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Shakotan Trip   

I have now been in Sapporo for 8 months, and I have just finished my second semester mid terms, and I have to say I’m starting to feel mixed emotions about my stay here. This also means I have only half a semester left here, or 8 weeks, meaning my year abroad is coming to an end.
On one side, I am so happy of my stay here: I have experienced so much since I’ve been in Japan. I travelled around Japan in March and to Taiwan and Korea, I saw all wonderful seasons in Hokkaido, I managed to ski so much more that I could have imagined, and I met the most amazing people here in Sapporo. I now only have 8 weeks left to tick off my bucket list all the last things I want to do before going home.
On the other hand, I feel like I’ve overcome the peek of my stay, and I am ready to go home. Most of my friends from home are now on summer holidays, whereas I’m still in class, and after being here for so long I’m starting to really miss Europe, France and my home and family.

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Anyways, my main purpose for this blog today was to talk about an awesome trip I did with my friends last week: Shakotan peninsula!
We decided to leave early Saturday morning to catch the bus from Sapporo station and head to Yoichi first. After half an hour of fooling around to find the right bus stop, we got on the bus. After around 1 and a half hours, we got to Yoichi which was holding a small festival including street food sellers. I got some delicious yakisoba before getting onto the second bus (my love for japanese food is unconditional). The second bus then took us closer to the actual peninsula. We stopped by a first campground which looked very desert and abandoned: there were no showers, no usable toilets, and it was on a dirty beach. I was ready to go find another campground but my friends looked like they wanted to settle there… I didn’t want to!
2 of my friends then found another camping ground 10min from where we were with shelters, a nice beach and grass to put the tent, toilets, and an abandoned onset opposite the road. We decided to lay down our camp there for the night.
We then moved on to doing all the cliche-camping-fun: we went for a swim in the sea (it was so cold!), we played games on the beach, we played the dancing game ‘limbo’, and we tried making a fire before the rain started pouring. However, with the rainstorm about the burst, we decided to have a barbecue under the shelter with roasted potatoes, aubergines, smores and hot water for our cup noodles. We also made mulled wine on the barbecue which is a mix of wine, whisky, sugar and cinnamon: it was so nice!
The night in the tent was a bit cold but the next day we have brunch over the fire, which was finally successful: croissants, coffee, more marshmallows and a couple sausages. We finished the day by walking around the beach and taking pictures of the peninsula, before we had to get our train back to otaku to head home.
I had such an amazing week end, as it almost felt like holidays only 2 hours away from Sapporo!


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Next time we will try and camp in Furano, in July.
These kind of week ends make me realise I will miss Japan way more than I can imagine.

Katia (France/UK)

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by chitchatcafe | 2017-06-16 18:21 | 英会話 スクール 札幌 | Comments(0)

Life is hard   

My god everyday is so busy right now! I don’t even have the time to sleep properly!

You see, I started a project called Hult Prize, a university wide competition for refugees. With my team, we’ve been doing everything we could do every single day for the past month, researching, contacting several companies about certain subjects, writing, meeting, researching again, fighting about every single thing to make every part of the presentation perfect. And guess what? TURNS OUT SOMEONE ELSE ALREADY DID OUR IDEA!

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Yesterday we were so frustrated about everything, and decided to quit, since we didn’t have a report or a presentation for deadline, which was today. But then our team captain was like “No! We will finish this!” She was so scary, I immediately saluted her saying “Sir yes sir!” out of fear. So from dusk ‘till dawn we’ve been writing reports and speeches today, to prepare for the presentation which, you’ve guessed it, TOMORROW. We basically did everything in a single day for a presentation which other teams had a month to prepare for.

You can’t guess what kind of a “tokitoki” moment I’m having right now. I’M SO NERVOUS! I’ll be speaking in front of an ambassador, President of Hokudai, CEO’s, very very important (and rich) people. And if we get it right, if we win, we get to go to SAN FRANSISCO, US. Not for holiday of course, for the second part of the competition.

So yeah, this is so tiring and making me feel so nervous, but in a way, I guess it’s fun. We’ll see what happens tomorrow, I just hope I don’t embarrass myself in front of everyone!

Also our team’s name, Team Clark. Guess where we got the name from.

