When I finally touched down the ground, Chitose Airport, early about at 10, I didn’t expect that we were gonna jumped around a little small part of Sapporo. I mean, I always dreaming about coming to Japan as a tourist -but not as the lucky one! My sister’s fortune luck was like, “lo pake dukun mana bisa dapet gratis main ke luar negeri?”; lol. She got the accomodation for free.
For a short story, my sister won a quiz on Japanese TV, rewarded a holiday to Sapporo for 5 days 3 nights in winter. Being under 21 years old (it was on 2016), the guardian must come along to accompany. I was appointed by my parents to join. Hooray!
Because the accommodation was guaranteed, all we prepared just some cash for purchasing souvenirs. We boarded an ANA economy class plane. The difference with the others, they would drop off from Haneda Airport and leaving for another city. We had to board the plane once more until Chitose Airport.
That was when the culture shock began.
There are only 400 muslim in Sapporo (but the number is still growing)
If you are touching down in Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, Fukuoka, or other cities that mostly the Indonesian scholarship students lived, you could easily find women wearing their veil. Not that easy though, but it is easier than in Sapporo. There are only 400 muslim here; which means, woman wearing something to cover her head are rare events to many Japanese.
We were arrived at Chitose on a chilly cold winter day, so the first thing came to our mind was: mayday, siaga 1, we have to find a toilet! We were so desperate to find one in the middle crowd of Sapporo citizen (lol), so we forgot our luggages.
We met Oda Aki-san, our guide (thankfully she could speak in English fluently so could help us finding our suitcases), before we were going to the toilet. We also passed hundreds eyes of students who looked at us with a weird gaze; they could had thought we were freaking cold so we covered our head with scarves, lol.
Not only at that time, when we were waiting for our bus to take a trip to Otaru, a small city near Sapporo, many of them staring at us. We are like couple of aliens there, lol. Probably because they already accustomed to cold temperatures, even when there was a blizzard, seeing us covering our head like this is maybe a bizzard scenery. I still could see few females wearing only boots and mini skirts!
Wear your longjohn like second skin
Believe me, the temperature of 3 degrees for the people of Sapporo has included warm temperatures.
In the past when I lived in California, the temperature in winter was not so stabbing. The snow that stacked was completely absent, unless we intentionally going to the ski area, in The Big Bear.
In the morning, the normal temperature is about 3-4 degrees Celcius. At night, the temperature can fall to minus 10 degrees Celsius. January and February are time-sensitive trips to Sapporo. But because the cost is the cheapest, especially because for free, my sis and I try as hard as possible to walk around until night, haha. When can we get here again?
If you can not stand the cold, make sure to buy longjohn that has really good quality and not made of fabric. At that time because I wanted to economize, I bought a cheap longjohn. The frostiness is piercing to the bone, literally.
And make sure to also bring moisturizer, sheet mask with hyaluronic acid, and hand cream when you travel here or other places with cold temperatures. Moisturizer and sheet mask serve to make your face not become flaky. I did not bring a lot of cosmetics back then, so if I took selfie with a close up look, my skin looked cracked and scaly.
Take off your coat, not your hat
In Indonesian culture, wearing a hat is considered disrespectful when you eat at a table with other people. Here, such a thing is commonplace, instead they assume that people who do not take off their jackets at meals are very rude.
Because it was my first time coming to Japanese family restaurant, we were not aware of this unwritten rule. I just realized after spending half a bowl of food, when a pair of Chinese stealing a glance from our right side. We took of our coat after that.
But when a group of young women came to eat, I noticed one of them wearing a hat. The woman still did not take off her hat until their order came. Does it mean to wear a hat while eating is commonplace? Probably.
Only here I met some Muslim families having lunch. My food menu on the first day was kaisen don, consisting of rice with fresh seafood topping and a bowl of warm crab soup with Japanese flavor.
As you can see, the portion of Japanese food is huge. For those who are not accustomed to eating a lot, will be difficult to spend a bowl like this. But for the Japanese, this portion is enough for them, because they used to burn calories by walking everywhere.
