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Cat-Boys & Lucky Dogs: Tanukikoji & Nijoichiba, Sapporo

札幌市:狸小路・二条市場

overcast 11 °C

BGM: 優しい歌 (Yasashii Uta) by Mr. Children

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One of the first places I really wanted to hit during my stay in Sapporo was this bustling tunnel of hubbub: a 1-km covered shopping arcade spanning 7 streets, cram-packed with vendors, shops, little eateries, pubs and colorful people. As I walked towards the 7-chome entrance (the one closest to my dorm), I couldn't help but think: this is it? It was just an empty section of shuttered up shops, some painted with graffiti. But following the din of people and music in the distance, the further down I walked, the more shops and people I encountered until the crowds were so thick I couldn't walk my normal pace.

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Tanuki Daimyo Shrine

A tanuki, or "raccoon-dog" in English, is a scruffy little canine found in the mountains all across the country. In folklore, they're symbols of fun, partying and decadence, always seen with humongous male "endowments" and a jar of sake in hand. Tanukikoji shopping arcade has its own shrine dedicated to the local merchants' kami (god), a well-hung tanuki. One of the vendors selling round, luscious 6000-yen melons told me that I should pray at the shrine if I wanted to get pregnant. Since that wasn't at the top of my priorities list, I only took a snapshot and followed my nose to a tiny hole-in-the-wall ramen shop. Thick, billowy clouds of steam from the tonkotsu (pork bone) miso soup rose up from massive boiling cauldrons of magic as I balanced myself on a tiny, grease-covered red stool. I ordered the char siu negi ramen (roasted pork with green onions). The flavor was rich, heady and intensely oily. The sharpness of the onions added a pleasant aggression to the smoothness of the soup and egg noodles. Pure decadence in a bowl. (My friend from Tokyo told me that Yamaokaya is a Yokohama-based ramen chain, found all over the country. That's good news for all of you!)

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"Tanuki Guys" -Friendly boys doing their own take on the popular "City Guy" gangara fashion trend out of Shibuya, Tokyo

Meeting all kinds of people at Tanukikoji is half the fun of exploring it. And sometimes, you'll come across something completely random that makes you ask the harder questions -like this sign I saw at the 100-yen Plaza.
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"Don't open the package without buying it, first!"(I swear that's what the sign reads!)

If you walk all the way to the end of the arcade (which I can't recommend more), you'll cross a cement bridge with a small canal running underneath, lined with gracefully swaying weeping willow trees. Just beyond this, across the intersection, is Nijoichiba, the area's famous seafood merchant street. It's not very big, but it's a great place to check out the many types of crab and fish caught locally and imported from Russia. I found the ladies who worked here particularly kind and ended up buying all my souvenirs, here.

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Tanukikoji is easily reached via the Namboku (green) Line, just a 5-minute walk from Odori Subway Station (through the underground arcade and up the escalator). Have fun!

Posted by GenkiLee 03:28 Archived in Japan Tagged crab sapporo tanuki tanukikoki_shopping_arcade nijoichiba yamaokaya_ramen

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