Wednesday, February 14, 2007

The Sapporo Yuki Matsuri


During the weekend I traveled to Japan’s Frozen Prefecture, Hokkaido, to visit Sapporo City’s world famous Snow Festival. The Snow Festival draws thousands every year from all over Japan to see enormous snow sculptures people carve on their main street. The snow sculptures definitely live up to their reputation as big and impressive. The city of Sapporo’s image as a frozen winter landscape drowning in snow is also well deserved. Both the City of Sapporo and Hokkaido Prefecture are regarded as a frontier in the way Americans regard Montana or Alaska as a frontier. Japanese only recently settled in large numbers during the 19th century. The whole island is teeming with virgin forests, bears, deer, seals, walrus, and other wildlife, and even its own population of indigenous people (the Ainu) devastated by a brutal colonization.

Sapporo hosts their “Yuki Matsuri” (Snow Festival) every year sometime in February, and people come from all over the world to see marvelous sculptures of famous buildings around the world, Japanese cartoon characters, and other frozen art of all sorts. The highlights (according to my infallible opinion) included a reproduction of a large palace in Thailand, a famous Japanese castle, and sculpture depicting the story of two Japanese sled dogs that “miraculously survived” in the Antarctic. There were also hundreds of sculptures of animals, Disney, Hello Kitty, Japanese cartoon characters most Americans have never heard of, reclining buddhas, and other assorted things to look at.

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