Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Our First Week in Sapporo. Japan

We left Seoul and flew Japan Airlines to Tokyo and then on to Sapporo.  They were both beautiful flights with a short layover in Tokyo's Haneda airport.  Getting train tickets in Sapporo was quick with the assistance of an English speaking person at the tourist desk.  We purchased long term transportation cards and rode the express train into the city, then the subway system to our neighborhood.  All simply, quick, clean and efficient.  We will be here a full month. 

It was a 1/4 mile walk up a slight hill to our apartment.  We are renting a small two-room unit on the ground floor, each room about 10'X10' - about the same size as our US motor home that we lived in for a full year while on the road.  Two bunk beds fill the sleeping room literally to the walls.  There is a small space between the two, maybe 10 inches.  The other room has a nicely equipped efficiency kitchen with refrigerator, two burner gas stove, and microwave.  There's a washer and we will be making good use of that over the next month.  There is a small coffee table and a couple of cushions to sit on the floor.  The toilet is separate and in the entry way.  It has an automatic, computerized commode.  The soaking tub and shower are off of the kitchen area.  The small tub actually works great for a hot soak.  The place is very compact..and all for $680 complete.  Good heat, lots of hot water, flawless WiFi, and the owner also supplies a pocket WiFi system that we can take with us on day trips.  That has already come in handy.  It is a cellular hot spot that we can connect our phones to and this gives us instant access to address questions, translate signs, and get directions.  All in all it is quite a deal.


It is a ten minute walk down the hill to the metro station.  That is good daily exercise in itself.  There is a nicely stocked grocery store at the station and a few blocks away another larger grocery, kinda like a small Walmart.  Our neighborhood is typical from what we can tell. A few shops, restaurants, schools, churches, a Buddhist temple, an indoor public swimming pool that opens in a week...yippee.  Lots of single family homes and small apartment buildings...three to six each.  Ours had six apartments, each identical to ours...we think our Airbnb host owns at least two of them...maybe more.  It's home for now and we like it.  Now it is time to settle in to a quieter lifestyle, casual days, lots of rest, and try to figure out what to do with all of our spare

After a few days in the apartment sitting on the floor gets old, so we found a second hand store and bought a table and four chairs for $80.  We will leave it behind when we depart.  He'll appreciate the gesture...we hope...or will sell or donate it.  At any rate it is a lot more comfortable and we aren't so cranky or stiff in the morning.

The train station is a ten minute walk down and back up the hill.  Downtown Sapporo is a 20 minute ride on the metro.  For a city of 2 million it is pretty compact.  We have pretty much covered the downtown area in this past week.  Walking the streets, visiting large stores, going to the movies - there are a couple of big screen theaters that show current films in English.

The restaurants are fairly priced, pretty much like in Seoul, but the grocery stores have an amazing choices and we are on a it is great to finally have our own kitchen again.  Bobbie has made some awesome soup and we are enjoying some of our home favorites...pasta, fresh salads...haven't quite been able to do any Mexican yet.  The stuff we need isn't easy to find...especially tortillas or corn meal.  That's a surprise.  There is a Costco but is is an hour train ride away so that  won't happen unless we are really bored.

Sapporo is home to the Ice Festival that starts next month.  We will miss the festival itself but enjoy the preparation of the ice sculptures.  The city right now is in Christmas mode so there are lots of decorations and lights.  Even a traditional German Christmas village.

The city really is proud of its gardens and landscaping.  Everything is protected with elaborate screens and tie downs.

The metro stations lace the busy parts of the city and are all connected underground by massive corridors, shopping malls lined with hundreds of can literally walk for miles underground getting from one side of down to the other without ever touching the snow...and there is plenty of that too.

We've learned a few basic words and each day is an adventure into this unique culture that one the surface looks a lot like home, but as you dig in find out it is a lot different.  For $3.50 in paper and trimmings we made a Christmas tree for the table.  Steaks will be on the menu...something that is quite dear and quite pricey here. 

We will be here until January 11th when we relocate to Tokyo for another month.  Stay tuned.

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