Sapporo Lilac Festival and Sapporo Ramen Show

Sapporo’s biggest spring event is the ‘Lilac Festival’, which celebrates the lilac as the tree of Sapporo. It began in 1959, and is an outdoor festival where you can enjoy food, music and activities whilst viewing the lilacs. It is also a wonderful opportunity for foreigners to experience Japanese culture through the variety of workshops that are offered.

The main venue of the lilac festival is down ‘Odori Park’, which has around 400 lilac trees. The festival booths and activities run down Odori 5-chome to Odori 7-chome, the area within the park and also at Kawashimo park in Shiroishi-ku.

At 5-chome you can learn how to correctly serve Japanese tea from a professional at a workshop which is running from Wednesday 20th till Friday 22nd, from 10am till 4pm. If you are more interested in the traditional Japanese tea ceremony, you can watch and take part in one during the weekend between 11am and 3:30pm. On the same Saturday and Sunday, you can have your portrait drawn between 11am and 4pm by manga artists, learn the art of origami (Japanese paper folding) at a workshop from 11am to 4pm, or try your hand at “wa-chigiru” (Japanese paper tearing art) in a lesson between 11am and 4pm. There will also be stalls of crafts and antique items on sale.

lilac festival sapporo

There is a stage at 6-chome, where many brass bands from schools, professional musicians and singers will be performing during Thursday 20th and Sunday 24th, and an “international food court” of stalls serving a variety of dishes from overseas, such as Spanish and German. A large cluster of chairs and tables, including those within tents or parasols are also available for you to eat, drink and relax at.

The ‘Wine Garden’, one of the biggest attractions at this festival, is at 7-chome, which gives you a chance to taste a number of different wines from 9 different wineries and farms from around Hokkaido. Do note that a ticket system is used to buy wines;

  1. First buy 500 yen or 800 yen tickets at the “ticket counter”, located next to “cheese corner”.
  2. At the “wine selling corner” (stall), you exchange your ticket with a glass of wine of your choice. With a certain number of wine tickets, you can also buy a bottle of wine.
  3. The glasses are all rented out, therefore you must pay an extra 500 yen along with the purchase of your ticket as deposit, and when you return your glass to the “returning” stall, you get your money back.
  4. As well as the stall selling wine, there is a large number of food stalls here, all with menus that should suit your wines – from cheese, meat and finer foods to more filling dishes like risottos, hamburgers and paella!

Within Odori park, there is also a “lilac photograph corner”, a “stamp rally”, and stalls or shops selling fresh vegetables and farm produce.

The Shiroishi-ku venue is quite a while away from Odori park, and you would need to access it via car or subway. There will be a few activities such as an art and craft workshop and small concert held on the Sunday. Events are also only held for the last 2 days of the festival, although the lilac tree exhibition will be on display until June 14th 2015.

Running right next to the ‘Lilac festival’ down Odori is the ‘Sapporo Ramen Show’ at 8-chome. Ramen, as in Japanese-style noodles in soup, is one of the most well-known and popular dishes in Hokkaido and Sapporo, and at this “Ramen show” noodle shops from around Japan line themselves up against big ramen names of Hokkaido. This year, there are 12 ramen shops participating from Tokyo, Fukuoka, Shiga, Osaka, and from Hokkaido there are shops from Hakodate, Asahikawa, Furano and Sapporo. Entry is free, and it is 800 yen per bowl of ramen. Like with the Wine Garden, buying the ramen also goes by a ticket system, so you must line up and buy a 800 yen worth ticket at the ticket counter first before exchanging it at the ramen shop of your choice.

As there are many activities and workshops running throughout the 2 weeks, it can get very busy. The food stalls, Wine Garden and Ramen Show can get especially busy at the weekends, and even at prime lunch time hours on the weekdays – expect lots of lines and queues for the ticket booths! If you wish to avoid the crowds, it is probably best to buy food in the morning or mid-afternoon, and to not go to the Wine Garden in the evenings. As it is the warmer season in Sapporo it is not too cold to eat and move around outside, however temperatures can still drop from the evenings, so it is still advised to take extra clothing to keep warm.

