My friends invited me to go to the zoo with them. These photos were taken in Maruyama Zoo, Sapporo. Although Asahiyama is the more famous of the two zoos, Maruyama is really close to the city and so very easy to access. I do feel a bit uneasy about zoos and the ethics of keeping animals in captivity but I won't get into that here :\ It was still an amazing experience getting to see these magnificent animals.

I have never seen this animal before in my life! "Baku" in Japanese, it is a tapir

The wolves were very active during play time
Hokkaido is well known for its production of high quality milk products. This naturally lends itself to high quality dessert products too! You'll notice in Sapporo that it seems like parfaits are pretty popular, a common dessert item. A local guide book recommended this place called "Cherry Merry" so we decided to check it out after school. It is literally right across the street from 18jyo subway station, so there is no reason not to check it out!

The lighting happened to be perfect at that time of the day so I think I got some pretty tasty looking shots of the parfaits. I have never seen parfaits more beautiful than this and even my friends who live in Sapporo said this was the best parfait they've ever had. Leave it to the Japanese to refine the parfait into something beautifully decadent! There's something about the milkiness and richness of the cream they use in Sapporo that I've never had anywhere else.


There was a small summer festival last week in Odori area. There was free shaved ice, wrestling, kid's games, yakitori (chicken skewers),  and a mikoshi (pictured above).  Mikoshi is a portable shinto shrine that people carry on their shoulders.  I really like the pamphlets they were giving out, which was a illustrated guide to the festival. Cute!!!
To tell the truth my friend Yui and I didn't even know there was a matsuri going on that weekend (neither did quite I few people, I heard later). We were in 4pla doing some shopping during the crazy summer sale when we saw the festival outside.. Needless to say we forgot about 20 dollar shoes and didn't come back until much later.
I had the rare chance to see a traditional Japanese wedding ceremony. Nowadays, most couples usually get the Western style chapel wedding. The bride wears many layers of white kimono, as well as the traditional wig. Actually, I didn't know it was a wig until she told me later that it's extremely heavy!
The rarity of a traditional wedding is emphasized by the fact that total strangers visiting the shrine were taking pictures on their cell phones just because it is a rare sight.

Beautiful couple!!

Hokkaido Shrine

Picture with the bride and groom!
 Introducing アンパンマン! (Anpanman)
Anpanman is a really famous character in Japan for children. So when I saw a bun at the bakery with his likeness I just had to get it! It was filled with red bean paste and super fluffy. ふわふわして美味しかった。

Edamame pastry
Surprisingly, I've run into a lot of pastry and bread shops in Sapporo. For the most part they are tasty, filling, and cheap! My lesser favourite is the imitation pizza bread, which tastes like sour tomato (at least the one I had).
No trip to Japan would be complete without trying out some kind of strange and interesting food item that we don't have back in Vancouver. Thanks to a friend at school, I discovered this Hokkaido ice cream treat. Corn ice cream! It's basically like a corn waffle with ice cream inside. The ice cream is super creamy and tastes a bit like vanilla but also mildly corn flavoured... And extremely delicious. You'll just have to trust me when I say that this corn ice cream treat tastes better than it sounds!

It says "Toukibi" which is basically.. "corn", er no surprise there.

The waffle even has a detailed corn texture.
That ebi is making a break for it. Kaiten sushi in Sapporo
The sushi doesn't travel quite that fast but the iphone camera sure makes it look that way. There is kaiten sushi in Vancouver but I think most of the places have closed down. After the novelty of rotating food on a conveyor belt wore off, we were often left with sub-par sushi that was probably not the freshest of the fresh and sloppily made.

Sushi restaurants are pretty expensive in Japan, so for a casual outing a good choice is kaiten sushi. The kaiten sushi I went to in Sapporo was reasonably priced and delicious. Everyone's bills came to around 10-15 dollars each, and we were quite full. The dishes are priced according to the colour coding of each plate. Even the cheapest sushi which included saba and ika were delicious. Presentation, taste, and price were all thumbs up! Good bye California rolls, for I shall not miss you.
A lot of people have asked me if things are okay here in Sapporo since I came after the earthquake. Before I arrived in Sapporo, I was following the whole Fukushima incident pretty closely. As far as I can tell, everyday life here is "normal". There is occasional coverage on the news that mostly focuses on the recovery effort but oddly I haven't seen anything on Fukushima yet. A minute of silence was held during the Yosakoi festival to commemorate those affected by the earthquake. There's also posters around the city with words like がんばろう日本!I guess that roughly translates to something like "Let's do our best, Japan!".

