The drive along the NW coast of Hokkaido first took us through cherry farms and past the famous Nikka distillery in Yoichi. Through Otaru with its canals and crowds and huge stone buildings. Finally: The coast on the Sea of Japan where eroded cliffs stood beside charging waters.
Sapporo is a new and modern city. The air in summer is cool. Light rain fell. Three million people, but sparse sidewalks. Underground tunnels with cafes and shops and restaurants.
We had a plan to go to an Italian restaurant a friend recommended, but it was closed, and restaurants outside of Tokyo and Kyoto stop serving at two or three so we found ourselves at a terrific place named Brooklyn Gardens. A first-rate cheeseburger and fries and a cold beer, which was a fun turn from the delicious Japanese food we’ve been eating nearly the past two weeks.
Our hotel, Sapporo Grand Hotel, is in the center of town, and it’s a lovely, renovated place, the oldest Western and yet Japanese hotel in Sapporo.
A quick rest and Y met us. We went with her to Sapporo’s largest Shinto shrine where minutes before the drum was banged and the gates shuttered, we bowed and clapped and made a wish. Then we saw the remarkable Olympic ski jump.
In the evening we went to Maruyama 9, a neighborhood pub for craft beer and later met up with Y’s husband K for yakitori and sake at Shiro before heading to Maruyama, an upscale bar where we sipped Takestsuru 21 and 17 while Billie Holiday recordings played.
The women who brought over the drinks were dressed in black from head to toe.