The whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land; it is at last to set foot on one’s own country as a foreign land.” – G.K. Chesterton

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Yuki Matsuri (Snow Festival) in Sapporo

Last weekend, we flew north to Sapporo for its famous annual festival known as the Yuki Matsuri (Snow Festival). The main attraction of this event is the snow and ice sculptures, which are displayed at three separate sites in Sapporo, but we were in the city for only one night and had barely enough time to visit the Odori site. There were about a dozen large sculptures on display along the 1.5 kilometer length of the street park, as well as more than one hundred smaller snow and ice sculptures set up for our viewing pleasure. This tradition began 60 years ago by six local high school students, and then joined by Japan Self-Defence Forces whose participation is part of their training program. It is now a fairly large and commercialised event attracting more than 2 million domestic and overseas tourists. Rob and I have been living in Japan for almost 4 years now, and the Yuki Matsuri has always been on our things-to-do-in-Japan list. This trip required some advance planning (flights and hotels were booked more than 2 months prior), and we were amazed at the beautiful sculptures we saw. It was also very cold and snowing a lot, and it took considerable effort walking the 1.5km length in the -10degC temperature, but we pushed on with frequent breaks indoors (it took us more than 2.5 hours but we really needed the breaks).

Of course, we ate a lot of good food on offer at the Odori site, but I couldn't take any good shots of them because my lens fogged up whenever we stepped into somewhere warm to eat. So instead, here is a selection of some of the more notable things we saw.

A snowboard jump slope near the beginning of our walk - got us a little excited about our snowboarding trip the next day:

Large structures included animals from the Northern Zoos of Hokkaido and Disney characters... well as detailed architectural designs of well-known buildings around the world: the Iolani Palace of Honolulu (Hawaii) and the Frauenkirche of Dresden (Germany):

Smaller statues included the late King of Pop (Michael Jackson) and Mr. Fredricksen from the film Up... well as Gundam robots and Japanese temples:

We marvelled at the intricate details of the snow replica of the Royal Palace of Baekje (Korea), and the giant statue characters from Chibi Maruko-chan:

We saw a few people working on their pieces for the 37th International Snow Sculpture Contest, and felt very cold watching them work:

Stay tuned for more on our Hokkaido trip!