Today, like Thursday before it, was neatly subdivided into three sections. After sampling a McDonalds breakfast (which, if anything, was marginally better than the previous day’s Starbucks experience), we set out on the subway for Maruyama Park. This should not be confused with the park of the same name in Kyoto, on which the Sapporo version was modelled. In the wintry conditions, this turned out to be another ‘wonderland’ experience, enhanced considerably by the presence of the Hokkaidō Shrine, the most important Shinto shrine in the city.
We then walked to the nearby Museum of Modern Art, which was interesting for its architecture and design almost as much as for the work on show. Annoyingly, however, photography was prohibited in the main Wunderkammer room. We managed to find an excellent little local place for lunch. Bruce and I both had soba noodles served with chicken broth, and the latter had a wonderfully complex flavour featuring notes of ginger and orange – utterly delicious. I love the food in this country!
Duly reinvigorated by our midday meal, we took a Circle Line tram to the stop for the Mt Moiwa Ropeway – I can’t help smiling at this sort of thing, but in Western-alphabet Japanese that’s Moiwayama Rōpuwei. We travelled by said method to the summit, finding out in the process that it is actually in two sections: the first part of the ascent uses large cable cars (an ‘aerial tramway’, for American readers) and the final leg uses sets of two smaller cars that travel on a track. Once we had come back down to city level, we continued in the same direction on the Circle Line to get to Susukino Station. Following all of that, a spell of chilling in the hotel room seemed entirely justified.
Conscious that it was our last full day at a ‘proper’ destination, we decided that cocktails were called for before dinner. We quickly found a tapas bar and restaurant with the highly unusual name of ‘Verger by the Finch’, noticing that it had a separate bar area. We popped in to check whether the bar was for restaurant patrons only and following a response indicating that there was no such restriction, quickly found ourselves occupying a couple of stools by the bar itself. According to my trip notes, I had a dry martini (which I clearly remember) and a Manhattan (which I’m more vague about!)
Later, we had soup curry served with rice at a place called Sho-Rin II. I had never previously associated Japan with curry, but it turns out that it’s a Hokkaido speciality that originated in Sapporo. Tonight’s Snow Festival venue was our very own Susukino, the second most popular site, featuring much smaller – but far more intricate – ice sculptures. We were pretty much on the doorstep of our hotel when we decided we were done, this being precipitated (no pun intended!) by the arrival of some fairly wet, sleety snow. Before diving inside for cover, we visited a 7-ELEVEN and picked up a crazy white-bread sandwich filled with strawberries, custard and whipped cream. The thing is, it turned out to be MUCH nicer than it sounds! To use a phrase that featured in the story a few days back: Only in Japan!