We got up early and took the subway to the Monorail out to Haneda Airport. We were off to see the giant snow sculptures of Sapporo and ANA airlines was going to get us there.
Outside the airport Mt. Fuji appeared in her clear glory and gave us a nod as we left. (Sorry for the blurry photo-we were on the monorail and I didn't see it until the last minute and had to snap it quickly before it disappeared behind the building and the construction cranes in front it.)
A few hours later we were in Sapporo. We got our suitcases, and made our way downstairs to catch the Limited Express train to Sapporo. It wasn’t anything too fancy—and a lot of people had to make the ride standing up—but it only took about 35-40 minutes; and it deposited us in the middle of a wonderfully busy train station/shopping mall suitably named Sapporo.
I made a mental note for our departure a few days later. We will be dropping our bags off at the station lockers and spending a few hours here wandering as we wait to leave for the airport. There are lots of restaurants and shops to fill those last hours and much more interesting then the airport.
We followed the detailed directions we got from the site of our hotel—the Sapporo Park Hotel—and two stops later we were there. We arrived around 12:30pm, and this being Japan, we were told that check-in wasn’t until 2pm and we had to wait. Dropping our bags off, we went upstairs to have an overpriced, but quite tasty, respite while we waited.
The Professor was thrilled to drink a Sapporo in Sapporo—and thankfully the world did not implode due to some kind of weird overlapping time/space equilibrium thingey. To balance things out I ordered what amounted to a shot of Shochu, a sliced lemon, and a bucket of ice. Though it was not my choice, it could have been worse, as the waitress did not understand English.
Though we arrived to sunshine, the snow started almost on time as we ate lunch, and it proceeded to fall the rest of the day. This just added to the ambience of what we had come to see: the giant snow sculptures of Sapporo’s 67th annual—and famous—Snow Festival.
After dropping our stuff off, we set out immediately for Odori Station in the center of town to see it. It is an area roughly 12 blocks by 1 block. You can enter it at any point and just follow the crowd, as everyone circles the area in a counter-clockwise manner. We got there in the early afternoon and stayed until about 6pm. I have to say it got prettier as it got darker because the statues showed up better in the lighting.
If you do go in the evening, beware of the holes during the walk. It is treacherous to walk around there in the daylight but it gets really bad in the dark if you don’t keep an eye out as to where you’re stepping. People were slipping and sliding the whole time. Despite my usual grace and usual sure-footedness (stop laughing friends and family!), I ended up flat on my back—faster than I could say, ‘Oh Sh…!” towards the end of the evening. I never even saw it coming.
The festival is filled with wonderful things to see despite the fact that it is cold and slippery, including this cute little boy band who sang and danced their butts off in the cold, cold, snow.
It is definitely an exhausting way to spend your time, because you literally walk in a constant you-prepare-to-fall-and-are-tensed-trying-to-avoid-it way the whole time you’re on the ice/snow. And it was snowing and very cold. But it was worth it.