Last night we arrived in Sapporo, the capital of Hokkaido, which is the northernmost region of Japan and perhaps its last frontier of unspoilt wilderness. This is the land where you can drive for miles and not see anyone; and where electric wires line many roads to deter wild (and dangerous) bears from straying into places where people may pass.
Sapporo itself is not really in danger of wild bears, but further north, wild bears are pretty much part of life. Meanwhile, Sapporo is urban enough to be convenient but still laid-back enough to be considered real country. It's been voted many times as among the best places in Japan to live, because of this great combination.
It's about two hours by plane from Tokyo, and after the flight from Manila, I was dreading being in a smaller plane for another two hours. But with so many back issues of the Financial Times, the WSJ and the IHT to keep me company, the time passed pretty quickly. I'd just finished reading about the very interesting political power struggle going on now in China, and then the pilot announced we were starting our descent.
NO SUSHI FOR DINNER
As it was pretty late last night, and we were due to stay in the city of Otaru, which is an even longer drive from the airport than Sapporo, we just got sandwiches and onigiri to eat in the car instead of stopping for sushi as I had originally planned.
"Great," I said. "My first meal in Hokkaido is a ham and cheese croissant sandwich." This was from some bakery along the way.
But anyway, just so I wouldn't get hungry for a few hours until morning, I decided to try this sandwich. Again, what a surprise -- and isn't this trip full of it so far? The ham and cheese croissant sandwich I'd been dissing for a couple of minutes turned out to be the best I've had in recent memory.
INGREDIENTS FOR SUCCESS
It was really good. Of course, Hokkaido has such great produce so it's known for its ham, its cheese and its bread. How could a ham and cheese croissant sandwich then go wrong?
And for a bit more Japanese flavor, we had green tea ice cream from Haagen Dazs. And that was my first dinner back in Japan last night.
The weather is wonderful, hovering just under 20 degrees, but clear and fine. And now I'm due to ride a boat down a river. More later from a hot springs resort, and best wishes for a most wonderful day ahead, from all of us at Travelife Magazine.
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