Friday, 18 July 2008


Distance traveled: 17.466 km

Dusk was setting in as the lean express train pulled into the massive
station complex of Hokkaidos capital. A police woman and her K9 dog
was watching me intensely as I exited the station, and made my way
into the sea of neon that was proclaiming my arrival to urban japan. I
looked up between the soaring towers, to connect the loud background
noise with something tangible - to find two police choppers circling
above the station, with random vigilance shining their searchlights
along the station complex. I lowered my eyes to refocus my attention
on the neon forest in front of me, and ordered my senses on a wild
goosechase for a subway sign among the incomprehensible characters,
naturally this was in vain, instead I was left pondering about the
police officers guarding every street corner as far as the eye could
see, and rather more perplexing - why they were all carrying red
light sabers. Blade runner sprang into mind, as I argued with myself
weater this place had managed to pack more cops than the Red Square in
Moscow. Certainly the scenes of Genova or Gothenburg had put a scare
in the prefectural government, and in a country obsessed with safety,
they quite obviously would have none of it on Sapporo's neatly combed
streets. Oh yes, there were certainly a G8 meeting going on, the whole
town was bubbling with it - the subway it turned out, was a mere look
to my left, and in an instant I was whooshing below the streets of
Sapporo towards my hostel.

Japan has a marvelous, well developed grid of youth hostels, covering
almost the entire country, down to the tiniest islands, allowing one
to overnight for a mere 3000¥ (150 kroner) they do come with a bunch
of drawbacks though - strict rules and early curfews seems to be the
norm, Sapporo though, was blessed with a backpacker style hostel -
Ino's place - which i thoroughly enjoyed. Sapporo has a reputation,
fueled by a score of breweries, each with their own massive, and
cheap, beer gardens - and the notoriously famous Susukino nightlife
district - a peculiar mix of Soaplands (ill concealed brothels) and
more reputable establishments to fit any taste, and pocket. Hence the
lack of a curfew, was most welcome news, especially, after a week with
a car.

Sucking in the atmosphere, and people people watching, was quelled by
a sudden downpour, i dodged the rain by jumping in the door of a cozy
looking place, and suddenly found my self downing Carlsbergs,
entertaining a lovely crowd with travel tails, and getting fried about
what i liked and didn't like (the omnipresent seafood!) about this
corner of the planet - and pondered what wonder of chemistry made my
Japanese improve with each successive drink, or maybe it was the
confidence improving.

This was basically how my days waiting for a new credit card to arrive
from Denmark was spent. And when i walked through the door of Miccis
on my last day, and had a whole bar shouting お帰りなさい!
(welcome back), I had a big lump in my throat, and by the time I
stumbled through the doors of my hostel at 6 o clock in the morning, I
was 3 friends, and a place that would always welcome me back richer -
i will surely be on the lookout for a way to return here!

To little sleep later, I was checked out and on the train to Honshu
(the main island) Train buffs (even though I don't recall having any
friends who are) will be interrested to know I passed through the
Seikan tunnel, at 56 km, the longest in the world - between Hokkaido
and Honshu

- Stefan

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