Location of the main venues:
1) Lilac festival in Odori park: 4 chome till 7 chome
2) Ramen show in Odori park: 8 chome
3) Lilac festival in Kawashimo park: Shiroishi-ku, with buses (no. 22, 23, or 24) running to the park from Shiroishi subway station
Opening Dates:
1) Lilac festival in Odori park: May 20th – May 31st 2015
2) Ramen show in Odori park: 19th – 24th May 2015
3) Lilac festival in Kawashimo park: May 30th – May 31st 2015

Opening times:
1) Lilac festival in Odori park: Most events begin at 10:00am, with the Wine Garden and food stalls running from 11am to 8pm on weekdays, and from 10am to 9pm on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays, although it closes at 7pm on the last Sunday 31st
2) Ramen show in Odori park: 10:00am – 9:00pm (last order at 8:30pm)
3) Lilac festival in Kawashimo park: May 30th – May 31st 2015

Official ‘Lilac Festival’ website in English
Official ‘Lilac Festival’ website in Japanese
Offical ‘Ramen Show’ website in Japanese

Asahikawa Snow Festival

Asahikawa Winter Festival sculpture

Asahikawa, being the second largest city in Hokkaido right after Sapporo, also holds the second largest snow festival. Though not as grand as the Sapporo one, it is still very impressive, and from a personal view of having visited both festivals in the past, Asahikawa seems to have the most skilled sculptures.

Asahikawa Snow Festival ice sculpure

It will be holding its 56th festival this year, running shorter than the Sapporo festival, for 6 days in February. As with Sapporo, it is one of the coldest months in winter, but the temperatures drop even lower in Asahikawa – the lowest temperature being -15°C (5°F) at night! As with all festivals, most of the festival is outside, therefore warm clothing is extremely important. It is advised to wear a wool sweater or pullover, or even ski or snowboarding wear.

Yet the even colder temperatures of Asahikawa add that magical touch to the winter festival, as the sculptures seem to glisten more in the frosty air, and are less likely to melt or fall apart, which can been a problem with snow festivals in warmer areas.

The main area of the festival is the ‘Asahibashi Site’ which is near the Asahibashi Bridge. There, you will find the one main, huge snow sculpture, with this year’s theme being “Protectors from the land of light” featuring the children’s, or perhaps more so adults’ favourite hero, “Ultraman”. Ultraman is a superhero TV series which originally aired in Japan in the mid 1960s, and there has been new versions and remakes ever since, hence loved by young and old. Relating to this theme, there will be a special “project mapping” lights entertainment show on the main stage, called ‘Utraman The Live’, which will be on every evening of the festival from 7pm. Be sure to catch either the opening or final night of the festival, as there will be the added bonus of fireworks.
Throughout the course of the festival schedule, there will be other shows such as music performances, dances, and kids’ entertainment.

As with the other snow festivals, there will be many snow sculptures created by teams as well, which will be judged. Some snow sculptures may even have slides or steps where little ones can play or take pictures.

There is also an area where you can enjoy the snow and winter hands-on, by going on the big ice slide, finding your way around in the snow maze, or taking a ride on a horse-pulled sleigh. You can even put your skills to the test by trying to make some ice sculptures yourself!
Food stalls, like with all outdoor festivals in Hokkaido, will be available, with hot beverages and dishes to help you defrost.

The second area for the Asahikawa Winter Festival is just in front of the station, down the ‘Heiwa Dori’ pedestrian street. A personal recommendation to go there, as the levels of skills of the ice sculptures lined up along there have been spectacular in the past.

Though the sculptures are lit up at night it can get extremely cold in the evenings, so I recommend you go to the main area in the day time, although going to see the ice sculptures in the dark are beautiful, and there are a few restaurants or bars nearby you can escape to!

Asahikawa Snow Festival ice sculpure

Location of main snow sculptures: Asahibashi Site, 10 mins by foot from station, shuttle buses from station also running
Location of ice sculptures: Heiwa Dori pedestrian street, straight in front of the station
Opening Dates: February 6th – 11th
Opening times: 9:00am – 9:00pm (till 8:00pm on 11th)
Official information can be found here.

Sapporo Snow Festival

Sapporo Snow Festival Sculpture

One of the best ways to enjoy the snow of Hokkaido, aside from all the winter sports, is by going to the Snow Festivals. There are many held all over Hokkaido, and Sapporo, being the largest city in the prefecture, holds one of the greatest every year.

