After arriving at Sapporo station by bus from Rusutsu we checked in at the ANA Sapporo Hotel (a disappointing hotel with small rooms, etc. though it was very close to the site of Snow Festival; the ANA Hotel in Chitose was better). The ice sculpture outside the hotel was a beauty). Since I had made a dinner reservation we went to an Izakaya (a kind of tapas restaurant) called Minoya in Susukino. I made a reservation because I was somewhat assuming Sapporo restaurants were filled with tourists from many countries (I think we heard Chinese and Korean spoken most frequently). It was a small restaurant in an undistinguished building (the taxi driver did not know it) but the dishes they served were pretty good. While we dined there with many individual dishes we witnessed a retirement party for the vice principle of a Sapporo elementary school. It was rather interesting to observe their party; it seems most of them were rather drunk and very familiar with each other. At the other tables salary-men and –women were enjoying themselves after work by drinking beer and eating small different dishes. I found one person who chain-smoked throughout his stay rather objectionable, but nobody stopped him from doing so though these days smoking is prohibited in many places of Japan. Whenever I see an enclosed space with several people standing in Japan (which is a rather eerie sight) I realize it is the separate smoking zone.
On our second day in Sapporo after buffet breakfast we walked to the Snow Festival site. Around Sapporo’s Odori (the biggest street in Sapporo) more than 200 ice and snow structures were built. Alongside the walkways many temporary eateries had set up their shops to serve millions of people who visit the Snow Festival. Many policemen/women guided the flows of big crowds. Some snow structures which required bulldozers and other construction equipment were huge while others looked very small compared with those massive structures. I liked Kasuga Shrine structure best because it clearly showed the creators’ attention to details as well as the overall harmonious proportion.
After seeing all the snow structures made by people (some of the structures/ sculptures were still in the condition of work in progress) from all over the world, we visited Sapporo Beer Museum (the admission was free). The museum was organized in a chronological order showing how it was first developed as a government enterprise and then sold to a private businessman. On the first floor next to the information desk there was a beer café where gifts and beer were sold. For 200 yen people could purchase among others three glasses of beer comparing the original beer and later beers. The café was filled with Caucasians. Interestingly my family enjoyed the taste of the original best. It seems the original was pulled off the market due to its somewhat cloudy liquid. It clearly showed that the modern humans value visual sense more highly than palate sense.
After visiting the museum we decided to visit the Ice Festival site in Susukino. In some ways the ice sculptures were more impressive at dusk with their intricate designs and translucent beauty more visible..
After seeing all the ice sculptures we had dinner at another small restaurant in Susukino. I was interested in this restaurant because it served fugu/blowfish course. However, at the last moment I became hesitant to have this course. Besides, my husband already declared that he would have the sushi deluxe set. After minutes of tense time I finally decided to order fugu-sashi/ sashimi of blowfish. My family members discussed about the danger of eating fugu. One of our grown children said about 40 people a year die after eating fugu (which was incorrect because nowadays only about 2 die after eating fugu prepared by unlicensed cooks; this conversation reminds me of the family conversation in DeLillo’s White Noise). We had sushi, dishes with asparagus and shiitake. When the fugu-sashi finally arrived it was beautifully arranged on a plate. I was the first one to pick up a translucent sliver. It had a different texture from other fish meats and its taste was also different. I did not eat other cooked parts, such as skins. The fugu-sashi was by far the most expensive (more than twice as much as the sushi deluxe set), and I can’t say I would want to eat another plate of fugu-sashi. I would rather have another grilled abalone which we purchased from a street vendor at the Snow Festival.