Japan & Hong Kong 2012, Snowballs and Icicles in Sapporo

Next stop after Tokyo was Sapporo, Hokkaido and the stop that I was really looking forward to (other than visiting my partner’s family in Osaka) because we were here for the Sapporo Snow Fesitval! We were incredibly lucky in Sapporo, as although I didn’t know it at the time, our accommodation turned out to be only a few streets away from the Susukino Ice Festival street so we were able to take a look at some of the sculptures before the official opening the next day. We also checked out the snow sculptures in Odori Park for the 63rd Sapporo Snow Festival during both the day, and at night to see them lit up.

After our first day and night running around in the snow and ice, we decided to migrate somewhere which was hopefully warmer and visit the Maruyama Zoo (it wasn’t any warmer), which opened back in 1951. The zoo itself was looking a bit tired, but it was great to visit. That said it was very cold to be wandering around outside looking at animals. We also wandered through Maruyama Park, and visited my first Shinto Shrine (still in use) which was rather exciting. The temples and park looked beautiful under all the snow.

Some things I learnt during our short time in Sapporo:

  • The little ramen street is hard to find (it’s super tiny), but worth the hunt as the ramen is incredible
  • Natto is an acquired taste, unless you love strong flavoured, stringy and lumpy substances
  • The Odori Park site of the Sapporo Snow Festival is massive – roughly 12 city blocks containing hundreds of snow sculptures
  • An 18 x 26 x 21m 1/4 scale snow sculpture of the Taj Mahal built into a stage takes 3,600 production staff over 30 days to build and uses 438 vehicles worth of snow
  • A 20m tall snow version of the One Piece characters can look kind of cool
  • Japanese style baths are amazing. Who wouldn’t like a bath where you can be up to your neck in hot water?


  • What we did: 3 days wandering around the Sapporo Yuki Matsuri, visiting Maruyama Zoo and the Maruyama Park Shinto Shrine
  • Favourite part: Seeing the amazing snow and ice sculptures in the Sapporo Yuki Matsuri
  • Best Experience: Attempting to use some of my limited Japanese while being interviewed by a local TV station
  • Worst Experience: The rapid temperature changes when moving from super warm buildings into freezing cold snow outside (it was a shock), but not so bad once you get a chance to adjust
  • Must See Attraction: The Sapporo Yuki Matsuri without a doubt!
  • Next stop: Osaka

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