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Thursday, June 26, 2014

Hokkaido Winter 2013 北海道冬季之旅 - Sapporo Snow Festival さっぽろ雪ま つり

Visited 10.02.2013

Year 2013 (64th): 05.02.2013 - 11.02.2013
Year 2014 (65th): 05.02.2014 - 11.02.2014
Year 2015 (66th): 05.02.2015 - 11.02.2015


Back in 2012, I attended a seminar, which was organised by JR Hokkaido, in Singapore. In this seminar, the ambassadors of Hokkaido recommended itineraries suitable for winter travelling and shared tips on maximising the value of Hokkaido Rail Pass. That was when I first got to know that there were numerous events and activities held in Hokkaido during the winter season. And Sapporo Snow Festival is by far the largest winter event in Hokkaido, attracting about 2 million visitors from Japan and aboard every year!

Do you know? The first Sapporo Snow Festival, which was started more than half a century back, was held in Odori Park and comprised of only six snow statues built by local high school students. Over the years, local efforts to promote this festival have seen these snow sculptures growing in size, quantity and quality. These intricate life-sized snow and ice sculptures have received worldwide recognition and Sapporo Snow Festival has risen to become one of the most prominent international winter event every year.

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Highlights:


The main event venue is at Odori Park, which stretches from Sapporo TV Tower (1 chrome) all the way to Shiryokan, 札幌市資料館 (13 chrome). Back in Asahikawa, I was already awed by the one and only massive Transformer snow sculpture display. Here in Sapporo, you will find even more remarkable (and jaw dropping) snow and ice sculptures on display during the festival week! I was particularly impressed by their exact replication of iconic buildings/structures all around the world. Was truly an eye opener for me. Don't forget to visit the site in the night to see the vast transformation of snow and ice displays under lighting.

64th Sapporo Snow Festival (Odori site) statistics:
- 5 big, 6 medium and 115 small sized snow sculptures;
- 2 big and 6 small ice sculptures.

2 chrome: Ice kingdom - a princess with white wings. Managed to catch a glimpse of this when I visited it again on the last night.

2 chrome: Ice palace colourfully illuminated at night. 
3 chrome: A giant ski jump structure is erected to showcase snow board and free style skiing at different times of the day, inclusive of night jump as well!

3 chrome: Skiers performing in the day.
4 chrome: Ise Jingu - A Modern Legend. This awesome snow sculpture was constructed to celebrate the legend of Ise Shrine (located in Mie Prefecture) and commemorate the 62nd Shikinen Sengu in 2013. This ceremony is held once every 20 years for over 13 centuries (1300 years ago). All the structures in the shrine's inner and outer sanctuaries as well as the sacred vestments and treasures stored there are renewed. This symbolises Shinto concept of new life, reminding everyone of the importance of maintaining a youthful spirit and fresh optimism for the future. This is my favourite snow sculpture of all and its beauty was beyond words to describe. I could only gasp in astonishment and "wow" in admiration as my eyes scanned through every intricate detail of this gigantic piece of art work.

You may start to wonder who created this magnificent art work. They are actually deployed from the Armed Forces, the same people behind the big snow sculpture in Asahikawa Winter Festival. Once again, a big salute to their active involvement in this external event! 

4 chrome: The marvellous Ise Jingu snow sculpture in the day.
The same snow sculpture looking more stunning at night!
5 chrome: Both Hoheikan (Historical Guest House) and Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall (中正纪念堂) from Taiwan are replicated here in snow and ice form, respectively. Was particularly amazed to see the latter as it resembled the actual monument which I have seen before during my visit to Taiwan.

5 chrome: Hoheikan
5 chrome: Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall
7 and 8 chrome: Thailand's Wat Benchamabophit (Marble Temple) and Japan's Kabuki-za threatre (located in Tokyo) were recreated. Yet again, all the fine architectural details of the buildings, from the roof to every window and door, were portrayed in the life sized snow sculptures.

7 chrome: Wat Benchamabophit (Marble Temple)
8 chrome: Kabuki-za
10 chrome: Most adorable snow sculpture featuring Japan's very own manga character - Chibi Maruko Chan, her family and friends against a backdrop of Diamond Head and Waikiki beach in Hawaii.

10 chrome: Chibi Maruko Chan in Hawaii! A snow sculpture created to celebrate the operation of direct flights between Honolulu and Chitose. 
- 11 chrome: Entries from all around the world participating in 40th International Snow Sculpture Competition were on displayed here. Was proud to know Singaporeans participated in this event as well, and we came in fifth! 

Can you tell what this is before reading the description? 
Entries from our neighbours - Thailand (left) and Malaysia (right). Thailand's entry glitched the top spot in this competition. 
Don't forget to grab limited edition merchandises from souvenir stalls located at various parts of the event venue. One good way to view the entire stretch of Odori Park (especially at night when the park is illuminated beautifully) is from the observatory deck of Sapporo TV Tower. Do note that this landmark is expected to become more crowded than usual during this festival period.

Conclusion: A dream came true for me! There are two reasons why I will want to visit Hokkaido again in winter - one is for the drift ice sighting in Okhotsk Sea and the other has got to be Sapporo Snow Festival.

Food stalls can be found in event venue as well.
Not forgetting these small adorable snow sculptures!
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Sapporo Snow Festival さっぽろ雪まつり 
http://www.snowfes.com/english/

How to get there? 
Two additional shuttle bus services are specially arranged during this period.
- Tsudome Bus: shuffle passengers between Sapporo JR Station, Odori and Tsudome site.
- Maruyama Zoo Bus: shuffle passengers between Sapporo JR Station, Odori site and Maruyama Zoo. Visitors can also enter Maruyama Zoo for free during this period as well (cost 600 yen for an adult ticket normally).
Purchase a Snow Festival Free Pass (400 yen) for unlimited rides on these shuttle bus services.

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(1) Odori Site
Take subway Toho line (blue line) to Odori (H08).
Start your snow festival journey from Sapporo TV Tower (1 chrome) and walk westwards towards 12 chrome. Open to visitors till 2200 hrs. 

(2) Susukino Site
Take subway Namboku line (green line) to Susukino (N08). This site features mainly ice sculptures. Open to visitors till 2300 hrs during the festival, lights off at 2200 hrs on the last day.

View Susukino Site in a larger map

(3) Tsudome Site
- Take subway Toho line (blue line) to Sakamachi, 栄町駅 (H01).
Opening hours: 0900 - 1700 hrs

This site is transformed to a snow playground, where visitors can try out various winter activities, such as tube and ice slide, snow rafting, bamboo skiing, etc. Decided to give this site a miss due to time constraints.

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