Sapporo Snow Festival

February 20, 2011 - Sapporo, Japan

We flew to Sapporo straight after work on the Saturday evening so that we could have a full day to take in the last day of the Snow Festival.  Our hotel was only about a 10-15 minute walk from the main festival site in Odori-Koen.

We woke up early on Sunday morning determined to get the most out of our day.  We walked to Odori-Koen, past the ice sculptures in Susukino which were pretty and interesting.  One or two of them were particularly entertaining and the ones with fish and huge Hokkaido crabs frozen inside the sculptures were quite bizzare!  We thought the ice-sculptures would probably look better at night than in the day so we decided to come back to Susukino later on when they would be lit up.

Odori-Koen was fairly quiet when we arrived with things just starting to open up for the day.  The park is spread along twelve blocks east to west across the city and it took a good couple of hours to walk the length of the park, stopping to admire the incredible snow sculptures, take pictures, stop for snacks and drinks and enjoy things at a leisurely pace while it wasn't too crowded as we'd been warned it may be later in the day.

The huge sculpture of Beijing's Temple of Heavn had to be the stand-out best for me as it was just so huge and so intricately detailed.  I was stunned by what they could create from snow and how beautiful the sculptures were.

The competition entries were also fantastic and although they didn't rival the scale of some of the main sculptures the level of detail was just amazing.

We headed out to another site by bus around lunchtime.  It was a smaller site without any big sculptures but it did have snow slides and other fun things to do.  Sliding down the bumpy Mister Donut snow slide on a big tyre brought big smiles to our faces and was definitely worth queuing for!!!

The weather started to take a turn for the worse in the afternoon though and dark clouds replaces the blue skies of the morning bringing heavy snow with it and when I say heavy I really mean it!  By the time  we got back to Odori-Koen on the bus we were in near white-out conditions and headed to the nearest cafe for a hot coffee and a couple of donuts.  We hoped the weather might clear up a bit but it showed no sign of stopping so we bought an umbrella and headed out into the snow.

It did lighten breifly and we used this time to go ice-skating as the sun was setting and the lights were being turned on to illuminate the sculptures at night.  I was really looking forward to seeing the sculptures lit up as I was sure they'd be especially spectacular like this.  Unfortunately the snow got really heavy and it was impossible to take photos.  The sculptures were amazing lit up though but the weather stopped us from enjoying it as much as we would've otherwise.

We watched the snowboard jumping competition for a while.  Some of the participants were really young (they ranged from 9 to 40!!!) and it ws fun to watch despite the snow.  We walked up and down the sight, stopping frequently for snacks and drinks to warm us up and discovering a liking for Amazake (a hot, mildly alcoholic drink which tastes like porridge...)

Eventually the weather got the better of us though and we decided to head back to the hotel.  We'd spent a full 12 hours outside and were cold and ready to give up.  On our way back to the hotel the snow got so heavy we had to shelter in a doorway for a while.  We made a run for it to where the ice-sculptures were in Susukino and went to a small soba restaurant where we had a nice hot bowl of soba.

By the time we went back out the festival was over and they'd turned off the lights n the Susukino sculptures which was a shame.  We decided that in this situation the best thing to do was go to karaoke!!!

On the Monday with the festival over we headed out to the Sapporo Beer Museum, where we learnt about the beer making process and the history of Sapporo beer.  It was a nicely done, free museum so it was an enjoyable way to spend the morning.  At the end of the museum there was a bar where you could sample the produce.  We got a three beer tasting set and some snacks and thought about what to do in the afternoon.

Sapporo is famous for "Gengis Khan" style lamb which Ed really wanted to try so we headed for a place we'd seen advertised in  the beer museum and while I had a cheese platter of Hokkaido cheese and a couple of bowls of Hokkaido potatoes, Ed cooked a huge pile of lamb and veg on the grill at our table.  It was a long lunch and by the time we'd finished we had a bit of time to wander round the shops, buy some souvenirs, have a coffee and head back to the station and the airport and then back to Tokyo.

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