Considered as a safe city, even at the middle of the night
There was one night when we got lost after dinner. No tour guide accompanied us, so we walked to the hotel alone. For your information, the streets in Sapporo still tend to be easily memorized. If, and only if, there was no blizzard that could blur your sight ~XD. Unlike Tokyo which has many narrow alleys, Sapporo’s urban plan is much nicer, and will remind you of a sweet and nice small town in Europe.
About two hours we were walking alone, but somehow we felt safe. And it was already night. In Sapporo, shops and restaurants close at 9 pm on winter. But streetlights are everywhere. And because the weather is super chilly, everyone is hurrying home.
We panicked not for fear of not finding a way back to hotel. Our smartphone battery was drastically reduced, and here’s the tips we finally learned that day: never forget to take power bank! Luckily after hours of wading through the snow, we found a recognizable path and made it back to the hotel.
Pray room and halal food? So difficult to find!
Because very few Muslims live there, we often do jama and qashar at the hotel. Especially when we went to Otaru, the activities that took place completely all day. So we decided to pray on the bus on the way.
Since the daytime in winter is short, the distance of prayer time is close. At that time, we prayed Fajr around 6-7 am, Zuhur at 11 am, Ashar at 2 pm, Maghrib at 4 pm, and Isya at 6-7 pm.
Want to find halal food? Hard enough! On the second day, we got a wrong souvenirs for family and friends. Unable to read kanji, while searching on Google, we looked at the list of ingredients. It was written sake in kanji T^T, unfortunately we left those souvenirs in the hotel after we got back to Indonesia.
Please also note that there are also substances containing alcohol and pork that may not be listed in the list of ingredients. Do not hesitate to ask the seller. The Japanese at average, are honest and kind, they are happy to tell us about it. You can use this app if you can not speak Japanese. Simply speaking in front of the phone, then this application will translate it to the person you are talking to.
On the third day, we had time to visit the only mosque in Sapporo. After that, we plan to have lunch at Warung Jawa near the mosque.
What, Warung Jawa?
Yes, the owner is an Indonesian!
Before going there, we had a long walk to Hokkaido University. At 10 or 11, we plan to walk to the mosque. According to Google Map, the distance traveled is not so far.
However, wind and winter storms came crashing back. We have trouble finding directions (other than blind map, lol), street names here wear kanji all. Unlike if you walk in Kyoto, the street name in Sapporo using the cardinal points and numbers as the name of a street.
The worst is that one of my acquaintances lives near the mosque and Warung Jawa! What unlucky we were! She works at a travel agency that provides accommodation for us. Shee said that if we only asked for help, she could do it because it was her day off. We just found out when we had time to vent to find the mosque while on the way back to Indonesia. Too bad! I hope, someday I can visit again to Hokkaido in another season.
Conclusion: travel tips during winter season
1) Make sure to buy good quality longjohn. If traveling for a long time, you should buy two or more.
2) In winter, the clothes will not smell quickly. You can wear the same clothes for two days in a row.
3) Note the condition of the country to be visited. I was wrong to wear fashion boots because I did not expect the condition of the snow that up to one meter, so my shoes quickly wet, smelly, and slippery when worn. Buy or borrow leather boots.
4) You can borrow from friends (if you’re lucky enough to have friends who’ve been abroad), unless you stay for a long time. Or you can buy it in the flea clothing market, for example in Bandung is Gedebage.
5) Bring an umbrella. Its function is to withstand the freaking freezing wind and unwanted blizzard.
6) Bring your own medicines. Hot patches can be an alternative to wear when you can not stand the cold weather.
7) Install translator application before arriving in the destination country. Who knows you are not very fluent in language, then this application will be very helpful.
8) Wi-fi is the most important thing, make sure you can always connect! Not just for selfie and sharing to social media, but also for communicating, reading Google maps, and so on.
I’ve been using roaming data from IM * for 5 days in Sapporo. Although cheap, but the connection was not so good. You can actually rent a wi-fi pocket at the airport or buy roaming data before you leave, make sure the signals are good!
9) Bring Popmie, Bubur Ria, and other instant foods. Believe me, if the country you visit is hard to get halal food, Popmie can be your lifesaver.
On the next article I want to tell about 5 things to do at winter in Sapporo. Thank you for reading, and please stay tune!