Japan day 31
Japan day 31
Sapporo-Iwamazawa 42 km
As I was entering Sapporo city yesterday, my eye caught this sign
and, beyond recognising the fact that the pointing figure was obviously an important man of the past (and a westerner), I had no idea about the relevance of the caption. My immediate reaction was (and girls, let me be your champion here…..) what about the girls? Don’t they have a right to be ambitious?
When Hokkaido opened up to the world and began to modernise everything about its way of life, William Smith Clark, an American agricultural expert, was invited to help in the foundation of the agricultural college, which eventually became Hokkaido University. He became the pioneering force behind a revolution in agricultural practices in the late 19th century, and he is now much revered here in Hokkaido.
One of the many changes to occur was the introduction of hop growing, which led to the brewing of Japan’s first beer, now the famous and legendary beer of Sapporo. And I can tell you, I’ve checked out the Sapporo beers the entire length of Japan (in moderation, of course), and they are pretty good.
To buy a can, I would invariably go into a ‘conbini’ (convenience store) which, like vending machines, are everywhere…..all identical in shape and size, all selling the same range of products, all with toilets, recycle bins and dedicated smoking areas outside, and all with a mysterious range of small bottled drinks.
Over the weeks, I’ve watched (principally) men come and go, buy them, drink them in one go……and leave. I had my suspicions as to what they were, but not being able to read the labels, I was never quite sure, and I didn’t venture to sample any in case the were remedies for bed-wetting, erectile dysfunction, constipation or premature hair loss……or any other unmentionables.
I am now informed (by my English hosts last night) that amongst them there are energy drinks, pick-me-ups, things to cure bad hangovers and to help prevent them in the first place. A few little bottles before a heavy drinking session may mean being able to function normally at work the next day. But the problem is…..I still don’t know which one to choose!
Talking of my hosts last night, Andy and Clare are amongst the very few English people I have met on this journey, and they form part of that extensive community of English teachers who work in High Schools, under a special government programme that supplies native speakers to classrooms across the country.
The have lived in Hokkaido for more than 5 years, are now thoroughly versed in the Japanese way of life and, over an exceptional curry (made by the man of the house, of course!), I learned much about what it’s like to be westerners living in Japan.
They have obviously loved their time here, otherwise they wouldn’t have stayed so long, and relished the opportunity to travel throughout the country, sometimes by bike…….and being skiing enthusiasts, Hokkaido has been the perfect base for getting onto the slopes. So perfect a base for skiing and other country sports, Andy is planning on setting up a tour-guiding business in the future, promoting Hokkaido as a premier resort for Europeans. Check out his current website :www.ezopow.com
But before any of that happens, they have to get back to the UK…..and I think you’ve probably guessed they are not going to do it the conventional way, a 12 hour BA flight to London…….no, they will probably take 18 months to get back home, riding their bikes and camping their way through much of Asia, the ‘Stans, Iran, Turkey and through Europe, before settling back to some kind of ‘normal life’ on the Sussex coast.
It’s an exciting venture. They have only a few months to plan it, but the kit is being acquired feverishly in preparation, and visa entry requirements for each country are being sorted.
Thanks guys for hosting me, and may the prevailing wind be ever at your backs!