Blake and I don't really love the cold. He's from a part of Arizona where it doesn't really get cold, and the snowy season in Utah is far too long for my taste. However, we knew that the the Sapporo Snow Festival on Hokkaido Island was known the world over and not to be missed, so we chose it as our first weekend away trip in Japan! I bought some new waterproof boots for the occasion, we layered up on clothing, and we had an awesome weekend!
|Even our hotel had an ice sculpture!|
|Obina and Mebina for Girl's Day|
|Oh, you know, just the Arc d'Triomphe in ice and snow|
For dinner, we tried a Japanese burger chain (Mos Burger - not bad) and relaxed and warmed up in our hotel. Monday morning, we started off with a tour of Shiroi Kobito Park, a chocolate factory and museum. (It was either that or a beer factory, so that was a no brainer for us.) It smelled delicious, the hot chocolate and sample cookies were tasty, and the whole place was just charming.
|Instead of arrows, we were invited to follow the cat footprints|
|There was a silly animatronic show throughout the grounds every so often|
After some wandering, including stumbling upon some more ice sculptures, we found Sapporo Ramen Yokocho (Ramen Alley), a tiny alley with 17 different ramen shops! Perfect for lunch on a cold day! We were not disappointed.
|There wasn't much more to this shop than is seen in this photo|
|Typical of most ramen shops - we can watch our food being prepared!|
All the cold and full bellies of ramen, we indulged in a quick nap at our hotel before heading to a night time viewing of the snow and ice sculptures and dinner cobbled together of festival foods. I made the better food decisions of the night - fried cheese (with honey!), grilled corn on the cob, and some yummy seafood on a stick. The sculptures were even more amazing at night! My favorite was the giant Star Wars sculpture, since the illumination was perfect.
|This had a charming animation running throughout the evening.|
|Part of the festival was an international sculpting contest - we enjoyed checking on their progress over the days we were there.|
|There was a five minute perfectly done illumination every 15 minutes or so. It was so cool!|
|Of course there was some J-Pop - this is Fruity, a Sapporo Idol Group|
|Snowboarding big air show!|
Tuesday morning, we headed out for a little more wandering, including the clock tower - the oldest building standing in Sapporo, which houses a museum about the development of the city.
We also found the Sapporo LDS temple. It's closed Sunday-Tuesday, so we didn't get to go inside, but there's always peace to be found just walking on the grounds.
Of course, walking around Sapporo throughout the trip yielded entertaining shopping and wonderful food discoveries. We went to Kinatoya Bake shop for cheese tarts twice.
|So cold even the bathroom signs wear scarves!|
|Popped out of Pole Town (entrance to the bottom left - an extensive underground shopping area connected to lots of other shopping and train stations - just about the entire downtown can be explored underground) into a historical shopping alley|
|Guarana Cola - pretty good|
|Hokkaido only soda - tasted like caramel|
|Blake got an apple tart the second time, but even he agreed the cheese tarts were where it's at.|
We flew back to Tokyo on Tuesday night, and while it was a little strange that it felt like home, it was also good to be there. Although it was a fantastic trip over all, it wasn't perfect - we received bad news from home (my dad's younger brother died in car accident) and there were some unfortunate incidents related to the perils of international travel. Still, we're so glad we went and definitely recommend it to anyone traveling in Japan in the beginning of February!