Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Hokkaido Snow Festival

Last weekend I journeyed to Hokkaido for the annual Sapporo Snow Festival. I got an insider tip that if you go the week before the festival actually starts, you get to see the famous snow and ice sculptures being made, with the added benefit of flights and hotels being mu
ch cheaper (and they really were).

So I headed out for my four day weekend on Thursday and was giddy with excitement at the all the snow. On the train from the airport, I didn't want anything more than to dive into the vast fields of meter high snow. While walking around downtown Sapporo, I was having the time of my life just stepping into the snow or giving it a little kick. It was awesome. The first evening I strolled through the park with the sculptures, to see what was going on...

The next day starred out great, as I headed out early to play in the snow in the parking lot. I made a snowman. Then my friends and I wandered around a middle-of-nowhere suburb of northern Sapporo, in search of a place we could make butter, and the entrance to a park that supposedly had more snow sculptures. Apparently, all but one of the entrances to the farm were closed and by the time we figured that out, we'd gone to far and were over it, so we trudged to the park. It was warm this day and the snow was melting, which didn't go over well with my cheap, definitely not waterproof (but worked well enough in the snow) boots. While we didn't find any snow sculptures in the park, we did go cross country skiing... I don't know what percent of the time I spent actually on the skis, and not flayed out on the snow after falling. Maybe I wasn't THAT bad, especially for being on skis for the first time ever. It was a lot of fun though!

While Friday didn't work out as planned, Saturday was most productive. We ate fresh sashima at the fish market, visited the Sapporo brewery museum (not as cool as I'd hoped), went by the sculptures again to see how they've progressed (many were finished) and headed out to a nearby town called Otaru. Here we visited a very strange German microbrewery, where the Japanese staff walked around in very ugly German dresses and funny folk music played in the background. Our trip to Otaru was really focused on the candle-snow displays. There were three of four walks in the city, each path lined with various small snow creations, lit with a candle. It was really nice. The canal also had some floating candles.

The site-seeing was great enough, but one the best parts of the trip was the local specialty foods. Oh man, the food. Let me show you,Lamb barbecue, known as Genghis Khan (pronounced Jenghis)- came with a nice roasted garlic dipping sauce

Fresh crab, ikura, and uni (sea urchin) from the fish market

Gelato- Lavender (purple) and Salt (light green). Delicious alone, even better mixed together.

Soup Curry- I was hesitant at first, but I've been craving this from the minute I finished it. It's curry based soup with lots of vegetables, potatoes and I had gyoza in mine. So good!

Butter Corn Ramen- Hokkaido special, awesome.

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