We Leave Miyakojima, Bound For Sapporo
We were up bright and early this morning to enjoy our breakfast at Uplausagi Guesthouse, and then to begin a day of travel to get to Sapporo – three flights, Miyakojima to Naha, Naha to Tokyo, Tokyo to Sapporo.
This morning’s breakfast was as beautiful to look at as it was to eat – a Japanese breakfast that featured steamed vegetables fresh from local farms, a delicious miso soup, a small piece of grilled salmon, pickles and rice, all prepared by our host Yoko and served by her partner Naoki.
As we were enjoying the food, we asked Yoko if she and Naoki owned the guesthouse, or managed it, and I was impressed that they had designed it themselves, and had it built just two years ago. When I remarked that it was unusual to see such a young couple already owning their own business, Yoko laughingly asked us how old we thought she was. Tali and I both thought around thirty, and we were surprised to hear that Yoko was forty, and Naoki forty-two. They are living a life that personifies our Morning Affirmations – “Eternal Youth is Our Birthright.”. They had moved from busy Tokyo to escape urban traffic and stress, and they have found not just a happy home in Miyakojima, but also a successful small business sharing their warmth and hospitality at Uplausagi. We admire them, and feel happy to have met them!
Next we drove to the Airport to return our rental car, and report the damage caused in my parking lot mishap. The manager was understanding, but he didn’t seem to have much flexibility in what he had to charge us for the repair and the loss of use of the car while it was being fixed. It felt good to apologize, pay the bill, and put the mishap behind us!
Soon we were off on the first of our flights – we’ll arrive at Chitose Airport, about an hour by JR train from Sapporo, a little after 7pm, and we should check into our downtown Sapporo hotel, The Cross, by 9pm tonight.
We Explore Sapporo by Foot
After a very deep sleep at The Cross, our comfortable and stylish downtown hotel, we got up and did our morning spiritual study and meditation. Then we dressed for warm weather, as it was going to be sunny and hot today in downtown Sapporo! After a quick stop at the closest of the 22 Starbucks in Sapporo (!!!), we walked over to Odori Park, which is a one city block wide strip of grass and flowers, beautifully maintained, running most of the length of the downtown. Odori Park was buzzing today! It was the scene of a major, juried Orchid Show, held in a large tent pitched in the middle of the park. All around the show were outdoor booths selling garden supplies, flowering plants, food and drinks.
There was a very sizable crowd of what looked to me to be very experienced gardeners, most of them older women, carefully studying each of the orchids on display, pointing to ones they particularly liked, and chatting intently with their friends about each one that caught their eye. I have never seen such beautiful flowering plants as these, though I am just a simple part-time New Zealand gardener and weed-puller, and not a horticulturalist by any means!
We left Odori Park and started walking towards the food and entertainment district known as Susukino, which is a seven block by seven block area of town with literally thousands of restaurants, ramen shops, cafes, music clubs, and some shadier venues as well…it sounded like fertile grounds for photographs!
But first, it was time for me to get a haircut…
Everywhere we travel, I look forward to my visits to local barber shops, and not just because my closely cropped hairstyle needs attention every ten days or so. I prefer to get my head shaved, rather than to get a “buzz cut,” but this is very difficult to do in both the U.S. and New Zealand – I’ve been told that many barbers in both countries are concerned about potential liability issues if they slip with the razor and cut their client, so they just don’t offer any shaving services at all. The best I can do in my home countries is a close cut with an electric clippers set to zero, a rather impersonal process that that takes five or ten minutes at most.
When I go overseas – to Nepal, India, Morocco, China, Japan, countries where the tradition of barbering is alive and well – getting my head shaved is no problem at all. And because head shaving takes close to an hour, or sometimes even more, it’s a wonderful way to observe and interact with local people. It’s a traditional ritual, between barber and client, and sometimes onlookers as well, that is open to the visitor to enjoy, while the barber is quite happy to have another paying customer, no matter where he’s from!
Here in Sapporo, we happened upon a lovely barber shop on our way to Susukino District, and the familiar ritual began with no waiting time, as it was still early in the day, and there was only one other customer in the shop. There were hot towels, steam machines that acted like vaporizers, blowing steam on the towels, to keep them warm and moist, two shampoos, several head, neck and shoulder massages, at least three separate head shaves, to make sure even the littlest hair was caught by the barber’s razor…and all done by a very skilled young woman with eight years’ experience as a barber. She even called her friend, whom she felt spoke better English than she did, and asked her to come over to the shop, just to explain to me that my head had gotten a bit sunburned, and that I should be sure to keep it covered once I was shaved! It was one of the very best haircuts I had ever received anywhere, right up there with the shave from the Sufi in Morocco, and by the time we re-entered the late morning heat, I felt completely rejuvenated.