Around two million visitors came to Sapporo this winter to view hundreds of snow and ice sculptures which filled Odori Park and adorned the main street in Susukino.
The Snow Festival began in 1950, when local high school students built six snow statues in Odori Park. In 1955, the Self-Defense Force joined in and built the very first massive snow sculpture, for which the Snow Festival has become famous for now. The Festival is now one of the biggest and most well known of Hokkaido's winter events.
**Side note**The base ticketing office offers two different snow festival tour packages every year. When we first arrived on base, our friends told us about the festival and that it's a lot of fun, but that the tickets sell very quickly and usually there's a line outside the office to sign up.
This year, the tickets went on sale October 1st, the same day Rowen started school at Seika Yochien. I remember this day vividly because Tim stayed at home with boys and got Rowen dressed for his first day of school, while I stood in line to buy tickets! Fortunately, I was 1st in line, so I quickly signed up and headed home to Rowen!**
The two different tours that were offered were Wed-Fri or Sun-Tues. Basically, whether you wanted to go for the beginning of the festival or the end. We signed up for the first part of the tour for two reasons: 1) We could be there for the opening ceremoney on Thursday and 2) Returning on Friday would allow us to recover over the weekend from traveling.
We left super EARLY on Wed. morning, 5:30 am. The boys were so tired...but were okay.
The best part of the morning was upgrading to business class seats at the airport!! When at the gate counter trying to get our seats together, the agent mentioned that their were premium seats available. At first, I wasn't interested b/c I thought the fees would be outragous. When I asked for the upgrade price, I heard 5000....and I immediately thought, no way!
BUT, then I heard yen, after the 5000...and it took me a second b/c I thought I misunderstood her. I asked her again, and she said 5000 yen and asked me if I wanted to proceed.
What?!? Quickly doing the math in my head, I realized it would cost around $50.00 a person.
"Yes, I'll upgrade!" I replied and quickly handed over my credit card.
In order to upgrade in the states, it would normally cost hundreds of dollars, no?
After we boarded and were in our seats, Tim said, "Uh-oh, I could used to this! We're going to have to travel premium class all the time!"
Hmm..I thought to myself. That's probably not going to be possible...
**Okay, I've digressed into telling you way more than I had planned about our flight there. It was just so fun being in our own little world on the plane! Maybe I'll continue 'flying ecomomy vs. business' in another post so I can finish telling about our trip!!
...When we land at Chitose/Sapporo airport, we travel to Otaru, which is about 30 min from Sapporo. Otaru is a port town on the coast of the Sea of Japan.
Otaru is best known for Otaru Beer and a beautifully restored canal that is lined with Victorian gas lamps. We spent a couple of hours in Otaru amongst the shops, museums, and restaurants all located near the restored canal.
We ended up getting to our hotel around 5 pm. *Rowen hadn't taken a nap yet and we were a little scared at this point. Arjun had rested a little.*
Outside the beer garden, there were snow caves and slides/sculptures, so the kids had fun playing in the snow after dinner.
We made it back to the hotel around 9pm and I don't think I need tell you how well we slept! We almost missed breakfast the next morning b/c the boys slept in until 9 am :-)
Thursday was our leisure day, meaning there was nothing tour specific planned. Just our day to scope Sapporo out and walk to Odori Park for the snow festival's opening day. And better yet, it was snowing!! It was so beautiful, I can't remember the last time I saw falling snow. Probably when I was living in DC. **We usually travel to our parents' in the Midwest over Thanksgiving and/or Dec. But it is only ever cold when we visit, no snow. The snow usually starts falling after we leave or in Jan./Feb. and we're nevering visiting for that part!**
I don't know how the boys felt about falling snow. When we were walking to Odori Park, the snow was really coming down and pelting our faces as we walked. Rowen was getting a little annoyed with snow in his face, but we finally made it to the snow festival.
The snow festival was A-MAZ-ING! All these sculptures everywhere made out of snow and ice!! To think of all the time and energy that went into making this festival a success! From the pictures, you'll see the intricate detail in the sculptures.
As we were touring the park and taking it all in, Arjun was getting really fussy. It was around 11am at the point and time for his nap. Unfortunately, Tim missed out on some of the afternoon because he took Arjun back to the hotel so he could rest. Since Arjun is still young, we have to make time for his naps, or he will not be a happy traveler! *I can't wait until they are older and can really withstand long days of sightseeing!*
Rowen and I met back up with Tim and Arjun at the hotel. The boys hung out with Tim for a bit, b/c I had to find a camera shop quick! My battery died while taking pics of the sculptures (not died, I need to charge it again, but really died, as in not working anymore!!)
Luckily, I found one of the 10 story department stores a block from the hotel and bought a battery and charger (it was highway robbery at its best, so expensive!!!) but I HAD to have a working camera for the rest of our trip. While out, I picked up lunch and we enjoyed that in our hotel room while watching the snow fall.
The plan for the evening was to see the sculptures lit up at night time. We enjoyed dinner at the hotel and were making plans for going out again. But, Rowen did not want to go back out. He said it was too cold and he wanted to watch a movie in the room. Could I blame him?? It was really cold outside!!
So....while Tim watched a movie with the boys and got them ready for bed, I took a cab and went to a couple of different locations to see the sculptures. They were beautiful with all the light shining upon them, I really wish Tim and the boys could have seen it.
Tim enjoyed seeing the pictures I had taken when I returned back to the hotel...(only 1 hour later..taking a cab really made for a quick trip around Sapporo!)
The next day was departure day. We quickly checked our our hotel, and headed to Tsu Dome for a morning/afternoon of playing in the snow: sledding, snow rafting and building snowmen!
Rowen had been talking about sledding all weekend, and now was his big chance. However, his definition of 'sledding' must have been different than Webster's because he was not interested in sledding anymore! I don't know if it was the snow blowing in his face, not being well rested, the 3 year old stage of 'I never know what I want to do', or all of the above.
He (and all of us) did seem to enjoy snow rafting (riding in a big raft being pulled by a snowmobile), enough to want to go a second time!
But after that, he was ready to board the bus and get warm. I think he especially likes the bus, b/c he gets to sit next to his friend Kaito and watch movies with him.
We left Tsu Dome around 1:30pm in order to head back to the hotel, change out of our snow clothes, and get our luggage on the bus so we can head to the airport.
The rest of the day was pretty low key. Our flight was on-time and the boys managed to get a little sleep on the plane ride back home. We boarded our final bus at the airport to take us back to Yokosuka, and boy we were glad to be home!
So glad that it was Friday night and we had the weekend to recover. Even better than that was we came home to a clean house :) Thanks Ota-san!