Wednesday, November 11, 2009


I just got back from a two-day workshop up in Northern Japan. It was held at Hokkaido University in the city of Sapporo (yes, where they make the beer of the same name). After a frantic hour of not being able to find the right building (why I thought that I could just show up and ask information at the front gate is beyond me. lesson learned), I slid in the room 40 minutes late, sweating and panting. My talk was 15 minutes after that. Let's just say it wasn't my calmest most succinct talk ever, but the Q&A went well, and getting the talk over early meant I had the rest of the workshop to relax. That night we all went to a local restaurant for a reception dinner. It started with a big lacquered boat with several sushi including the deepest purplish red tuna I have ever seen. Then came a huge pile (Hokkaido-style they said) of cabbage and seasoned raw beef that cooked down on pans at the table.

This was followed by a big pot of soup with chicken wings, crab legs, mushrooms and clams.
...and of course beer, plenty of beer.
And at the end came the Hokkaido version of onigiri with an extra long seaweed sheet so that you could grab it like a taco. That large dollop of fish eggs was daunting so I had the brown kind in the front. I think it was a kind of seaweed. 'twas salty, but not overwhelmingly so.

What I really couldn't believe was how much it all reminded me of the northeast. Here is a row of ginkos on the University of Hokkaido ("Hokodai") campus.

This white building, for instance, is like every building on the Dartmouth campus. Definitely not what I expected here.
A stream ran through the center of campus. It was all really beautiful and tranquil. I met lots of good contacts and had some fun geeky conversations with a couple of folks from Nagoya who also do experiments on ice.

Unfortunately it was a very short trip. Before I caught my plane back on the second night, I grabbed some dinner. I lost track of the other folks in the conference so I was on my own. Hokkaido is known for its really fresh seafood, so I set out to look for a good restaurant. A couple of small cool looking places didn't seem keen on having someone who spoke zero japanese, so I decided to just look for the most touristy place I could find.

Voila! I guess when all else fails, look for the place with the giant mechanical crab out front. Yes, this place did just fine. I got a big quiet room all to myself and great service and really really yummy tempura fried king crab legs (below). So then it was just off to catch my flight and what ended up being the very last train to our neighborhood.

No comments:

Post a Comment