There's only so much a guy can do in a week.
Saturday was my last day in the North Island, and it was the only one I had relatively simple, easygoing plans. Actually, I started my trip with only one stop on my itinerary for Saturday, but the delays I had on Sunday added one more.
I started out fairly late, though I was downtown by about 10 AM. This was the only day on my trip that I slept in past 6AM, because I didn't need to catch an early train or bus out of town. I walked from my hotel in Susukino to Hokkaido University's botanical gardens, which I had been on the fence about visiting. Depending on the review, it was either a lackluster collection of plants or a great place to spend some time and walk around some fauna.
I ended up staying for a couple hours, longer than planned though that seems to happen to me often at places where the displays are just that photogenic.
If I didn't have one more must-go place on my list that day, I would have probably stayed longer, but baseball beckoned. With my bags stored safely away in one of Sapporo Station's lockers, I grabbed a subway train out to Sapporo Dome (which is a good 15 minute walk beyond). I was there in plenty of time to get a very nice seat somewhat behind first base with my general admission ticket, and I made my way around to right field before settling on lunch (you'll hear about food in my next post).
I have no real problems with the stadium based on my experience at the seat I was in. The playing area is pretty big, and the outfield wall is about 3 stories high, so home runs seem kind of rare here. And the field is obviously artificial. But the sound system was easily audible and not too loud or too quiet; beer and soda service was frequent but not irritating, and despite having a poor season after being league champions last year, the crowd was pretty into the game.
I left at just about the right time, right at the end of the 8th inning, as I had to get back to Sapporo Station, grab my bags, and catch my flight. Given the line at the airport to get through security (which moved pretty slowly), I might have been able to take the next train (15 minutes later) but I didn't have to wait long after arriving at the gate before boarding began. So I left Hokkaido happy and hoping to return sometime in the future.
What two personal landmarks did I reach on this trip? First, on Friday, I rode my 100th different Japanese roller coaster. I thought I was at 99 but it turns out I hit 100 at Hokkaido Greenland. And Saturday's trip to Sapporo Dome means I have seen baseball games at all 12 NPB home stadiums! There are still plenty of roller coasters to ride in Japan and the rest of Asia, and literally hundreds of larger stadiums to see games at. High school, college, independent league, minor league, and occasional NPB games are played all over the country in seemingly every single small town.
I plan to post more details about each of this trip's locations eventually, but I still have to finish Taiwan and post about Korea, Osaka and Kyoto, and all my other smaller trips this year! Where am I going next? There's a three-day weekend in November and I might go to Nagano; I'm also planning an inexpensive stay in Okayama and Shikoku over New Years.