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Life in a Cold Climate   

It's been ten months since I moved to Sapporo. The weather in Hokkaido was unfamiliar to me. I came to Sapporo from the Philippines, where the weather is predictable and the sun shines almost throughout the year.
When I arrived in Sapporo, people frequently said, "You poor thing, it is your first winter? Oh my God, you need to get good boots and a jacket." So many people said this, I was petrified of winter. The more people warned me, "Winter is coming, what are you going to do?" the more nervous I became. It was as if a monster was coming, one which I had never heard of or seen.

Ten months ago, if someone asked me how I would describe snow, I would have most definitely said “a carpet of glistening sparkles.” Ten months later, I beg to differ on that view. Don’t mistake me; I still like the snow, and when it snows, I just couldn't help to look up to watch the gentle snowflakes falling from the sky. Beautiful.

First snow fall -- one November morning, when I tried to open the door, something was blocking it, when I pushed harder I couldn't believe what I saw. Mother Earth had been covered with a big white blanket. I touched it and tried to smell it. It looked like white sugar, but the snow was much more lively and charming, it was gentle and delicate. It was love at first sight and there was nothing to be afraid of. At least for a few days.

I learned that winter can be hazardous, (and even deadly,) because of the extreme cold, severe winter storms and challenging driving conditions. As a newcomer, knowing what to realistically expect, and how to prepare yourself for winter is essential.

I am grateful that I listened to people who warned me about winter. Bought myself a good pair of snow boots, a set of warm clothing – thermal lined gloves and hat, down coat, scarf, a sleeping bag and a couple of heavy blankets.

Winter living takes some time getting use to. I know it might take me a while to adjust to the snow, ice and cold temperatures; but I know it can be done and makes for an interesting journey!

Shiela (Philippines)

# by chitchatcafe | 2018-02-09 09:06 | カフェ 英会話 札幌

Food is my friend   

Hello everyone, I hope you are having a wonderful day.

I am the newest staff at Chit Chat Café, and this is the first blog I write. It is really hard to really come up with a fresh new idea, and write about it in a way that will be entertaining for you guys. So, I thought that I might want to talk about something I get asked a lot in Japan: what are my favorite Japanese dishes. More precisely, I will talk to you about two restaurants in Sapporo that I really like. Let’s go for a small culinary adventure!

As a Hokkaido University student, I hang out a lot around campus and I barely go anywhere else in my free time. There are two reasons for that. First one is that I am really lazy, so I do everything to stay close to university and my apartment. I that way I don’t have to walk for too long going back home in Sapporo’s freezing winter nights. Second one is money. It is well known that university students are not the richest people on earth, and actually eating for cheap fills my heart with a lot of satisfaction (and especially when the food is good ahah).

The first place I go to on a regular basis is a Café called Jikan (時館), located just next to the 18-jo gate of campus. There are a lot of students there and it opens until midnight. I find it really nice to study there when I don’t want to study in my room. They do amazing burgers, that are really cheap. The one that I prefer is the Zangi Burger. I often take a glass of Coke and fries with it. But I can’t talk about Jikan without telling you about their amazing pancakes. I had never seen, my entire life, such fluffy and delicious-looking pancakes. Last time I tried them, I tried the coconut sauce, but in the end, I think that my favorite is the caramel sauce.

The second place I really like to go to is a place called Manbuu. It Is near the 15-jo gate of campus. I first went there with a circle of the university, and what a surprise when I realized that there was a ALL YOU CAN EAT KARAAGE menu. I did not try the karaage menu the first time, but I quickly came back to try it. A second time, third time, forth time, fifth time… The restaurant instantly became one of the places I loved to go to for a good dinner with a friend. The Chicken Katsu menu is really good, I can’t wait to go back there.

The good thing with those two restaurants? They’re only 30 minutes away from my place by foot. I can’t wait to be able to ride my bike to go there when the snow will be gone (will that even happen one day? It doesn’t feel like it ahah). I think it is a good thing to have some places to feel good when you’re so far away from home. Homesickness is a really tough feeling, but I am sure that whenever it gets me, a bit of Karaage and some fluffy steamy pancakes will get me back on tracks right away!

