Using the cheap LCC for the first time, me, Deasty, mbak Tri, Pi, Miki, and Gerd went to Sapporo, round trip for about 10,000 yen. We planned to go to the last day of Winter Festival (雪祭り) in Sapporo, and also another candle festival in Otaru. We looked for the accommodation several days before the D day. The price were so expensive during the festival, based on some hostel searching websites. Then, I found the japanese website which made me able to book without credit card, and also they offer cheaper rate. Unfortunately, only Japanese is available, but thanks to Google automatic translation, I could make it, and booked for the hotel in Sapporo and Otaru. These are the webs, http://ys.gnavi.co.jp and http://rurubu.travel/.
We arrived at Shin-Chitose airport and met Gerd who waited for several hours since her flight was before us. After some chit-chat (there was also Diego, ups, Pablo who was waiting for the other exchange students group, Lysa and friends), we would go straight to the hotel. We could choose to go to the city (Sapporo station) by bus or JR train, but the ticket price were not so different. I spent some time to look for my glove, which accidentally dropped somewhere at the airport. I was almost about to give up, but then after one more round, I could find it.
From inside the train, we could see the night view. It was not the first time for me to see lots of snow because I'd been to Nagano last December. But the scenery was breath taking, white everywhere, on the roofs, on the roads, on the cars, and on the trees.
Sapporo is located in Hokkaido island, the northern part of Japan. In short, that's the coldest part of Japan, especially during winter. During my visit, the temperature was not too "crazy", around -2ºC for the highest of the day, and around -8ºC at night. I wore the same clothes I usually wear in Osaka during winter, and I add one more sweater. My feet and hands are always easy to get cold, so I brought some カイロ or hotpacks for feet and some in my pockets. The snow was everywhere, sometimes some roads were covered on snow or brown colored ice, and the pedestrian was covered on ice. I got slipped once when I was crossing the road, and then I became more careful and walked more slowly.
The snow festival was able to attract so many tourists, including the foreigners. The Odori Park site was packed with many people. Not only the big ice sculpture as the stages for performances, but also the smaller sculpture from the competition, the ice bar, mini ice rink, a mini but quite high man made slope for ski and snowboarding, and also many food stalls. The snow festival was originally started from some university students who made some snow sculptures, and then suddenly it became a popular festival which attracts many people to come to Sapporo, despite the harsh winter.
The city planning of Sapporo was also interesting. It's the grid style, like in Europe. There are also many western style building. Apparently, an American scholar was invited by the emperor to help developing Sapporo at 19th century, when the population was only around 3,000. I found there were women still wearing only stocking with mini skirt, or some of them only bare legs. They must be crazy, I thought. But then I found out there's a life underground. There is a long underground walk connecting three stations (Sapporo-Odori-Susukino) so people could walk there straight to their office or many other exit gates. That's why the women could dress like that, because they didn't need to be on the ground.
Hokkaido also popular for its seafood, so there are many seafood and sushi restaurants (which we couldn't go because of the price). Jenghis Khan food is also popular.It's from the mouton, and the smells were everywhere every time we walked passing by the meat restaurant. Ah, so sad....
Otaru is a small city near Sapporo, only around 45 minutes by train. The candle festival scale was actually a way smaller than Winter Festival at Sapporo, of course. But the city was easy to explore because it was small. There were many snowmen with many variations every where, as a part of snowman competition. I thought Otaru was a bit colder than Sapporo. Some chocolate and cake shops often offered some sample for the people passing by the shops.So nice! The western style buildings were everywhere, including the central post office, some banks, and some hotels built in western style. The canal scenery was also beautiful at night, especially during the candle festival.
Four nights and five days actually enough to explore Sapporo and Otaru. But I was already so sick of snow and the cold weather, so I was really glad to go back to Osaka. It was warmer than Hokkaido at least! But I still hate my "cold" dorm, which made winter worse even though it was in Osaka, not Sapporo. If I have money, I'd like to visit Hokkaido one more time during spring. There's a lavender field, and also there's prison museum, seems interesting!