Sapporo Snow Festival, Day 1

So, two weeks ago, I decided that catching hypothermia in my town just wasn’t enough. I figured, why not travel to the practically-Arctic Alaska of Japan and play in some snow?
The aforementioned bus tickets were purchased just for this trip, which began in the wee hours of Thursday morning. As I was leaving school on Wednesday, I passed a teacher and told him my weekend plans.
“Hokkaido? Really? But now is winter there.”
This is true, but it’s also the famous snow festival next week, and I wanted to go early to avoid the crowds.
He smiled his grandfatherly smile and said, “Ah, perhaps it will snow, and your plane won’t take off, and you can come back here to teach.” Haha! Was that a joke? Who knows? Smile! Haha!
Dave and Charlotte trained in to spend the night at my place, since the bus left from my town. The day ended with Y, so Charlotte requested a dinner with the Ryuo 4 (us 3 and Kevin) at her favorite sushi place. We debated just staying up all night, but ultimately preferred 4 hours of sleep to nothing.
We met up with Shereena, Crystal, and Ayesha, our traveling companions, and left for the airport at 4:00 AM. To make a long story shorter, we were early enough to catch the flight prior to the one we signed up for and ended up in the northernmost island of Japan at our hostel at about the time we were supposed to leave Tokyo. So that was awesome.
Hokkaido is famous for ramen, which I didn’t have the highest of hopes for, because really — noodles and soup isn’t that difficult a concept. We stopped by a “famous” ramen place 2 streets down from the hostel, and it was actually really, really delicious. It was spicy and the soup was really thick and warm, which was nice because we saw huge, fat snowflakes beginning to fall outside. We left smelling like ramen for the remainder of the day.
The Snow Festival is famous for its beautiful sculptures, so we decided to see if any were built yet. There were some huge ones roped off in the distance — huge like a skyscraper on its side — with intricate carvings and amazing scenes, but angry looking policemen stood watch, even when Dave and Shereena pretended to not understand they weren’t supposed to wander under the ropes.
It had only been about 30 minutes since we’d eaten, so of course it was time to eat again. I think eating was the theme of this trip, as it is every trip I’ve ever been on. We went to the Sapporo Shopping Factory and had a swanky coffee and cake in a dark little cafe. I got Crystal to show me some new kanji.
After shopping, we sauntered to the Sapporo Beer Factory. The tour was in Japanese, but pretty pictures and animatronics are pretty easy to interpret. We even got to taste some hops! Or barley! Irish Dave was aghast, too, that on multiple paintings and posters around the factory, Guinness was in front of a British Flag. Yeah. Sapporo is even the Guinness distributor for Japan.
No clue.
After downing a paltry 3 non-free samples of beer, we left to be good ALTs and buy gifts for all 40 of our teachers. We took a taxi to a nearby souvenir shop, and when he took a corner too tight, we (Sapporo) drifted a little. Ayesha screamed, because she’s Jamaican and snow frightens and amazes her. I laughed and clapped my hands because I was raised learning to drive in the snow, and I often drove to school in the winter months doing nothing BUT fishtailing down treacherous roads. To the horror of the other passengers and the amusement of the driver, I kept asking him in Japanese to do it again, and he obliged. It’s a shame that there’s no tipping in Japan. There are so many industry workers who go out of their way to do something funny or entertaining for us.
I chose some sugar cookies with the island of Hokkaido on it in chocolate dough. I bought enough for 40 people, which I thought was over-estimating, but I forgot the office ladies. When I got back, I hid the remainder on my desk and just handed them out to the ladies who happened to walk past me. That’s probably the best way to do it.
By this time, we had been awake for a ridiculous amount of time, so we ate some delicious conveyor-belt sushi (after unknowingly circling the correct block about 20 times in a snowstorm), and headed back to the hostel for some shut-eye. I got the top bunk! Vacations are fun.

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