I haven’t been writing on my blog for a few days because I made a short trip to Hokkaido, the northern island of Japan. Every year in February the Sapporo Snow Festival takes place. Ticket prices go up and all hotels get fully booked and I’ve been wanting to see what the festival was all about for quite a few years, but never was in Japan in February before.
If you want to book an affordable hotel room you have to book early, especially if you want to visit the snow festival during the weekend. Because I didn’t feel like paying the 6000 euro that Booking.com was offering me their last room on Saturday for, I decided to skip two days of school. I flew to Sapporo on Sunday and returned back to Tokyo on Tuesday. Although I thought my trip was a bit short, I did have enough time to visit all sites of the festival.
Odori Park is the main site of the snow festival. There were a lot of small snow sculptures and a few impressively large ones. There also was a snow ramp where snowboarders and skiers showed off their skills. The best time to view the Odori Park site is definitly at night, when the sculptures get illuminated by colorfull light shows. There are food stands everywhere selling delicious snacks.
The second festival site is near Susukino station, a few minutes walk South of Odori Park. In this area a bunch of impressive ice sculptures were on display. Just like Odori Park, this site is best viewed at night, when sculptures are illuminated and the small stage features music performances.
The third festival site is the Tsudome site, which you can reach by a shuttle bus from Sapporo station. Outside were a few small snow sculptures, a few activities for kids (including a sandpit, but with snow, where kids are building snow castles) and a huge snow slide. Most activities, including the snow slide, were free. Inside the dome were some shops selling souvenirs, foodstands and a huge Pikachu.
Besides visiting the official festival sites, I also did some Sapporo sightseeing; visiting the fish market, riding the old tram, enjoying the beautiful sight of the snow and eating ramen (the best I ever had so far) at the famous Sapporo ramen alley. Below are also a few pictures of the park near the hotel I was staying, which was lit up by hundreds of tealights at night.
I also took some time to visit Otaru, a small town a 30 minutes train ride from Sapporo, recommended by one of my classmates. The train ride along the Hokkaido coast already made it worth the trip. Otaru is a lovely town that helds it’s own small snow festival, with a few small snow sculptures. The two main festival sites are lit up by tealights at night, but many shops also display small sculptures and tealights in front of the shop, so at night the town becomes a beautifully illuminated sight. Because when visiting Hokkaido you have to eat seafood, I orderd some fish in Otaru (I did kindly reject the huge squid recommended by the restaurant’s owner, though).
I really enjoyed my short trip and the snow festival is a beautiful sight, especially at night. I don’t think it is worth the flight all the way from Europe, because apart from the snow festival February is probably the least interesting month to travel to Japan. But if you are already in Japan for another reason, I definitely reccomend you make some time to visit Sapporo during the snow festival.