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Published: February 13th 2008
Since the Yuki Matsuri was going on there was no chance of getting a hostel in Sapporo so I made a call to a backpackers hostel in Otaru and scored us some bunks for the night. Otaru is about 30 minutes by express or 50 by local train from Sapporo. We had to be in the hostel by 9pm and we ended up getting into Otaru around 7:30pm but we had another mission, we were looking for another Snow Festival. While I was reading the Japan Times Online I found a travel article about the Sapporo festival and about a small festival in Otaru. The article described the Otaru festival as a much smaller and more local celebration than the huge sponsorship in Sapporo. It is so true! Otaru's festival is amazing. At night they light everything up by candles and the glow against the snow is absolutely amazing. We walked down the strip and saw a lot of glowing snow and even a small snow slide to ride down. It was also packed. Every easy to see that all the local came out to support and enjoy the lights and community. It was such a stark contrast to Sapporo that
I loved every minute of it.
We had a date to check into the hostel so we set off to find it. I thought the directions in the LP were pretty straight forward but apparently they weren't. The directions stated to walk down the main street and go three lights and turn left after crossing under the bridge. I thought this meant go three lights and then turn at the third light that was after the bridge. The road was suppose to dead end at a shrine and the hostel was on the right. So we end up at a very small shrine and see no hostel in sight. We got very confused and then asked some passing locals if this was the shrine and they said, no and then led us the local way there. So we got there and got confused again on where the hostel was. All it said was that the hostel was on the right and not that you needed to turn right down a street and then you would find it. Kerin had her cellphone so we called and got some directions. The manager came out to make sure we found it. The
hostel was awesome! It had a giant amount of manga, books, DVDs, movies and a kitchen you could use. The bunks were really nice as well. It was all around an awesome place to stay.
We ended up leaving the hostel at around 9:45 and headed back to the station to get some coin lockers and then explore Otaru in the day light. Otaru has a great canal, as it is a harbor city, that is lined with old warehouses that have been converted or are still in operation. There was more of the snow festival down by the canal and we were there early enough to enjoy it in relative privacy. It was really fun to see it all in the daylight. Cute little snowmen families and hearts were lined with small snowballs that would be lit up at night. There was even a little house as well. Along the canal were a couple of artists and one of them had some really nice water colors. He was also very friendly and we stood and chatted with him for a while. When we told him that we were from Sendai he told us how he thought that Jozenji-dori
was beautiful and that some of his paintings were in Fuji Saki. We were both very surprised and delighted. After we chatted with him we ended up getting a small snack, or in my case breakfast, at a local little ice cream palce. They had a breakfast toast that I loved while my co had some good soft served. The place was also a gallery for an artist monkey as well. There was a small little art station to draw on. It was so cute.
After our snack we headed out for a little glass making. Otaru has a small community of glass makers and some of them will let you make your own glass there. So my co and I found Yuzu and in we went. We wanted to make rings but we were told, in Japanese that we couldn't but we could make a necklace or a bracelet. We decided on chocker necklaces and then got instructed, in Japanese, how to make it. I was actually really proud of myself for being able to understand what we were being told. It was great fun as well. We picked a color and then white and as the worker
was melting the solid color we were waiting with the white to start spinning. You spin the solid color and then move the white around it as it moves into a solid shape you stop spinning the white and then move the solid mass onto a small rod and keep spinning it until you get a round ball. After 30 minutes we could come back and pick up our necklaces.
We left to explore the other side of the canal and found more snow festival sculptures but these were made by a Korean group. All their sculptures were to bring Korean and Japanese culture closer together. It was great fun to see all the Korean culture being made in the snow. We ended up finding a snow slide as we were walking down the other side of the canal and had great fun sliding down it on some tarps that were left there. It has been years since I had been down a hill on a tarp. Man it was so much fun! The locals who saw us just laughed and we all had a grand time of it. We then stopped into the Otaru Beer garden and had
a glass of Otaru beer, some Hokkaido made cheese and some chocolate fondue. A perfect snack. We picked up our necklaces and then went back into Sapporo.
We were going to go to the Sapporo Ropre way but it started to snow and it wouldn't have been worth it. So we decided to check out the festival again and ended up seeing some sculptures again and also finding out way into making ice cups. We waited a while to do it too but man was it fun! You were given a huge block of ice and then a pick and some gloves and then you could go at it. I made a round cup while my co ended up making something that looked like a tooth. The funniest part was that we became a small tourist attraction. As we were foreigners some other foreigners came over and then asked to take a picture with us and pretend to be picking at our ice! It was so funny I couldn't stop laughing for a bit. After we finished, or were told we needed to finish, we went over and bought a can of coke and drank from out ice cups.
It was so much fun! We were both a little disappointed when we couldn't bring the cups home with us.
Afterwards we got some dinner at the station and then headed up to catch our train back. We left at 7:30pm on Monday and got back into our apartments at 7:15. I crashed for a nap and then got up again for work. Only problem is that I had recaught a cold. Now I cannot breath through my nose for long periods of time. It is quite annoying and I wish it would go away.
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