According to google, Sapporo is about 600km away from Fukushima and there is a government site with updates about the levels of radiation in and around Hokkaido. As far as I can tell there hasn't been any cause for immediate alarm yet.

At any rate I don't regret my decision to continue on with the exchange trip. It's been an amazing experience so far and I've met a lot of wonderful people.
During the weekend I went with some friends to visit Shiroi Koibito Park, a chocolate factory. Shiroi Koibito (which translates to "white lovers") is probably the most popular souvenir from Hokkaido. It's a kind of cookie with white chocolate in the middle.

There is an outdoor garden. To the right of this photo there's a rose garden but unfortunately they weren't in bloom.

Outside the factory. So pretty!

From the cake set, which is a cake/drink combo for around 750 yen (about $8.00). They have a cake buffet too, but it requires reservations and is around $25.00.

A lovely pink piece of cake

Part of the old toy exhibit

Not sure why a Resident Evil/Biohazard like monster is at a place that features a rose garden, tea cup collection, and cake buffet. But it lights up and looks neat.

Some kind of bad-ass Hell Rider! Again, not really fitting in with the surroundings but one neat fact is this was all made from recycled/found materials.

View from second floor of the main hall area. It was a lot nicer than I expected for a chocolate "factory".

They have recommended "picture taking spots", and this was one of them!

Fountain outside the factory

From one of the displays

My impression of the place is it's a bit of a tourist trap, but there is stuff to see and do that doesn't require an access fee. There is a English pamphlet available that tells you exactly what is available and what requires a fee. There's a place where you can make your own cookie, but its over ten dollars to make one and I just wasn't interested enough to do that. The whole place is pretty cute and quaint. As for the famous cookies, they are kind of expensive on a student budget. I bought some for family but haven't even had it myself yet. The only other chocolate factory tour I've been on is Purdys when I was a kid back in Vancouver. Obviously Purdys was nowhere this nice and interesting, but there were tonnes of free chocolate samples that I ate until I got sick. YUM!
The school festival at Hokkaido University was awesome! For Vancouver folks, its sort of like our Chinese night market in Richmond in terms of yummy food stalls. Except instead of being in a warehouse/parking lot area, the school festival is of course, on the beautiful grounds of the University. Food was cheap, plentiful, and delicious. Approx. 2-3 dollars for most things like green tea ice cream crepe, takoyaki, mashed potato and cheese doreyaki. A lot of people dress up as well, to try and get the crowd to visit their stalls. Although there was a lot of people, the festival is stretched over quite a distance so it never feels too crowded and you never have to wait too long for food.
Being a school festival, parts of the school and classrooms are open to the public to see performances and work by students. It's a lot of fun, and great PR for the school too. I wish we had something like this back home! Yummy food, great atmosphere, and cross-dressing. Yay!

The person on the far right in a school girl outfit is actually a guy. But he can pull it off! Cute. The other day at Yosakoi there was a big older man who definitely could not pull off his wig, skimpy dress, and heels. Ech.

Girl in a Rilakkuma costume :D

Today my host institution arranged for a visit to participate in the Japanese Tea Ceremony, called Sadou 「茶道」. Some students from first year was there as well, and it was also their first time. I guess while it's a unique aspect of the culture, it's not as common as I thought since it was also my Japanese teacher's first time as well. Even in our beginner's version it feels like there was a lot of steps to run though, and each little step has some significance that relates to the ceremony as a whole. 

We had to sit in "seiza", a traditional kneeling/sitting posture which I haven't done since my kendo days.  We were sitting that way for so long that I literally couldn't move my legs to get up again..  Luckily I wasn't the only one so it wasn't like everyone got up and left with me still sitting there like an idiot!

Although it's quite late into my study abroad experience, I'll be posting here anyway in the event that I somehow lose the hard copies of all my photos!