Friday, June 29, 2007

Sapporo - A Bad Day For Animals

Last night, right before I went to bed, Pearl called me. We only talked for a minute until the pay phone cut us off, but she seems as exhausted and overwhelmed as me. Then, one of my roommates came in. I can't remember his name, which I feel bad about because he's taken to calling me "Mister Danny". He lives on the southernmost island of Japan, and he rode his motorcycle all the way up here, on break from his job as a ship crew member. And that was about all the English he knew, so I went to bed.

I woke up to some dude saying, "Danny-san..." Seems I had almost missed breakfast. Too bad he woke me up, since it was awful. I ate only the rice and got out of there.

Attempt number two to find the bookstore proved a failure, and I quit after about an hour. My only explanation is that both bookstores and the Virgin Megastore supposedly near them have gone out of business. Or, who knows, they could look like the road and then occasionally turn into stores, Transformers-style. You never know in Japan.

So instead I did some sightseeing. I wandered through a crazy pedestrian street with all sorts of stores. I entered an arcade, expecting a scene similar to the hilarious one in Lost in Translation, and I wasn't disappointed. These kids take their games seriously.

I then went to some botanical garden in the middle of the city. I expected just a few flowers and plants and stuff, but that's not the kind of crap you get in Japan. This place was, of course, enormous. Several acres of closed-in jungle is not what I was expecting. The place was like I had wandered into Jurassic Park.
I strolled for a little while, and then I came across the worst building ever. Built in the 1880s, the place was filled with dead, stuffed wildlife, also from the 1880s. Dead foxes hunted dead mice, there were boxes filled with dead birds, a dead bear stood right in the middle, and there were all sorts of other various creepy and foreign animals. I snapped a few pictures and ran out.

Later, I returned to that insane food market in the station. When I described it yesterday, I said it went on for "miles". I didn't realize when I wrote that how huge the place really is. The food court was all I really saw yesterday. On the same floor of the food court are two full-sized malls. Each mall has hilarious names for their various areas. I started in the "Pleasure Land", which isn't as exciting as it sounds. It's just food. Then I went through "Beautiful Land", which was all the clothing shops. I then crossed to the other mall and strolled down the "Food Walk", "Fashion Walk," "Market Walk," and "Joyful Walk".

Then I noticed the escalators.

There were 10 more floors of shops, each floor themed, and each as big as the first floor. I didn't explore much of the floors, since I wanted to eventually get some sleep tonight, but I could get the gist of each floor from my view on the escalators. There were three electronics floors, two or three clothing floors, another food floor, a kids' floor (complete with huge, bouncing balloons all over the place and a robotic teddy bear), and a pet floor.

Naturally, I had to stop at the pet floor. But it was almost worse than the dead animal museum. The store was filled with tiny, heartbreaking puppies, all stacked in glass cases you normally find mice or hamsters in. Half of the puppies were shivering, and the other half were barking frantically. It's a good thing I don't live here, because I would have bought the whole store on the spot. Having achieved my goal for the day of becoming completely depressed, I left.

I returned to "Food Walk", picked a restaurant based on which one had the best-looking plastic food in front, and entered. I ordered something, and when it came, I started to eat the noodles. I noticed the woman next to me staring, so I turned and smiled at her. She then called the waitress over, and said something while pointing to me, causing both of them to laugh. Exactly what you want people to do to you, right? Well, turns out I wasn't eating my noodles correctly, and the waitress was kind enough to show me how to avoid embarrassing myself again. When the old woman left, she stayed at the register and talked to the waitress for a while, I assume about how cute I am.

After eating, I wandered around this city-within-a-building a little more. Unintentionally, of course, since I took a wrong turn and it took almost an hour to get back the right way. It's hard to describe how incredibly large this place is - you simply have to see it. To try to put it in perspective, I wandered for almost eight hours, and the only times I saw something I had already seen before is when I intentionally backtracked.

A lot of people told me I would feel huge in Japan, due to everyone's size. But now that I'm here, I feel smaller than I ever have before. I fear if I stay in this city any longer, I may develop a severe Napoleon Complex.

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