Sapporo is always a good idea, in winter.

A Odori landmark:  the TV Tower
An Odori landmark: the TV Tower

Visiting Sapporo sans the giant ice sculptures must feel like going to Lucban Quezon without the kiping. So if you’re planning a trip there, do it in February. The festival runs for 7 days, and the sculptures change from year to year.

The sculptures are erected in three parks, but most of them are concentrated in Odori which is right in the center. This year’s main attraction just happens to be the Manila Cathedral.

Contrary to some reports, the Cathedral was sculpted by the Japanese and not Filipinos. I think we still don’t have the experience to sculpt pieces bigger than the kissing swans you see in local weddings.

The group that did the Cathedral chose a Malaysian landmark as peg for last year. This year, they thought it’d be a challenge to turn Philippine, as told by the Filipinos who set up a booth right next to it, where they sold Boy Bawang, Chippy, Gina Mango Juice and Aristocrat Barbecue, among others.

Odori is 13 blocks long and it’s filled with sculptures both large and small. The Japanese are cartoon-crazy, so it’s not a surprise to see familiar characters from Disney and anime.   It was just overwhelming.

The food is as big a highlight as the sculptures. It’s nice to have something warm and spicy as you shiver in below zero temperature.  Everything that Sapporo is famous for is sold there: miso ramen, crab, soup curry, scallops, grilled mutton and dairy, plus pickled stuff, ice cream, grilled corn, hotdog, takoyaki, peanuts, and international cuisine. 

I thought I could spend the entire trip exploring the sculptures in Odori. But seeing them during day and at night was actually enough. The magic wears off if you see too much of Darth Vader carved in ice. There’s more to Sapporo – there’s Otaru, in my next installment. This we learned by accident from the Pinay who was peddling Boy Bawang.