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Published: February 9th 2006
DAY 1: Saturday, February 4th
The adventure started bright and early (6am!) when I rolled off my futon at Ryokan Casey (a.k.a Casey Hotel... a.k.a Casey's apartment where I spend every weekend). Out of excitement I jumped up and shouted "We're going to Hokkaidooooo!!!" only to be shot down by Casey who quickly reminded me that it was still only 6am, and far too early to be genki. Man.. I was soooo excited!
After a quick breakfast we headed out to meet the guys before busing it to Hiroshima Airport. Well, upon check-in we were given a strange warning that "if you can't land in Sapporo than the plane will have to fly back." I think everyone was just kinda thinking 'strange, never had a warning like that before.' So, we checked-in and began our 1 hour wait until takeoff. Three hours later, after 2 "delayed flight" announcements, our trip came crashing down. Japan Airlines had officially cancelled all flights to Sapporo for the day, due to the fact that it was snowing so badly they had to shut down the Sapporo airport. Sooooo disappointed! Well, after the initial disappointment we decided we didn't care
Hokkaido here I come!
This was taken before I found out we weren't actually going to fly into Sapporo.
how we got there, but we were going to reach our Sapporo destination that day. So we went back to the ticket counter where we managed to talk them into letting us fly into Tokyo and then from there fly to Asahikawa Airport (in Hokkaido, but still 1.5 hours from Sapporo)...and off we went!
As happy as we were to finally be on our way it was still a little disappointing because we were losing almost an entire day now due to a 5 or 6 hour stop-over in Tokyo (and that meant that we would not be able to make it to the Sapporo beer factory as originally planned). Trying to make up for lost time the guys decided to turn Tokyo Haneda Airport's cafeteria into their very own "Sapporo Beer Factory" by sitting themselves down and drinking for the entire 6 hours. Good call guys!
By 9pm we had finally reached Hokkaido, but we were still a 40 min bus ride (through crazy bad driving), and a 45 min train ride away from our final destination... this gave us plenty of time to continue 'making up for lost time'! To our advantage there were
After the rollar coaster of being told we could not go to Sapporo, and then finding out that we would instead be flying to Tokyo a victory shot was needed!
a bunch of foreigners on the bus and train who felt the same way regarding the drinks, and within no time we were all drinking buddies just trying to make it through the snow storm!
Our arrival to Sapporo train station ended up being quite the adventure, and without going into detail, let's just sum it up by saying that the densha police were after us! Not a good start to Sapporo! They managed to track us down by calling the cab companies, and then even managed to call our hotel... just as we were arriving. No lies... I was a little nervous! But, we took a group vote and decided that if we were going down we thought it would be best to have as much fun as possible before they caught up with us, and so we headed to the bar!
Our first night on the town was absolutely amazing! Casey and I decided that we would go out dancing, and the guys decided to just hit up a pub.
The 4am walk home turned into a great adventure involving every snowbank we could find to jump in, and since we were having so much
Mt. Fuji from our plane
The one benefit of having to fly into Tokyo for 6 hours ended up being this amazing view of Mt. Fuji from the plane. (Thank you Casey for the pic, I know I can always count on you for always having your camera in your hand!)
fun with the snow we thought Jeff (who was sharing a room with us) would love it if we brought a bag of snow up to him. (Well, we were actually thinking it would be funny to dump it on his sleeping head.) To our surprise, the room was empty when we returned, and so we called it a night.
Such a good day!! For everything that went wrong, I was lucky enough to be with a great group who just tried to make the most of every situation.
DAY 2: Sunday, February 5th
This day started off bright and early with a trip to eat some hotel breakfast. I have decided that the best part about staying in nice hotels is that they don't try to feed you junk for breakfast. I feasted on a mixture of scambled eggs and vegtable tempura and drank my homo milk (because that seems to be all they serve in most places in Japan). It was delicious!
After our breakfast we decided to pack up and head out to the local fishing village of Otaru. Otaru is on the West Coast of Hokkaido and is a really cute
Welcome to Asahikawa!
Asahikawa airport arrival... finally, Hokkaido!
little tourist city. Unfortunately, we were basically sightseeing in a blizzard, so there were parts of the day when it was really hard to see anything at all. Since Otaru is famous for glass making we decided to check out all of the gift shops (but only to find that we would have to sell our organs if we wanted to afford anything).
Sunday night we were once again hoping to make it to one of the beer factories for an all-you-can-eat/all-you-can-drink dinner, but upon arrival we found that we were too late and would have to choose another restaurant. Our new restaurant choice: an all-you-can-eat/all-you-can-drink crab restaurant. (Obviously wasn't my first choice, but I was travelling with 4 others.) This restaurant turned out to be great fun as the king crab legs they were serving made for great props while taking pictures... I think the waitresses were a little alarmed by our behaviour! After dinner, (and 'all-you-can drink' for 1.5 hours) we decided to make it another night out in the exciting city of Sapporo.
After having a quick walk through the ice sculpture packed streets some of us were experiencing cold toes (and full bladders) and
Making up for lost time... on the train!
We may not have made it to the Sapporo beer factory as planned, but that didn't stop us from having a few too many beers!
so decided to make a quick stop in the nearest bar. Well, it ended up being a hostess bar, and it was there that we ended up meeting two Japanese guys who we hung out with for the rest of the night. Crazy times!