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Dee (Turkey)

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by chitchatcafe | 2016-12-08 18:14 | 英会話 スクール 札幌 | Comments(0)

My trip to Asahikawa   

I had always wanted to visit Asahikawa from my first days here, as it is one of the most important centers of Hokkaido after Sapporo. Moreover, it is famous for Ramen and the zoo, two things I love the most in Hokkaido. However, I hadn’t been able to visit the city as I didn’t have friends to go with and much time for a such trip.

But this one day, when I was supposed to take an exam (not very important, fortunately), I got outside and the weather was so nice that I ended up changing my mind suddenly and buying a JR ticket to Asahikawa. (I was supposed to go to Ebetsu, same on JR). I don’t know what made me make this decision but I was so excited about it.
The first thing I did when I arrived in Asahikawa was, of course, trying famous Shoyu Ramen. I looked for a proper place with many reviews on Tabelog and went there. It was a Ramen restaurant called…I don’t really remember, but near the station. (If you want to try Asahikawa ramen, just rage into any of the shops around the station. That’s what people in Asahikawa recommend.) Anyway, it was around 10 in the morning but I wasn’t the only person eating Ramen that early; however, it was the earliest hour I have had Ramen in my life.

The funny thing I found about this place is that they serve the ingredients separately, so you can enjoy them with mayonnaise or something else.
After filling my stomach I was planning to return back to Sapporo, but something told me that I should visit Asahiyama Zoo. Asahiyama Zoo is one of the most popular attractions in Hokkaido and I really wanted to visit it once. So I thought: “This is the day!”

And I decided to try an ice-cream purely made of milk produced in Hokkaido. I also liked the bear-shaped cookie on it.
But, apart from other things, the highlight of the day was the baby Amur tigers. The Amur tigress brought to the zoo from the United Stated had been said to give a birth to two cute baby tigers and they got in the public just a few days before my visit. Thus, I think you can imagine how crowded the cage was with visitors.

Anyway, I had lots of fun and really want to visit Asahikawa again one day but with more planning and preparation.

Dil (Uzbekistan)
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by chitchatcafe | 2016-07-06 17:08 | 英会話 スクール 札幌 | Comments(0)

Summer is finally here   

Hello to everyone,

The long wait is finally over, summer is finally here. Sapporo goes through major transformations from season to season, and perhaps none as great as the transformation into summer. If you look outside at the evergreen trees, you will see at the tips of the branches lighter green fresh growth. It always amazes me how fast some of the plants grow here once the weather has finally warmed up! I grew up in a pine forest, and throughout the spring and summer the smell of pine was something that was always in the air. Now I realize that the familiar sights and smells here may be a big reason why I like Sapporo so much. If you have ever lived in a big city you may already know that we often take things for granted. The sights, sounds, and smells of nature are something that you do not notice that you miss until they are gone.

Speaking of plants and nature, this week is the Sapporo Lilac Festival. I make it a point to visit every event and festival that I can, and this is no exception. There is something about the smell of these flowers that make me remember the simple times. Being a child, in summer, not a care in the world, when my only worries would be who was going to be my teacher starting in the fall. Also at this festival will be a booth which will be selling Mexican tacos. Even if that is not a traditional festival food, it is a favorite of mine, and I am very much looking forward to eating that.

Maybe we will all see each other in the park!

Douglas (USA)

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by chitchatcafe | 2015-05-19 13:30 | 英会話 スクール 札幌 | Comments(0)

Spring time fun times   

Hi everyone,

Hope this finds you all well.
Life continues as always. I’ve been on spring vacation for the last month or so. I haven’t been doing anything overly special with my time.
I went on a short snowboarding trip at the end of March. It was a good time. We rented a camper car and traveled around a little bit. Snowboarding, onsen, and sampling some food from around the area, it was a good experience. A couple of friends came up from Osaka to see the sights and the slopes Hokkaido has to offer, so it was good to see them and show them around.

Right now I’m sitting in my hotel room in Ina city in Nagano prefecture. I’m here for a business trip. The sakura trees are in full bloom and they are all over the place. It’s a really beautiful area. I’d like to come back here when I have some more free time for myself. Maybe next year.

