There are no pictures of my first real day travelling to Japan. That might have something to do with the 3:50 a.m. alarm before a two hour trip to the airport, followed by a flight to Chicago, then to Tokyo, then finally to Sapporo. On the plane I was either sleeping or talking to the people sitting next to me, who were both around my age, travelling abroad as well. One was returning home to South Korea after backpacking around Europe; one was meeting some friends in Tokyo before heading out to backpack in Thailand and Nepal. When we arrived at Chitose airport in Sapporo, everyone in the group was ready to nod off for the night, but we still had an hour bus ride and short subway trip before arriving at our hostel. When we did finally get there, there were reporters from Sapporo TV there to interview us for a documentary they did on our Yosakoi group, since we are the first American team to ever perform in the Sapporo Yosakoi Soran festival. We settled into the hostel, which was actually very nice, found a nearby convenience store for some food, and then turned in for the night. My photo-taking started the next morning.
This is the bell tower of a Buddhist shrine near the hostel that we ran across while looking for somewhere to eat breakfast. According to Buddhist tradition, you ring the bell to wake the god living in the shrine, then deposit some money in an offeratory box, say a prayer, clap two times, and bow before leaving.This is more of the temple at the shrine. There were other statues and a small garden there as well.This is the vending machine in our hostel. While in Japan, I never saw any vending machine with food, but these drink-dispensing machines were on almost every corner. They had all kinds of drinks ranging from beer to coffee to juice and soda, and even an interesting concoction called a pudding shake that tasted fine, but had a slightly repulsive texture.We finally found a place to eat after checking out all our options. In Japan, breakfast is quite different from the U.S. There are no sweets like the pastries or pop-tarts we might have, and cereal is almost unheard of. A typical breakfast might consist of miso soup, some kind of potato, or salad. This is a rice burger from MOS Burger, Japan's equivalent of a Starbucks for burgers.The MOS in MOS Burger stands for Mountain, Ocean, Sun. This particular one was a very short walk from the hostel, and offered more standard burgers as well as parfaits and coffee. This is a dish called doriye, which I had for lunch. We ate at Victoria, a western-style sit-down restaurant complete with forks and spoons, and a salad and soup bar. The food, though, was uniquely Japanese, and so were the drinks. Soda in fruit flavors like melon and apple are common in Japan. This doriye contained shrimp and squid in a white sauce over wheat noodles.
Later in the day we went to rehearse for the opening ceremony of the Yosakoi Soran festival. This is one team getting ready to rehearse. Across the street is the back of the bleachers where the spectators sat facing the main stage. Announcers and TV crews sat at the top of the platform to film the stage.
After our first performance, we all went to eat dinner at an okonomiyaki restaurant. Okonomiyaki are cabbage pancakes, and we got dishes containing the ingredients for the pancakes, which we cooked ourselves in a small stove set into the short tables we sat around. The tables were only about a foot off the ground, and we sat on cushions around them. There were several other things we could fry as well, such as shrimp and vegetables or spiced rice.
This was dessert. The cup was filled with strawberry milk and cornflakes, which we fried together with the whipped cream and fruit from the top.
Ours turned out a little runny because we added the milk too soon, but it tasted good all the same. It was fun to get to cook our own food and hang out as a group after an exhausting day of getting used to Japan, and ready for the rest of the festival.