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Mar 04 2013

Last Supper in Sapporo

Asap to Sapporo

Asap to Sapporo

keep cool!

keep cool!

As promised in my last post I`m delivering some photos of Sapporo‘s Yuki Matsuri (Snow Festival). As the 1.9 million inhabited city of Sapporo is comparatively young, constructions of Sapporo village only began in 1866 – whereas settlements in Kyoto or Nara date back to the 6th and 7th century – it can’t attract tourist with none existing historic temples or shrines. In winter 1950 a group of Students crafted sculptures of snow at Ōdōri-Park. This became an annual event and in 1955 Japan Self-Defense Forces joined and since then it evolved to a steadily growing event which was also discovered by the city to attracted tourists. Today Yuki Matsuri is one of the biggest international festivals of it’s kind and attracts 2 million tourists every year.
When getting to Sapporo from Tokyo (this time not via bicycle but by plane) someone at Sapporo Central Station shouts at me: “Simon, Simon!! Is it really you?” Gaku, my host from the 200 km away City Hakodate is also here. I seem to provoke such situations as a similar situation also happened to me twice in Tokyo when I visited the city for just one day both times. Gaku and I agree to meet the next day to explore the festival together.

Sapporo's TV tower

Sapporo’s TV tower

We went out of stone let's use ice

We went out of bricks let’s use ice

There are two big boulevards. One exhibiting ice sculptures (Susukino) the other one coming up with huge snow- and ice buildings (Ōdōri-Park) re-sampling crystal clear castles, historic houses and statues or sculptures made out of snow. Round up by a vast alignment of merchandise-, food-, and souvenir booths.

jump scene

Jump scene! Keep your skies crossed for me!

bottom ice

bottom ice

Yuki Matsuri is both during day time and at night well worth exploring. To get a good overview of all the attractions I recommend exploring the fair grounds during day time. But Sapporo’s night life and especially the colour changing lit snow- and ice buildings are breathtaking. During the whole day there are events going on everywhere in town. A giant ramp with jumps covered with snow is set up on the city’s biggest boulevard where ski- and snowboard artists perform neck breaking jumps. At night the ramp is also used as a projection surface. Bands play in front of a lit ice castle, the front wall of a snow house is being used as a giant screen to project an animated film on it, music students of the Sapporo University take part in a music contest and perform their very own compositions to the light play of an ice castle …
Sapporo is sister city with Munich among others. Despite a huge Maibaum (maypole) which was financed by Sapporo’s sister city, I discovered promotion posters of the Olympic summer games of 1972 which were held in Munich and Sapporo hosted the Olympic winter games the same year. Back then the summer and winter games still took place in the same year. The Olympic committee changed this rule in 1992. Since 1994 the Olympic Summer- and Winter games take turns in a two year term. Sapporo and Munich also have another thing in common: Beer. As Munich is famous for their local brands like Paulaner, Hacker-Pschorr, Augustiener, Hofbräu, Löwenbräu or Spaten, Sappo has Sapporo. Found in 1876 by Seibei Nakagawa, a master brewer trained at Tivoli-Brauerei in Berlin.

Wow! What a cool car! lazy eyes

Wow! What a cool car! lazy eyes

Fish eyes

Fish eyes

All the sites of Yuki Matsuri don’t charge an entrance fee. Even the huge slides made of snow are free. However attractions like snow rafting or photo shoots charge a fee of course.

The best place to warm up after such cold days is either to go to an Onsen (hot spring spa which can be found nearly everywhere around Japan) or to have a tasty yaki niku (Korean barbecue). For those who can’t imagine how it works I posted some pics too.

Yaki Niku restaurant

Yaki Niku restaurant

I head to Furano – Hokkaido’s largest winter sports area where you won’t find a single snow canon! The snow is amazing! The area offers a huge variety of slopes. Decent powder-, perfectly prepared-, tricky bumpy-slopes, narrow picturesque forest tracks, and also wide and easy slopes – epic! Still compared to French, Swiss, Austrian or Italian standards the size of the whole skiing area is tiny. However I’d say it’s one skiing area with the best snow I’ve ever had in my life so far. (Probably) due to demographic development in Japan there are no long queues/lines at the lifts. Only on Sundays you might have to wait for five to maximum ten minutes at certain lifts. This situation is transferable to almost every skiing area in Japan. No matter if it’s the ski resorts around Nagano or in Niseko or Furano.

Fantastic Furano

Fantastic Furano

Even in the warmer time of the year Furano is well worth a visit. There is a thriving flower- and plant growing economy in this region. Furano is especially know for it’s vast lavender fields hence the souvenir shops offer a large range of lavender products. Starting with pure dried lavender herbs over lavender soaps, shampoos, lotions, etc. Another famous Hokkaido brand is Royce’ chocolate. Even Furano offers a shop with chocolate of the luxury brand. Expensive but tasty. Give it a try.

Chocolate Museum Sapporo

Beer Museum Sapporo

Furano forest

Furano forest

Special thanks to: Heide Engelstädter, Kyle Steward (text revision), Hubertus Neidhart from Webspace Provider Network for excellent web page hosting services; Lilith Pendzich

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