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Archive for May, 2009

Sapporo is a very young city. Nevertheless, it spreads over 430 square miles, and is Japan’s third largest city in area and fifth in population. It is the center of politics, commerce and culture for the major northern island of Hokkaido, and it is the hub of communications for all domestic and international travelers to the region.

Hokkaido, which was once called Ezo, was originally inhabited by the indigenous Ainu people, whose footprint can be found on the island in many of the place names. There are indications that Japanese settlers arrived on Hokkaido in the 7th century to trade with the Ainu, but it was not until 1821 that the Tokugawa Shogunate established a trading post on the Ishikari River, near present-day Sapporo.

In 1855, the Shogunate officially annexed the whole of Hokkaido and established government offices at Hakodate, on the south coast of the island. Two years later, two families moved into the Sapporo area and became the first official residents of the region. Soon after, the government changed the name of the island from Ezo to Hokkaido and serious colonization began.

The government established the Kaitakushi, or Development Commission, to plan and develop the island’s resources. They decided to construct a capital for Hokkaido on the Ishikari Plain. Thus began the transformation of Sapporo from a small farming village into the major administrative center of Hokkaido. The Kaitakushi encouraged immigration by subsidizing transportation costs and providing food for settlers who were prepared to assist with defense preparations and development of the region.

The city planners created a green belt to divide the city into northern and southern portions. Today, Odori Park plays a major role in the seasonal events of the city by hosting major events such as the Sapporo Snow Festival, Cherry Blossom Viewing and the Sapporo Summer Festival.

Construction took place at a furious pace. The Kaitakushi office was completed in 1871, with other government buildings, such as the Old Hokkaido Government Building (Akarengo) going up around it in the northern part of the city. Meanwhile, south of Odori Park, the commercial and entertainment districts started to take shape.

Settlers arriving from Honshu were encouraged by the Kaitakushi to introduce Western production technology for capital-intensive farming and to establish lumber mills, breweries and mines. To facilitate the introduction of technology, Sapporo Agricultural College was established in 1876. In the same year, Kaitakushi Brewery, Japan’s first real beer brewery opened in Sapporo. The original Sapporo Brewery building is now home to the famous Sapporo Beer Garden.

In 1880, as the economy developed, based on raw materials and agriculture, Japan’s third railroad was constructed to link Sapporo with Otaru, a major port to the west. Sapporo prospered as the city oversaw the transportation of agricultural produce, such as wheat, potatoes, corn and asparagus, as well as raw materials like timber and coal. Gradually, the city replaced horse-drawn trolley cars with electric streetcars.

The Hokkaido Government was established in 1886, and it quickly set about encouraging private investment in the region. An influx of businessmen from Honshu, followed by immigrants looking for higher paying jobs in the new territories, saw the area’s population rise drastically from 1900 to 1920. Sapporo’s post-war history is one of rapid growth and development as well, bringing the population to over one million by 1970.

Sapporo appeared on the world stage in 1972, when the city hosted the 11th Winter Olympic Games. To accommodate the Games, Sapporo instigated a development program that included construction of its subway system, underground heating for roads, and some of the best winter sports facilities available, including the fabulous Okurayama Ski Jump.

Adding to its reputation as a sporting city, Sapporo was a venue for group games in the 2002 Korea/Japan World Cup. In preparation for this, the city constructed the Sapporo Dome, a multipurpose venue that is one of the most modern stadiums in the country.

Sapporo is unlike any other Japanese city. It has wide streets, parks and green belts, and its sporting facilities are second to none. In such a short time, Sapporo has grown from a trading post to a city that is known throughout the world.

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“Who the hell does that fucking left-winger think she is?” said the prime minister, as he slumped into an armchair. “The trouble with these commies,” he continued, raising his right buttock off the chair to cut loose with a rasping fart,” is that they are all wind and no substance.”

“I hope that was only wind,” whispered Takeuchi, the prime minister’s private secretary, to a young colleague. “The last time he followed through with the substance, I had to take his pants to the cleaners.”

The prime minister settled back in his seat. “Who’s ever heard of a prime minister having to apologize for making a little joke?” he growled. “That’s the trouble with people today. No fucking sense of humor. Political correctness is a load of shite! Besides, it’s true. The horse did get an erection as she walked past. Millions of people saw it on television. And the horse had to be withdrawn from the race.”

“That the horse was withdrawn from the race,” said Takeuchi, “is beyond dispute, Prime Minister, but I don’t recall noticing that it had an erection.”

