Monday, May 12, 2014

Journey to Japan (Part 6)

I woke up the next day feeling refreshed and ready to go out and see all of the snow again. It had snowed a lot the night before and the day had finally cleared up (though I would have rather had it snowing all day long!). Folding up my futon and getting washed up and dressed, we were ready to head out soon enough.

After describing the amount of snow on the ground the night before, I just had to have a picture beside it to prove how much there was in some places. So on my way to get breakfast, I posed for a picture!

I had to wear multiple layers of clothes just to keep warm while I was outside. What you don't see are the handwarmers in my pockets and at the time, the feetwarmers in my shoes (but those bothered my feet so I used them in my pockets as well).  I love the snow and cold weather, but I don't keep warmth very well.

We all went to the train/subway station to have breakfast. I'm sure I mentioned this before, but train stations/subway tend to have mall-like areas in them. Shops and restaurants line the walkways that lead outdoors. It's a great place to pick up food while you're on your way to your next destination. Don't get lost though. In big places like Tokyo and Sapporo, the stations can be really huge and winding. We actually stopped by a bakery/cafe called Vie de France. It has several freshly baked breads and pastries, which make for a good morning meal. I had a strawberry filled cream cake. Unfortunately I ate it before I even had the chance to take a picture of it. I accompanied it with a box of strawberry milk. For some reason a lot of people seem to think that they don't do milk in Japan. I ended up drinking a lot of milk while I was over there. They even serve it in vending machines and drink it after a hot onsen bath!

I should state that strawberry flavored things are very different in Japan. Their strawberries seem more sweet than our tart strawberries and their strawberry flavors reflect it. I will warn that it is a lot stronger of a taste, too. If you see strawberries in a Japanese store, you'll probably notice that every one of them looks like it was chosen from really high standards. In fact, most of their fruits look like that from the many stores I saw them in. They are also packaged in a way that the strawberries don't end up bruising each other. I think that's very important.

Our group decided that it would be fun to visit some of the arcades and stores in Sapporo after breakfast. I think I managed to only take pictures of Touhou Project merchandise again. We only visited these sort of book stores and a couple of shoe shops (because one of the companions needed some boots for the snow). I also got to do something I hadn't been able to for quite some years- play Dance Dance Revolution on a machine.

I won't go too much into it, but a lot of people have tried to scare others from playing or make them feel bad by saying that the Japanese would make fun of them if they saw them playing. From the many times I saw arcade areas with dance games, it seemed really laid back and the atmosphere was not as snooty as a lot of people would have you believe. This wasn't just on weekdays but weekends as well in several different regions. Maybe I just had a better experience, and maybe the fact that it was mostly foreigners who were playing adds to that.  However, I really get the vibe that people use it as stress relief from their jobs because it was mostly men in suits who were playing the rhythm games. So don't let these people get you down about playing!

Since the version that appeared with Kors K songs on it had came out, I had been dying to play his music on the game. I was happy to play Oarfish especially. There were also several music games I had never seen or heard of before. They have huge sections (or even entire floors) dedicated to music/rhythm games. I recommend trying out whatever you can. Something that looks intimidating might actually turn out to be really fun!

I think I had lunch somewhere in between, but I don't actually remember where or what it was. Since I wasn't feeling my best this day, my memory is a little fuzzy. I may have even just had something from a convenience store.
Edit: I was filled in with what actually happened- We went to a department store- The first floor was dedicated to sweets, especially with Valentine's day just around the corner. I ended up getting a bowl of fresh fruit for lunch. Again, fruit is really nice there and this bowl was no different... well, it had grapefruit and I really don't like grapefruit, but the rest of it was amazing!
At first we were going to eat on the stairs but a woman showed us this little nook- a place to rest while shopping (I hear it's very good for men to go and sit while the women are shopping (・∀・)). The room was decorated with couches and tables. It had a vending machine as well, and a sink to wash your hands after you were finished. In one corner it had a smoking area. You wouldn't smell the smoke, though, because it had glass doors and when those opened, there was sort of a vacuum inside that would keep the smoke from escaping.

We then went to see the Sapporo Snow Festival! Again, snow is kind of a really huge gigantic deal for me. I used to see it every winter, but since I live on the coast now, I never see it. It was decided that first we would start our journey at the Sapporo TV Tower.  There were several food stalls in front of it so the others grabbed food while I had a nice cup of hot maple milk. My cousin introduced me to maple milk many years ago and I've found it really tasty, but I've never had it hot and I thought maybe it would warm me up. It was very tasty and it did warm me up, both by drinking it as well as holding it in my hands. While we were there, I also had a pair of the Snow Miku earmuffs purchased to help keep my ears warm.

The tower had a lower observatory that we walked up to. Again, I'm afraid of elevators. Unfortunately that was the only way to the top, so I didn't go. Instead I looked around the gift shop and ate a few gyoza we had picked up. After that, it was time to see the snow sculptures! Most of these were done by professionals, but some of them were also by amateurs. The two divisions were separated and I think there was some sort of contest going on for them. I don't even remember if I got through them all because there were so many amazing sculptures.

Speaking of sculptures, I don't smoke but one of the most fascinating things I saw were the smoking rooms they had created. They were carved out of ice and if you wanted to smoke, you'd go into one of those. There were also sooooo many other foreigners here. It was the largest concentration I had seen of foreigners than the rest of my trip combined. Most of them had skis and snowboards so I assume that there was quite a good place to do those types of activities at. It was a very interesting experience seeing how other foreigners also acted in Japan. Sometimes it was embarrassing (loud and foul and not smoking in proper areas) but many of them were also really kind and polite.

We stayed out really late looking at just the snow sculptures. I took a bit of video of them as well because I wanted to remember the feeling of being there through video as well as pictures. I think one of my most favorite sculptures was the Snow Miku one, which was also a stage!

And finally, after several hours of walking in the snow, we had dinner. We decided on a little curry shop in a subway station. It was my first time having curry with cheese and I think I probably had my curry like that for the rest of the trip. It was tasty, however, and a warning to people who don't like smoke or can't handle it (maybe it makes your food taste a little strange, too- I know it does for me), a lot of restaurants in Japan still allow smoking inside- often with no separation of smoking and non-smoking seats. Be warned if you see ashtrays on the bar, which you can usually see from the entrance of a store if you're in a train/subway station.

That was remedied, however, when I got to go to a patisserie and had one of their last slices of strawberry shortcake. I'm not a big fan of strawberry shortcake- something about it always seems off to me, but this was the nicest shortcake I've ever had. I'd eat mostly shortcake for desert if it all tasted like this one. And yes, the strawberries in Japan are really that red and pretty.

I finally got to go back to the hotel and rest my poor feet and warm my cold hands, but not before seeing a gacha machine that dispensed underwear for your phone and these really awkward looking cats that you could put on the back of your phone. For those of you who don't know what I mean when I say gacha (Gashapon) it's like those machines you put a 50 cents into and turn the crank and a ball containing a prize falls out for you. They're really popular in Japan and you'll see them everywhere including many different types of items and characters. They may cost more than 50 cents but the items aren't usually the cheesy and extremely cheaply made items a kid might get out of a crank machine here. Gacha is really fun to play, I think.

On my next day out, I would get to see ice sculptures and see an actual Pokemon Center! 

Created with flickr slideshow.

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