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2009 Sapporo Snow Festival (Part III) May 12, 2009

Posted by Dru in Hokkaido, Japan, Travel.
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Author’s Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “2009 Sapporo Snow Festival (Part III)” complete with pictures.  http://wp.me/p2liAm-an

Note:  Any and all descriptions of sculptures and activities are for 2009.  The sculptures are guaranteed to change, and some of the activities may also change.  It’s best to check just prior to going.

10-chome saw a return of large sculptures.  The first was a medium sized zoo.  It featured various animals that could be seen in Asahikawa.  They called it the Snow Festival Zoo, but in reality, it was almost an exact copy of the animals in Asahiyama Zoo.  However, it was a nice sculpture.  The main attraction has to be the Northern Animal Families.  This was sponsored by STV (Sapporo Television).  This sculpture featured three families, the Blakiston’s fish owl; the Steller’s Sea eagle; and the Ito (a type of salmon).  Unfortunately, the bird’s beauty and size overshadowed the fish, and I doubt many people recognized them.  I really enjoyed this sculpture and I feel it was the most beautiful large sculpture of the entire festival.

11-chome and 12-chome could be rolled into one block.  11-chome had an “International Gourmet Corner” and the 36th International Snow Sculpture Contest.  They had 12 entries from 12 countries.  Thailand’s “Garuda and Naga” won the competition with Lithuania’s “GLOVE” coming in second.  I agree with the winner being “Garuda and Naga”, however, I didn’t like “GLOVE”, but it was artistically pleasing compared to the others.  In 12-chome, you will be able to see various different sculptures made by volunteers and locals alike.  They tend to be simple and feature a lot of characters that are well known in Japan.  By the time you reach this area, you will be tired of sculptures and in need of a break.  I would, however, advise against going to this area at night as there aren’t enough lights to truly show these sculptures.

After you finish with Odori Park, Sapporo Dome offers something for everyone.  Outside the dome, you can do various activities such as snow rafting and tube slides.  You can also build your own snowman and make your own skis.  There are a few places to get a good beer and food and various other sculptures.  Inside the dome, you can enjoy the Snow Market, eco advertising, and various other corporate booths promoting various things.  I never made it to this area as it’s focused towards families rather than single adults, so I never even thought about heading to this spot.  If you have children, I would definitely recommend this place as it looks like a lot of fun.

The final place to visit during the Snow Festival is the Susukino Ice Festival.  The ice festival is 6 blocks of small ice sculptures.  The entrance had a sculpture of Hokkaido’s famous clock tower.  From there, you will be greeted by various peacocks, angels, and everything you can think of.  Some notable sculptures were a few bars promoting the different Japanese drinks such as Sapporo Classic (beer), and Suntory Whiskey.  While I never visited this site during the day, I’d highly recommend visiting at night as the sculptures look extremely beautiful under the street lights.

My final impression was that this is definitely a festival to visit.  I think it’s beautiful and very impressive.  Aside from the people and the cold, it’s great to go north and see the beautiful snow.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t do everything that I wanted to do.  That’s the problem with visiting and not living in this beautiful city.  If you do go, try to visit the festival, both in the day and at night.  You will see different sides of this festival.  Unfortunately, after a few hours, you will be sick and tired of all the snow sculptures and everything will start to look the same.  Dress very warm and do as much as you can in the short time you have at the festival.

Information:

Sapporo Snow Festival (English): http://www.snowfes.com/english/place/index.html
Sapporo Snow Festival (Japanese): http://www.snowfes.com/
Sapporo Snow Festival (Wikipedia): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sapporo_Snow_Festival

Note:  Part III of a 3 part series .  (Part I) (Part II)

このblogは英語のblog。もし私の英語は難しい、日本語のquestionは大丈夫。

2009 Sapporo Snow Festival (Part II) May 5, 2009

Posted by Dru in Hokkaido, Japan, Travel.
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Author’s Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “2009 Sapporo Snow Festival (Part II)” complete with pictures:  http://wp.me/p2liAm-al

Note: Any and all descriptions of sculptures and activities are for 2009.  The sculptures are guaranteed to change, and some of the activities may also change.  It’s best to check just prior to going.