I’m looking forward to Sapporo’s hanami, always a great time for some beers and BBQs.
Hope your all excited about it as well. Until next time everybody, have fun!!

Pat (Australia)

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by chitchatcafe | 2015-04-16 08:52 | 英会話 スクール 札幌 | Comments(0)

Spring mode   

Hey everyone !

Hope you enjoy the nice weather we have these days in Sapporo, spring is here at last !

It reminds me of the first song I learned in Japanese : 春が来た, in English ''spring has come''... I guess in Hokkaido, spring is really a blessing. (No, it's NOT snow as the advertisers claim).

I am looking forward cherry but also, magnolia blossom, my favorite flower.

But, I really dread the avalanche of sakura-taste treats such as donuts, drinks, curry and even hamburger...stop the massacre, just watch the flowers, don't eat it.

And you, what is the most surprising sakura-taste food you ever seen (and dared to try) ?

Lise (France)

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by chitchatcafe | 2014-03-29 14:40 | 英会話 スクール 札幌

Mexico - in pursuit of flamingos   

One of brightest memories of my latest traveling adventures - crossing Central America from Panama up north to Mexico - is how I encountered my first flamingoes.

We were relaxing our bones at the ambient white sand beaches of Holbox island
at the tip of Yukatan peninsula in Mexico. Long and narrow strip of land is surrounded by torquoise waters of Caribbean sea. Holbox is one of the rear places where you can watch whale sharks, as well as mantras, reef sharks and other sea creatures. The island is a tropical paradise, with neither engine cars, nor paved roads, but amazing white sand and palm trees all around, lots of birds, sea shells and friendly locals. And if you can tolerate abundance of mosquitos, you are all set for a perfect hide away vacations or sweet escape into nature.

Walking by the beach one sunny afternoon I met couple of friendly local guides, seeping beer in hammocks, in the shade of a palm tree. Almost everybody in Mexico speaks only Spanish, but by 4th month in Central America I could easily communicate on the surface level of everyday topics. I asked them where I can see flamingoes on the island? So many travel agencies advertise flamingoes watching trips, and I wanted to get more information. And those guys told me that there is no need to buy a birds watching half-day tour if you just want to see flamingoes. All you have to do is to go by the beach and eventually you will reach them. I was really puzzled!

- Really? Just walk towards that side? All the way? 30 min only? They are so close to us, I can't believe it!

- Yes, sure, they are. But you have to start early, that's very important...

My Spanish is not so good, to understand why it was so important. I thought that the birds fly away by the afternoon. Doesn't really matter. I was so surprised, so overwhelmed. For me it sounded like a great adventure, I even felt tingling sensation in my nose, that's how excited I was!
So, I rushed back to my boy-friend to tell him everything that I had just learned. We decided to go and explore the flamingoes area the next morning.

We started early. Rubbed ourselves with lots of antireppelent and sunscreen and went on self guided tour to find flamingoes.

We walked all the way down by the sea shore to a river which we had to cross in it's delta. Even though we met some of the tourist walking the same way by the beach, it looked like nobody reached this point. In my sense of adventures crossing river was fun. The current was rather strong and my boy-friend had to put his backpack on top of his head and I was holding my camera up in the air.

After we successfully crossed the delta we saw a tiny island with an abandoned watching tower. It looked like a forgotten movie decoration, totally out of this world. And then, after walking another 100 meters we finally saw it - schools of flamingoes,
pelicans, herons - great rookery, desolate, with no humans around.
It was so beautiful, pink flamingoes on long and thin legs, so elegant and gracious. After the first minutes of excitement my partner decided to get closer and started walking towards the birds. As soon as the birds noticed his tall figure, the closest to us got scared and flew away.

I thought for a moment and came up with an idea that we should crawl not to shoo them away. And as we crawled on our fours slowly and patiently we managed to get closer to them. The reward was amazing - we could watch the birds in their natural habitat, acting naturally.

We settled down in muddy salty waters about 30 meters away from the rookery to watch the bird's life. I learnt a lot about them right there during our first meeting. I could see how social they were, how argumentative and quarrelsome with each other. It's an amazing experience to watch flamingoes, they are not just beautiful birds, but they have their own, notable behavior. And then they searched for krill dipping their small heads with big beaks in the mud. When the head goes all the way into the mud, so on the surface there is only a neck, that looks pretty unrealistic from human point of view. Then I noticed that a school of young flamingoes stays separately from the adults. With one tutor. Just like kids in the kindergarten... I felt like a real ornithologist.

