Well, after all this build up, I’m finally at my Sapporo Snow Festival (Yuki Matsuri) post, so I won’t waste any more time. Lots of photos in this one too! (Well, it’s a lot compared to my usual posts. I actually took SO MANY photos, it was so hard to pick just a few to include in this post.)
This was February 6th, the first day of the 68th Sapporo Snow Festival, which would run for an entire week. Even after wanting to attend this event for so long, I don’t think I really knew what to expect. I mean, I knew there’d be impressive snow sculptures, but, honestly, I knew little else about the festival. But I was so excited, and I was probably on a high the whole day.
At the end of our holiday, when I asked KF what part of the trip was her favourite, her answer was Sapporo, which both surprised me (because she doesn’t like cold weather) and didn’t surprise me (because it was always going to be my favourite).
After a quick breakfast in the hotel room (we just bought food from one of the convenience stores nearby because it’s, well, convenient and economical), we headed off to Odori Park. It’s only a short walk from our hotel, and it was such a pleasant day: I distinctly remember it was about zero degrees Celsius the whole day, and I loved every minute of it!
Odori Park is actually spread across several blocks – about 12, that is (I had to look it up on Google Maps to check). Even knowing this, I’d somehow thought that a few hours would be enough time to get through everything. Good thing we had the entire day set aside for it! Walking directly from our hotel, we first reached the end nearest the Sapporo TV Tower.
There were a few ice sculptures and stalls selling merchandise around here. There were also a lot of school/daycare groups around. Just lots of little kids, some of which were numbered, presumably so they wouldn’t lose anyone. Seems like a good system. A small group, accompanied by a teacher/carer, but led by a rather confident little girl of about 6 or 7 years-old, came and asked us some questions (probably some sort of assignment they had to survey tourists). The little girl spoke quite good English. (I’m including this random memory because it was just hilarious. And I kind of successfully managed to reply in Japanese, albeit not in full sentences.)
There was also a stall selling hot sake, and how could I say no to hot sake at a Japanese snow festival, even if it was 11am? Not that I needed any more of a buzz than what I already had from just being there.
As we progressed along, moving toward the western end of Odori Park, we found more and more food stalls, and basically just ate our way along the park, buying whatever took our fancy. We also found the big snow sculptures. And by “big” I mean “frickin’ massive”. This one (below) was probably my favourite snow stage. It’s Final Fantasy, but I actually didn’t know that until I found the sign explaining what it was.
The Sapporo Snow Festival is apparently also a big international affair, and every year there’s something dedicated to strengthening international friendship. This year, in the HBC Square there was a snow replica of the Arc de Triomphe. According to the accompanying sign, this sculpture, with a height of 17.5m, is about a third of the size of the actual thing. Not bad, hey?
As impressive as all these massive snow sculptures/stages were, I also thoroughly enjoyed looking at all the smaller sculptures (mind you, they were still pretty big). Several blocks of Odori Park were lined with these snow sculptures, including one section dedicated to a sculpting competition with teams from all over the world (even from countries that don’t get snow, like Singapore and Thailand…!)
Since the international competition would run for the duration of the Snow Festival (I believe the judging is held on one of the final days), the teams were still working away at their creations on the day of our visit. It was quite interesting to watch them work, and see how it’s actually done. It’s just a shame we didn’t stay in Sapporo long enough to see the finished products. Next time I go to the Sapporo Snow Festival, I’ll make sure to stay the entire week.
Amongst the non-competition sculptures, there were a lot of sculptures of fictional characters – by which I mostly mean anime/cartoon characters – by which I mostly mean Pokemon. There were more than a couple of Pikachu to be found. But I was happy to recognise some of the non-Pokemon characters, including these from Full Metal Alchemist:
… and, of course, the Cat Bus from My Neighbour Totoro!
I think Totoro is a reasonably well-known anime movie outside of Japan. Pretty sure it was the same Japanese teacher, who told me about the Sapporo Snow Festival, who also let our class watch Totoro. (We did have actual Japanese lessons too…)
Just looking back at all these photos, and thinking about that day, makes me want to go back. And this is just the proverbial tip of the iceberg here – a small fraction of all the photos I took. Not surprisingly, I’ll have to do a separate post for the ice sculptures, and hopefully fit in some things about food in that one too. (We ate so much food!) For now, I’m off to dream about snow. またね!