In 1972, Sapporo- the largest city in Hokkaido Prefecture- hosted the Winter Olympics (first in Asia) and become known to the world. Since then, the city on Japan’s northernmost island has been drawing travelers annually to its snow and ice festival.
The 63rd Annual Sapporo Snow and Ice Festival will be held from 6-12 February, 2012. Over two million people will be present to see the ornate snow and ice sculptures that line Odori Park and Suskino. For the second time since I’ve been living in Japan, I will also be present in Sapporo to join in Japan’s magically Winter wonderland.
The sculptures are crafted by15 teams of three people from around the world. Each team only has a few days to complete the sculptures and when you look at the photos I took from the 2010 festival, you will surely be amazed at what these teams can make from snow. Frosty would certainly melt his heart out if he could see these designs made from snow.
Considering the fact that you are at a snow and ice festival in a city that once hosted a Winter Olympics, it gets quite cold in Sapporo. Surprisingly, due to the fact that you are clothed properly, along with all the walking, beer and mulewine drinking, grilled scallops eating and fun you are having, you don’t feel the cold after an hour or so. I was having such a great time during my first festival, that I literally forgot how low the temperature was. Aside from dressing for warmth, festival organizers recommend that travelers also use hand and feet warmers called kairo (sold for about 100 yen) and keep tissue paper on hand for runny noses.
Aside from the festival, there are a myriad of other things to experience while you are in Sapporo for the festival. For example, you can:
1. Visit and eat buffet at the Sapporo Beer Factory.
2. Skiing and snowboarding at Sapporo’s wealth of sites including the Olympic Zone.
3. Going to a ski-jump tournament.
4. Blowing off steam by steam at an outdoor onsen.
5. Enjoy one of Japan’s top nightlife districts in Susukino.
On top of the above, one of the must-haves while you are visiting Sapporo is the famous style of miso ramen made here. The best area to get it is Sapporo’s Ramen Alley, known locally as Ramen Yokocho.
Travelers in Sapporo will find plenty of tourist information centers with helpful advice, tips, maps and assistance. Like most every where else in Japan, getting around Sapporo is very easy by train. In fact, the main JR train station/mega shopping mall there is probably the most impressive train station I’ve seen. Click here for hotel accommodation links.
Despite my aversion to cold weather, I am very excited about being in Sapporo for the snow and ice festival. I had a wonderful time two years ago, and now that I am more knowledgeable about Japan and traveling in general, I know I will have an even greater time. If you’ll be visiting at the same time, feel free to drop me a line and we’ll be sure to toast the city together with a Sapporo beer.
For more images, visit the 2010 Sapporo Snow and Ice Festival album on my facebook page.
This blog is part of the J Festa January blog theme, “Winter In Japan.” Be sure to check out some of the other theme submissions.