Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Sapporo Yuki Matsuri (Snow Festival)

Well, I'm finally getting around to adding some of the stuff we've been doing. In February we spent a week in Hokkaido (the northern most island of Japan). Unlike the southern portion of the country, this island is not very populated. Our main objective in this trip was to go to the famed snow festival in Sapporo, but we weren't going to pass up some good skiing. We took a train to Sapporo (a portion of it under the Sea of Japan), so we didn't take all our gear...just our boots.
We went skiing two days at two different resorts (Niseko and Kiroro). The powder was awesome! You can see in the picture there that we had plenty of the white stuff. We were staying in Sapporo, so we had to take trains/buses to get to the resorts. The train company (JR) had these passes that included train ticket/ski rentals/lift ticket for very reasonable prices. What was funny was that there were tons of Australians in Niseko. Apparently that's the cool place to go skiing for the Aussie's.
After two days of skiing we spent some time strolling through Sapporo. There was a whole road with ice sculptures and "ice" stores you could wander through. We got to see a lot of guys making them with chainsaws, so that was pretty cool.
Many of you have had the $0.16 Ramen Noodles before...well, Sapporo has some of the most well known ramen in all of Japan. The most popular spot to get it is in this little alley known as Ramen Rokocho. There is not much seating in these places (6-10) a shop, so we were lucky to get a seat. I couldn't really differentiate the ramen here from others we have eaten, but it was a neat experience.

The main thing we came for, though, was the famed snow festival. It started in 1950 when a bunch of high school students built snow structures in Odori Park downtown. The structures gradually became more extravagant with even the military helping to bring snow into town. When the Olympics were hosted by Sopporo in 1972 the festival gained global attention.

Now 2 million people a year come during the festival. Luckily, we reserved our hotel in advance and left before the main crowds got there. The main attractions are the huge snow structures in Odori park. Each one takes 50 dump trucks full of snow to make. There were probably 15-20 of the large ones and many more small structures.
As at every Japanese festival, there were food and drink vendors galore. I'm always excited to get my chicken on a stick (not to be confused with chicken skin on a stick) and Amy likes her crepes.
You're probably thinking it was pretty cold there...well, you are correct. We basically walked through town with our snow boots, toboggans, and gloves...I think Amy even wore her thermal underwear.
It probably didn't help that we went to see them at night...I can't remember why we did it, but they looked really cool lit up.

The next day we made our way to the outskirts of town for another section of the snow festival. This area had a huge ice slide, snow maze, snow fort, and our favorite...a snow man construction site. You got your bowls, eyes, mouth, card and string and went to town. Amy shows you how to make the perfect miniature snowman.

We had to add a little Texas touch to it, so we made our little man a cowboy hat. The Japanese people loved him, taking pictures of him like he was a celebrity. After parading him around the little area, we put him in with the rest of his snowmen friends.
If you've never seen an army of snowmen, here's your chance. I had trouble sleeping that night thinking of them invading our hotel.
There is another thing that Sapporo is famous for...their beer. While in Rome...We went to the Sapporo Beer Museum and Brewery. Although no actual brewing is done in the city anymore, they still had plenty of it on hand for you to try.
After our long day of snowman construction and walking in the cold, we enjoyed a frosty beverage and an assortment of food in their beer hall. As the following video shows you, it's' not a good idea to drink and try an ice slide....


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Love the Texas snowmen! :)
- Neely

Tuesday, 14 October, 2008  

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