“I am not a man of words. But I respect the power of words, for that is what transformed me. I understood them, and they changed me.”2016-03-09 14.56.18

As I was sitting in the subway I was wondering what today was going to look like. My classmate and two roommates found a meet up for foreigners in Sapporo. We had decided to go there to meet new people. Once the the P.A. announced we had arrived at Odori Station we got off the subway.

Odori station is one of the biggest stations in the city, second to the main station. What makes Odori so famous are the underground ‘cities’ that are located near it, Aurora Town & Pole Town. Calling them cities is a bit too much. It’s basically various long interconnected corridors that are parallel with the streets above. There’s a huge variety of clothing stores, small ramen places, cafes, little stands with local goods and an avenue dedicated to art.

Halfway through Pole Town we turn to the exit on the west, up to Tanukikoji. The famous shopping arcade, known for the plethora of shops that covers over eight city blocks (approximately 1km). The meet up was somewhere between Nishi-chome 2/3, between the second and third block. It said on the website that it was between a parking building and a ramen place. It took us much longer to find than we expected, but when we did, we had passed it twice already.

Once we found the building we went in. Upon entering we were met by a large staircase. The walls were covered in black paint, with no posters or decorations, which I found particularly odd. This was a tell tale sign of what was to come. At the top of the stair case the host greeted us and we entered the auditorium.

To the left a bar was located with someone serving drinks, however, what kind of drinks they were serving was unknown to me. To the right chairs were arranged in rows facing the podium. On the podium there were a drum set, two guitars, a bass and a keyboard that appeared to be left behind, maybe from the previous event that took place? The persons present were mostly foreigners, which makes sense. Hence the foreigners meet up.

After taking a seat we were asked to make introductions. Saying our name, age and occupation. Once you had spoken the person in front of you asked a question, any question that came to mind. The Q&A session served to briefly introduce the meet-up. We met different people of multiple nationalities. This lasted no more than five minutes. Afterwards we had to make two rows of chairs facing each other, speed dating style. For this part we had to recommend a place we like in Sapporo that we would suggest to someone else.

Things quickly changed for us then. What looked like a simple meet up with other foreigners quickly turned into something else. It was a religious meet up. We had walked right into a Christian group looking for new members.

The conversation about recommendations was interrupted after only two turns. The aula was rearranged, some of the people that were talking walked over to the podium and started tuning the instruments. Then the host appeared and told us that they were a Christian group and that it was now time for ‘mass’. To be honest, it wasn’t a regular mass. It was basically them sinning pop rock with religious lyrics, in both Japanese and English.

As to not seem impolite or rude, we stayed for a while, but after two songs it became too much. I had never felt so out of place in my life. I didn’t expect the day to end up like it did. Luckily, we were told to go to a great curry shop, where my friends and I had the best curry in our lives. We can thank God, literally, for the curry shop recommendation.