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Snow and sculpting on show in Sapporo

by Edan Corkill

Perhaps it’s a sign of how peaceful the last 54 years have been for Japan. Since 1955, many of the giant snow sculptures that have made the Sapporo Snow Festival famous around the world have been constructed by members of the Ground Self-Defense Force, which have several bases in Hokkaido. For this year’s festival, to be held from Feb. 5-11, they will be back in action again.

Hamamatsu Castle, Hakodate Magistrates Office and what looks like a giant platter of fish are among the structures the hatchet- and shovel-wielding soldiers are at this very moment sculpting on Sapporo’s central Odori boulevard. To construct their icy replicas, which tower 10 meters and more in height, the sculpting squads use earth-moving equipment to pack snow into giant wooden frames. Then they remove the frames when the snow has hardened and start carving it by hand.

One highlight this year will be a reproduction of the Namdaemun Gate in Seoul that was destroyed last year by an arsonist. It will be at 7-chome in Odori Park. A sculpture sponsored by the Tokyo 2016 Bid Committee will feature three heroes from last year’s Olympics, including swimmer Kosuke Kitajima, who will be depicted leaping from the water.

In addition to the 1.5-km stretch of Odori Park, which contains the main sculptures and will be illuminated nightly until 10 p.m. — a second venue open from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. at Tsudome will feature snow slides and mazes. The Susukino Ice Festival, held concurrently in the area south of Susukino Subway Station, will feature a veritable menagerie in ice, from crabs to squid and salmon.

Admission is free. For further details see www.snowfes.com