Wake to a cloudy morning but we prepare and eat breakfast outside before the rain starts in earnest. My back is still bothering me so, to be on the safe side, I pass packing up the bedding duties to D.. I take over the mopping the condensation from the windscreen task from her.
We are not sure why the windscreen is so prone to condensation. It has a silvered, quilted cover, in common with the other widows, which are essential for this kind of travel. Commercial products ,for most vehicles that you are liable to sleep in, are available, but they are pricey. D., being practical, made ours and they work very well. We have no significant condensation problems but the windscreen does need mopping carefully every morning.*
*This problem, on consideration, is probably caused by the windscreen shades not being made to measure – unlike the other windows.
Hitting the road, we head towards Sapporo hoping for contact from an old friend we have arranged to meet.
HIstorical Village of Hokkaido
In the city, we head for Historical Village of Hokkaido. This we find is a collection of preserved buildings from the early Japanese colonization of Hokkaido. Some are replicas, but most are historic buildings moved from their original sites and reconstructed, as a couple of streets, in this park cum museum.
Some of these buildings, important people’s houses for the most part, are very beautiful. But there is also a reasonable collection of interesting shacks of the less fortunate. Some buildings are furnished, to some extent, with period articles. Of special note was a doctor’s house with consulting room and, an almost but not quite, operating theatre.
We also enter the imposing, stone edifice of what was the original office of the Otaru Shinbun (Newspaper). Here a volunteer guide tells us about the newspaper’s history and demonstrates the working of a printing press. We also get to print a postcard with the commemorative date of our visit.
Interestingly, the guide, when pressed, confided that the Otaru Shinbun disappeared not due to low advertising revenues but was closed down by the wartime government due to incorrect thought.
Another bonus was we saw a squirrel (possibly trying to distract us from discovering other embarrassing details.) This was a regular squirrel not the striped variety that we spotted elsewhere.
Sapporo Beer Museum サッポロビール博物館
After leaving this, unexpectedly interesting, museum we check into a rather swish hotel. Well, swish by our rock bottom standards. We head out straight away, however, and walk briskly to the Sapporo Beer Museum. The tour of this facility is short on brewing process but heavy on history of the company.
The first Japanese Brewmaster
What becomes clear, is that the Meiji government was focused on developing its new territory and poured considerable resources into the project. One of which was promoting a beer industry. Ironically, the brew master who was tasked with producing the first Japanese beer, was a man who, at the age of 17, had fled Japan (which at the time was a capital offense) to the UK. He had ended up in Germany and become a brew master. At the age of 27 he was recruited by the Meiji government to produce Japan’s first beer.
At the end of the tour we get to taste this original brew and it has something of home brew but also of the UK’s real ale. A young Japanese guy is telling his girlfriend about this real ale aspect and I, overhearing, am forced to agree. The original brew certainly has more character and a more yeasty flavor than the modern Sapporo beers.
An interesting fact that we came away with was that Sapporo, Asahi and Yebisu were all one company until split up by GHQ after the war. Now, Yebisu and Sapporo are one and the same but Asahi, in the last 30 years or so has become dominant in the domestic beer market.
We walk into the city centre to search for an izakaya (a typical Japanese bar cooking and serving tasty dishes to accompany the booze) . D. takes an age to decide but the final choice is a good one. Our old friend joins us and we have a good evening. We walk back to our hotel but are forced to take a taxi for the last stretch as it comes on to rain heavily.
The author is a long term resident of Japan who has and continues to travel the country extensively. Avoiding highways where possible, the author has driven from Kagoshima in Kyushu to Wakanai in Hokkaido covering 20,000 plus kilometres and counting.