Thanks to the increasingly warm weather in Kuala Lumpur I was drenched with sweat just from walking out in the street during the day time to catch a taxi to head to the airport. Amazingly, just just another day later in the same world, i found myself standing amid the frozen quiet of a snow field. Yes, I am about to bring you away from the warm weather in Kuala Lumpur to cool off in Sapporo, a nothern city of Japan.
When I arrived at Chitose International Airport, though I could feel the cold breeze, the busy activity there seemed to help fight off the cold weather and constant snow. Even more impression, unlike the chilly weather, all the immigration officials were very warm and friendly. There are even helpful officials available to assist all new visitors and get them through the entry process more quickly.
It took me a while to get from the airport to the city of Sapporo and all along the way the streets were filled with thick snow. All the vehicles had to drive carefully on the slippery road. This gave me more time to inhale my first moments in the city of Sapporo.
The chilly weather couldn’t prevent me from walking to the most famous park nearby, Odori Park. The park stretches over over a large area that I was told offers wonderful green space during the warmer months. In the first two weeks of February people from all over the world gather here to witness the famous Sapporo Snow Festival. Unfortunately, my arrival was later in the month, but I still could see some of the greatest ice carving sculptures. At the eastern end of Odori Park stands the TV Tower, a replica of the Eiffel Tower, with an observation deck that offers nice views of Odori Park and the city of Sapporo.
The bright light gradually disappeared behind the white snowy mountains, so I headed to fill my stomach. Sapporo is famous for hairy crab and Alaska crab, which are available at all seafood restaurant. Another recommended dish is miso ramen, noodles with Japanese bean paste added. After a nice hot dinner i was warmed up enough for a good night’s sleep.
People in Sapporo are well prepared for a long winter. The cool weather lasts for nearly eight months, from October to May, so a lot of winter sports are available , like skiing, snow boarding and many more that are enjoyed by people from other regions in the country and abroad. In spring and during the cool summer summer and fall, all over the Sapporo area it is beautiful with different styles of Mother Nature. For example, from April to June, the city will be filled with lush, green vegetation and blooming flowers.
I began my new day with a plan to visit a ski resort. There are many ski resorts in Sapporo to serve the huge flocks of people who want to enjoy skiing and snow boarding. It was no wonder that I could see a lots of youngsters taking ski lessons during the school break. For family fun, parents can bring along their kids to enjoy a variety of snow activities such as snowmobiling, inner tubing, sledding and dong sled riding. I have to admit that the Sapporo people are so well adapted that they have turned what i personally think of as a natural disadvantage into a paradise in their home.
The next morning, I got on a bus to go a bit further from the town, heading to Ainu Village. The bus maintained a safe speed on the curvy road surrounded by white mountainous scenery. The snow kept falling. I turned my face to the window and let my imagination run free. At one point, the bus passed a vast white deserted area. The atmosphere somehow looked lonely with feeling, I could also feel the softness of the snowflakes as well as the tranquility. My imaginative wandering stopped when I was told that we had reached Ainu.
I got off the bus and looked around the area, where there were some nice huts covered with snow. This is the place where Japan’s ethnic minority of Ainu live. The Ainu have their own culture and racial background, within the same compound of Ainu village is located the Ainu Museum, displaying their origin and way of life so that new generations can learn about their roots. Nearby the Ainu village, there is a sign saying “The Lake”. The lake was covered with snow when i was there and the ice was strong enough that I could see travelers setting up their tents for wither camping.
From Ainu village, i continued to Hokkaido’s most famous hot spring city, Noboribetsu. The city itself is beautiful surrounded by forest hills. Its major attractions are baths and the Jigokudani or “Hell Valley” where you can view and smell sulfurous steam vents and hot spring ponds.
Noboribetsu is also a forest reserve for Japan’s only brown bears, which are keen to eat, apart from fish, apples as their main diet. The brown bear is the largest land animal in Japan and it can weigh up to 250 kg.
After paying a visit to the brown bears, I took the bus to Lake Toya or Toyako which is part of Shikotsu-Toya National Park. This national park features a beautiful lake and areas that offer hiking, fishing and camping activities. Besides, this area is also famous for hot spring.
I can say during my visit to Sapporo in the winter, I definitely was able to absorb the charm of several different experiences that cannot be found anywhere else. There is an abundance of fun activities despite the disadvantage of climate.