A few weekends ago, a few friends and I made our way up to Hokkaido (北海道) for the annual Sapporo Snow Festival (札幌雪祭り). This trip had been in the works for many months and we were all so excited to get out of Tokyo (東京) for a long weekend and experience 北海道 for the first time.
As we had an early flight the next morning, Hana and Justine came down to my part of town (as I live super close to the airport) and spent Thursday night at my place. It was a great way to kick off our weekend away!
Starting off the trip with a sleepover at my place! Look at these cuties!
I had mentioned the fact that I was going to 北海道 to colleagues and friends and they all had freaked me out thoroughly about how gosh darn cold it was going to be, that I did my very best to prepare for the worst of it. I armed myself with multiple heat-tech layers plus a trusty down jacket and hoped for the best. And thanks to all their advice I was pleasantly surprised about just how mild the weather was (we definitely lucked out with the weather, it was unseasonably warm apparently!).
The first day we arrived, we were giddy with excitement seeing the piles and piles of crisp white snow everywhere. It was a beautiful sunny day and after we made our way into the city and dropped our bags off at the station luggage storage, we headed straight for Odori Park (大道公園）which was one of the sites of the snow festival.
Justine and Hana having a snowball fight/ Emma, Justine and Hana enjoying some festival food!
The sheer size of some of the statues was overwhelming, not to mention the time and effort that it must have taken to construct them. Apparently the large snow and ice sculptures are made by a special unit of the Self Defense Force (自衛隊 – like the Japanese Army).
Just of a few of the statues
And what would any festival in Japan be without some mascots!
In the afternoon we were debating whether to check out one of the other sites of the festival, but as it was getting later on in the day we decided against it and instead made our way to the Sapporo Beer Museum.
We had a lovely linner (lunch and dinner hybrid) and toasted with a crisp cold Sapporo beer to the lovely Emma, as it was her birthday that day!
After checking out the museum and taste testing a variety of beers, we heading back into the city to pick up our bags and head to Airbnb.
We ended the day heading to one of the main parts of Sapporo – Susukino (薄野) for dinner. A specialty dish of Sapporo is ‘soup curry’, unfortunately one of the many foods in Japan that is not vegetarian friendly.
The next day we were up bright and early to head to Teine Ski Resort for some skiing. This was my first time on skis so I was feeling a little (actually quite a bit) apprehensive about it all. But luckily I was so lucky to have Emma show me the ropes, as she was ski instructor in the States.
An understatement of the century would be that I sucked at skiing. I know rationally that because this was my first time I should not have expected it be easy, but I totally did not expect how difficult it was going to be. That being said, after holding everyone up for a good chunk of the day, I finally got the hang of being able to stop and turn without flying down the mountain on by bottom! I am so lucky to have such supportive friends who helped me every step of the way!
We ended a very long and tiring day (the muscle pain set in pretty much immediately, so much so that it hurt to even lift my drink to my mouth at dinner! Haha!) by going to a cute izakaya (居酒屋) for dinner. We were that loud obnoxious group of foreigners, but it was all in good fun – with good friends and good fun. Our waiter was hilarious and joined in our jokes and the blokes at the table next to us tried to initiate conversation with us in English (we actually found out that they were part of the Special Defense Force who helped to build the snow sculptures we had just seen the previous day). It was the perfect way to end a lovely day – and it also was snowing as we left which made it even more magical!
Does it look like we spent most of the day skiing!
Our last day in Sapporo, Hana, Justine and I were feeling a little worse for wear (what with all the physical activity!) so we decided to have a nice chilled out day while Emma, Steph and Marisa decided to head to the nearby town of Otaru for the day.
After a lovely brunch, Hana and I went to check out the other snow festival site in Susukino. As it was the very last day of the festival, the sculptures were not as spectacular as they would have been and it was little sad seeing them fall to pieces and being destroyed by the officials.
Hana and I in front of the ice sculptures as it snowed!
The temperature had started to drop and the snow had also picked up so we decided to find something indoors to do for the rest of our time. Luckily the Hokkaido Museum of Modern Art (北海道立近代美術館) was just a short train ride away so we headed over there.
It really was the perfect way to end our stay in Sapporo, surrounded by beautiful art and looking out at the blanket of snow outside.
It was such a fun filled weekend with great friends, exploring a new city and experiencing so many new things. Certainly a trip to remember.