Hokkaido, Japan: Sapporo Snow Festival

The first morning the kids were so thrilled to get out in the snow. Of course we had to have a snow ball fight on the walk down to the festival.

That first day we just explored the main Snow Festival site, Odori Park. It was 13 blocks of snow and ice sculptures, food vendors, snow slides, and snow shows.

I think this girl was the official Snow Festival character, from what I understood.


The Cup Noodle snow sculpture and slide

It was pretty overwhelming at first, but so very cool! We were glad we had bought some snow spike guards to put on the bottom of our shoes, since it was really slippery in places.


This entire “building” was a snow sculpture!

The food vendors were amazing. It was so cool to see they could just leave all the uncooked seafood and beef out in the cold, and when you ordered they’d grab a piece and throw it on the grill right there in front of you.


Raw crab and beef tongue, waiting to be cooked.


The crab on a stick was so yummy, and the kids loved the corn on the cob 😉

John and I tried the crab in a shell, which was topped in a cheesy corn sauce and had seaweed mixed in. Corn is a pretty big deal in Japan. They even have corn sushi at most restaurants, and they almost always put it in ramen.

For lunch we ventured down to Ramen Alley. We’re not positive we found it, but after wandering for about 45 minutes in the blistering cold, we finally found a ramen place that was open and looked good. The province of Hokkaido is known for its food and boasts the best ramen and the best seafood (thanks to the icy cold waters surrounding the island). This place did not disappoint. It definitely ranked near the top of our ramen experiences.

The ramen shop

We walked around and saw some more ice sculptures after lunch and then headed back to the hotel.


I loved the horse ice sculpture

 After a rest we all decided to try the onsen inside the hotel. An onsen is a Japanese hot mineral spring. I had brought all our swimsuits when I saw there was one in the hotel. However, we didn’t need them! In Japan apparently they are gender-segregated and nude. It was quite an experience, and though I didn’t think I would like it, I actually did. Violet wasn’t so sure though. It was pretty hot! The process of the Onsen is what was so amazing. You undress, then shower off in a small open stall. You’re supposed to shower with hot water to acclimate your body to the hot spring. Afterwards, you use the indoor hot spring, and if you’re feeling brave, you walk outside to the open air onsen, where the surface of the hot water steams as it hits the icy cold air above it. It was much hotter in the outdoor onsen. I didn’t go out with the girls, but later when I went back alone I did and it was such a cool experience!

Open-air onsen at our hotel (pic from their website)

After you soak for as long as you can stand, you go back to the showers, and they have soap and shampoo so you can bathe off. Then you dry off and proceed to the line of vanities where you can blow dry your hair and use oils and lotions on your skin before you dress. When I went back in the evening the onsen was crowded with probably near 100 women, all doing their evening routines for bedtime. It seemed very relaxing, and there was hardly any speaking at all. Just silence as everyone quietly processed their day.

Since we all got naps that first afternoon, and had already had our showers for the evening, we decided to go back out to Odori Park to see the light shows. It was a completely different experience at night!


Happy and bundled!

The kids got their chocolate bananas that they had been promised too (we had bribed them for good behavior while we were dragging them around looking for the ramen place). No, we are not above bribing. It’s the only way we survive traveling with little ones. Seriously.

Chocolate bananas!

In Texas we eat frozen chocolate bananas, but here the bananas were raw, then dipped in chocolate and decorated, and then they stood them outside to freeze the chocolate. Pretty neat!
I tried a fresh scallop, cooked on the grill. The king crabs looked good, but they were so expensive!
We got to see the Star Wars light show, and many other lit up sculptures.

The Star Wars sculpture in the daytime.

Violet was bundled up warmly, and just wanted to know “why??” She was such a good sport through all the cold weather. At the end the kids couldn’t resist the fluffy snow lining the pathways, and had to have another snow ball fight. It was such a fun night!


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