expensive ring that I’ve ever seen – 28,000,000 yen (~$280,000)!

After Costco, Ben, Charley, Tomoko, and I went to Odori Park in Sapporo for a JET welcome party.  I got to hang out with a bunch of people – some that I’d met and many that I hadn’t yet – and enjoy a famous Sapporo beer.  It felt a bit weird because it’s legal to walk around with a beer and here we were drinking in the middle of a park with people all over the place, and we started at 4pm!

Girls going to the festival wearing the Japanese summer traditional costume.

Odori Park in Sapporo

Drinking Sapporo Beer at the Beer Festival

However, Japan is a bit weird about closing times.  Things close super early here when compared with back home.  So, on a Saturday night in the summer, the beer festival ended at 9pm! Of course everyone still wanted to hang out, so we went to the bar Buddy Buddy and basically took over an entire room.  At one point, the entire room sang me happy birthday.  Though it was a bit embarrassing, I liked it. J
Sapporo's main intersection- the person with the sequined dress and white afro wig is a man. 

Ben, Tomoko, one of her friends, and myself left to go grab a late night dinner since we hadn’t eaten since breakfast.  We headed to another bar (forgot the name) and grabbed a really good hamburger. A quick taxi ride brought us to Ben’s place where he graciously let me stay on the futon.  The next nights my school paid for the hotel room since it was business.

The next few days went quickly, kind of.  I slept in really super late on Sunday, and then Ben, his girlfriend, and myself went shopping at an American-styled outlet mall.  They then dropped me off at my hotel and I met them later to check out a local bookstore before going out to dinner with them and June. Going to get their car, I saw the coolest method of parking ever! Check out the video:

So apparently there’s a few in the U.S. now, but being that Japan invented this contraption and that I haven’t ever seen this before I thought it was by far the coolest thing I had seen so far in Japan.

A video of the dance and music at the Sapporo festival

Orientation was okay, there were useful sessions and others that weren’t so useful, but that’s how it goes.  I did enjoy my evenings checking out Sapporo’s downtown, a few different restaurants, and hanging out with a few girls I had just met.
Fountain in Odori Park
Traditional tourist photo in front of the Old Government building where orientation was held.

Now that I’ve returned to Kitami, I had my first day of work where students were in session.  I didn’t teach a lesson today, but I will tomorrow!  It will be my first lesson, but I feel prepared.  Well, I at least hope that I’m prepared.  I’ll probably bring candy just in case.  Treats make anything better, right?


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