The original reason why I wanted to visit Hokkaido was to take a look at the Sapporo Snow Festival. It has always been my dream to visit since knowing about it many many years ago. Every time I see it on TV I tell myself I must be there to see it myself. (The other must-see dream event for me was Tokyo Game Show, which I realized 10 years ago~)
The same bus service from Toya to Rusutsu also brought us from Rusutsu to Sapporo. I must comment that the Donan buses do come with a toilet and there's no smell. Having said that the bus will make a stop midway through the 2 hour ride from Rusutsu to Sapporo. Its perfect for someone like me who sometimes need a pee at the wrong time~~
After checking in to our hotel at the Monterey Sapporo we decided to walk to the Odori Park for the Snow Festival. This being our 2nd trip to Sapporo, everything still seemed very new to us. Perhaps it is because our last trip there was purely for transiting between Otara - Jozankei and Sapporo - Tokyo.
The Snow Festival was everything I saw on TV, except that on TV they manage to have everything in a 15-second reel but in real life its actually situated in 3 different venue! We skipped 1 venue given its all about the snow rides which we had already done plenty of in Rusutsu. Odori Park was full of massive snow sculptures and they were awesome! My favourite got to be the Audi show. It was awesome watching it in real life!
After Odori Park we walked to Susukino, the red light district of Sapporo, to look at the ice sculptures. They were just as wonderful although I must admit my eyes were distracted by the advertisements from all the hostess club in the area :p
By the time we finished Susukino we were exhausted, tired and in need of food. We found this sushi place near our hotel, which came recommended by our hotel, and had some really great sushi! It was so good we returned to the same shop on the second night!
Hokkaido have some really beautiful old buildings and this clock tower below is in its 135th year! Its tired to just count its construction year, but its great to be able to admire its grand beauty in the flesh.
There was a Singapore team represented at the Sapporo Snow Festival's International Snow Sculpture competition. They came in 4th after being stuck in 5th for the last 2 years. This should be their highest ever placement. They got no support from state or corporate sponsorship, yet they toiled over several days in the grueling cold to finish their piece. Respect! Hope some ice-cream company will subsidize their trip next year!
See here for their 4th-place winning snow sculpture!
Our intention was to watch their prize presentation before heading to the airport and hopefully catch an earlier flight to Tokyo because I watched the news the night before and knew a snow storm was going to hit Hokkaido. Unfortunately we only managed to change our 8pm flight to 4pm and the last flight that successfully made it to Tokyo was at 2pm! Long story short, we spent that night in Chitose Airport, the following night in Grand Terrace Chitose Hotel (thanks to a Singapore tour agent who booked the room for us) before flying to Kansai 2 days later.
Little did we know that our transit that night wasn't confirmed and we nearly had to spend another night in another airport (this time Kansai instead of Chitose!) until the last minute when someone didn't make it and we got the last few seats on the flight back to SG. Both of us wanted to hug the lady who broke the good news to us! I refrained as I didn't want to get 2 slaps,one from the lady and one from my wife!