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Dinosaurs made of snow at the Sapporo Snow Festival - photo by Ryan McDonald
Dinosaurs made of snow at the Sapporo Snow Festival - photo by Ryan McDonald

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The Sapporo Snow Festival

Want to see life-sized dinosaurs or a 30-foot sculpture of New York Yankee’s outfielder Hideki Matsui? What about if they were both made of snow? Then you should head to Hokkaido, the northernmost of the Japanese Islands, around the first week of February.

Just a Bunch of Kids

The Sapporo Snow Festival has been a tradition for more than half a century. It started in 1950 with some high school students trying to outdo each other by building elaborate snow sculptures in Odori Park, Sapporo’s central park. This caused other people to join in and created a yearly tradition.

The festival took a major turn when the Self Defense Force joined in a few years later. Using their engineering skills, they were able to build much larger sculptures with far more intricate details. Nowadays some sculptures are 50 feet tall and 150 feet wide. Read more...

A Beginner’s Guide to Sumo Wrestling

At 8.30, just after we’d gleefully got hold of a pair of tickets, a drummer atop the stadium’s turret began to beat out a tune, heralding the start of that day’s tournament.

Until lunchtime only junior wrestlers compete and although they are equally photogenic to the traveller’s eye, they fail to pull in much of a crowd.

Fans turn up in hordes to watch the top wrestlers clashing. Photos by Lucy Corne
Fans turn up in hordes to watch the top wrestlers clashing. Photos by Lucy Corne

We decided to mooch around some of Tokyo’s temples until we got hungry, then headed back to the stadium for a sumo-sized lunch.

Genuine Adulation

Our arrival coincided with that of the top wrestlers, including one of the yokozuna (grand champions). These men are the top of their field – the David Beckham of sumo wrestling, if you will – and are revered among Japanese people.

We were surprised to see them walk up to the stadium through the throngs of admiring fans and receive none of the mobbing that a western sports star might experience. Then again, I guess guys this big don’t need bodyguards and no-one in their right mind would get in their way. Read more...

 

Read more GoNOMAD stories about Japan:

Tokyo Neighborhood Guide: Seeing the Sights

Climbing Mount Takao: A Delightful Escape from Tokyo

The Holy Family Mission in Saku, Japan: A Peaceful Sanctuary

Hot Springs and Cherry Blossoms: Experiencing Japan’s Cultural Icons

Shinugu Matsuri: A Little-Known Festival in Okinawa

Tokyo, Japan: Done Subway Style

Traveling Tokyo Solo: What Every Woman Should Know

Tokyo on a Budget

Hokkaido, Japan: Crystal Clear Lakes and Smouldering Volcanoes

Shikoku, Japan: Destination Guide

Ise: Japan's Holiest Shinto Shrines

Gion, The Geisha District of Kyoto

Kyoto, Japan: A Mix Of Modern and Ancient

Biking Japan's Kibi Plain

Traveling With Kids in Japan

 

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