A byte of life from the Land of Sumos and Sushi

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

As Cool As Ice

Last weekend a party of English teachers made the long haul to the northern island of Hokkaido to check out the Sapporo Snow and Ice festival. The 21 hour ferry trip was mainly spent sleeping and gambling, with my Y400 (£2) winnings on the poker table seeing me through to a free meal.

Being cheapskates, we opted for the cheapest form of accommodation, which was a medium sized room, and some blankets. In Japanese style, we just piled into the room and kipped on the floor, no beds, no mats, no nothing. The other thing of note was that there were no single showers. Insted, a large hot tub (sento) room was available, in which participants of the same sex strip down, hose down, and then wallow in a hot pool in your birthday suit, whilst watching the white horses ride the ocean waves out to sea.

Being much further north, there was a noticeable drop in temperature, which didn’t rise above –7C during our stay. I barely saw an inch of pavement or tarmac as everything was covered in a permaforst of compacted snow and ice.

The snow and ice sculptures were very impressive. Some were as big as buildings, and extremely intricate in their design. We also visited a brewery, in which was deserted, and we checked out Niseko, a famous ski resort. Hokkaido is famous for its powder, and Niseko didn’t disappoint. Deep fluffy snow was most everywhere to be found, and there were plenty of nicely spaced trees to make things interesting, but it was bloody freezing.

In conclusion, a great trip, and I hope to return to the northern wastes in summer for a longer stay.


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