Sapporo Streetcars

September 29, 2008

We’ve been busy busy packing up and moving. Before we left Sapporo, however, I had one final task. C had asked me in July to take pictures of the streetcars. Typically, I did it on the day before we left. I kept waiting to get a time of day with good sun with no shadows; not perfect, but, I did stand on a corner for 15 minutes to get a few different colored cars. So, here you go, C!

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Glee!

September 8, 2008

I think it’s not too bold to say that cuteness pervades most aspects of Japanese culture. Still, I am absolutely thrilled that my cappuccino was not left out. Sure, I’ve had leaves drawn on the top, who hasn’t? But goodness-gracious-me, it’s a bear! I’m still pretty giddy, to tell the truth.

Let’s Wedding

September 6, 2008

According to The New York Times, as of 2005 only 1.4 percent of Japan’s 127 million people are Christians, but Christian-style ceremonies accounted for three-quarters of Japanese weddings. When G and I first got to Tokyo, we were walking through the back streets of Omotesando, and found a fabulously gothic-concrete church. We were momentarily surprised to find a church in that neighborhood until we realized that it wasn’t a working church, but a wedding chapel.

Japanese Western-style weddings are all-artifice and all the rage. The ceremony is run by a foreign male acting as priest, and the chapels tend to conveniently have wedding dress shops located right next door.G and I saw one such one-stop-shop at the JR Tower in Sapporo: wedding planner, chapel, and dress shop all in one convenient location. It’s like, all Western weddings in Japan are like Vegas hotel weddings.

Many brides do wear white for the ceremony, and then change into one or more princess-y gowns for the reception. G and I bicycled past one such reception the other night; we strained to peer through the fence to get a look just as the groom and his bride (in a completely red princess dress- slightly reminiscent of the Beetlejuice wedding, come to think of it) waited to enter the reception hall. We could see laser lights and hear a rock version of “Here comes the bride.” 

All of which adds up to me not having to explain the above image any further. I do wonder, though, if that’s what the bride is wearing, then — good lord– I wonder what she’s done to the bridesmaids?

Mt. Moiwa

September 4, 2008

On Tuesday, August 24, G took a day off for good measure. Because of predicted rain, we had planned to go to the Sapporo Beer Museum, but the forecasters were wrong once again, and we spent a glorious blue-sky day outside visiting historical buildings (which I will post when I get a complete set). 

Around 5 pm, we still weren’t tired, and G suggested that we go to the top of Mt. Moiwa and admire the view. It was an old public transportation bonanza, as we took the street car to the cable car to get to the top. 

The waiting room had a fantastic plaque from the opening of the cable car in 1971. The font was wonderfully evocative of the Showa era, a nostalgic aesthetic that I am noticing often in Sapporo. Showa seems to be enjoying a popular revival just now. Five years ago, people were all about the Taisho, but we’ve fast-forwarded forty years, skipped the war naturally (not much nostalgic aesthetic there), and are now in enjoying retro the Showa way. I’m quite fond of it, myself.

The cable car trip took about ten minutes, with great views juxtaposing the cables with the city. Once at the top, we boarded a bus that ferried us four minutes further up the mountain to building with a viewing platform, and more importantly,  an enormous souvenir shop that seemed to sell nothing but cell phone straps. We climbed up to the roof, but we were in summer clothes, and the temperature on the viewing platform was easily ten degrees colder with the wind whipping around us. We tried to bravely wait for sunset. It was a little hazy, so the pictures we took weren’t soaked with color, and no view to the sea that day. The night view promised to be better, so we tried to endure. 

On my way up from the bathroom putting on extra layers, I noticed a gorgeous, sleek, modern restaurant — completely at odds from the rest of the rusting, unpleasantly florescent-lit building– tucked behind a partition. The entire night view of Sapporo, plus beer and food, all in warm, wind-free comfort. I went up to get G, who was shivering, and we planted ourselves at a window seat immediately. The food was surprisingly not-bad, and we stretched the evening out as long as we could, watching the sky slowly darken and the night-life of Sapporo flicker on.  

I need to look at that camera manual to figure out the night shots better, but I’ve got pictures of our evening on Flickr.

Bon Odori

August 19, 2008

Sunday night, after a perfect balloon launch, G and I stopped by Odori Park on the way home. We picked up a snack of grilled corn and boiled potatoes, quickly recorded a spur-of-the-moment promo shot for the upcoming Sapporo Film Fest, then headed over to the Nishi 2-chome block of the park to watch the festivities. 

From last Wednesday through this Wednesday, there is Bon O-dori dancing nightly. I participated in a Bon O-dori at the Buddhist Temple in Seattle several years ago. The dancers were separate from the spectators, and we practiced a program of a dozen or so dances beforehand. The Odori-koen O-Bon dances are a bit different. There were identically dressed ladies who clearly knew what they were doing and mingled among the crowd to lead, and the rest were parents with children, mostly, who were picking up the steps to the dance as it went. This wasn’t hard to do, since in the 45 minutes that we were there, only one song was played and one dance performed.  We think maybe it’s one dance and one ladies dance troupe assigned per night; that way, everyone can join in. The dance moved slowly counter-clockwise around a central tower housing taiko drummers.  It was kind of a mob; with spectators, dancers, and people entering and leaving the dance in one confusing clump. 

Still, the Bon Odori is one of my favorite things. Lanterns glowing, vintage songs, community dancing together on a summer evening. I couldn’t stop smiling. G and I also cannot stop humming the song that was played, over and over again. I’ve got a video (with the song) and some other pictures on Flickr.

I Struck Gold!

August 16, 2008

I was delighted to find cooking gold for sale in the grocery store. Now I can cook like Nobu. I recall a conversation with friends in Tokyo about how gauche Nobu is for using sprinkling gold on his sushi, etc. But now I find it in my local supermarket? I wonder what sort of person goes to the Seiyu Mart to buy gold to cook with? I wonder what sort of person buys cooking gold to give as omiyage to all her friends back home?