Afternoon in Sapporo – Seeing Snow, part 2

We arrived in Sapporo slightly after 2 pm on the 10th (Thursday, see part 1). When we left the bus terminal it was obvious that people in Sapporo are used to dealing with lots of snow. One side of the stairs was closed, the other covered in rubber mats to make it non-slippery. Trees and bushes throughout the city are protected with grids made from bamboo rods that take part of the snow’s weight. Also streets in Sapporo are quite different from other Japanese cities that I’ve seen (though I have to admit I have not seen very many): They are far more spacious and easy to navigate. The reason for that is that Sapporo was build in a grid of north/south and east west roads, which form a kind of coordinate system. As you can see, street corners are labeled accordingly.

Part of a traffic light in Sapporo, a sign with the position "North 5 West 5" clearly visible.

Sapporo House Youth Hostel, where we were going to stay the next two nights, is just a few minutes of walk away from the station. After dropping our baggage in our room we quickly checked if Internet was available (yes – although we wouldn’t have much time to use it) and then moved out again. We found that the botanical garden was already closed, so we went on to Odori park. Odori (Japanese: 大通, lit. “big street”) is the central east/west axis in Sapporo’s road grid. It is, however, much wider than the normal streets, wide enough to fit a park in the middle of the road. This park is the biggest snow festival site.

I took lots of pictures of the sculptures, so choosing the best ones for this post was quite a challenge. Let’s start with a really cute one!

Snow sculpture: Two smiling children, with the globe between them.

As you can see, they actively try to promote the snow festival via Twitter. The next sculpture is called “Imprints”, contributed by Finland. While well done, it probably wouldn’t have made it into my list if not for the description that went with it (quoted below).

Snow sculpture: Relief and matching cutout

“Whatever we do leave [sic!] imprints. Imprints can be real like our steps in a ground, sound and snow. They can also be invisible like memories in our heart, soul and mind. Some imprints can have an impact through generations, and some just melt away.”

Snow sculpture: A Japanese style building with a stage in front of it.

I don’t remember what this building is, but it’s supposedly famous. The snow sculpture comes with a stage in front of it, where I saw these young ladies practicing their performance later in the evening. I know it was practice because they started without an announcement, said some classical test stuff before singing (いち、に、さん – one, two, three) and some guys were running around placing cables. 😉

Two young women with microphones on a stage made of snow.

The “Snowman Festival” is just funny, complete with many different snowmen, fireworks and a torii in the background, which is nicely illuminated by the setting sun.

Snow sculpture: Many different snowmen, with houses and a firework relief in the background

The owl is from a Hawaiian legend, I really like the detail on this one.

Snow sculpture: An owl with spread wings and a person.

And some kind of palace, with a nice contrast against the night sky thanks to the illumination.

Snow sculpture: a palace style building, illuminated in front of black night sky

From Odori we went to the “new ramen street”, an area famous for it’s ramen shops as you might have guessed. It is not really a street, more a network of underground corridors. The entrance looked kind of like a basement entrance. Good ramen, normal price, but not extraordinary in my opinion – I like this “hidden underground area” stuff, though. After eating we went to the nearby Susukino site, where they have sculptures made of ice rather than snow. Strong snowfall made taking pictures difficult, so I don’t have very many, but I just have to include the following one. Look at the flags! 😉

Ice sculpture: Eagle with two pedestrals, each with a Japanese and German flag

After a while we escaped from the snow to a Starbucks cafe on the second underground level, and from there we used an underground shopping street all the way back to Odori. From Odori back to the Youth Hostel we had to walk above ground, though. Before sleeping we discussed the plans for the next day, but more about that in the next part. I had time to tweet a first image, but that was the last time during the trip I had time for that. There will be photos from Susukino in the morning!

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