I reached Sapporo the next day in high spirits. After all, I had done everything correctly so far and nothing could go wrong. I got there around 2pm, walked around the block a couple of times (you understand I was just inspecting my area of potential threats right?), and I found Hokkaido University before I found my apartment, hooray!
I blended in – I did look like a vagabond, with a backpack and all. Students are usually poor and I had no problem looking the part – I am considered poor in Japan. I made a beeline for the Students Information Centre and asked where the South entrance of Hokkaido University was. Conveniently it was just around the bend, 5 minutes away and I thank every single atom for that, because Hokkaido University is MASSIVE okay? If I had to walk with 16 kgs (I checked) of stuff on me for 20 more minutes, I would’ve just slept on the road. I graciously thanked the girl who spoke good English and made my way to the South entrance and walked for about 5 minutes. My home for the next 3 days was wedged in between a few other buildings, so I know why I missed it while I was inspecting the area for possible threats (yep, I’m sticking to this explanation).
I’m glad I found this apartment through airbnb.com. It’s really close to the JR Sapporo station, I had shopping and food just a stone’s throw away and I couldn’t wait to explore Hokkaido University – which is famous for its lovely parks, ponds and roads littered with autumn-kissed koyo leaves. The landlady of the apartment who lives in Tokyo, also provided me with a portable wi-fi device, which explains why I was uploading pictures on Instagram and twitter. I dumped my stuff, made some green tea, took some pictures of the cosy place and stepped out to explore Hokkaido University.
It’s considered one of the top research and most prestigious universities in Japan, and the largest in Hokkaido itself. It prides itself on being the one of the most beautiful universities as well, with pretty rivulets, preserved buildings and beautiful pathways that lead to gardens, mini parks, and ponds.
It was around 4pm when I left my apartment. A crisp sun-smitten blue sky greeted me as I entered Hokkaido University, and you could see people walking their dogs, mothers with laughing children and their friends picnicking, couples getting lost hand-in-hand, and huge scary crows. I’m not joking about the crows. They are massive. And they’re everywhere.
I walked along Ginkgo Avenue – one of their tourist attracts (if I were a student here, I’d be totally smug: “yeah yeah, I study here, uh huh, nothing to see, this is my playground people, go home.” Kidding. Anyway, it’s beautiful but I think I came too early during autumn, the leaves were just beginning to turn red, though some over-achieving trees did look fabulous.
I found the Ono Pond while I was wandering in the park.
I also found their museum and went in for a look-see. It’s dim, quiet and has a musty smell about it that truly alludes to how old the university really is. I loved every second I spent inside the museum, though some rooms scared the living daylights out of me.
As you walk into the museum, there’s a section of the museum on the ground level dedicated to the history of the school and its founder. The wall mural reads “Boys, be ambitious”. Famous words of the founding father of the university, Dr William S. Clark.
They also had a pre-historic exhibition going on! I mean dinosaurs and I have a love affair, so lucky me 🙂 Mostly everything was in Japanese, but it’s ok. I was having a trippy time just looking at the exhibits.
I also saw a bust of Inazo Nitobe when I was walking around aimlessly. He’s one of Hokkaido University’s famous graduates. Two of his his most prestigious roles were as an undersecretary General of the League of Nations from 1920 and as a founding director of the International Committee on Intellectual Cooperation (the forerunner of UNESCO). His famous words are engraved on his statue.
After a few hours of exploring, people watching and day dreaming (also pinching myself because it was all still too surreal), I had to say goodbye and find food. I hadn’t had anything to eat, and it was time to pay Daimaru a visit.
This sprawling university needs a few days to explore thoroughly, but I exceeded all expectations of myself by getting lost in the ancient and beautiful place that is a treasure trove of knowledge. If you go to Sapporo, allow yourself a few hours or maybe even half a day to get acquainted with this spectacular place full of wonders, and let it surprise you. I’ll come back to Hokkaido University, that’s for sure.