Friday 8 June, 2018
Day 9 / Otaru to Sapporo
[Missed Day 8? Read the previous post here]
We check out at 10am as planned and set off for Sapporo, attempting to cycle straight through without stopping to beat the rain.
There are a few long steady uphills but the descent has some amazing views.
We mainly stay on the bike path as there is quite a bit of traffic on the roads and the shoulder isn’t that wide.
It is also quite cool which is nice – it’s overcast and a bit drizzly but we manage to avoid the rain until last 30 minutes into Sapporo where it bucket down. Lucky I wrapped my bike bag in plastic!
Unfortunately Cheye has a stack and grazes his knee. We always say it’s not a real cycling trip unless one of us hurts ourselves or gets sick. Turns out later he has broken a rib 😦
We find our AirBnB no problem but when we check the mail box for the key it’s not there. We realise we can’t check in until 3pm, so I messaged Dai from Spark Cycling and tell him we have arrived and are ready for the bikes to be collected. Cheye and I try to stay out of the cold in the foyer of the apartment block. As we wait we notice a bunch of vending machines with random items, including head pieces to make your cat look like a piece of fruit.
We decide to tag team running across the road in the rain to use the Family Mart facilities, change clothes and grab some food while the other minds all the bags and bikes. Dai arrives after 20 minutes to collect the bikes and we have a good chat before parting ways. He tells us there is an underground tunnel that goes from Susukino station (a few blocks from us) all the way to Sapporo station, which is great as it’s still raining quite a bit.
We are about to head off carrying all our bags when we see a maid putting a key in mailbox number 302, which is our apartment. We grab the key from her and head up to our room. We settle in for a bit and try to dry off our wet clothes before heading out. It’s a few blocks to Susukino station and we head down to the underground tunnel.
It’s pretty fascinating and had Dai not told us about it we would never have discovered it and would be wandering the streets in the rain instead.
There are hundreds of shops and we continue heading north until we get to Sapporo station, a few kms up.
There are loads of stores including many restaurants.
We decide to go to ESTA, a 12 floor shopping area ranging from electronics, clothes, food and other random odds and ends.
There’s an entire level dedicated to Uniqlo and an entire golf section, so we spend a bit of time there and pick up a few things.
We notice rows and rows of vending machines that offer weird and wonderful toys.
There’s even a machine with plastic Natto toys.
We spot a level filled with arcade and virtual games.
On the way back we notice it’s still pouring rain so we’re glad to be underground. Once we emerge at street level we have to navigate our way back to our apartment.
We originally had the plan of checking out the Yosakoi Festival happening in Odori Park but the weather is so miserable we decide to give it a miss. We do see loads of performers making their way in the rain, all wearing ponchos, and we feel so bad for them. I do hope they get a good crowd as the show must go on.
We relax for a bit in the apartment which is nice and warm. Our original plan was to go back to the okonomiyaki place for dinner but we decide to make a second attempt to try Iki Laboratory. We head out and this time it’s open (turns out it’s closed on Mondays but the Happy Cow website told us otherwise!).
It’s an organic Izakaya style place so we order drinks a several small dishes to share.
We get a mystery appetiser from the staff (pickled veggies, some cold jelly thing and bitter gourd with tofu and egg).
We then order some Hokkaido fries, vegetable steak, tempura brown rice balls and soya meat.
Cheye tries some unique beers (yuzu beer, followed by organic ginger beer) while I get some hot ginger ale. Cheye enjoys the salty fried food with his beer while I find it a bit oily and heavy for my liking.
We have a chat to the waiter before heading back to the apartment for the night. We hope the weather is much better tomorrow for our last day in Japan!
Japan Travel Tip #9
Tax Refunds / Carry your passport when you go shopping as tax refunds are done at the store, not at the airport. Even if you don’t intend to buy anything bring your passport anyway as you’ll otherwise miss out like we did. Purchases need to be above 5,000 yen excluding tax (which is around 5,400 including tax).