While stationed at Yokota AB one of the best things to do in the winter is to take a trip up to Sapporo for the annual Snow Festival, one of Japan’s largest winter events. About two million people come to Sapporo to see a large number of massive snow statues and ice sculptures which line Odori Park, the grounds at Community Dome Tsudome, and the main street in Susukino. For seven days in February, these sculptures turn Sapporo into a winter dreamland. Many of the ice sculptures are larger than houses and are really a sight to behold!
We took our two young children, ages 4 and 7 and they had a great time. They loved the giant ice slides! There was plenty for kids to do and see. We watched the extreme snow boarders jumping and enjoyed the ice skating rink.
It took us one full day to see all the sculptures. There are many other things to do while in Sapporo as well if you would like to stay a couple of days. Some other highlights in the area include the Sapporo Bier Garden for some great beer and BBQ, the chocolate factory, many museums, and “Ramen Alley,” for what people claim is the best ramen in the world. The area is also famous for their giant crab, sort of like Alaskan king crab. We had some for dinner one night and it was delicious.
Please note that they do not shovel the side walks or plow the roads there and the streets are very slippery. I definitely suggest snow boots with good traction to avoid falling. The festival is not at all stroller friendly though. I think a baby in a back or front carrier might be OK if they could be kept warm enough. The day we toured the festival it was in the 20’s and snowing hard!
Yokota ITT offeres two tours a year during the snow festival which are a great value. Their trips sell out quickly and usually go on sale the first of December. There were many people waiting in line that morning so book early if you would prefer their package deal. The Yokota Recreation Center also has a ski package to Sapporo which is usually a couple days before the festival but you still get to see many of them being built or even completed before the festival officially kicks off. Many people also book the trip by themselves. The flight up to Hokkaido, the northern island where Sapporo is located, only takes about 1 1/2 hours from Haneda Airport. It was definitely a once in a lifetime experience! Very “cool” (pun intended)! – Kelly O’Donnell, February 2013