Snow Festival in Sapporo, Japan

Snow Festival in Sapporo, Japan

According to topschoolsintheusa, Sapporo is a city on Hokkaido, the northernmost of the large Japanese islands. With a population of nearly 2 million, Sapporo is the fourth largest city in Japan. Due to its location on the island of Hokkaido, Sapporo is one of the coldest major cities in Japan. The region is often exposed to adverse conditions, especially in winter, and is often covered by a thick layer of snow.

Accordingly, Sapporo’s most famous attraction is a spectacular festival dedicated to snow. The Yuki Matsuri (in German festival of snow) in February is the flagship of the city. During the festive season, countless ice and snow sculptures will be demonstrated, which were meticulously planned and masterfully crafted beforehand with Japanese devotion. Some of the impressive sculptures reach a height of ten meters and are up to thirty meters wide. Among other things, snow and ice are arranged as life-size temples.

The Japanese have a spiritual approach to nature that is based on a belief system specific to Japan, Shintoism. Shintoism elevates natural phenomena to the supernatural machinations of spirits and gods. The Yuki Matsuri developed out of the custom of paying homage to the forces of nature and is now primarily an event that attracts enthusiastic visitors from all over the world.

The processions are garnished with all kinds of artistic presentations and show acts. Nowadays, the Yuki Matsuri is a gathering point and meeting place for many cultures that come together to worship winter. However, the Yuki Matsuri never loses its genuinely Japanese character. The folk festival is no longer a regionally limited ode to superstition, it is a festival that gathers the many Japanese from the different islands in one and the same place and also welcomes every foreign visitor in a friendly manner.

The Sapporo Snow Festival is not only the most famous festival in Hokkaido, it is an encounter with nature that emphasizes the harmony between man and nature and promotes mutual respect.

Cherry blossom in Yoshino

a dream in pink and white

When the cherry blossom starts in Yoshino-yama in Japan at the end of April, hundreds of thousands of visitors flock to the magical place, which was sacred to Buddhist monks as early as the 8th century. Yoshino-yama has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2004, because it is one of the ten most beautiful regions of Japan that enchants with its cherry blossom. About 30,000 cherry trees decorate the area and cover the slopes in spring with a layer of flowers like powdered sugar. About 8 km of hiking trails are ready to stroll and be amazed. The four most famous hanami squares in the region are located along this route.

Flower shows in Japan – cherry blossoms are the main theme

As the most important symbol of Japanese culture, the cherry blossom enjoys worldwide recognition. The Japanese cherry tree is not planted for its fruit or its wood. Its sole purpose is its incredibly beautiful flowers. Yoshino-yama now regularly competes for the title of “Best Hanami Area” and a flower show in Tokyo cannot take place without the Yoshino cherry. As the most popular of all ornamental cherries, the Yoshino cherry is synonymous with the cherry blossom At the beginning of the Meiji period, but the enthusiasm for the blossoms grew so rapidly that this variety ousted all others.The ritual of the flower display prevailed from the Edo period (1603-1868).

However, if you want to marvel at the natural spectacle of cherry blossoms, you have to watch out for the right time, because the blossoms stay on the tree for a maximum of three days. When a gust of wind blows the blossoms off the branches, the Japanese call it a cherry blossom blizzard. This peaceful natural spectacle can hardly be compared with other phenomena on earth. The fairytale magic can be extended a bit at the flower shows. The city of Yoshino is also worth a visit as a place steeped in history. It was a spiritual center for centuries and is the starting point of a pilgrimage to the holy Mount Omine. There are numerous shrines and temples along the hiking trails, which will also inspire participants of spiritually oriented study trips.

Tsukiji fish market

Tsukiji fish market

One of the most unusual sights on a trip to Japan is the Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo, just a stone’s throw from the luxury shopping street Ginza. If you want to visit this market, you have to get up early, in two senses. For one thing, everything was already up and running around eight o’clock in the morning and is already being cleaned up. The auctions and the big sales activity take place beforehand, from around three o’clock in the night until six or seven o’clock, so you should be there no later than six o’clock, better earlier! On the other hand, the Tsukiji fish market will be relocated in November 2016 to the Toyosu district, an artificial island in the harbor basin of Tokyo. The charm of the old building from 1935 will then be irretrievably gone, the new market will be difficult to reach and will consist of modern functional architecture. In Japan that means a lot of concrete.

The Japanese and the sea

The Tsukiji fish market should be part of every study trip to Japan, because here you get close to the soul of Japan. Love, as the saying goes, goes through the stomach. And the relationship between the Japanese and the sea is primarily a culinary one. Nowhere else is the per capita consumption of fish higher, nowhere else are there more foods that contain fish, algae or other seafood. At the wholesalers’ stands you will find tanks and baskets with all imaginable marine animals, fish of all sizes and shapes, mussels and snails, squids and octopus and sometimes even whale meat.

The uncrowned kings of the fish market are the tuna, which are easily one to two meters long. They are auctioned off in lightning-fast auctions with gestures and hand signals, whereby a single fish can easily cost over 10,000 euros. Then they are dismantled at the stalls and sold on to buyers from retail chains and restaurants. There is an unbelievable hustle and bustle of people and motorized transport carts, tourists are sometimes rudely shooed aside, they are only tolerated here.

Tsukiji fish market