from the foreign female perspective
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Day three began with the alarm clock ringing a little before seven in the morning. We were ready to go relatively on time, and stopped by the hotel lobby's restaurant for a buffet breakfast. Much to his indescribable delight, Aaron discovered a gravy boat brimming with some sort of ketchup sitting next to the scrambled eggs, and that was the end of his attempt to eat a Japanese breakfast.
However, I had tofu squares with scallions in soy sauce, one of my favorite Japanese breakfast foods, along with some unrecognizable vegetable combinations. It's difficult to get accustomed to eating vegetables first thing in the morning, but so long as they're cooked they go down a little easier.
On the way to the station we saw a massive store window which, I kid you not, said "Monkey Nuts" in two-foot high letters. Pictures were taken.
We had laid out a plan for the day: go to the Sapporo Beer Museum first thing, and then catch a train to 小樽, a so-called "romantic" town along the sea to the north of Sapporo. We stopped by the trusty Tourist Info center at the station while waiting for our bus to the Museum, and I even worked up the courage to speak with a lady working behind the counter. It turned out she spoke English, however, which meant there was no hope of getting some language practice in daily living situations. This is the biggest downfall of attempting to learn a foreign language as a native English speaker - everyone wants to speak English with you regardless of your wishes, and there's no way to force them to speak the language you wish to practice. This leads to the strange conundrum of me speaking Japanese to Japanese people, who in turn speak English to me. Backwards, I know. But there's nothing to be done for it.
Anyway, the lady gave us a brochure for 小樽 and told us to take the JR線 to get there, both helpful things. We made it back to the bus stop with time to spare.
Despite what the guidebook said, the distance from the station to the Museum was hardly formidable. We had arrived before I knew it. But as the bus was pulling away, I realized with a sinking feeling in my stomach that I had forgotten to pay. In Tokyo, one must pay a fixed fare of 210 yen upon boarding the bus, regardless of one's destination. In every other place in Japan, one pays upon getting off the bus, the amount dependant upon the total distance traveled since boarding. This places a lot of faith in the bus customers, who are expected to honestly say from which stop they have come and pay the subsequent fare. I suppose it's possible the bus driver might recognize and remember a few passengers, but it'd be too difficult to rely on his memory. People are always honest in my experience, something that's taken for granted here.
Anyways, I forgot to pay and felt like an ass. But the bus driver didn't say anything or run after me screaming, so perhaps he just thought I was a stupid 外人 and not worth the effort.
The museum was very cool. The tour was free of charge, and after the lady at the desk hesitantly inquired about my Japanese ability, she appeared to be delighted not to have to attempt to speak English (that was a shock). She explained a few rules, blah blah, then gave us headsets to explain the tour in English. Unfortunately the translation was pathetic and inadequate, but at least I was able to listen to the Japanese tour guide when my English tape quit.
Some interesting info I picked up: With a population of less than 11 million, The Czech Republic is #1 in alcohol consumption in the ENTIRE WORLD. That's alarming. As one might expect, Ireland is #2 and Germany is #3. The average aluminum beer can can be recycled and reused 54 times. There's this stuff called "hops" in beer, not just barley or rice or another grain. I guess it adds bitterness and aroma to the brew, although it doesn't look like anything special.
There was an extremely eccentric holographic movie that lasted for several minutes, telling about a beer-making competition between a demon and a Sapporo employee. After many special effects and groaning, grunting, and other indescribable sounds, both competitors had their product ready in glasses twice as tall as they were. A flying fairy in a pink dress tasted each of the brews, exclaiming in an even more high-pitched than normal tone that the Sapporo beer was by far the best. The demon disappeared with more grunting, and then the fairy dreamily descended into the foamy Sapporo beer, sighing and kicking her feet the whole way.
It was bizarre.
After the conclusion of the tour, we were taken to a large German-esque dining hall and given as much beer as we wanted for 20 minutes. I had about 1/2 of a miniature pilsner just to try it, but the other three women who were a part of the tour each drank 4 glasses. Aaron had about the same as the ladies. There was also a collection of snacks on each table, including fancy cheese and salty stuff. I was amazed at the generosity of the Museum - they could have easily charged $20 or more per person for the tour, and it still would have been a steal if one was inclined to drink a lot at the end. As it is, I believe they make enough through sales at the various gift shops to counterbalance the loss of beer profit. I bought a T-shirt that says "ルービロポッサ" (reeB oroppaS), which I thought was clever.
We walked back to the station instead of risking a run in with the same bus driver after my massive faux pas, and, as we had suspected, it really was not as far as the guidebook insinuated. On the way we were rewarded by a funny sign depicting a cartoon man falling in front of a car, speech bubbles everywhere. The funny part was only discovered upon closer inspection; the cartoon man's hat read "Sapporo Beer" and he was wearing a worker's outfit.
I guess there's a problem with hitting Sapporo Beer employees along that road. hehehe.
The rest of the walk was uneventful, as was the train ride to 小樽. We spent the afternoon walking along canals and past rickety buildings, dreary seasides and dripping rooftops. We shopped a bit, exclaimed over the crabs on display in the market, and were generally stared at by everyone in sight. In every shop that we entered, at least one salesperson was by our side the whole time, explaining carefully about each item and being really attentive. I don't think they get many foreigners out there.
After returning to Sapporo and a long nap, we set out ススキノ, Sapporo's famous nightlife district. After trudging a few kilometers underground through the subway station to find the 南北線 (Namboku Line), we hopped on it for two stations and upon disembarking found ourselves in a glittering world of huge strip clubs, bars, restaurants, and massive neon billboards advertising various alcohols. After a long search, we discovered a little Italian place that had some reasonable prices for reasonable food. We wandered around the city afterwards, stopped by a fancy bar for a little while, and then headed back.
One the way back we stopped by a convenience store to pick up some breakfast, and Aaron found the product that is advertised on his favorite commercial - Pinky Mints, a wonderful invention. He loves the Pinky monkey and the song in the commercial, the words to which we can never hear when it's playing. I know the second line is "ピンキーピンキーピンキー食べたい," but the first line is always lost in trying to turn the volume up. If anyone knows it, please share the knowledge.
The concludes day three of kaytay's Hokkaido adventure.
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