5-chome brought a little ice and eco awareness to the festival.  The first part was an Eco Plaza.  This was essentially a place to put windmills and other eco friendly stalls.  It was easy to forget this section as it was there to promote ways to save money and the environment.  If I could understand Japanese a lot more, I would have enjoyed it.  Unfortunately, it was too difficult at the time, and too cold, to really appreciate it.  The main attraction was the Hakodate Bugyo Chousha.  This is the original government building, located in Hakodate, to govern all of Hokkaido.  It was destroyed but it is currently being rebuilt.  It should be opened in 2010.  The park is well known in Hokkaido.  This sculpture was made out of ice, and lit up with various colours at various times to coincide with special shows.  Unfortunately, they turned off the lights as I was about to start taking pictures.  It was beautiful though, and how a large ice sculpture should look like.

6-chome was a place that I could easily forget.  It was the site of the food park.  One block where all they did was sell nice hot food for the hungry festival goers.  I would avoid this block as a lot of the food didn’t look that good, and I was already full from dinner.

7-chome was the first site of the first non-commercial snow sculpture.  They recreated, to scale, Sungnyemun.  It is the main gate that allowed people to enter Seoul.  Having been originally built over 500 years ago, it was a national treasure.  Unfortunately, an arsonist burned the structure down in 2008 and the wooden structure was destroyed.  The stone foundation was still standing, and thus they will be capable of rebuilding this beautiful structure.  Thankfully, the Korean government did an extensive analysis of the structure prior to it being burned down, so they know how to rebuild it.  Unfortunately, we don’t know when it will be rebuilt, but hopefully it will be sooner than later.  While this is a non-commercial sculpture, it was sponsored by HBC (Hokkaido Broadcasting Company), so their name is featured in all advertising, and below the sculpture itself.  In this day and age, it’s hard to get anything done without sponsorship.

8-chome brought another beautiful sculpture.  Hamamatsu castle, located between Tokyo and Osaka, was recreated.  While it isn’t the most beautiful castle, or the most majestic, it is, as any other castle in Japan, historical.  I can’t help but feel it was recreated because they ran out of other famous historical buildings to recreate.  I will admit that it was more beautiful and more detailed than Sungnyemun.  This one was also sponsored, by HTB (Hokkaido Television).  Behind Hamamatsu Castle, they had a mid sized snowboard ramp.  They had small competitions and demonstrations for people to watch snowboarders in action.  I doubt it was very special.  I find watching a half pipe competition to be more exciting.

9-chome saw a large reduction in the size of the sculptures.  A mid sized sculpture of a train and station was the main attraction.  The only problem was that the station was hard to see, and the train was covered in fresh snow.  I’m sure it could have looked better, but unfortunately, it seemed to have been rushed a little.  Thankfully, the rest of this block was comprised of various other sculptures that were no bigger than 2 metres in height.  Unfortunately, with so many people, it was difficult to take any pictures.  I might suggest going before 10am, as the festival officially opens at 10am.

Information:

Sapporo Snow Festival (English): http://www.snowfes.com/english/place/index.html
Sapporo Snow Festival (Japanese): http://www.snowfes.com/
Sapporo Snow Festival (Wikipedia): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sapporo_Snow_Festival

Note:  Part II of a 3 part series .  (Part I) (Part III)

このblogは英語のblog。もし私の英語は難しい、日本語のquestionは大丈夫。

2009 Sapporo Snow Festival (Part I) April 28, 2009

Posted by Dru in Hokkaido, Japan, Travel.
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comments closed

Author’s Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “2009 Sapporo Snow Festival (Part I)” complete with pictures.  http://wp.me/p2liAm-ai

Note: Any and all descriptions of sculptures and activities are for 2009.  The sculptures are guaranteed to change, and some of the activities may also change. It’s best to check just prior to going.
Every year in February, Sapporo holds its biggest festival.  The Snow Festival is by far the most famous and popular festival in Japan, during the winter.  In January, the Japanese Self Defence Force trucks in hundreds of tons of snow that will be used in snow sculptures that range in size of a one metre to the size of a small building.  All of the sculptures are located along all 12 blocks of Odori Park, which is where the main action takes place.  There is a secondary site located at Sapporo Dome.  This site is geared towards families and having fun.  A third unofficial site is located in Susukino.  This is actually the Susukino Ice Festival, and as the name implies, this festival contains nothing but ice sculptures.