What about you? Do you have a favorite restaurant or a place to feel good when things get tough? Let’s talk about it next time we see each other!

Have a nice day,

Sofiane (France)

# by chitchatcafe | 2018-02-08 15:02 | マンツーマン 英会話 札幌

Of All The Things… What Japanese Winter Looks Like   

Greetings to you all who read the Chit ChatCafe blogs and visit us! I’m Juliana, and I began working at CCC in summer,2017. I am from Finland, and I came to Japan in September 2016. I have alreadybeen in Japan for a year and a half! Basically this is my second winter here inSapporo, and I have plenty of experience with snow back in Finland, which hasmade my winter time in Sapporo very interesting. I had some expectations aboutthe Japanese before I came here, which I believe are similar to what other foreignershave thought of the Japanese people and the everyday life here. However, as Ihave spent more than a year here, I have realized that not all of myexpectations were met, and there is a surprising gap between how we handleeveryday things in Finland and here in Japan. I will mostly talk about commonthings like the snow and the houses’ heating systems.

Now, first of all, Finland is very coldcompared to Sapporo. On average, we have -20C , or -25C in winter. Some remoteplaces have -30C of freezing degrees. However, I always enjoyed my winters inFinland, because our houses are built to be very warm. We have three layers inour windows and thick walls with heat insulation, so it’s always +23C indoors.That’s why I was surprised to see in Japan that people have heaters. Why wouldyou need a heater if the house is warm by itself? Well, Japanese houses havevery thin windows and walls, so it gets very cold even indoors. I was verysurprised at this! Winter comes every year, so why not build better housesinstead of buying dangerous gas heaters?Of course there are many kinds of heaters such halogen and kerosene, but itnevertheless made me question the famous Japanese efficiency and thoughtfulness of Japan. Good houses are important, andseasons come every year.

Another thing that surprised me in the winterof 2016-2017 (and still does) is the way Hokkaido handles snow. The very firstproper snow that I experienced here in Sapporo was before Christmas of 2016. Iwas going to my part-time job at the Munchen Christmas Market in Odori, butsuddenly the way to the subway was full of snow. It was already past noon, butthe road apart from the car lane was full of snow, and I ended up falling overa lot. I was very confused. In Finland, that amount of snow would have beentaken out of the road by 08:00 in the morning by the city’s own snow plowers.But there it was, all the snow in Sapporo. Only a small, narrow path forpedestrians to walk on, and sprain their ankles in the bumpy snow. Even if mostof the snow is taken from the road, it still leaves ice behind, and walkinggets slippery. In Finland we use rocksand to make the roads easier to walk on, and so does Sapporo. However, here inSapporo it is up to every person to sprinkle the sand on the road, it’s not thecity’s responsibility. Most of the time, the amount of sand is nowhere nearenough in Sapporo. I was especially worried for all of the elderly people,grandmothers and grandfathers of Sapporo. It’s very difficult for older peopleto move around in winter, and if they break their bones, they may not be ableto walk.

In Sapporo, it is cold indoors, and walkingaround can be extremely difficult at times. Because of this kind of winter herein Sapporo, I have sometimes missed Finland. However, surprisingly, I like thequality of the snow more here in Sapporo. It’s soft, airy, dry, powdery. It’slike the ultimate winter wonderland. Nowadays in Finland, it’s not guaranteedto snow for Christmas, which is a shame. But here in Sapporo we get snow quiteearly, which feels good in December. A snowy Sapporo looks the best with themountains in clear view. This is what I like about winter in Sapporo.

How do you feel about winter here in Sapporo?

Juliana (Finland)

# by chitchatcafe | 2018-02-03 17:36

Beautiful Lake Toya!   

