To touch and feel snow and see snow flakes fall from the sky are dreams of mine. For someone who lived in a tropical country all her life, the thought of experiencing winter and wondering how cold a negative degree Celsius truly is, filled me with excitement the moment I received my Japan visa and my trip to Japan confirmed. And more specially so because I took the trip in time to witness the 65th Sapporo Snow Festival, one of the best winter festivals in the world.
We went to Sapporo on 4 February 2014 and stayed there for three days. With meticulous planning decided by combinations of our train passes, we took a plane from Kobe Airport via Skymark. The Snow Festival was held on 5-11 February 2014. Sapporo is the capital of Hokkaido, the northernmost island of the four main islands of Japan.
We stayed most of the time in Odori Park, the main festival site. The other two sites are Tsudome and Susukino. Our hotel is in Susukino so we also had a glimpse of what’s happening there but we didn’t get the chance to go to the Tsudome site.
The highlight of the festival are the giant snow sculptures most of which represent a known landmark or character. For this year, my favourites are Winter Sports, the sculptures representing the tomb of Itimad-ud-Daulah in India, and the replica of the iconic Sultan Abdul Samad Building in Malaysia.
Amidst these giant sculptures are small ones, which are mostly Japanese cartoon characters. Easily recognizable are Lupin, Hello Kitty, Momotaro, Pikachu, and Totoro.
The festival is also a great way to sample Hokkaido seafood. There are food stalls in both ends of Odori Park featuring not only Japanese cuisines but also those from all over the world.
There are also activities for adults and kids alike. These include ice skating and bushwalking on ice.
All in all, it was truly a great winter and snow festival experience.