“I noticed it,” snapped the prime minister.

“Unfortunately, the video recording does not show the horse in a state of arousal,” responded Takeuchi.

“Videos can be doctored,” snarled the prime minister, his eyes practically on fire.

“But, Prime Minister,” said Takeuchi, “I was sitting next to you when the race came on TV. In fact, you even told me that you had word from a good source that the horse was going to win the race and that you had placed a bet on it. Besides, the horse was withdrawn from the race before the leader of the opposition walked past. And the official statement from the race track puts the withdrawal down to a leg injury.”

“Bollocks!” screamed the prime minister. “It was that frigging mini skirt that got the horse withdrawn. “Why, even Nancy practically got a hard on when she walked past—and he’s a puff!”

Takeuchi sighed. He knew that it was pointless to argue with the prime minister; so decided to get on with the business. “We have to resolve the situation with the female opposition member of parliament before it gets out of hand.”

“Bullshit!” growled the Prime Minister. “The woman must be an absolute fool if she thinks that she can take legal action against me unless I apologize publicly for making a little joke? He eased himself up and again farted violently. “She’ll have to prove that I said it.”

“But you did say it at the press conference,” said Takeuchi.

“I was speaking off the record, so those bastards had no right to quote me.”

“But, Prime Minister,” said Takeuchi, “I’ve told you many times that if you speak off the record, you should make it very clear in advance. It’s no good saying it after you are quoted in the newspapers.”

“She shouldn’t be in politics if she can’t take a joke,” responded the Prime Minister. “And if she doesn’t like jokes, she shouldn’t have joined a party which is the laughing stock of the whole country. Socialism went out of style with the ridiculous mini skirt she wears—and that was twenty-five years ago.” He let go with another explosive fart.

“In any case, Prime Minister,” said Takeuchi, “I recommend that you be careful about what you say from now on.”

“Balls,” screamed the Prime Minister. “I’m the Prime Minister, so I can say any fucking thing I want to.”

“There is also the comment you made about her breasts. That got on the front pages, too.”

“I only said that they were great, pendulous things, and it’s true. They are huge. I wouldn’t mind if someone said that I had a whopping chopper. In fact, I would be very pleased. Nobody’s ever said it though. I’m not like Setoyama. People say that to him all the time, and they are not kidding. He’s got an incredible dick. Have you seen it?”

Takeuchi, who was a bureaucrat not a politician, did not answer, instead he changed the subject.

“I hate to bring this up, Prime Minister, but the opposition have called for a session of the Diet tomorrow to discuss the Jusen business. I think we should have a cabinet meeting to plan our strategy for this business.

The Prime Minister glared at Takeuchi. “It’s that bloody woman again,” he snarled. “First she accuses me of sexual harassment, then she implies that I’ve been taking bribes.”

“I think you are overreacting, Prime Minister,” said Takeuchi. “She didn’t accuse you of taking bribes, at least not directly.”

“Like hell she didn’t. She said that there were certain member of the Diet guilty of taking kickbacks from big business, especially the construction industry. Then she asked me if I were happy in my new house.  If that is not an underhand accusation, I don’t know what is. Everybody knows that my new house was not a bribe, it was a birthday present from one of my best friends.”

“Who just happens to be the president of one of the largest construction companies in Japan,” said Takeuchi. “And one week after your birthday his company was awarded the contract to build the new government training center.”

“Whose fucking side are you on,” asked the Prime Minister, “mine or hers?”

“Yours, of course, Prime Minister.”

“You didn’t hear me threaten to sue her for her accusations, did you?”

“No, I didn’t,” said Takeuchi. “But I heard you call her a horse-faced lesbian with a dick for a tongue. So did about five hundred others who were present in the Diet this morning.”

“Well, she is a lesbian. Everybody knows that.”

“I understand you logic, Prime Minister, but just because she is forty-eight years old and still single doesn’t mean that she’s a lesbian. Besides, last week you said that she had serviced the entire shadow cabinet after their Christmas party. There seems to be a contradiction there somewhere.”

The Prime Minister farted aggressively. “By the way, have you made reservations for the Yanagi tonight? I’m having a drink with Setoyama and Nancy.”

“Yes,” sighed Takeuchi. “I confirmed the reservation this morning. Would you like me to arrange for your driver to collect you when you are ready to go?” He got no answer, so he turned around. The prime minister was fast asleep.

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