Tales of the Traveling Poof: April in Hokkaido! Mt. Moiwa, Asahi Breweries, Fushimi Inari, and Akarenga

This is part of a series on Traveling in Lolita. This trip took place in April of 2019, and will cover Days 1, 3, and 4 of the journey, as the other days were spent in transit or shopping.

April is the month of cherry blossoms in Tokyo, Osaka, and Kyoto, but those prefectures are all part of Honshū, the largest island in Japan. In the northern island of Hokkaido, true spring comes in May, and the climate stays cool all year long. Popular seasons are thus: May (spring), July (lavender blooming season), and February (Sapporo snow festival).

Coming from a tropical (and at the moment, fiercely hot) country, anything below 26°C (78.8°F) is ‘cold’. I had assumed April was cheery spring all across Japan, so you can imagine my shock when the weather forecast showed lows of -1°C (30.2°F) and a typical temperature of 9°C (48.2°F). This was exciting but also problematic because my only winter coat is a pastel-pink cape, which meant that I would have to coordinate an entirely Sweet color palette to go with it.

Challenge accepted.

Day 1

It was a red-eye flight, so I turned my blue Totoro sleep mask into an accessory. Now if I could work a neck pillow into my coordinate somehow, it would be absolutely perfect. This capelet Pau lent me from Axes Femme is also very comfortable for variations in temperature, and the large collar covered up my neck when we went outside and got our first taste of 9°C wind.

Flying in from a hot climate, I wore a poly-cotton OP from Bodyline. While cotton isn’t ideal for wet winter weather, we weren’t expecting fresh snow during the day- and BL stands up to whatever treatment you put it through, so it remains my go-to for potential outdoor adventures. I wore a polka-dot shirt  from Uniqlo’s regular heat-tech line as a blouse; it adjusts relatively well to differences in temperature, and the material is comfortable and absorbent, while staying thin enough to roll up easily.

  • OP – Bodyline l518 with an extra bow from another BL piece
  • shirt – UNIQLO Heat Tech scoop-neck shirt in polka dots (unseen but crucial)
  • fluffy capelet – axes femme
  • knit socks, leg warmers (worn on the arms) – Forever21*/offbrand
  • boots – offbrand. I still recommend platforms as a must for Japan, due to the cobblestones and guide markings for the blind. I’ve had these for years now but they don’t get much use back home because they are lined in fleece. Fleece, seriously…
  • tapestry bag – offbrand, with an ahcahcum muchacha rabbit pochette. I had just this one bag for the entire trip- it worked with all my coordinates!
  • The Totoro eye mask was an impulse purchase while I was buying travel size bottles for toiletries.

* – I don’t recommend these Forever21 socks. They’re thick, but I found a hole in the toe after a day of wear.

Asahi Brewery, Co.

The first stop was Asahi Brewery, Co. It seems strange to have a factory on our itinerary, and a beer factory at that. However Asahi is actually a very tourist-friendly company, offering tours in both Japanese and English. Photography is generally allowed, except for selfie sticks as a safety concern.

The English-speaking guide took us through the process, step-by-step. The ingredients station lets you sample the barley from which the beer is fermented.

The facility was undergoing weekly maintenance that day, but here’s the shocker – the Hokkaido factory produces 1,500 cans per minute, but has a staff of less than a dozen people. That’s because everything is completely automated! Even the boxes are folded into place by a machine.

Another tidbit I picked up is that the cans for beer bear these raised markings on top, differentiating them from juice and soft drinks. There’s quite a bit done to help the blind people who have to live and get around on their own, such as the raised guides on the sidewalks, and the auditory signals from the crossing lights. It’s food for thought, since we don’t have any of these back home.

Asahi is a company that devotes significant resources to recycling and waste management.

This uniform is created from material recycled from those plastic bottles stacked beside the display- ten bottles are enough to make one set! It has a synthetic feel, so maybe it’s not as breathable as cotton, but it also feels very durable and I think it might repel water to some degree.

Japan has had a long-standing habit of waste segregation, and it’s eye-opening how much more use we could get out of our garbage if it were sorted properly instead of being dumped or burned.

Lunch: Tanukikoji

Many cities have one street which is known for shopping. In Sapporo, that street is Tanukikoji (tanuki is the Japanese raccoon dog). The tanuki is a symbol of luck. I didn’t get a lot of pictures here as we only rushed through on our way to the restaurant- but the guide did say that we would be back tomorrow to shop.

And shop we did. Tanukikoji has not one but two branches of the wildly popular Don Quixote discount store, and we did maybe 80% of our shopping there, largely pasalubong (souvenirs for people back home).

Side trip: Fushimi Inari shrine

But wait a minute: isn’t the Fushimi Inari in Kyoto?

