Asahikawa in central Hokkaido will not win the “prettiest town” prize by a long shot, neither in summer nor in winter. Its main claim to fame is being a rail hub for the northern Japanese island, about 80 minutes by train from Sapporo. It also boasts an “Ice Festival” with snow figures and ice sculptures, held coincidentally to the similar events in Sapporo and Otaru.
On this Thursday evening, light snowfall muted the sound of the live pop acts on the main stage, and only a small crowd had gathered to view the works and eat local goodies such as grilled oysters, home made ramen noodle soup and the ever present yakatori grilled pieces of chicken.
An igloo labyrinth, several slides for the children, an outdoor log fire and an ice bar – where I gladly had a large cup of hot sake – rounded out the offerings.
The ice sculptures line the main pedestrian zone and, as with all these sculptures, are amazing in their inventiveness and intricacy of detail. I had read that there was a competition. Unfortunately, due to my lack of Japanese reading skills, I could not make out the winners. Not that it really mattered, they all merited “A” for effort.