Life at Sun

The Hokkaido Sun Guest House was right in my neighbourhood, situated between my apartment and the closest supermarket. The fact I couldn't find it was therefore perturbing.  


That morning had seen me sprawling in my empty apartment before the gas man and apartment manager visited. The first was there to take a final metre reading for the property, while the apartment manager would make a note of any damage to the rooms before collecting my keys. It was the end of my time as a Sapporo resident.  

I paid off the gas man (with an amount coincident with the final metre reading) and then waited while my final visitor walked slowing through the apartment. There were only two issues of which I was aware: the plasterwork damaged by the moving company[*] and the closet door, which had stopped sliding shut a month previously. Investigation of the latter had revealed the rubber wheel that rolled inside the top metal runner had disappeared, leaving the door to grind metal-on-metal as it attempted to slide closed. I'd jammed the door open and ignored the problem, thinking there was little point in reporting the issue a month before my move-out date. Now, I was about to come clean.

"Ah... that's..." I began as the apartment manager entered the bedroom and reached for the closet handle. 

The door glided shut. No screech of scratched metal, no doors falling on top of the manager. Just one smoothly operating closet and zero crushed cadavers.

I turned my comment into a sudden cough.

As the manager moved onto the bathroom, I approached the closet. The door seemed to be in perfect working order. Did rubber wheels regrow? Had someone tried to burgle my apartment but been so offended by the broken closet they'd mended it instead of stealing the TV? Perhaps the movers had found the discarded wheel and snapped it back into place? This last seemed the most likely. I started to feel more favourably towards to the dented wall. 

The apartment manager had finished his check. He declared the apartment clean and asked for the keys. I did point out the damaged plaster, but he shrugged it away. Since the dent was not insignificant, he perhaps already knew about the issue. Either that, or he was particularly impressed by the pristine folder of instruction leaflets for the apartment's boiler, air conditioner, gas, electricity and water supplies I'd returned to him at the start of his inspection. Anyone would think this thick pile of Japanese information had never been read during the last five years. 

Then it was was over. Keys exchanged and the apartment was no longer my home.

It was emotional. And sad. Particularly when I later couldn't find my bed for the night. After circling the block several times, I ducked up a small alley between two apartment buildings. There at the end of this completely hidden passage was a flashing neon sign pointing to the Sun Guest House. 


Unlike the other hostels and capsule hotels I had stayed in, the Hokkaido Sun Guest House was more like a regular Japanese home. The ground floor had a kitchen and sitting area, while upstairs were two dormitory rooms; one with bunk beds and one with futons. The bunk beds had been enclosed with plywood boards to give them a more private, capsule-like feel. It worked fairly well, but you had little protection from the bunk above (or below) your own. I discovered this the unfortunate way, when my bunk was flooded with light at 2am by the occupant above turning on her reading lamp.

The bathroom area had two toilets and two showers. I didn't have to wait for either, although the small hostel was not at full capacity. Being more house-like with rooms in close proximity, there were rules restricting shower usage between 7 am - 11 pm at night. This had the potential to be irritating, since Sapporo downtown was a quite a distance from this location. However, I was happy to turn in early: I had a train to catch.

The only sensible way to travel from Sapporo to Tokyo is via a swift 90 minute flight. I was completely ignoring this in favour for the 8+ hour train journey. This was because Japanese domestic flights do not allow pets in the cabin, but only transports them in the hold. My cat had endured this five years previously when we arrived in Sapporo and I had never gotten the stink of sweat and urine out of her carrier. I took the hint and bought a train ticket. 


The hostel offered a free breakfast, but not until 7 am. I'd made my apologises the night before and the lady who ran the guest house had kindly given me a cookie for the next day. Just before 6:30 am, I slid out the building and made my way to the station. Enroute, I picked up my cat. She had been staying with our pet sitter and the meow from her carrier told me this day was already off to a rough start. 

It was a premonition of things to come.

At 8am, we passed through the station ticket barriers. The only job left was to collect a 'pet ticket' for the journey before boarding. I stopped at the appropriate counter.

"The trains are all cancelled. The typhoon has knocked 200 trees onto the track."

I was in Sapporo without my apartment, a cat and no more clean underwear[**]. My response undoubtedly taught several new English words to the surrounding crowds. 

[*] Or my gigantic fire breathing cat, depending on whose story you believe. 
[**] After that day. The pair I was wearing were fine. I was irritated but not THAT irritated.