2015 will be its 66th time, and it will run for a week during February, one of the coldest months in winter, with the average temperature being -3.1°C (26°F). The majority of the snow festival is outdoors, so be sure to keep warm by wearing a thick coat and gloves, and a hat or hood is recommended in the case of sudden blizzards.

Cold as it may be, the magnificent snow sculptures are sure to take your mind off it. There are around 5 massive snow sculptures across Odori Park, all sponsored by big companies such as local Hokkaido television broadcasters. Each year the sculptures have a different theme, from Disney to Star Wars. They are about 15 metres in height, and use about 500 5-ton truckloads of snow! Most of them are stages where numerous events take place, such as kids shows, music performances and contests. Over the years, a handful of famous Japanese celebrities and musicians have taken part. Not forgetting the actual contest of the smaller snow sculptures, that you will find lined up down Odori by teams from all over Japan, and the world.

Sapporo Snow Festival  Sapporo Snow Festival
As with most events in Odori park, there will the usual stands of food and drink, known in this festival as the ‘Hokkaido Winter Food Park’. This time, the focus will be on Hokkaido cuisine from a variety of areas in the prefecture, including hot dishes such as Hokkaido-born ‘Soup Curry’, the famous ‘Genghis Khan’ (Mongolian mutton barbecue), and ramen noodles.

There are three main areas that make up the Sapporo Snow Festival, one of which is great fun for the kids and families. If you head to ‘Tsudome’, the Community Dome, you can experience snow activities, which is brilliant for tourists who are not used to a winter wonderland. Open every day during the festival from 9 am to 5 pm, people can take a ride on the ‘tube slider’, go snow rafting, try skiing, and more!

For those without families or who prefer a more relaxed way to spend their time, there is the Susukino zone, the main nightlife area of Sapporo. Along the streets will be a display of fabulous ice sculptures, which, as with the snow sculptures, will be judged. There will even be ways for you to experience the fun of ice by physically walking through, sitting on or touching it. In past years there have been ”ice bars” and outdoor stalls, so you can enjoy a drink or two as you view the beautifully illuminated ice pieces.

Sapporo Snow Festival (Susukino)

Both the ice sculptures in ‘Susukino Ice World’ and the snow sculptures in Odori Park are lit up at night. It can get extremely crowded, perhaps the most crowded event of the year in Sapporo, so if you prefer to stay away from the swarms of people and can withstand the colder temperatures, a weekday evening would be best to go.

Location of main snow sculptures: Odori Park, from 1-chome to 12-chome
Location of ice sculptures; Susukino, Ekimae-dori (Station Avenue), from Minami 4 to Minami 6
Opening Dates: February 5th – 11th
Light-up times: 4:30pm – 10pm
Official Snow Festival website in English:
Location of “Tsudomu”: 885-1 Sakaemachi, Higashi Ward, Sapporo

Tomamu Ski Resort

Tomamu ski resort (ski hill)

If you find yourself in Hokkaido because of work, holiday or just the beaming smile of lady luck, chances are at some point you will want to take part in a winter sport or two. This is fortunate, as even though things like efficient bureaucracy, a regular rural rail service and decent cheese are nigh on impossible to find, ski resorts are to be found in a similar abundance to wasps in summertime.

Generally people gravitate towards Niseko owing to the fact that it has an unbelievable quality and quantity of snow which falls reliably every year. After this people find themselves in Furano promising to return next summer to smell the lavender.

The main problem with these two resorts is that despite their general excellence they are just too busy in peak season. So whilst it is not exactly off the beaten track, nor particularly cheap I would like to suggest a less famous, less busy, not quite as good alternative, Tomamu.

The main reasons for choosing Tomamu over say Rusutsu or Kiroro are geography and variety. If you live, or are in south east Hokkaido those premium resorts can be a long way away. It is still a relatively untapped resort. I use the term relatively very liberally, so don’t expect Sherpas and St Bernards but it’s nowhere near the saturation of Niseko. Tomamu is easily accessible as there is a direct highway link to Obihiro and Sapporo from the resort’s door. If you think it might be a bit tricky to find, don’t panic as you can use the two huge, ugly towers which dominate the vista as landmarks. If upon first sight these towers upset you, as well they should, try to think of them as prominent examples of what happens when you give a bad architect too much money.

