The Sapporo Yuki Matsuri isn’t just a daytime affair. In fact, it seems that the festival atmosphere only really kicks in when the sun goes down and the lights come on. We’ve had a taste of that on the first night, when we visited the main venue at Ōdōri Park – but there’s lots more to see at the third and final site, in Sapporo’s main entertainment district of Susukino.
Feeling quite knackered after visiting two Yuki Matsuri sites (here and here) in quick succession, I allowed myself a couple of hours’ rest in the warmth of my hotel room before venturing out again for more sightseeing.
But before hitting my main target for this evening, I went on a short detour to pay my respects to one of Sapporo’s most iconic landmarks – easily reached on a long but sheltered walk from the main railway station through the underground passage that runs across the downtown area.
The distinctly Western-style Tokeidai (Clock Tower) dates from 1878, when it was erected to serve as the drill hall of the Sapporo Agricultural College. Nothing particularly breathtaking to see here, but it’s an interesting little piece of old Sapporo that has managed to hang on for more than a century, even as a forest of bland concrete buildings sprouted up all around it. The fact that it’s one of the oldest surviving structures in Sapporo, and yet is so much newer than the centuries-old palaces and shrines in other parts of Japan, serves to drive home the the fact that this sprawling prefectural capital is still quite a young city.
With the twinkling lights and the delicate icicles hanging from the eaves, this is the sort of scene that would look absolutely splendid on a Christmas postcard.
From here, I returned to the underground passageway . . .
. . . and continued making my way southwards, to Sapporo’s main entertainment district of Susukino – site of one of the Yuki Matsuri’s three regular venues.
By this time, the skies were turning dark and the famous crossing was ablaze with colour.
Right, there’s the sign – we’re certainly at the right place!
Snow was the dominant medium at the Yuki Matsuri’s two other venues, but in Susukino ice is king. The street was lined with sculptures carved out of the stuff, clear as glass, and with the bright signs all around, even those displays that had no spotlights of their own sparkled with an endless variety of borrowed light and colour.
Some of the more popular ones were backed by seafood establishments, and featured living (well, once-living anyway) treasures of the ocean frozen into blocks of ice.
As always, corporate-sponsored artworks were on hand – far prettier than your run-of-the-mill billboard. Many appeared to be promoting liquor of one form or another.
There was also an ice bar on hand where visitors can treat themselves to the real stuff . . .
. . . and a snow-paved walkway with a canopy of twinkling lights, for those with a romantic bent.
Ahh, not a bad way to end our time at the Yuki Matsuri. We’re not done with Sapporo yet, and the festival itself goes on for a few more days after this – plus I’ve got loads more to show about two other winter festivals in nearby cities. But as far as my own journey is concerned, I’m happy to call a successful conclusion to this year’s visit to one of Hokkaidō’s biggest annual events.
With that, I bid farewell to Susukino . . .
. . . sat down to an evening treat of Japanese-style cheesecake . . .
. . . rested for a bit, and then turned in to prepare for the following day’s out-of-town excursion.