DAY 3: Monday, February 6th
How strange is it that the third day of my Sapporo Snow Festival vacation started off by watching the Superbowl on TV? I guess that is what happens when travelling with 3 guys (especially when 2 of them are American)! So, that is how we began our third day of vacation, although, I am not going to lie, I was quite grateful for the extra 1.5 hours of rest it provided me.
After the Superbowl we all bundled up and headed to the main park of the Uki Matsuri (snow festival). Finally! Uki Matsuriiii!! I think it is actaully quite hard to describe this festival, the sculptures are absolutely breathtaking! They are soooo huge, and yet so carefully carved... it was really cool to see. I had no idea that snow sculptures there were almost the size of houses.. as I have told all of my Japanese teachers
Casey and I
This is Casey and I doing our best to make-up for lost time due to 6 hours in Tokyo... I think we caught up, even if we didn't get to go to the Sapporo beer factory!
since returning: "totemo bikkuri shimashita!" (I was totally surprised!)
I think my favorite snow sculpture was by far the "Chronicles of Narnia" one (which may be a little biased since I have just finished reading the first 2 novels from the series). The sheer size of the sculpture was amazing... and then the details were really cool too! If you look in the pictures you will see that in the sculpture there is a sleigh with reins, and I was amazed by their sculpting abilities when I found out that even the reins were made solely of snow! So cool!
Anyways, we spent the entire day wandering around and looking at all of the sculptures. It was just a perfect day!
Monday night we finally made it to the beer factory for dinner, but instead of taking a 30min bus ride out to the Sapporo Beer Factory we decided to walk 5 min down the street to the Kirin Beer Factory, which also offered the all-you-can-drink/eat meal deal. This was our birthday dinner for Jason (who's birthday was on Tuesday), and was, as always, a blast! The theme of the night (besides beer) ended up being these
Enjoying the walk home... at 4am!
Possibly one of the funniest walks home from a bar ever.
ridiculously big crab lighters that the guys had bought during the day. The goal, light as many cigarettes as possible for people you don't know, with the king crab sized lighters. LOL, the ladies at the table across from us seemed to have a great time watching the efforts of Jeff, Jason and Jody! (Casey and I were too busy eating/drinking to take part.)
After dinner we all headed out to a local bar which was recommended by a few travel guide books, and had a birthday toast for Jason. By midnight, I was done and so headed back to the hotel for the longest night's sleep I had had in days.
DAY 4: Tuesday, February 7th
This was the last day of our Hokkaido vacation and wanting to make the most of it (since we had to fly out at 3:20 that afternoon), we all woke up early to head out to the 2nd snow festival park, Sato Land Park. (Oh, quick note: this day is just Casey and Jeff and I travelling together because Jason and Jody were not feeling so good at breakfast.)
After taking the 45 minute shuttle bus
Enjoying the walk home... at 4am!
For the record, Casey started this crazy activity of throwing ourselves into snowbanks on the walk home in the freezing cold... but it was really funny so I had to try!
to Sato Land Park, Jeff, Casey and I discovered that this was more of the children's playground of the snow festival. Snowman making contests, a giant maze, snow slides, and snow forts were the attractions here. However, one of the snow slides there was 100 meters long and pretty cool, and since I had read about it on the Internet I was really looking forward to it. For our 20 second ride down the 100 meter slide we had to wait in line for 1 hour! That was not in my plans! Oh well, we were lucky enough to have some really nice foreigners from Okinawa behind us in line to talk to, not to mention the cutest little Japanese boy ever to entertain us... so I guess it wasn't all that bad.
The snow sculptures at this park did not really compare to those of the main festival area in Sapporo, but it still ended up being a great day.
Oh yeah, basically from the time we stepped off the shuttle bus here this place was crawling with young elementary school students who continuously chased us down and said their few words of English before shoving their
A lot of work went into this picture
Due to the fact that it was only the two of us walking home and we had no one to take our picture, so we decided to stop traffic on a busy street so that we could set up the cameras on a parked car on the opposite side of the street and set the timer so that we would be able to run and throw ourselves just in time to have our picture taken. I am pretty sure the cab driver that we had block off the street was not impressed, but I think he was afraid to hit the drunk tourists. Hahahah.
notepad and pencils in our faces for signatures (I am pretty sure they were supposed to ask us if we would like to sign it, but I guess they forgot to practice that part). They were only cute at first, but once we were crunched for time it got a little annoying... oh well, I am sure I did something like that back in the day in Canada too!
By 1pm the three of us were back at Sapporo station to meet up with Jason and Jody, and from there we all had to book it to the airport as we had a few things to take care of before checking in. (Poor Casey, the two bad things that happened on this trip happened to her: not only did her brand new camera's screen get broken, but she also lost her return ticket, and upon arriving at the Sapporo airport we found out that she had to buy a new one, and will now be waiting 6 months for the reimbursement.)
After a little souvenir shopping, and a taste of the famous Hokkaido ice cream (yep, if you didn't know already... everything is famous in the mind's of
Crab anyone? Only $188.00
Crab is a common dish in Hokkaido, but man is it expensive!
the Japanese!), we were ready for take off. Next stop, Hiroshima!!!
What an amazing trip!!!
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