Tomamu ski resort (towers)

If you are coming from Asahikawa you will need to take route 38 when you get into Furano and follow the signs which are relatively clear by Japanese standards of road sign subterfuge.

In terms of cost it is around the same as most other resorts in Hokkaido with the notable exception of Kamui Links which is an absolute bargain. Prices are set at around the ¥5,000 mark for a one day pass. However if you live in Hokkaido you can sign up on the Tomamu website as a friend of the resort and as long as you have your Gaijin card and your mobile with you when you arrive, you will be able to get in for half price. In addition to this you will receive a coupon for ¥1,000 worth of lunch and a free ticket to the Onsen. If you don’t live in Hokkaido you will get none of those things and have to pay full price, but you can gloat about how much more money you earn on a daily basis thereby negating the problem and putting the world back in balance again.

The courses themselves vary from the ridiculously mundane to the pretty good fun. There’re plenty of slopes for learners and a wide range of lessons available catering for all abilities. The steeper slopes make up a good percentage of the runs but there aren’t any courses that a half decent skier or snowboarder will look at and think of broken bones.
As you look out on the mountain from the gondola station, the right hand side is generally occupied by the guests at the Hoshi resort. This means that you’ll find a lot of ski schools and learners pottering around especially by the lift nearest the hotel. Having said that, on a powder day there is a lot of fun to be had especially if you turn right at the top of the second lift and then drop down off the trail.

If you decide to take the Gondola up there are two options. To the right is a long country lane of a course which if you follow it all the way down is a bit of a Sunday drive, mainly reserved for practicing ground tricks and swerving to avoid injured kids. Don’t let this put you off as if you follow it down a while you can take any number of right turns onto some of the steeper sections. The snow park, which has pretty decent kickers, a good half pipe and some boxes and rails for those with vertigo is on this side as is a large portion of the off piste tracks. If you turn left at the top it starts off, especially for snowboarders, as practice for your skateboarding impressions. Once into the gradient however, it brightens up considerably, as the main run is fairly decent no matter which route you take and there are lots of entry points into somewhat sparser yet still enjoyable off piste runs.

With regards to Tomamu’s approach to off piste riding it is fairly relaxed and has none of the Furano: enter and die! approach. Ostensibly you are required to sign up, for free, on a little register stating that yes indeed you are willing to risk life and limb to weave through the trees and if it doesn’t go according to plan then you are solely to blame. As reward for this they will give you a little bib so you can pretend you are on Ski Sunday and then the world, or in this case two hills, is your oyster. In practice though it’s pretty much anything goes. This is with the pre-requisite that you don’t do anything daft and need to be found and dragged out. If that happens, I imagine it will be a stern telling off, a very hefty medical bill and a metaphoric slap on the wrists.

The highest off piste section is accessed by a lift which is one run over from the gondola, to the right as you ascend. From there you can choose as you wish but remember at about 150 metres down you will cross section the flat tracks so keep an eye out for a collapsed high school couple when you do so.

As stated it’s fairly quiet for a big place. The queue for the gondola never gets to much more than 5-10 minutes and if you keep an odd schedule and take a very early or very late lunch you will find that for a good hour and a half it is pretty much your own private resort, so feel free to indulge yourself in some Russian billionaire fantasy as you curse those who dared track out your tree run. One word of note, the final stretch is planar in the extreme. If coming in from the far right (no UKip jokes) keep your speed up or you’ll be walking to the gondola.

So, there you have it. It’s a relaxed, quiet, fun resort nowhere near perfect but definitely worth the trek and definitely worth at least two days of your ski holiday.

Getting there:
Tomamu is a 1.5 to 2 hour drive from Sapporo and has several daily buses running from Sapporo, Obihiro, Furano and New Chitose Airport. Detailed info can be seen here.

Naka-Tomamu, Shimukappu, Yufutsu, Hokkaido (open Google map)

The German Christmas Markets and White Illumination in Sapporo

Sapporo white illumination

If it is your first time in Japan for the Christmas season, and you are unaware of the newer Japanese customs, you may be amused when you find out that Christmas in Japan is more likened to that of a western Valentine’s Day, or even New Year. Because of this, it can be a little difficult to spend the Christmas season in the way that you are perhaps used to back home.

