Monday, July 26, 2010

I have arrived in Sapporo

 Well, I have finally made it to Sapporo and am staying at the Clark hotel.

In the airport I noticed that on the JAL board above the departure gate had this flight cross listed with a Finland Air flight. Using my power of deduction, I decided to ask the 6’0 tall blonde women if she was from Finland and going to a conference on borders, as I remembered that there were a couple of Finns on the list of attendees.
I was right—well mostly. The woman was from Finland and going to same conference as me, but she was originally from Russia—her name betrayed her heritage: Olga. On the bus transferring to the plane on the tarmac she introduced my to Jussi who was also from Finland. On the bus, Andrew from Australia, but who has spent six years studying in California and has recently moved to Northern England came over and introduced himself. Needless to say the four of us stuck out like sore thumb all being at least a foot taller than the rest of the passengers on the plan. I have never seen grown men have to stand on the seats of a 737 to reach the overhead compartment. This truly is a foreign land.
At the airport we met Matti, another Finn who had a different connecting flight than Olga and Jussi. Interesting Finnish fact: Helsinki has become a hub for Asian air traffic. Apparently all the signs in the airport in Helsinki are in Japanese and Chinese. Because Russia rents time over their airspace, all FinnAir flights generally leave at almost or exactly the same time. This is because Russia charges airlines on the time of all flights over its airspace, not all planes. Both of the flights, Olga and Jussi’s flight, and Matti’s flight left at 5:15.  I also learned at dinner that Russia only permits flights within a 3 km wide corridor. I suspect this is a vestige from the Soviet era.
Finding our way onto the train into Sapporo was easy. On our way in, I was struck by the degree of agricultural activity. It is so similar to British Columbia is some ways, but so foreign in others.
In Sapporo, a student from Hokkaido University greeted us. His name was Alexander and he was from Seiko, Russia. Olga and him hit it off and there was some talk about Russia and its vastness as Olga had never been to the East of Russia. Russia has nine time zones. That’s exactly double Canada’s 4 and a half. We waiting for the next train and met another participant, Jung Wu from Taiwan She was shorter than the rest of us.
After freshening up in the hotel, Matti, Andrew, Jussi and I went out for dinner. We found a soba noodle place in a mall. It was very good. I think I could get very used to eating Japanese. After dinner we walked over to a large Japanese bookstore and wandered with wonder at all the reverse binded books in a language none of us could understand.  Matti and Jussi went off, and Andrew and I kept looking for a while, and then went to the Tourist information booth at Sapporo Station and picked up some literature and maps. We made a stop at Mister Donut on the way back to the hotel. Although the Japanese have perfected many things, their work still does not compare to Tim Horton’s. Green tea icing and filling, though a novel idea, doesn’t work the same way as maple icing with sprinkles.

That’s all for now. It’s 6:30 while I am finishing writing this. My computer says it’s 2:34 am back in Victoria.

Tomorrow I will be taking a museum tour, a lecture on Japanese border and sea security, and Japanese Municipal governments and their borderland policies. Should be fascinating. I look forward to meeting the rest of the participants at the conference.
Two people waving "sayonara" at Sapporo Train Station
Green Tea icing isn't that great. Chocolate was ok, but not Tim Horton's

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