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Travelogue K10

May 23, 2019


From my futon in the hotel room, I spent some time thinking back on all the plastic food models which I had encountered to that point. Closer inspection of the colors and textures unfailingly left me impressed. With admiration came wondering about the kind of person who aspires to food artistry, whether the artist painted the model from the prepared dish or whether the cook prepared the dish from the painted model, whether each model which I had come across was in fact modular, a mere rearrangement of individual components in varying patterns to suit each restaurant’s offerings.

After a filling breakfast of rice porridge and sour plums, we collected our belongings from the room and strode out the hotel’s front doors to await the return shuttle to the station. As we waited, the smell of sulphur settled upon us one last time, so heavy on the air that it manifests on the tongue and saturates the palate. A fifteen-minute bus ride later, we alighted at the rail station. Rather than wait inside, I opted to take a short walk about the main town of Noboribetsu, which struck a marked contrast with the hot springs town further up the slope. My jaunt through the main town led me past empty shopfronts and run-down buildings. From the corner of a larger thoroughfare I could make out more prosperous stores in the distance, as well as what appeared a theme park with a castle at its center. I lacked the time to investigate further and retraced my steps to the station where an elderly Japanese man was soon to take an interest in the gaijin (foreigners) and ply us with indiscrete questions about our origins.

We boarded with the train to Sapporo with some regret, of the familiar variety of travel planning’s “would haves, could haves”. A little under two hours later, the train pulled into Sapporo Station. It took us less time still to realize how unusual the city was, even among Japanese agglomerations. From a censused population of seven in the mid-nineteenth century, the city had grown to become the home to over one million today, such that it had much the same feel as any number of North American cities. One could almost imagine that the city had simply sprung into existence overnight, on a divine whim. We passed beneath the tall buildings and followed straight streets broken up by block. Upon inspecting my smartphone, I realized that the grid was only slightly askew from the cardinal points. We found it mostly devoid of the typical Japanese walking alleys which we had seen in Kyoto and would find in Tokyo. All in all, the city felt almost empty to us in a way others did not. That said, this sensation may have been exacerbated by my poor planning as city and local museums were closed on Mondays. Over the emptiness and the striking difference in hotel service, we broke down into mutual accusation and spent the evening making of our argument a shrine.

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