Sapporo, on the other hand, is a good place to start for a “truer” Christmas. With snow falling by the beginning of December, your dreams of a white Christmas come true, and many areas of the city are lit up with fairy lights and decorations, setting the festive mood.

illumintation3 xmasmarkets3

Sapporo’s main display of Christmas lights are called “White Illumination”, which can be viewed every year in Odori park, located in the heart of the city. Apparently, Sapporo was the city that began the tradition of Christmas lights in 1981, which has now inspired towns all over Hokkaido and Japan. Celebrating its 34th anniversary this year, it has gotten bigger and better each year, and is participating in “Eco Action” by using biofuel to power the lights, which is kinder the environment.
Being one of the main tourist attractions this time of year, it can get a little busy during weekends. There can be queues for special “photo spots” which are recommended places where you should get your picture taken, and a raised platform you can climb up to view the “Crystal River”, so weekday early evenings would be best if these are attractions that interest you.

Location: Odori Park, Sapporo Ekimae Dori (the big street in front of Sapporo Station), Minami 1-jyo Dori (South 1-jyo Street)
Opening Dates: November 21st – December 25th
Light-up times: 4:30pm – 10pm
Official website in English:

Also along Odoroi Park, which is lit up with Christmas lights, the German Christmas Markets can be found.

‘Munich’ in Germany is one of Sapporo’s sister cities, and when the two cities celebrated their 30th anniversary in 2002, the Christmas markets in Odori began.

xmasmarkets1 xmasmarkets5

Even if you are not from Europe or are unaware of German Christmas Markets, if you are used to a Christian or Western Christmas you are bound to feel reminiscent or at home when you visit.
The name explains itself – it is a market of Christmas goods and foods. Here, you can buy decorations, trinkets, presents for friends and eat hot food outside, along with hot drinks such as mulled wine and hot chocolate.
Although focusing on German cuisine such as “bratwurst” sausages, many local Sapporo/Hokkaido restaurants and stores have stalls as well; such as ‘Otaru Beer’ and even a Spanish restaurant! It is also a good place where you can find more traditional foods (e.g., iced Christmas cookies and biscuits) and gifts for Christmas, as there is a stall dedicated to Christmas cards; the giving and receiving of cards still not well known in Japan.
There are also some events held during market opening, as there is a mini stage for choirs, performances and workshops to make crafts in some of the stalls.
It can be incredibly busy during weekends, meaning that if you are not one for crowds it is best to avoid them and choose to go on weekdays.

Location: Odori Park 2-chome
Opening Dates: November 28th – December 24th
Light-up times: 11:00am – 9pm
Official website in English:

An important note to remember for visiting either these events in Odori – wrap up warm! It can get very chilly in the evenings. Have a Merry Christmas in the winter wonderland of Sapporo!

Live music in Sapporo

Live rock music in Sapporo

For those who love live music, Sapporo may initially come off as in need of some serious venues. Sure, places like Sapporo Dome and Zepp Sapporo accommodate the bigger acts motivated enough to jump up to the northern island. But more often than not, the big names stay south and we denizens of the northern capital are left in want of pro-level performances.

This is especially true for fans of rock music, particularly those connoisseurs of the heavier genres. Southern festivals like Summer Sonic and Loudpark attract the gods of thrash, punk and speed metal every year. But going to see Metallica or Lamb of God in concert is particularly expensive for those of us that have to arrange a plane ticket down to Tokyo or Osaka. Typically, the thrifty majority of north island headbangers are left to mine the small clubs of the city for a satisfying mosh.

Fortunately for us, a thriving underground scene exists if you push your ear hard enough to the street. Klub Kounter Action (Tanuki Koji Block 1/ 狸小路1丁目) is the premier venue on the northern punk circuit. Local bands like Chaotix and Antagonista Punk Orchestra are regular acts on the monthly roster, while a steady stream of shredders from Tokyo, Osaka and other southern scenes bring new noise to the stage. When not touring nationally or abroad. Japanese hardcore kings SLANG also make the occasional appearance, much to the delight of resident fans.

Old-school establishments such as Bessie Hall host a variety of different artists, from IDM DJs to reggae rockers, but the last time I was there my eardrums were blown by 5 distinctively talented metal bands. The ringing in my head lasted well into the next day, an auditory omiyage for me to remember the show.

