We made it to the airport, excited to see what a completely different part of Japan would be like. We made it through security and, after a bit of a delay, we boarded our flight. From there we sat on the runway for another hour plus as we waited for the back up of flights to leave ahead of us. Finally we were in the air and headed to Hokkaido. Two hours later, I woke up expecting to hear the landing procedures sounding over the intercom. Instead, in garbled english, it sounded like they said the runway was closed. Figuring that couldn't be possible, we asked a flight attendant who confirmed that they had closed the runway due to snow and that our flight was turning back to Tokyo. Two more hours later, we landed back at the airport we had left four hours previously. They gave us a paper explaining our two options which were to be refunded (but just for that flight. Not our return flight or lodging that we missed out on) or wait until the exact same flight the next afternoon. Luckily we were in front of the line and got good seats for the flight the next day. Thinking about the $10+ per person it would take to get out of the airport and then another to get back and then new lodging on top of the place we had already paid for in Hokkaido, we decided to camp out in the airport. Luckily, they had a waiting area for people like us and we found a large bench big enough for two. We spent the next morning watching the planes land and take off before making our way back to the gate to try again. We all boarded, just like the previous day, and my nerves grew as, again, we were delayed on the runway. Another hour and a half later we took off. I was sure we would get stuck in the same situation as the sun went down and ice was forming on the runway. I didn't think we would make it until we walked off the plane and into Hokkaido.
Relieved, we jumped on a bus and headed into downtown Sapporo where we would stay at an Airbnb we had booked for the previous night. The streets were covered in ice and snow but it didn't seem to phase anyone. We walked down the sidewalk which was elevated about 18 inches higher with packed ice and a thin layer of snow. We wore everything we had to stay warm. It didn't surprise me with how close we were to Russia but the air bit at any exposed skin. We got to the place an met our host who offered us cheap beers and turned up the heater. He asked if we were hungry and said he could take us to his friends yakitori restaurant down the street so we bundled up and headed out. He was clearly a regular and knew everyone there. Right away they brought us beers and a small bowl of what looked like ground meat and some green vegetable. It was delicious but as our host pointed to his stomach and said "chicken inside" our guts turned. Moose began stashing the rest in his napkin but I ate it all, not wanting to offend. I do have to say, if I didn't know what it was, I would eat it again. After that he brought us some chorizo sausages and chicken skewers while filling our cups with sake. It was some of the best chicken I've ever eaten. We capped off the meal with the most delicious ramen and another cup of sake before getting the bill. Unfortunately it was then that we realized we had been duped. The restaurant and our host had totally ripped us off. The next morning we left without a word and headed into downtown Sapporo.
We walked around for a long time before stumbling into a cool building and finding out it was the Sapporo beer factory which included a large mall. We grabbed lunch there before heading over to the Sapporo beer museum which told the story of its beginnings.
We had some beers before grabbing dinner and heading back to our hotel for the night. The next day we headed back into the city for the afternoon and saw as they started setting up for the fire and ice festival. There were already some ice sculptures cut out and igloos made into small galleries for local artists. We found a hole in the wall place that was modeled after a California bar and went in. Finally there were beers that didn't taste like water and we even found a Pliny the Elder for the reasonable price of $22.
The owner came in and chatted with us for a bit. He had traveled over here 40 years ago and decided to stay, opening the bar about 36 years prior. Two more gentlemen entered who we found out owned a brewery on an island off the very southern tip of Japan. The owner began loudly boasting to the two men about how easy it was to sell a beer for 4 times the price. The men were put off, as we're we, so we left and got back on the subway to our hotel.
We giggled with the couple across from us as a drunk guy fell asleep on Moose's shoulder and then another man kept falling into the other couple as the train moved, crotch first. Before we knew it there were less and less people on the train so we checked our GPS and realized we were headed in a different direction. We got off as soon as we could at a completely empty station and realized there would be no train to take us back. There was one woman in the parking lot and we quickly ran to ask her if she could call a cab for us. Luckily she was very kind and made sure the driver knew where we wanted to go. So she left and we waited in the cold for half an hour without seeing a soul before the cab lights turned down the road. My stomach began to twist as the meter shot up and up. Fifty dollars, and only 16km, later we were back where we needed to be. We went to bed frustrated by our mistakes. I realized we had spent too much money on American beers and a cab ride mishap to go skiing the next day so we took it easy, ate good food, and caught up on sleep. Our flight was early the next morning back to Tokyo so we got up and took the shuttle back to the airport. Luckily there was no mishaps with our flight and we made it to Tokyo with an afternoon to spend. We explored more of the city and grabbed some delicious sushi before calling it quits for the day. We woke up the next morning for what would be our last day in Tokyo and headed to the fish market.
You could smell it long before you were there and we walked down the isles of fresh fish being chopped and sold for hours. When we walked through the wholesale market the auctions were over and everyone was cleaning up. Washing the blood off the ground, picking up guts and skins to throw in the large trolley that came around each stall.
It was fascinating to see it all. Even the man cutting the eyeballs out of the giant tuna heads.
After eating the freshest sushi, we headed over to Shibuya where we entered our first cat cafe. There were more people than cats and it seemed as if the cats had been drugged to not cause a ruckus, only looking lively when a handler brought out a cat lollipop.
They did not want human affection, they did not purr, and I'm sure they were all declawed (meaning they cut the tips of their "fingers" off). It all just made me sad and think of all of the ways they could make this a better experience for everyone.
We left there and headed for the airport where we would stay the night before taking an early flight the next day. We were headed to Hong Kong to meet up with Moose's brother and add another country to our list! Stay tuned for Moose and Goose on the Loose: in Hong Kong!