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So of all the photos of Sapporo I could show you, I choose not a Sapporo Ramen shop but a beer pub. Well, this is a special one. Until he stopped making the long trek to Kansai, the owner was a fixture at the annual Osaka International Beer Summit (read "beer bash"), and always displayed a huge poster of himself holding a bottle of his own microbrew with the caption "Beers Be Ambitious" - a takeoff on the famous teacher's advice ("Boys, Be Ambitious") that is said to have been the inspiration for Japan's spectacular economic development. He has his beer brewed by Rogue Brewery in Oregon, many from his own recipes - which include soba (buckwheat) beer, chocolate beer, and the classic coffee and imperial stouts. Well worth a visit if you happen to be in Sapporo (despite a whopping 900 yen cover charge).

The next lake on the itinerary was Lake Shikotsu, just west of Hokkaido's main airport (Chitose) and not far from Sapporo. The weather had turned gloriously sunny, and the path up along the lake offered great views. You might bring your own beverages, though; there's very little in the way of habitation or even vending machines, either at the lake itself or along the road up and over the 550-meter pass and down to Sapporo. There’s also a bikepath, but it’s basically a sidewalk that goes along the road.