Sapporo Snow Festival

Trip Start Jan 02, 2013
Trip End Mar 17, 2013

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Flag of Japan  , Hokkaido,
Tuesday, February 5, 2013

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I haven't gotten to spend much time online for the last few days so I spent some time in the morning going through my e-mails.  I finally was ready to get moving in the early afternoon.  I first headed to a department store that I had been told had a good luggage department to try and solve my suitcase problem. I didn't see anything I liked so I visited another place I had been told to try.  They had a bag that would probably be OK but I decided to look around a bit more before I bought anything.

Next I headed for the Sapporo Yuki Matsuri, which in the U.S. is generally known as the Sapporo Snow Festival.  It is split into two parts.  The largest stretches for 12 blocks in Odori Park and contains mostly snow sculptures.  The other venue, known as the Susukino Ice Festival, is a few blocks away and has ice sculptures.  I first went to Odori Park and spent several hours wandering the entire 12 blocks. 

I came across a snow sculpture that was incomplete.  At first I thought it was just a group with time-management problems but then I saw that all of the sculptures in that area were incomplete.  As I wandered around I came across a U.S. team who were carving a yeti on a toboggan.  I chatted with them for a while and found out everyone in the section of incomplete sculptures were in a competition.  I also met a couple American guys who where there as part of Uncle Sam's All-American Brass Band, who would be performing throughout the festival.

It's much different from the Harbin Ice and Snow Festival.  One big difference is that it is free and people can just wander over to the park and wander through.  I believe there are a few activities that cost money but, for the most part, it's mosly free except for the vendors, which, unlike Harbin, there are lots of.  Another difference is that it's right downtown so it's easy to get to.  And unlike Harbin, the temperatures are relatively mild.  It was around -5C (23F) this evening, which is a vast improvement over the -26C (-15F) I had to deal with in Harbin.  And the festival only lasts for eight days unlike the several weeks for the Harbin festival.  There are also many more English-speaking people in Sapporo.  I didn't hear it often in Harbin but I've heard it a lot wandering around Sapporo.

The sculptures are much different too.  Most of the snow sculptures are small.  There are a few large snow sculptures but they're all stages used for performances throughout the days and evenings of the festival.  The ice sculptures are also all on a smaller scale here compared to the huge buildings in Harbin.  In general, the amount of fine detail work is much higher here for both the ice and snow sculptures.

One similarity was furries.  I've only seen them one or two at a time here rather than the large groups I saw in Harbin but they're here.  I suspect they've all been costumes emulating cartoon characters.  It seems that nothing can be too cute for the Japanese.

I've noticed a couple differences since the last time I was in Japan about 10 years ago.  In many places outdoors there are enclosures for smokers and many sidewalks have signs saying you are not allowed to smoke while walking.  Also, elevators now all have additional buttons closer to the floor for use by the handicapped both by the doors to call the elevators and inside the elevators.

After several hours of wandering around in the cold I went back to the hotel to warm up for a while and then headed out for dinner.  I wandered over toward the ice sculpture area and found a place nearby for dinner.  After a couple more hours of wandering around in the cold I headed back to the hotel and turned in.

I've noticed many women wandering around in short skirts or shorts generally with boots.  At first I thought it was just the fashion here although it doesn't fit the climate.  Then I found out that the Susukino Ice Festival runs through what Lonely Planet describes as the "club and entertainment district" but which appears to me to be a red-light district.  Now I'm not sure whether it's the fashion, in general, or whether it's just the fashion among women working in the "entertainment" business.  When I thought it was the fashion I intended to ask one of the women if I could take a picture.  Now that I have suspicions about what they do I'm hesitant to ask.
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