Thursday, June 15, 2006

Fun In Sapporo

I'm heading back to Shimane tomorrow, and I'm goofing off in Sapporo tonight. Never mind that I have to be back in Muroran and at work by 8:30 tomorrow morning. It's all good...I hope.

Last week, I got a phone call from Sekiguchi-san, a friend of mine who lives in Hyogo Prefecture in western Honshu. He told me that a mutual friend of ours from Wakayama would be coming up to Sapporo on Thursday, and I should go up and see him.

Thursday night? I've got work Friday, and I'm flying to Shimane that evening for a wedding that weekend. Yeesh.

"We've got a hotel reserved for you. Go up and talk with him."

Wow. That was fast.

This friend of mine from Wakayama is Higashiyama-san. He is a Buddhist priest at Renge-in, a temple in the mountain temple complex of Koya-san. I'd heard that Koya-san was a REALLY cool temple complex, and when I told Sekiguchi-san that I wanted to check it out, he told me I should stop by Renge-in and talk with Higashiyama-san.

Cool guy.

Likes America. Likes to talk. Good guy all around.

He even let me stay at his temple for free when I took a road trip around the Kii Peninsula later that year.

We last saw each other when we participated in a festival on Iki Island back in the fall of 2003. So I was pretty excited to catch up with him again.

He wasn't going to get into Sapporo until late Thursday evening, but I headed out early anyway. Another Starfish High teacher was in Sapporo for a conference, so I met him at Sapporo Station and we went over to Ittetsu, the damn good ramen shop.

I feel like whenever I talk about Ittetsu, I'm re-enacting that diner sequence from Twin Peaks. "Damn good pie."

After the ramen, I putzed around Sapporo for a bit, and then made my way over to the hotel where I was going to be staying.

Royton Sapporo.

Apparently, one of the groups affiliated with Renge-in is led by the guy who built this hotel, so Higashiyama-san "made some calls" and got me a free room.

Big place.

Elevators on the side of the building, so you can see the city fall away from you as you go up to your room.

The city fell quite a ways away from me, as I was up on the 18th floor.

Vertigo, anyone?

So I headed into my room and just relaxed for a while, waiting to hear from Higashiyama-san.

Finally, around 10:30, my phone rings. It's the front desk.

"Mr. Higashiyama has arrived. Shall we connect you?"


"Kiddo? Can you come up to the 20th floor?"

"Okay. Be right there."

So I head on up, in my room slippers, and arrive at a restaurant. It's a classy-looking place, and they take one look at me and get suspicious. Then they ask me if I'm waiting for Higashiyama-san. I say yes, after which they tell me that room slippers aren't allowed in their fine establishment.

Fair enough.

So I go back to my room and change into my sneakers.

I'm glad they didn't tell me to put on a tie.

I head on in, and there's Higashiyama-san and some older fella whose name I never caught. We sit down and enjoy an excellent meal with an even more excellent view of the city. Top floor of the hotel restaurants with big windows tend to provide just such a view.

Crab legs. Veal. Sushi. A selection of fine cheeses. Brandy. Chivas Regal. Life is sooooo good to me sometimes.

We talk about an upcoming conference in Nara this September. Higashiyama-san also tells me that if I ever have people visiting and need to get them some Sapporo lodging, just give him a call. He can "make some calls" and get a room for me any time. And not just Sapporo either. [Hint, hint, Mom and Dad.]

It's good to know people with connections.

After we finished up dinner, I said thanks to Higashiyama-san and his friend and headed back to my room.

Set my alarm for 5:20 AM.

Gotta catch a train to get back to work on time.


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