Our last day in Sapporo was mainly about beer. As Nick doesn't drink beer, Mike and I ventured out alone for this one. But first, a stop at the dollar store -- just out of curiosity. It was actually pretty impressive. Definitely better things at their dollar store than at ours. I got a few needed and unneeded items (including toe socks!). Mike and I headed out for the Sapporo Bier Garten, but first stopped for lunch at a famed ramen place. All over Japan, ramen shops are well-known for a good lunch. It's essentially ramen noodles (but theirs start off cold and partially cooked -- like wet noodles) with different additions. Most have beef with different broths. I got miso. Tasted like ramen noodles. haha Not sure what all the fuss is about. By the way, the yaki soba that Nick made us was with ramen noodles -- the kind you buy precooked and cold. Our attempts at getting to the bier garten via bus weren't going so well, so we finally sucked it up and hopped in a cab. I don't know what we were waiting for -- the cab was only $8! It actually turned out that we
3 different Sapporo brews to try. In the background is our new friend Mint. Doesn't she look Japanese? She's Thai...
were almost there. The cabs in Japan are neat though. Like most other things, you don't tip cabbies -- you just pay them for the service they're providing (what a freakin novel concept! I never got tipping cabbies anyway...) Also, the doors are automatic, which is mainly weird because the cab looks like a little 4-door sedan compact car from the early 90s. I'm not sure how it works, but it almost looks like there's some lever that the cabbie is pushing or pulling that makes the door open and close. Weird. Anyway, our trip was short. The Sapporo bier garten is actually the restaurant we went to after. The Sapporo beer museum is where Mike and I were going. We got there just in time for the last tour -- which of course is in Japanese. However, it was just me and Mike on the tour so translating was easy. The museum itself isn't very big or impressive. I had images of a brewery with big vats, people with hairnets, conveyer bellts, and the smell of brewing beer. However, this was just the museum. Actually, the only beer museum in all of Japan (for whatever that's worth). At least
it was free. And we got to taste barley -- before and after (yuck!) roasting. The roasted one was so bitter it reminded me of eating a roasted coffee bean. We finished the tour at the tasting bar, where you can pay a small fee and taste all the different Sapporo beers. It was cool -- there are way more than I ever knew about. There was another girl who had joined our tour, and we just assumed she was Japanese and was following along. At the end we found out she was from Thailand and didn't speak any Japanese -- but she looked very Japanese! I'm sure that made for awkward situations for her... We all sat and had some beer together before they closed. At closing time, we were ushered out of the shop. We parted ways with our new friend Mint (however you spell that in Thai) and killed an hour by wandering the mall. We were due to meet Nick at 7 for dinner at the bier garten. We amused ourselves in the mall, then headed back to wait for Nick. We waited and waited and waited and waited.... Finally, we found his number and called
This is a famous site in Sapporo and a popular Japanese tourist spot. It used to be the tallest building in Sapporo, or something like that...
him (thank goodness we had it!). He hadn't even left the house yet, but said he'd meet us there in 15min. 30min later, Nick arrived with Megumi. By that time, the beer was kicking in and I was drowsy enough to just want to curl up somewhere. But I consoled myself with the nice dinner we were about to have. Not that I was hungry, mind you, since I felt like we'd been eating all day with lots of beer thrown in there. No, I was looking forward to the famous local crab that the website promised we'd have at the bier garten (this area is known for their crab, but it's rumored to be quite expensive). We walked in and were hit with a wall of smoke/fumes from burning animal flesh. My short vegetarian kick had ended (the smell/sight/thought revolted me for a while), but that was almost unbearable. Maybe if I were hungry it would have smelled good... It's so bad that they give you a plastic bag when you sit down to put all the items you don't want to smell like that place. Too bad you actually have to wear some things out smelling like that.
Anyway, we sat down, and I learned that it was essentially very much like a Korean bbq where you cook the food at your table. The biggest problem was NO CRAB! Quite a bit disappointed, I managed to find something I could stomach. Dinner conversation is always interesting when 3 out of 4 speak Japanese, and 1 of those doesn't really speak much English. I just sat there for much of the meal while the conversation went on around me. Gave me a new appreciation for what non-English speakers go through in our country. Actually, this whole experience has given me empathy for anyone visiting America who doesn't speak English. Thank God that the Japanese aren't as closed-minded and bigotted as we are about not knowing the language of the country. I may not speak any Japanese, but everyone seems very understanding, and honestly tries to help anyway.
After dinner, Mike and I came back to the apt while Nick and Megumi went on a date night (aww how cute). I had some packing to do for our journey tomorrow, so it works out. By the way, our laundry survived the night alone in the laundromat. Tomorrow, we're leaving
on an early train (like 8-ish) to begin the day-long journey to Tokyo. We're also activating our rail passes tomorrow -- one week and that's it! Not sure what kind of internet I'll have for the next week, but I'll write when I can. We're staying with friends of Mike/Nick's in Tokyo and in Osaka (or was it Kyoto?) At least I have a new book for the train...
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