Sunday, February 12, 2012

Sapporo Snow Festival

Ever since I arrived in Sasebo, I have been hearing about the amazing Sapporo Snow Festival.  So needless to say, I have been anxiously awaiting to go!  It was supposed to be my "cheer me up" trip while Chris was out on winter deployment, but his schedule got changed and he ended up being home all weekend while I was gone.  Even though he wanted to go, he was excited for me to go and just told me to take a ton of pictures!

Sapporo is in northern Japan.  It is freezing there (which, as Chris reminded me, is a good thing since they have the snow festival)! But as many of you know, I don't do well in cold weather, so I took as many layers as I could complete with long underwear, heavy socks, boots, two coats, scarves, hats, gloves and the wonderful invention of body warmers that I strategically placed all over me.  I was good to go!

This snow festival isn't just in one location... it is all over Sapporo. Each town had their own snow festival and displays. Some were bigger than others, but they were all very interesting. Many of them had ice candles and snowmen throughout the town. The first place we visited when we arrived had tunnels and caves made of ice and snow.

The next day we traveled to another small town.  We started off the morning with a tour of a chocolate factory.  I was especially looking forward to this because I knew this place made my favorite cookies in all of Japan.  They are a perfect proportion of chocolate and cookie.  We can only find them in the Tokyo airport, so we load up every time we travel through there. (Don't worry family, there is a box of the cookies coming your way.)
The workers meticulously making the yummy cookies
Of course they had a restaurant where we sampled the delicious chocolate foods such as hot chocolate, creamy fondu, and soup with mochi!!

After the tour I got to do something I have always wanted to try... glass blowing! It is much harder than you think and the language barrier only made it more difficult.  But my instructor was super patient (he had to start my glass over three times because it kept hardening on me) and funny! I think it turned out well, but I don't think I'll be changing professions any time soon!  Here's a few pictures of the process:
Laughing at my lack of glass blowing skills

Shaping the vase

Making the opening
Then that night we (my friends Amy, Joe, Colleen, and Sarah) set out to find the snow sculptures.  Boy, were we in for a surprise!  On our way we found a street filled with ice carvings.  They were stunning, especially at night with the city lights on them!
Yes, those are frozen crab, fish, flying fish, and scallops!

The row of ice carvings in the middle of the town

Then we set off to find the snow sculptures. This is what the snow festival is famous for!  These sculptures were huge and so very detailed.  They looked great during the day, but at night they were quite a sight!  They had light shows and played music.
This ocean scene was my favorite one.

Japanese castle, complete with a performing girl band!

Look at the lights!

The next day we went to the final sight... sledding!  These slides were huge and of course the lines were long, but we had to do it at least once!  Each person was given a giant inner tube and then pushed down the slippery slope! They also had a course where you were pulled around on a raft with a snow mobile.
Walking up the slide with our inner tube

Headed down the slopes!

After we played for a while, we took the bus back to town and went to the top of the Sapporo TV Tower for a view of the entire festival.  

A view from the top... you can see the city of Sapporo, the sculptures, and the amazing snow covered mountains!

And of course, no blog entry would be complete without a few pictures of the delicious food I sampled.  Sapporo is famous for chocolate, melons, ramen, and crab!  We found their famous ramen road and picked a place to eat that looked crowded (because of course that means it's good) and ordered the crab, scallop, and corn ramen.  It was amazing!!
The entrance to ramen road

Crab, scallop, and corn ramen... yum!!

The many ramen places we had to choose from
On our final night we decided to treat ourselves to a crab dinner.  So we went inside a place that we were pretty sure served crab...
I know what you're thinking: "I didn't think Stephanie knew the Japanese symbol for crab."
We sat on the floor...

 And dug right in...
My friend and her daughter ordered this and was kind enough to give me some legs
I had an amazing four days! Even though I missed Chris, I had a wonderful time with my friends and I saw some amazing things!  I love exploring different parts of this amazing country I live in!