The point being is this: for those interested in distorted music delivered at 180bpm or higher, it doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg to get your dose of drop D adrenaline. Just ask the kids in black leather and blue hair where some good live music is and they should have any number of recommendations. Other good rock venues include, but are not limited to: Sound Crue, Mole, Spiritual Lounge, Vinnie’s Bar, Susukino 810, and, on occasion, the second floor of TK6.

There’s no refuting that Rising Sun is the biggest rock festival in Hokkaido. People wait all year for it and make it a weekend to remember, which is a good and a fine thing. I, however, like the convenience of tailoring show going around my schedule, not the other way around. As such, I keep it local and gritty, where people know the bands and the bands know the people. This is what constitutes a good music scene and Sapporo’s is second to none, if you know where to go.

Venues mentioned in this article:

Sapporo Dome
Toyohira Ward, Hitsujigaoka 1 (Google map)

Zepp Sapporo
Chuo Ward, Minami 9, Nishi 4-4 (Google map)

Klub Counter Action
Chuo Ward, Minami 2, Nishi 1, Kowa Building 2F (Google map)

Bessie Hall
Chuo Ward, Minami 4, Nishi 6, Hare Bare Building B1F (Google map)

Sound Crue
Chuo Ward, Odori, Higasi 2, 15-1-2 (Google map)

Sound Lab Mole
Chuo Ward, Minami 3, Nishi 2, Niko Building B1 (Google map)

Spiritual Lounge
Chuo Ward, Minami 2, Nishi 4-10, Large Country Building B1F (Google map)

Vinnie’s Bar
Chuo Ward, Kita 1, Higashi 12, Olimpia Bowl B1F (Google map)

Susukino 810
Chuo Ward, Minami 8, Nishi 4,-422-51, 8.4 Sound Building B1F (Google map)

Chuo Ward, Minami 2, Nishi 6-5-3 (Google map)

Sapporo’s Odori Park Festivals

Sapporo's Odori Park

Anybody familiar with Sapporo knows that Odori Park is the place for downtown summer action. For those unfamiliar with the city, the park stretches across the center of downtown like a thick belt over the belly of central ward. From the TV Tower to the Sapporo City Archive Building on west 13, it’s a well-loved oasis of greenery among the municipal offices, business buildings and upscale apartments.

February’s internationally renowned snow festival is the greatest cold-weather attraction to the park. Each year the sculptures grow, some becoming works of multimedia engineering when paired with lights and music. Despite the freezing temperatures, thousands throng to view frozen pieces of art.

But as soon as the snow melts, a season of scaffolding, tents and tables unfolds to accommodate the myriad events scheduled to go off. First and foremost is the throbbing song and dance of Yosakoi Soran Festival, held in early June. The greatest concentration of hot-weather revelers occurs at the Odori Beer Garden (held mid July to mid August), Sapporo’s celebratory nod to the sudsy outdoor watering holes of its German sister city. For three weeks, tens of thousands of residents and tourists alike imbibe in the beverages of Japan’s famous breweries.

The beer garden, which dominates the park from the 5th to 10th block, is the quintessential opportunity to enjoy Hokkaido’s short, but action-packed summer. In a demographic ranging from college kids to company seniors and everyone in between, the beer garden attracts guests eager to down cold brew under the hot sun. Although tamer than in previous years, a Bacchanal atmosphere of merriment permeates the air, inciting strangers to toast, exchange phone numbers, and sometimes wander off together.

As temperatures plateau and then begin to wane after Obon, the detritus of the beer garden is quickly swept away to make room for September’s Autumn Festival (mid September to early October). Occupying the same space as the previous event, this function assumes a cooler, more sophisticated air. Wine bottles and whiskey high balls replace beer towers; paper bowls of edamame are passed over for plates of oysters and the crowd takes a decidedly adult slant.

The Odori Autumn Festival is little over two weeks, lasting from September 10th the 28th, however growing attendance numbers suggest extended operations in upcoming years. Prices are reasonable, although unlike the beer garden a choice bottle of wine could run you over $50. Gone are the previous month’s t-shirts, skirts and sandals. Attendees are quick to wrap themselves in the newest fall fashions, wearing colors more in tune with the changing leaves that rustle above them.

Bacchus may be king of the summer, but in the fall Odori Park is Epicurus’s dominion.  Say hello if you see me there next year: I’ll be the tall American with a bottle of red and some grilled Hokkaido venison on his table.