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Hokkaido Snow Festival "Yukimatsuri"

Posted February. 12, 2003 22:53,   


Arrived at an airport in Hokkaido three and a half hour flight after taking off at the Incheon International Airport onboard KAL. Felt great, looking at the earth turned white covered with snow. Feb. 6th was the day all the ice and snow festivals across Hokkaido got started, including Yukimatsuri. The airport was swarmed with tourists. Among the Japanese, people from Taiwan and Hong Kong were seen from time to time.

On my way to Sapporo, dropped by Lake Shikotsuko. Another matsuri, or festival, was ongoing. The rim of the lake is like a marathon course in length, or 42km. A heaven of ice, I experienced there, looking at the snow plaza sitting next to the lake. There were dozens of ice castles, slides, igloos and sculptures.

Then, finally entered Sapporo, running all the way through snow-covered roads. Yukimatsuri also took place in the central part in it. The park, sprawling hundreds of meters crossing the center of the road, was packed with hundreds of ice sculptures. In the very center of the park was The Purple Forbidden City, Chinese palace in Beijing. I could only keep saying "wonderful" at the fine craftsmanship.

Recently, the trend has it that sculptures are carved out, modeled around animation or computer game characters, including familiar Disney characters. To appreciate the sculptures, tour the city at night, than during the day. Ice figures "soaked in lights" turn fantastical at night. Lights are on until 10p.m.

As of this year, the festival has been commemorated for 54 years. Two places are open to tourists visiting for Yukimatsuri. The Japanese Defense Forces has played a critical role in creating the beauty of Yukimatsuri. Carving out a giant character demands hundreds tons of snow and thousands of people. All these are done by the Defense Forces.

Sapporo, a city hosting YukiMatsuri every year, carries a festive mood all around the world. YukiMatsuri is a snow festival held in downtown area Susukino.

Ice works are lined along three blocks made up of restaurants and bars on the sides. Neon signboards and light from bars give lively colors to the ice works and travelers visiting Sapporo for the snow festival wander around the street at night. When you feel hungry, they can go to lamen restaurants. But you might have to wait about thirty minutes on the line since lamen restaurants are always crowded.

Ottaru is a small port city located about thirty minutes apart from Sapporo by train. It was first introduced to most Koreans through a music video by popular singer Cho Sung-mo. The city is now one of the popular tourist attractions in Japan that houses renovated can-processing factories and warehouses reminding travelers of San Francisco.

The symbol of the city is a canal decked with gas lamps. During the Yuki Matsuri season, Ottaru also hosts a snow festival, which creates a fancy atmosphere with snow and light. There are some 500 glass-balls floating on the water with a burning candle in them.

The long-lined streets from the snowy Mage age light up with thousands of candles against the background of white snow.

Abarashi and Monbetsu in Ohotsuk are also crowded with people that come to see squares filled with snow and ice works. Located on higher latitude than Sapporo, the lakes in the cities are frozen and covered with white snow.

You can crisscross the Abarashi Lake on a snowmobile or ride on a snowduki, a rafting boat driven by a snowmobile. There are also AVTs, four-wheel motorcycles. The landscape of the lake at night, filled with glittering tents for pond smelt catchers, just looks like a beautiful picture.

Hokkaido Tour Program

A 3 nights and 4 days program includes a round-trip flight (Korean Airlines), hotel accommodations (two nights in Ottaru and one night in Sapporo/including breakfast). Recommended course is from Ottaru to Sapporo then again to Noboribetsu (for a hot spa). JR railway pass is sold for 14,000 yen. The latest Hokkaido travel guidebook (published ABROAD) is offered. For further inquiries, call Travel Baksa by 02-730-6166 or visit the Web site (www.tourbaksa.co.kr).