After living here for a little over two months, I’ve had surprisingly few low points! However, I do remember one week where I started to feel like a bit of a waste of space at work. Working with an entirely Japanese team means I feel quite guilty when they have to speak English around me. As if she could sense my gloominess, my supervisor/role model/all-around-wonder-woman offered to take me on a day trip during the next day off work. Leaving as early as we both could manage (sadly neither of us are blessed with being early birds!) we headed for Lake Toya via Lake Shikotsu. Lake Shikotsu was incredible, and although the weather was a bit bleak it still felt magical. I could hear the theme song of Jurassic Park running through my head! But Lake Toya was definitely the highlight. It was so incredibly serene. I’d never seen anything like it before. I spotted a few people camping out on the beach beside the lake, which made me very happy. Wherever there is natural beauty, there will be some hippies! I then insisted that we climbed one of the active volcanoes – mainly to prove to my supervisor that she’s not too old (you’re never too old!), and we got to see some craters filled with murky blue water. As we climbed, being biologists, we were inspecting some of the fresh animal droppings. Twice we saw huge steaming piles of what I hoped was fresh bear poo, but my supervisor was adamant that no bears would be in that close proximity. (Days later, she came into work and confirmed my suspicions that it was in fact bear poo! Apologies to those who I already told this story. Bears make me very excited.) As we drove off, me and my supervisor were incredibly lucky to see two swans doing their mating dance. They both dipped their heads underwater in synchrony and waggled their bums in the air. It reminded me of Amelia and Abigail, two geese from a very incredible film – the aristocats (if you haven’t seen it, watch it as soon as you get a chance. It is of high importance as many people see this film as possible!). The drive home was long but I generously kept my supervisor company by falling asleep within 10 minutes. Overall, it was a beautiful day out. It’s impossible to be sad in Japan for too long!

Honor (UK)

# by chitchatcafe | 2017-12-09 16:28 | カフェ 英会話 札幌

Otaru Daytrip   

Greetings! Maddy here.

I’ve only recently started working at the Chit Chat Café so this is my very first blog. I spent a lot of time mulling over what to write about, especially since I haven’t been on any fun adventures recently- but then I decided I could write about one of my best memories from this summer 😊

Otaru is the loveliest little oceanside town, and I’ve already been down there about four times… and in August, my boyfriend and I took a daytrip to the Otaru Aquarium! First, we took a JR train straight to Otaru station, and even though there weren’t any seats left, we still got to enjoy the view of the countryside and the sea. Afterwards, we waited for a bus that would take us up the hill to the aquarium. It was a pretty warm day so we grabbed bought some cold & sugary drinks (blue Hawaii hehe) from a nearby vending machine.

Once we arrived, we got our tickets and then went inside to explore. We got to see all kinds of sea creatures, and I especially appreciated the jellyfish, the red octopus, and the tiny conger eels. Also, if you go sometime, don’t forget to check out the balloon lumpfishes (フウセンウオ) because they’re too cute to miss.

Next, we had lunch in the cafeteria and we both bought a sort of omelette curry that was shaped like a turtle :P (it was called カメの太郎くんランチ). Whether you are 5 years old or 30, I think everyone can enjoy a plate of turtle-shaped curry. After finishing up lunch, we went to see what marine animal shows were going on. We saw every one of them- dolphins, penguins, seals – but I have to say that the walruses’ performance could not be beat. The trainers would say “aisatsu!” and they would wave their fins at the audience. And they’d say “hazukashii!” and they cover up their walrus faces like they’re embarrassed—soooo adorable. I wish I had filmed it actually, looking back. Maybe I’ll have to go again.

Continuing on, next door to the aquarium was a mini amusement park which included a ferris wheel! Being on a cutesy date and all, naturally, we had to ride it. From the tip top we took a bunch of photos of the view. It was so beautiful, almost like a backdrop from a Ghibli movie (see below~).

Finally, we decided rather than taking the bus again, we’d ride the ferry back to central Otaru. We barely caught the last boat, and had to run down the port to board in time. This ferry ride was quite relaxing and the heat wasn’t so bad thanks to the sea breeze. We also got a glimpse of one of Japan Coast Guard’s ships which was pretty cool!

We wandered around the streets of Otaru a bit before going home. I always stop by the オルゴール堂 so we went there and tested out some music boxes and stared at creepy antique dolls for a bit. For dinner, we couldn’t really decide on a place in Otaru so we just went home and ate Kimchi Soondubu at Sapporo Station!

Anyway, it was a wonderful day spent with a wonderful person. Next time I go back, I want to see Otaru when it’s covered in snow and the canal is lit up with Christmas lights.


Maddy (USA)

# by chitchatcafe | 2017-11-16 15:34 | 英会話 教師 札幌