Jules is about to overload his senses as he hits Japan’s Sapporo Ice Festival for a sculpture spectacular.
Sapporo is on Japan's second largest island, Hokkaido. It is the island's administrative hub, main population centre, enjoys a cosmopolitan atmosphere and is one of Japan's most desirable places to live. Almost two million people call it home. Trees line its boulevardes, it has a long, central park and offers a less crowded look at modern Japan than Tokyo and Osaka.
Sports-loving locals will never forget Sapporo hosted the 1972 Winter Olympic Games. To pass the memory on to future generations, the Sapporo Winter Museum was established. Its exhibitions include Olympic and Misayama Ski Games memorabilia, the Winter Universiade and the world's first ski-jump simulator. State-of-the-art technology provides a deep understanding of competitions and visitors can feel and experience the excitement of winter sport.
The city's amazing Snow Festival is held each February. Each year around two million people come to see hundreds of magnificent snow statues and ice sculptures in Odori Park, the Self Defence Force base's grounds in Makomanai and Susukino's main street. For seven days, the statues and sculptures turn Sapporo into a winter dreamland of crystal-like ice and white snow.
Another of the city's popular places is the Sapporo Brewery and Beer Museum. This occupies the site of Japan's first brewery, established in 1876. Guided tours take around an hour. Audio-visual displays and exhibits show development from pioneering days. You can also visit the Sapporo Beer En, an enormous beer hall and garden. The specialty of the house gives you 100 minutes to eat as much Genghis Khan barbecue and drink as much Sapporo beer as your appetite and body will allow.
Something you will see a lot of is Pachinko, a mixture of slot machine and pinball. Small steel balls are thrown into a machine and players control the speed. Most balls disappear, but some find their way into special holes, activating a slot machine. If three identical pictures appear, you win countless new balls. Parlours are bright, colourful, smoky and noisy and it’s said the game can be addictive.
Suskino is where the action is, wall-to-wall with bars, karaoke parlours and kinky massage parlours.
Gaijin Bar is busy and friendly and there are usually plenty of local ex-pats who can help with the language. They serve real ale, burritos, burgers and meat pies.
The 350 Bar is pleasantly inexpensive. Drinks and snacks cost around $4. It is very popular with the young crowd. Be early to avoid queuing!
Beer Inn Mugishutei claims to have the largest selection of beer in the Orient and with more than 300 brands from over 50 countries, that is probably a legitimate claim. Owned by an entrepreneur with the unlikely name of Phred Kaufman, they serve sea-urchin ice, Australian meat pies, burgers and fish and chips.
To get a good look at the city and all the places you have visited or intend to, Sapporo TV Tower gives uninterrupted views. It rises 147.2m and has an observation deck at 90m.
Capsule Hotels offer a new experience for the western traveller. They provide the minimum amount of space a human being needs, but have a television and you can sit up. Earplugs are recommended and there is a curtain to provide privacy. There are separate floors for men and women.
Hokkaido Island, one-hour flight north of Tokyo
Winter Sports Museum entry costs around $7.
Sapporo Brewery tours are free.
Sapporo TV Tower entry costs around $20. It is open from 9am to 9pm.
Qantas flies daily to Tokyo, with Japan Airlines connections to Sapporo, starting at $1958 from Darwin, $2234 from Perth, $2236 from Melbourne, $2237 from Brisbane, $2252 from Sydney and $2285 from Adelaide, per person. Prices include charges/taxes and are current at time of writing but may vary at time of booking. Seasonal surcharges and conditions apply.
Please note prices are valid at time of filming.
Japan National Tourist Organisation
Level 18, Australia Square Tower
264 George Street, Sydney 2000
Ph: (02) 9251 3024, fax: (02) 9251 firstname.lastname@example.org
Sapporo Winter Museum
Sapporo Hokkaido Japan 064-0985
Ph: 81 011 631 2000
Kita 7 Higashi 9
Sapporo Hokkaido Japan 065-0019
Ph: 81 011 731 email@example.com
Minami 2 Nishi 7
Chuo-ku Hokkaido Japan 060-0042
Ph: 81 011 272 1033
Shin Hokusei Building
6F Minami 3 Nishi 3
Chuo-ku Sapporo Japan 060-0063
Ph: 81 011 531 2625
Beer Inn Mugishutei
B1 South 9, West 5
Chuo-ku Sapporo 064-0809
Ph: 81 011 512 4774
Sapporo TV Tower
1 Chome, Odori-nishi
Sapporo Hokkaido Japan 060-0042
Ph: 81 011 241 1131
Safro Capsule Hotel
Chuo-ku Sapporo Japan
Qantas: 13 13 13