Winter for me is not wintered if it is not very cold. I have chosen to visit one of the coldest places in Japan, Hokkaido. Because in this island north of Japan, which is located on the same latitude as Vladivostock and Siberia, winter, cold, snow and ice have been celebrated for 69 years with the Sapporo Snow Festival, an international festival where the protagonist is the snow. Which always falls very abundantly in this region. Which is pressed, compacted into huge blocks that recall marble in size and color, and then sculpted to reproduce statues, paintings, installations, even buildings.
Sapporo Snow Festival
I had heard about Sapporo Snow Festival several times over the years – generally, some Sapporo celebrating image is always shared on the news. It was a strong desire of mine, which I had cultivated for a long time, to be able to see the Sapporo Snow Festival.
Finally, I did it! Thanks to a fourth trip to Japan, I decided to plan the visit itinerary to enter Hokkaido with a visit to Sapporo’s city on the opening day of the event. I make an aside: reaching Hokkaido is no longer as complicated as it used to be: some planes connect Tokyo and other major Japanese cities with the New Chitose airport, a few tens of kilometers from Sapporo and even by train, it is no longer unthinkable as it once was: once it took a long time to reach Hokkaido from Tokyo, it was an epic journey because in addition to the train you had to take a ferry that from Aomori Prefecture ( Honshu Island ) took you to Hakodate ( Hokkaido Island)) From there, take the train back to Sapporo: at least 12 hours of travel, exhausting!
Fortunately, in 1988 the Seikan submarine railway tunnel was opened. A railway path of 53.85 is the longest submarine railway tunnel in the world. The extension of the Shinkansen super-fast train to Sapporo is planned (today). So, getting to Hokkaido today is easy and the only thing that can happen to you, especially in winter and with snowstorms, is that your train arrives a little late at its destination due to level crossings. and frozen exchanges. Hokkaido is Japan, yes, but Japan is necessarily a special Japan (climate, distance, history)!
The Sapporo Snow Festival occurs in Odori Park
A wide green strip in the heart of the city, with trees, gardens, fountains, and art installations, breaks the continuous line of buildings skyscrapers for about 1 kilometer and a half (12 blocks ). On the one hand, it ends with the high television antenna (during the Sapporo Snow Festival, decorated with millions of colored light bulbs). On the other hand with the Shiryokan, the old Sapporo Court of Appeal building dating back to 1926, now a national monument.
The Odori Park
It is also the litmus test of the different seasons: in spring, it is all a blossom of cherry trees and in autumn, the thousand orange colors of the leaves are a palette for painters. The Odori Park can be reached by one of the three Sapporo subways (no matter if the orange, blue or green line, the Odori station is one of the interchange points between the three city subways and if you start from the JR train station, the distance is one-stop, with a cost of 200 Yen).
The Sapporo Snow Festival (Japanese name: Sapporo Yuki Matsuri, where there is the word Matsuri there is always a party!) It takes place in Sapporo every year from February 5th to 12th, is free to enter, and is a mix of successful art exhibitions, amusement parks,s and fairs of local gastronomic products.
It is also a perfect showcase for promoting consumer goods and advertising. So, don’t be surprised if occasionally there will be awnings where gifts are distributed (of course, the Japanese line up neatly and wait their turn, no one elbowed. or you dream of climbing over the line!). In general, it is a moment of joyful happiness for adults, children, and grandparents.
When you visit the Sapporo Snow Festival, in addition to dressing as if you were going to ski slopes or otherwise very well covered, pay close attention to the ground: in some places, it is completely frozen – and the sidewalks are not always clear of snow – so you should wear suitable shoes, or buy crampons to remove and put to apply to the shoes (they are also found at Decathlon and cost a few dollars) or, my advice, bring trekking poles that if used well in some situations they help to be safer.