Field Report: Sapporo, Japan (09 February 2014)

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Remember the little mahō shōjo we met at Ōdōri Park a few days ago?

Remember how I mentioned that there’s just no avoiding her, especially considering that Sapporo is her home turf?

Well, guess who I ran into one Sunday morning in Hokkaidō’s snowy capital.

Now there are a lot of things I’m happy to leave out of my itinerary, but Sunday Mass isn’t one of them.

Fortunately, Sapporo’s Catholic cathedral was within easy reach of my base in the city. I began my trek with a bracing morning walk to Sapporo Station’s bus terminal, followed by a short bus ride to the Sapporo Factory leisure complex – which we’ll have a closer look at later – and another walk across snowy pavements to my destination.

Excellent – we’re right on time (a little early, in fact) for the 9:00 AM Mass.

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The cathedral is actually much older than its modern façade might suggest. In fact, look closely and you’ll note that it’s essentially a classic wooden church hiding behind a newer front.

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The façade offers a bit of extra protection to the venerable structure just inside it, which boasts of a splendid wooden interior that seems as if it had been built back in Hokkaidō’s frontier days. No pictures from within, though. I do take photographs in churches when the circumstances deem it appropriate, but this was just before Mass and the right thing to do was fall upon one’s knees and prayerfully prepare for the holy sacrifice ahead, not walk about the building snapping images of everything in sight like an overeager tourist.

Since there was still plenty of time to go before the start of Mass, I asked the staff if a priest was available to hear my confession. A dignified Japanese gentleman soon met me near the entrance, and to my very great surprise, he greeted me in fluent English! We spent some time conversing and I learned that the good Father had once been assigned to my corner of the world, so he was proficient not only in English but also in Tagalog and Bisaya.

After Mass, I retraced my steps to the nearby Sapporo Factory and started exploring the area. Opened in 1993 on the site of one of Japan’s first breweries (founded in the 1870s), this commercial complex incorporates some of the old brewery’s surviving brick structures into its modern architectural fabric, offering visitors an interesting mix of styles and a visual lesson in Japanese beer history.

Sapporo Factory’s centrepiece is the Atrium, a soaring structure of glass and steel that features shops and cafés clustered around an airy roofed courtyard, with a terraced garden offering a colourful touch of nature regardless of the season.

Most of the shops were still closed (or only just starting to open), but down on the courtyard floor, there were stirrings of life as staff began setting up for a Hatsune Miku promotional event. In fact, there were reminders of Sapporo’s most famous daughter all over the place – even the lifts weren’t spared.

On my way back to the hotel through Sapporo’s sprawling underground city, I caught sight of a performance featuring schoolgirls dancing to the Japanese version of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

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“Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, daisuki!” I say, hearing those translated lyrics will scar me for life. (^_^)

Next, I sat down to lunch – which will be the subject of a separate food report – and went on a day trip to a little harbour town we know quite well. I’ll put that in a post of its own.

As for dinner . . . well, there’s always Japan’s Famous Beef Bowl.

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First time I tried Yoshinoya on its own turf. Yum.


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