Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Sapporo Snow Festival: Ice sculptures, hotto wain and kiddy slides

Sapporo snow storm...

Why is it when you finally meet someone who wants to travel about Japan and DO things its time to go?! Damn!

Anyway, the latest of the Jess and Maylee “discover Japan” adventures was a trip up to Sapporo to see the much acclaimed snow festival (yuki matsuri) This trip warrants a few separate posts since we crammed so much into our 3 night trip it felt like we’d been there ages.

Took the bang on time, totally efficient bus to Komatsu airport to get on the bang on time, totally efficient 90 min flight to Sapporo where the model looking air hostesses with painted on smiles gave us a totally efficient complimentary drinks service (no free booze though...there just HAD to be a flaw!)

I thought Kanazawa's weather was brutal but walking through the double doors out into Sapporo's -11 fresh air hits you like a hard slap around the face, ouch I say! We found our ryokan (Nakamuraya Ryokan) just before full on frostbite set in thanks to Maylee’s wicked iPhone google mapping device. Little did I know at the time that the phone would feature a LOT in our little break..back to that later.

Were greeted by the friendly staff at the ryokan and taken to a simple but nice tatami mat room by a young Japanese lady who served us the obligatory green macha (tea) and sweet (mochi) She then fussed a lot and did lots of bows and backed out of the room bowing, coming back in with our yukatas and backing out of the room again only to re-appear again to tell us safety instructions, breakfast hours etc. Coming from England and its distinct lack of service-orientated culture I couldn't help but feeling a tad too fussed over (if thats possible?!)

After a quick cuppa we headed out into the sub zero temperatures to make it to the snow festival opening ceremony....which we then MISSED! Hahaha, well actually we’re not sure. We found a load of poor suited and booted Japanese sat in the freezing cold outside (bear in mind it’s -11) listening to what looked like some kind of ceremony. We were looking out for the “ice queens” but didn’t see any.

Church ice sculpture

This is actually a BAR made totally of ice, note drink bottles on bar. Very cool!
Light tunnel, not sure why...but it was nice

Yep real crabs and fish set in ice block sculptures, poor little blighters

Instead we walked around the ice sculptures which were truly amazing. Have a look at the pics. I bought my tripod out but didn’t get any nice pics this time. My excuse? It was -11 (ok I now I’ve mentioned that three times now) and the tripod was a cheapy. The legs of the stupid thing were like bambi, buckling every time I’d try and take a pic.

Maylee standing outside the igloo eatery made of ice blocks, it even had a gas heater inside

Hallelujah, just when I lost the feeling in my fingers we stumbled upon this cool igloo type eatery selling “Hotto Aka Wain” (hot red wine) Felt pretty chuffed that I even managed to read the katakana, its only taken 10 months! For some reason I was expecting some kind of yummy vin chaud delight with brown sugar, spices and fruit but no. This was quite literally "hot wine".

Refusing to feel defeated we ordered some “oden” – a kind of snack that’s sold in most convenience stores, this one a kind of chewy processed fish cake and fried tofu on a stick. I've eaten better, thats all I'm saying on the matter (I know Maylee LOVES it!).

Maylee with the oden she loves

Time to move on...

At the bottom of the street there was this wicked little mini slide made purely of packed snow. Well why should kids have all the fun on it? So we both had a go. It was only after I realise that sliding down snow on your bum when you're only wearing jeans isn't such a great idea.

Wicked little slide made purely of ice

I never thought I'd say this b/c I never thought I still had feelings in my bum but it went totally numb, ouch!

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