Well, yes and no. Fushimi Inari Taisha in Kyoto is the head shrine of the Inari kami. It is a huge complex, and always crowded with tourists no matter what season it is. The climb to the top of the mountain to the smaller shrines is about 4 km and will take you about 2 hours. **

** (This is gleaned from the wiki because we were part of a tour and I don’t have anywhere near the stamina to go on a mountain climb. I drew the line at getting this picture and then wandering around the souvenir stalls, and went back to the bus with a fox keychain)

In comparison, the shrine in Sapporo is much smaller; during the season between winter and true spring, it is also very peaceful and quiet.

It doesn’t look it, but in the shade it was cold. The shrine is high enough in the mountains that there’s still snow here and there; at this point it was cold enough to bring out the earmuffs I made for the trip. If you read my blog around December of last year, at the Winter ILD party I received several pairs of stuffed toys from Tiffany and a collective challenge from the rest of the comm to somehow work them into a coordinate.

Gingerbread earmuffs. The funny thing is when I showed it to our @bowverlord Kristina she said, ‘oh it’s actually much smaller than I thought,’ clearly this is but a tiny step towards the Sweet enlightenment

It’s only April, and I’ve got the gingerbread part of the challenge down. Now the really hard part is somehow working a pair of snowmen into a coordinate. Well, I do have the rest of the year…

Highlight of the Day: Mt. Moiwa

Mt. Moiwa is a small mountain to the southwest of Sapporo, but even a ‘small’ mountain still has snow at this time of the year!

You could walk up to the halfway point and then take the mini cable car to the summit (wow. That sounds like… actual exercise) but a round-trip journey on the ropeway and cable car costs 1700 yen.

Sources: [] []

The cable car offers a lovely view of the city.

Snow blankets the mountain, leaving only the trees exposed. I assume this is part of the fun if you are a hiking enthusiast, but since my boots were largely untested (ain’t nobody been able to work hiking boots into a coordinate) I was perfectly happy with the view from the car.

The ropeway journey to Chufuku Station is quite short. From there you take the Morris cable car to the summit. The summit station also has a planetarium and a theater, but since we were running on a schedule, we went right for the highlight: the snowy outdoors!

The wind is quite strong around the observation deck and the Bell of Happiness. I look grumpy in the picture, but it was just the sun in my face. Next time, I’ll remember to bring my sunglasses

The wind quieted down somewhat, so it was warm enough to take off my coat here.

Some brave souls in our group went as far as lying down in the snow to get the perfect shot- but then they were wearing proper winter gear. Since I was wearing poly-cotton, it was enough of an adventure to (carefully) climb onto the raised bed of snow. One shouldn’t be climbing slopes without proper traction, anyway.

As with all tourist attractions, you exit through the gift shop.

Mt. Moiwa’s mascot is Morris (black bunny), he gave the summit cable car its name! His wife is simply named Morris-mama. There is also a small shrine outside the shop. Afterwards, it’s back to the Ropeway car.

Back in Sapporo: Akarenga

‘Akarenga’ is the nickname given by the locals to the Old Hokkaido Government Building. The name means ‘red bricks’

Akarenga is a nickname shared by several old government buildings. Fukuoka has its own version, for example: [Fukuoka Akarenga|YokoNavi]. Hokkaido’s Akarenga is made up of more than 2.5 million bricks!

Admission is free, but to the casual tourist (and the Insta-hopper) you may spend more time admiring the gardens and its exterior, rather than exploring indoors. One reason is because much of the interior was rebuilt after a major fire in 1911. [Source:JapanVisitor]

It’s too early for the flowers to bloom. Even with the grounds mostly bare, the building is beautiful.

Since it was the tail end of winter, the bonsai were still bundled up for the cold. I found these little enclosures fascinating – it’s like a little house for each tree.

The first thing you see in the entrance hall is the sweeping staircase.

The Akarenga is the 2nd oldest building in Hokkaido. Some of the rooms have been restored and serve as display rooms regarding the territorial dispute between Japan and Russia over the Northern Territories, but one of the untouched rooms suffered water damage.

Dinner and cute goodies

Dinner was yakiniku (which our table did not do too well at, not being used to grilling our own food back home. But our neighbors were mad pro and helped us out). Since Hokkaido’s specialty is milk, ice cream produced in this region is especially tasty!

No matter the season, there’s almost guaranteed to be a collaboration item at one of the convenience stores. Years ago I bought One-Piece jelly bread; this month there was a Rilakkuma collection at 7-Eleven. The duo featured above is a special Rilakkuma wagashi – each character is a different flavor!

Thank you for reading to the end of Day One! A post on Day Three is coming up soon, which I view as the highlight of our trip. In the meantime, here’s a sneak peek!

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