“Ramen Alley” is a famous area in the Susukino area of Sapporo. It is a very narrow Continue reading
From Otaru city, we boarded our bus and set out for Sapporo with snow coming down in bucket loads. We arrived at and checked in to our hotel and had about an hour to rest and prepare to board the bus again for our Continue reading
A late-night sledding adventure on a deserted hill…with a good friend…on sleds made of cardboard boxes – life is good!
For the second week in a row, we had record breaking snowfall. And to have two major snow events one week apart in Tokyo is pretty incredible. Put that together with two women (one from Hawaii and the other from Louisiana), and too many days stuck inside and some craziness is bound to occur.
During the first snow storm, we saw parents with small children and children of all ages pulling sleds, laundry baskets , etc headed to the hill in back of our apartment building. My friend, L and I laughed about the possibility of waiting until late at night and going sledding after all the kids were gone. Each of us even had potential “sleds”…cardboard boxes. But 2 days passed, the snowy hill began showing patches of grass and we never followed through.
I could hardly believe it when 4 days later, weather forecasters were again predicting snow. I told my friend, “this time we HAVE to do it!” She agreed and as the day grew closer, they again predicted record- breaking snowfall. On the day the great second snowstorm, I reminded her, and it was a “go.” My husband began engineering my Zappo’s
box, which I must say ended up pretty darn spiffy! Written on my sled and inspired by the Olympics, was “Team USA,” quite fitting, I thought. He then covered the entire cardboard box, I mean “sled,” with clear packing tape to make it “race” down the hill faster.
Ok, by this time I am starting to refer to the upcoming sledding event as “the Luge” (in keeping with the Olympics theme). The final touches were the slight upturn of a curl on the front of the sled and the center-mounted rope to keep the front of the sled from digging in the snow (it also helped to keep the rider on the sled). The hour was approaching so I sent my friend a 30- minute heads up notice and her response was, “so you are serious?”
I’m not sure why she thought I wasn’t serious…maybe because I am 32 years older, a grandmother and old enough to be her mother for sure. But I WAS serious! So I told her I would be there to pick her up in 10 minutes. Since she hadn’t thought I was serious, she didn’t have time to get her sled “designed and engineered,” but her “priority mail” box looked like it would work.
Putting on layers and layers of clothes is hard work. By the time I finished I could barely move my arms and legs and felt like the “Michelin Man” in those tire commercials! I went downstairs with my hubby to pick up L, and we were off. Wow, I forgot how hard it was to walk in deep snow. Luckily, my husband blazed a trail and we followed. The wind was incredible and I then remembered a friend telling me that Japanese forecasters had predicted typhoon-like winds for this evening. Uh oh.
The wind was blowing the snow so hard that it sounded like sleet hitting the hood of my coat. We rounded a building a woo-hoo, we had the whole hill to ourselves! At first we couldn’t make the sleds move down the hill because the snow was too deep, so we walked up and down and pulled the sled through the snow and made our own luge track.
We got the hang of the sleds and made it work! I doubt we reached the 80+ mph that the Olympic Luge athletes did, but we had fun. And trooping through the snow, on the way back home, we made snow angels! Life is good!
After leaving the Ainu village museum, we boarded the bus for Otaru, a harbor city on the Sea of Japan. It was snowing hard and as we drove along, it seemed to snow harder as we went on and the highway became difficult to see. Our tour guide told us that our destination, Otaru, had received 4 meters (about 13 feet) of snow! I was amazed at the depth of the piles of snow along the highway, created by the ongoing snow plowing. It took us longer to get there than we expected, because at one point, they almost shut down the highway because of the snow and lack of visibility.
We arrived along a seaside street that led to the canal district. Quaint snow covered buildings lined the streets with piles of snow curbside. There were so many tour busses there that there were no parking spaces in the huge bus lot, so we were let off on the street for our 2-hour adventure in town. I had no idea this was such a tourist location! There was so much to see that we barely scratched the surface. There was a Venetian art museum, stores with handmade glassware and lamps, sake and wine shops, bakeries, and souvenir shops housed in stone warehouses built in the Meiji era (1868-1912). There were several ice cream stores, as the island of Hokkaido produces wonderful dairy products due to the large number of dairy farms on the island.
We walked in search of the Otaru Candle Factory and along the way stopped in a convenience store and purchased strap-on spikes that attach to your shoe for better footing. Unfortunately, they only had my size. Canal Plaza was very picturesque and crowded. Along the side of the canal, attached to an old warehouse building I saw an icicle that hung almost to the ground!
Unfortunately we never found the candle shop and on the way back to find our bus, hubby took a spill as we were crossing the street. No injuries, except maybe pride, but we vowed to continue our search to find those strap-on spikes for him!
The first week in February brought our much anticipated trip to the Sapporo Snow Festival. Sapporo was the location of the 1972 Winter Olympics, the first winter Olympics to be held outside of North America and Europe. Sapporo is located on the island of Hokkaido, the northernmost of the main islands of Japan.
We arrived on Hokkaido at the Chitose airport at about 8:30 a.m. Stepping off the plane Continue reading