Sapporo and Otaru
So, as I have said, I had a wonderful time in Sapporo. My first day started when I got up at three in the morning so I could take a bus to Tokyo and catch my plane at Haneda airport. When we got to Sapporo, Mr. Kobayashi had class for several hours with his students before I came to talk to them, so a nice young woman who works at the school was my guide in the city while we waited. She didn't speak English, so I spoke Japanese for those few hours. At first this was pretty easy, but towards the end of the third hour I was beginning to make easy mistakes because I was getting tired and so we checked into my hotel room finally and I was able to take a nap before I gave my talk.
I think the talk I gave about writing actually turned out to be interesting for Mr. Kobayashi's students. I hope so. It was interesting to me because they asked such good questions and were all great people. Mr. Kobayashi started by asking me questions about how I became a writer and what I have written so far, and we then talked about my first novel, and eventually we spoke about what I might expect from a translation, if my work were to be translated. A couple of my short stories have been translated before, but I hadn't really considered this question much until I moved to Japan, and started to study Japanese hard. After studying a language for a long time, I started to translated everything I read or heard in English into Japanese (if I could) And I've noticed how the longer I stay here, my English changes too. I sometimes say things now with a grammar more similar to Japanese, but using English words.
Anyway, it was a fascinating discussion for me. Afterwards the students had a dinner with me at an Italian restaurant. The food was wonderful. And after that, me and Mr. Kobayashi and several students (Fusako-san, Mariko-san, Mayu-san, and Fubuki-san) all went to karaoke and sang. It was so much fun. Those four women were fun karaoke singers too! The people of Sapporo seem to have a different kind of personality compared to here in Ibaraki. They seem more forward, more immediately personal, the women "have ideas" and aren't afraid to speak their minds, or (according to Mr. Kobayashi) divorce their husbands.
The landscape of Hokkaido is beautiful too. It was wide open with mountains shadowing the distance and the Sea of Japan is nearby. The first day I was in Sapporo, the second day we went to Otaru, a seaside port town which is the sister city of Venice. There's a canal there and it was this very romantic little place, dark and wintery. It made me think of a Bronte novel.
If I ever come back to live in Japan, I want to live in Otaru or Sapporo. I used to think I would like to live in Tokyo, but Sapporo reminded me of Ohio (with mountains) and I realized how much I miss the landscape of my childhood. I miss the rolling fields and creeks and woods, the trees changing colors and the wide open feeling of the landscape. Sometimes in Ibaraki, which has some aspects like Ohio too, I can feel a bit closed in, with not enough space. But Sapporo had plenty of space, so I felt really at home there. And it was cold! But I loved it. I hope I can go there again for Yuki Matsuri (the Snow Festival) in February.
If any of the Sapporo people I met are reading this, thank you for the weekend! I hope to come back again soon.