2 hours had passed like 20 minutes!
In spite of thousands of mosquitoes, attacking us on the way and blasting sun, it was an amazing day, one of the best experiences in Central America.
And the best of all was the sense of achievement, that we found this place by ourselves, that we were active explorers, not passive watchers on a tour, we were our own tour guides and all that makes a great difference! So I wish everybody to do it, to go and meet their first flamingoes in life by finding them themselves.

Anastasia (Russia)
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by chitchatcafe | 2014-03-13 15:18 | 英会話 スクール 札幌

Room for Olympic growth   

So earlier this week, it was announced Tokyo will be the host city for the 2020 Olympics. After seeing speculative reports on the evening news for weeks leading up to the IOC's final decision, I personally wasn't surprised, considering the popular animated film from the 1980s, Akira, predicted the games being held in Tokyo almost thirty years ago. I hope the real festivities don't turn out like the movie!

Many Japanese people are proud, and rightfully so: winning a bid for the Olympics is no simple task. It requires immense planning and investment, not just in the preliminary proposals, but in the ultimate follow-through as well.

Perhaps because of this great expense, I've read that some Japanese people are not so thrilled about Tokyo getting the games; some believe that all of the money required to host such a spectacle should be invested elsewhere in the country, such as the still-recovering Tohoku area and Fukushima, or any of the other places in Japan that do not get the kind of infrastructural attention and development that Tokyo receives. Opponents also argue that economic benefits from the spike in tourism surrounding the games will again only benefit Tokyo, and perhaps other cities should have been proposed.

Since I am not a citizen, I don't have much of an opinion beyond favoring the options that will give the greatest benefit to the whole country, especially starting with places that need attention the most.

Perhaps a bit controversial, perhaps overreaction…what do you think? Stop in to chat with or enlighten me anytime!

Aaron (USA)

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by chitchatcafe | 2013-09-10 14:16 | 英会話 スクール 札幌

Life’s lessons   

As you all know, it has now been ten days since the earthquake and resulting tsunami devastated Sendai and surrounding cities in north-eastern Japan. I sincerely hope all your family and friends are safe and accounted for. Watching the news coverage on the television a few nights ago, I saw how much damage and destruction has been caused, and having been completely safe in Hokkaido, it seemed almost surreal. I began to think about how precious and fleeting life really is. I often feel that as I am young, I have many years ahead of me. However nature doesn’t guarantee that and unforeseen events can change everything in a instant.
This led me to consider all the things that I want to experience in my life, but have been delaying for various reasons. I made a list.

Have you ever seen the movie Bucket List starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman? Just like that. For those of you who haven’t seen the movie, Jack and Morgan play two men, who when confronted with their own mortality decide to experience all the things they always wanted to before they die.
I have decided to start to tackle that list beginning now.

I would like to encourage all of you to go after those things that you have been delaying, or planning to complete “someday” as well. If we can learn one lesson from this natural disaster, let us never take our lives for granted. Stay safe everyone!

Jason (Canada)

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by chitchatcafe | 2011-03-22 14:22 | 英会話 スクール 札幌

Snow Festival 2011   

Sapporo’s annual Snow festival finished yesterday. I wonder how many of Sapporo people, and how many of you have visited it this year.

Even though I have been living in Sapporo 4 years, I haven’t skip it even once, and every year I faithfully visit Odori and take pictures of all snow sculptures. Of course, the first time when I saw huge snow statues in the middle of the town, is the most memorable one for me. I took a hundred of photos, and send them all around the world to my friends. Surely, after that I calmed down a little bit, but still I enjoy this event very much every year!

Actually this year I was a little disappointed to find out that the number of snow sculptures considerably decreased and the number of shops with food and souvenirs greatly increased. Anyway, I hope that this year the Snow festival was as popular as always, because the Odori was really crowded! Best wishes to all organizers and snow sculptors to next Snow Festival 2012!!

Ivona (Czech Republic)

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by chitchatcafe | 2011-02-14 14:31 | 英会話 スクール 札幌