One month ago, I traveled less than 200 miles north and fell in love with snow. Several weeks ago, I traveled more than 1,000 miles north and now my relationship with snow is more complicated. Nonetheless, after visiting Sapporo for its 63rd annual Yuki Matsuri, or Snow Festival, I now understand that snow can simultaneously be astonishingly beautiful and painfully cold.
Coming from mild Hiroshima to Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost island, I soon found myself out of the airport and in a winter wonderland. The snowflakes were almost as big as those holiday paper decorations. Further, a moving billboard displayed that the temperature was far below 0 degrees. After discovering the existence of kairo packs (small packs that generate heat) and buying some spiced mulled wine from a street vendor, I was in my happy place.
Once we found this state of winter bliss, my friends and I walked through the city to check out the snow and ice sculptures. During those rare, but lovely dustings of snow in North Carolina, I have made snowmen, snow angels and snowballs; however, the sculptures in Sapporo put my Frosty to shame. From dolphins and Mickey Mouse to Japanese castles and the Taj Mahal, the sculptures were so detailed that I often forgot they were made of snow.
Venturing outside of Sapporo, we later managed to find ourselves on snowmobiles. Although we weren’t given free reign to drive in a recklessly fun manner, the snowmobiles were basically a snowy environment’s equivalent to jet skis. More clothes and accessories are required, but essentially, they result in the same amount of entertainment. Also, snowmobiling gave us the chance to see Hokkaido’s beauty sans the bustling sidewalks and bright lights of the city.
Even after cruising through the sculptures and cruising on a snowboard, one of the best things about the whole trip was the food. First of all, to all my girlfriends who order Sapporo beer at the famous Shiki Sushi in Durham, yup, it’s brewed here. Also, Sapporo is famous for its butter corn ramen. If Paula Deen came to Japan, this would be her jam. As if ramen wasn’t already delicious enough, Sapporo decided to add sweet corn (a personal fave) as well as an entire stick of butter.
Snow sculptures and snowmobiling? Beer and butter? You can’t beat that folks.