The traditional starting point of the Sapporo Snow Festival would be the Sapporo TV Tower located at 1-chome of Odori Park.  Heading up the Sapporo TV Tower is something I would recommend, however, I didn’t go up as it was too busy.  From the observation deck, you’ll be granted with a beautiful view of the entire festival.  If you are in the mood, I’d also recommend a quick pint at the Otaru Beer restaurant located on the ground floor of the TV Tower.  1-chome is also the site of a small skating rink.  It’s reminiscent of Rockefeller Centre in New York, only the surrounding buildings aren’t as tall.  In 2009, they had a sculpture of Tsuyoink, which means strong ink.  It was obviously sponsored by Epson, as it’s their personal mascot.  1-chome is also the location of a small stage where they have a few concerts and lots of information for everyone.  This was one of the most crowded areas as well.

Upon entering 2-chome, I was graced with the sight of some beautiful ice sculptures.  This year, they had various tropical sea animals swimming.  They also had a sculpture to promote the Nippon Ham Fighters; Sapporo’s very own Japanese baseball team.  This section of the festival wasn’t very good.  It was very difficult to see the sculpture properly, and large ice sculptures didn’t come off well when they are as detailed as this one.  The smaller, simpler sculptures worked out better.  In my own opinion, it’s not worth the time and effort as you can’t get close enough to see the actual detail of the sculptures.

3-chome provided another dynamic to the festival.  In 3-chome, the festival had two different sculptures.  The first is a small shrine and maze for good luck.  They had a few special items if you walked the maze.  You could get a picture taken with Hiyokochan, a popular character.  I didn’t know this character at all, but they said they are popular.  The shrine is also a major place for people to pray and to bring some good luck to the festival.  Unfortunately, this attraction was closed when I visited.  The other attraction to see was the TAKA and TOSHI slide.  TAKA and TOSHI are a popular comedy duo in Japan who comes from Hokkaido.  This comedy duo designed this slide.  It was a nice and I wish I could try it, but alas, it was closed when I went.

4-chome had another set of commercialized sculptures.  Unlike 1-chome, these were more tasteful and had an actual meaning.  The first was “~Dreams~”.  This huge sculpture was to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the opening of Tokyo Disneyland.  It featured all of the major Disney characters.  Mickey, Minnie, and even Tinkerbelle were featured.  They also had a plane that had working lights to provide an interesting dynamic to the sculpture.  On the other side of the block was a huge sculpture to promote the possible Tokyo Olympics in 2016.  It featured 3 of Japan’s most recent, and famous, gold medalists from the 2008 Beijing Olympics.  Kousuke Kitajima was the prominent figure.  He won a lot of swimming medals and was pictured in his victory pose after winning gold.  On either side of him were Yukiko Ueno and Masae Ueno.  Yukiko was the pitcher and captain of the Japanese women’s softball team, and Masae was a Judo gold medalist.  Tokyo is currently in the running for the 2016 Olympics.  The other candidates include Chicago, USA; Madrid, Spain; and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  Currently, Tokyo isn’t doing well, but they do have a chance.

Information:

Sapporo Snow Festival (English):  http://www.snowfes.com/english/place/index.html
Sapporo Snow Festival (Japanese):  http://www.snowfes.com/
Sapporo Snow Festival (Wikipedia): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sapporo_Snow_Festival

Note:  Part I of a 3 part series .  (Part II) (Part III)

このblogは英語のblog。もし私の英語は難しい、日本語のquestionは大丈夫。

Sapporo February 17, 2009

Posted by Dru in Hokkaido, Japan, Travel.
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Author’s Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “Sapporo” complete with pictures.  http://wp.me/s2liAm-sapporo

This is Part V of a multi-part series chronicling my motorcycle adventure from Tokyo to Sapporo and back again.

Background:  In 2007, I had finally gotten my Japanese driver’s license and a motorcycle.  I had been an avid motorcycle rider in Canada before I came to Japan, so after 2 years of no riding, I finally bought a motorcycle and decided to go on a big adventure.  I went from Tokyo to Sapporo by motorcycle and ferry.  It was an adventure to say the least.

