My Final Day in Sapporo and Two Personal Landmarks

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 was pleasantly surprised with what I found. There is a lot of greenery here, and as a collection and not an ornamental garden it wasn't designed to be extremely photogenic. But the paths are pleasant and even in the scientific arrangements and methodical rows I could find beauty.
The highlights, in my opinion, were the rose garden and the greenhouses, with the rocky gardens close behind. Many of the roses were in bloom and the sun woke up in time to light them well by the time I reached that part of the garden. I think I took about 100 pictures of roses hoping for a perfect composition.
The greenhouses were full of exotic plants; cacti and pitcher plants are always fun to look at. Somewhat disgustingly, the banana tree had one banana which had been broken into by roaches; they were going in through the end and eating the fruit inside, leaving a yellowing peel intact and highly visible among the remaning still-green bunch.

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).
The Fighters (owned by Nippon Ham; they are not Japan's "Ham Fighters" though that name is pretty funny) were hosting the division-leading Eagles. The Eagles brought their ace, Masahiro Tanaka. If you haven't heard, he's 22-0 this season with an ERA of about 1.23. So while people are talking about the increase in home runs by NPB batters, Tanaka has given up only 6 all year. Tanaka has always been a pretty good pitcher but this year he's on fire. And yes, win 22 was the game I attended and I am very glad I inadvertently got to be there for that.

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.

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