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Monday, October 16, 2017


I awoke to a view of Mount Hakodate.

Today, it will be an 8-hour roundtrip train ride from Hakodate to Sapporo and back.

Hokkaido means northern sea circuit, and is the second largest island of Japan.  First, Japan is much smaller than the USA, about the size of California:

The U.S. has a population of 325 million, while that of Japan is 127 million, about what it was in 2000.  We were only 282 million that year.

Hokkaido has 5.4 million people, slightly less than the state of Minnesota.  A better state comparison is that Hokkaido has slightly more people than South Carolina, but is about the same geographical size.  The governor is Harumi Takahashi, not a least, I don't think so.  My father's father came from Utashinai, a small city north of Sapporo.  However, Kenjiro means second son, so she could well be the great-great granddaughter of his brother.

The indigenous Ainu (they have Caucasian features--and as many as 200,000 might still be living Japan, but mostly through mixed marriages) controlled the island until 1457, when Takeda Nobuhiro killed Koshamain.  A quick series of changes occurred just before 1870 at the time of the Meiji Reformation when there was fear of a Russian invasion.  The island was re-named Hokkaido and settlers were sent there.  My great grandparents were among the early ones, from Akita.  Kenjiro was born in Otaru in 1873, the family moved to Sapporo when the population there was less than 2,000 (now 2 million), then on to Utashinai.

But back to Hakodate, where my day started and ended, the population is a bit more than a quarter million, but was a third of a million in 1985.  A further drop to 170,000 is expected by 2040.  Japan is very simply getting older, and by 2060, 40% will be at least 65:

It's just about 200 miles from Hakodate to Sapporo.  The average train takes four hours each way, or only 50 MPH.  There were about dozen stops. Note that, of course, there is no streamlined front.

In comparison, it's about 540 miles from Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto Station to Tokyo Station, and the Shinkansen (bullet train) takes 4.5 hours, or an average of 120 MPH.  That driving time is said to be 12 hours.

I had my standard bento with sake and beer, both from Hokkaido:

I'm on an academic trip, as I'm here in Japan to later this week participate in the retirement ceremony of President Tadashi Matsunaga, so my first stop in Sapporo was Hokkaido University:

In the wake of the Meiji Restoration, the Japanese government in 1876 hired William Clark to establish Sapporo Agriculture College, which is now Hokkaido University.  Clark only spent 8 months in Japan, but he probably made the greatest impact after American Commodore Matthew Perry, who entered Tokyo Bay with four ships in 1853 and ended the 200 year blockade of the country.

Clark was a successful colonel in the Civil War, who became president of what now is the University of Massachusetts Amherst.  Unfortunately, after he left Japan, he became with involved in several silver mines, which destroyed his reputation and finances, ruining his health.  He passed away in 1886.

The peak is probably a week or two away, but there were spots of beauty:

I even took a selfie on Gingko Avenue:

Here is a tree with character:

I then went to Nakajima Park:

Time was running out, so I walked by Sapporo Tower and the Clock Tower:

I missed the Botanic Garden of Hokkaido University, but that was because it is closed on Mondays.  If I had only half an hour more, I would have gone to have Sapporo Ramen from Kyowakoku on the 10th floor of the ESTA building.  Alas, I bought the usual bento with sake/beer, but while waiting for my train to come, just where I was standing at the entrance to my entrance, was a kiosk selling hot noodles, so I bought a bowl of soba:

That is a giant fish cake at the top.  Fabulous, but I actually could not finish this meal.

Tomorrow, I'm off for Nagoya.

Oh, oh, a very powerful typhoon is heading toward Japan:

Still a tropical storm, Lan will become a Category 3. I'm leaving Tokyo in a week for Bangkok, and hopefully will be gone by the time he gets here.  Stay tuned.

In the Atlantic, Hurricane Ophelia should still be at Category 1 when she makes landfall today:

Will she be more severe than the Great Storm off 1987?


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