Leg 5 (Sapporo)

Sapporo is a beautiful city.  It’s the biggest city in Hokkaido, but it doesn’t feel like such a big city.  It’s quite similar to Vancouver.  The streets tend to be wider than average Japanese cities, and the streets are all numbered.  While the numbering is difficult to learn, it should get easier if you spend enough time in Sapporo.  In Sapporo, addresses go by the block number and compass orientation, for example, 2N 3E and so on.  It’s a little confusing at first, and since I only spent about a day in total in Sapporo,  I didn’t get used to it at all. My initial impression would be that Sapporo would be very easy to navigate, but boy was I wrong.  Going from Chitose to Sapporo wasn’t difficult.  It was navigating Sapporo itself and finding my hotel that was a pain.  I found Sapporo station relatively easily, but finding my bearings to get to my hotel itself was difficult.  I ended up finding a convenience store to get directions.  Convenience stores are my second choice for finding directions.  They are everywhere in Japan.  There was one problem.  After getting directions, I got lost again, and asked a cop for directions again when I was close to the hotel.  Once there, I parked my bike and wouldn’t touch it again for a couple days.

Getting to Sapporo is a lot easier if you are taking a train.  The train station is not the centre of the town, but it is a major centre.  Most of the city’s heart is located on the South side of the station.  I took a look at the North, but it looked similar to any other business district of Japan, so I headed south.  The first thing you will see is a nice open space with a few sculptures.  The station itself is quite beautiful.  It is very modern and suits the city’s spirit.  It is a large brown and gray building with a large blue clock in the middle.  There is shopping in every direction from the main entrance.  If you go without enough clothes, there are many shops selling warm clothing.  If you continue to look south, you will see many tree lined streets.  It’s quite beautiful, and it might be even better in the snow.  Heading south, you’ll run into the former Hokkaido Government buildings.  It’s a wonderful park to visit with lots of green trees and a couple large ponds.  I recommend taking a nice walk from Sapporo station and stopping at this site on your way to Odori Park.

By far, the most popular place to visit in Sapporo is Odori Park.  It’s the most famous park in Sapporo.  It is 1.5 km long and spans 13 blocks.  It is also the centre of Sapporo.  On one end is Sapporo TV Tower and on the other end is the Sapporo City Archive Museum.  In the February, the Yuki-matsuri (Snow Festival) is held, and in the summer, several portables are built to create a large beer garden that spans a couple blocks.  The Yuki-matsuri is the most famous event in Sapporo.  I have seen pictures and it is quite beautiful.  I will be heading there in February and will write about it in the future.  I was a little early to attend the beer gardens, but I’m sure it would be a little overpriced, but wonderful.  Each major Japanese beer label was in the process of building the gardens, so having your choice of beer wouldn’t be difficult.  It looked much better than the Tokyo beer gardens because they are all in one place, and it’s easy to choose your favourite one.  There is only one thing to know about Odori Park.  It’s very boring if there is nothing happening, unless you are a kid.  There are a few places where children can play all day and never get tired.
The final area of Sapporo that is of interest is Susukino.  It’s regarded as the Kabukicho of Sapporo, a red light district.  In this regard, it is considered a place to get sex, but in reality, it isn’t that bad.  Like Kabukicho, it’s a reputation that is hard to shake.  Being a “red light district”, it has the most restaurants in Sapporo.  There is a famous ramen street where you can get Sapporo ramen.  There are also many izakayas and countless bars.  If you are looking for someplace to get a good cheap meal, this is the place.  It is also one of the main locations for the Yuki-matsuri.  I can’t really say too much about this place as I didn’t explore too much.  If you do go, be a little more careful as things could be a little dangerous, in terms of Japanese danger.

Sapporo is a wonderful place to visit, and I definitely want to go again and again.  If you can visit Sapporo directly, I do recommend it.  If you are spending a couple weeks in Japan, and can afford the plane ticket, it’s worth it.  If you have a JR Pass, I don’t recommend it because there are no Shinkansen trains that go to Sapporo.  It takes too much time to get there by train at the moment.  Hokkaido itself is quite easy to explore by train, so if you fly to Sapporo and have a JR Hokkaido pass, you can enjoy yourself for a full week or two and still have things to do.

このblogは英語のblog。もし私の英語は難しい、日本語のquestionは大丈夫。

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