ere's a little page devoted to some of the hot-spots around Sapporo
- Odori Koen - This place has to mentioned first, as it's
probably my favourite and most fondly remembered location in Sapporo.
It's basically a long row of block gardens that separates Southern from
Northern Sapporo, originally implemented apparently so that if a huge inferno
was to rage throughout the city, it would have burn out when it hit Odori, thus only sacrificing half the population. Odori Koen is the heart of Sapporo - it's Central Park if you will, and all sorts of people go to relax there
during lunch hour, or on the weekend. It's also where all the major
festivals are held, like the Winter Festival which includes a mammoth display of
some of the finest ice-sculpturing in the world, and brings particapants from as as far from Hawaii every year, and is also host to the summer Soren festival, which
is basically nothing more than a bunch of dudes dancing around on the streets which isn't that impressive, but more than enough reason than I needed to get smashed out of my skull every night on the local piss-water.
Odori Koen's a cool people-watching place, and of course, most
importantly is the best place to meet chicks on your days off. If you're thinking that during my time in Japan I spent six months just hunting ladies and not taking time to appreciate the subtle and the wonderful of Japan and it's scenery..you'd be bang on the mark! Seriously though, if you
don't mind finding a seat inbetween the sleeping bums, Odori Koen is a lovely
place just to chill out and lay back, and pretty lively no matter what the hour. My summer nights were spent lounging around in the there in the warm humidity with a pack of Mild Seven, sitting around watching people and thinking about shit. That's another one of the cool things I haven't mentioned about Japan yet, there isn't much attitude. I mean, you can be out on your own at 3am in the morning in a dark park, and nobodies going to give you hassle or piss you off. You don't have to worry about getting mobbed by gangs, because Japanese are pretty non-aggressive - you even find groups of schoolgirls just hanging around at undesirable hours without a worry in the world. There's been so many times when I've accidentally
chatted-up some guys girlfriend, and the boyfriend has done is laugh
and introduce himself, automatically presuming it was a mistake. You've got to respect the Japanese for that, they're laid back.
- Tokei Tower - The Clock Tower. I just wanted to mention this, the most famous tourist attraction for visitors to Sapporo because, because..it sucks. I mean, on the tour guide it say's - 'Come and visit
the Tokei Tower, it's our towns big monument and all that, you'll die of amazement' and you get there and it's
this little piece of shit building you'd miss if you blinked.
Why is this place famous? I've seen dog-turds that had more architectural mastery.
- Sapporo International Communication Plaza - Another example
of Japans eagerness to 'internationalize' is the 'Kokusei Plaza' and is a great place to drop in to if you're looking for jobs, students, foreign merchandise and general information. It's a large place designed to act as a forum for Japanese/Foreign relations you'll often find Japanese in there looking to find such things as Spanish salsa classes, German language tutors, Thai cooking lessons, and the like. Any foreigners arriving in Sapporo to teach or study should make the Kokusai plaza their first port of call before heading out into the city to look for jobs elsewhere. Obviously staff speak reasonable English, and are usually not adverse to helping you with advertising in Japanese if need be.
- Susukino - This is the throbbing hub of Sapporo where you find the lions share of bars, clubs, video-arcades, restaurants etc. When I wasn't broke ass broke you could find me down there spending my hard-earned money or just sitting on the street-corner with a bottle of cheap imported wine to the great amusement of passing salarymen and yakuza. Susukino is the given name for southern area of Sapporo past Odori Koen and the superstores and before Nakajima Koen, and consists of a few blocks of heavily concentrated bars, strip-joints, hostess bars, dancing clubs and similar establishments to those you'll find in any of the moderate-size cities in Japan. Expect signs so neon flourescent they'll burn your eyes out, hordes of skirt and salarimen fighting their way to get to the bars, talented buskers plucking away and screaming in high-pitched voices, and without question a huge McDonalds right smack bang in the middle of it. Susikino is the place to meet all the weird and
sparkling denizens of Sapporo that come out to play at lights out.
It can be expensive to drink in Susukino if you expect to start early and finish late, but like anywhere, there's always a 7-11 you can pop into to get cheap can of brew or 10 before you hit the clubs, so economisation is possible. One little niggle I had with Japan, is that it's a beer drinking country, so if you're not into your hop-fermented, you're stuck with heavy spirits, or else sake and shochu. Shochu is a kind of a pissy tasting wine which apparently the Japanese used to use to scrub
floors with. Drink it and you'll know why. You can buy a sort of Japanese equivelant of an alchopop called Chu-hi which is flavoured Chu-hi, but it's really stomach-rotting stuff and can't compete with good old English Cider (note to American/Canadian readers, cider in the UK is a 4-8% strength alchoholic drink).
A word of warning about the Japanese yakuza. Don't make trouble with them. It's not that you'll wake up finger-less if you mess with them like you see in the movies, as they are generally businessmen simply out to make money from rich salarymen, but they do have a certain honour to uphold, and drunken foreigner or not, it's best not to approach them. I knew a couple of yakuza guys just from chatting to them on the street, and although it's fair to say that some of them are just bums that couldn't find a real job, you will find that it's a bad crowd to be into. Leave them alone and
they'll leave you alone, you're more likely to get hassle from dodgy Iranians selling ripped-off phone cards than yakuza anyway.
- Asahi Yama - Asahi Hill. To get there follow the road
alongside the Murayama Koen and take a right at the Royal Host
restaurant. I first got shown this place after I got picked up by some chick at a club (yes you did hear that right, I got picked up, gotta love Japanese chicks who dig gaijin blokes) who drove me up there so that we could hump in peace. Actually this isn't the most reputable mountain
in Sapporo but was close to where I lived so many a night I spent treading up the steep slope to the top so that I get a fantastic view of the Sapporo city lights, and spend a few relaxing hours sitting around and getting smashed. It was when I was up there one night that it really clicked that maybe Japan to me was more than simply a holiday destination, maybe there was a future for me in the Land of the Rising Sun if I had the power to make it possible.