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Philippine-Japan flags stand side-by-side on 70th anniversary of Sapporo Snow Festival

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By Monsi A. Serrano
Exclusive coverage of The Philippine Business and News

Sapporo, Japan – It is elating to know that the Philippine flag is included along with the Japanese flag in the Sapporo Snow Festival 2019 as Japan celebrates its 70th Anniversary of the famous and longest-running snow festival in the world and Japan’s most popular and celebrated winter events.

Also known as “Sapporo Yuki Matsuri” to the Japanese, “yuki” means “snow”, and “matsuri” means (solemn) “festival”, the said celebration is annually held for one week every February in Hokkaido’s capital Sapporo.

Started in 1950, the Sapporo Snow Festival happened when high school students built a few snow statues in Odori Park. It has since developed into a large, commercialized event, featuring spectacular snow and ice sculptures and attracting more than two million visitors from Japan and across the world.

As background, most of the posters used by the Sapporo Festival in the past 70 years were mostly images of snowmen, until the later time when the creativity of the Japanese sets in and developed the idea of coming up with various designs such as buildings, famous historical structures, events, and figure.

One classic example of highlighting the event in Sapporo Snow Festival was when Japan hosted the first Olympics held in their country where an ice carving of running athletes was created as a harbinger to the 1964 Tokyo Olympics which was known as the XVIII Olympiad and ran from October 10-24.

The Sapporo Snow Festival is rolled out in three areas namely Odori Site, Susukino Site, and Tsu Dome Site, but Odori remains the main area because of the breathtaking view of the bustling and vibrant Odori Park from the famous Sapporo TV Tower.

In the interview of The Philippine Business and News with Mr. Shinji Mae, Executive Director of Sapporo Tourist Association, said that in the Odori area alone, there are more than 2 million people who visit the main area of the Sapporo Snow Festival.

Why the Philippine flag was included?

 All the marketing collaterals for 70th Sapporo Festivalsuch as posters, brochures, postcards, and tarpaulins included  the Philippine flag (See blue circle that shows PH flag)

When asked why the Philippine flag was included in the most important winter occasion of Japan, the Executive Director of Sapporo Tourism Authority said: “It is a simple way to honor the Philippines and the Filipino people.”

“The Philippines and your people have been our good friends and partners in trade and other collaboration. As you know, there are many Japanese companies doing business in the Philippines. They treat the Philippines as their second home, and even the individual Japanese doing their business or living in your beautiful country, Mr. Mei explained.

“It is not the first time we honor the Philippines at Sapporo Snow Festival. In 2015, we had a huge gorgeous head-turner replica of the Manila Cathedral sculpture which was created under the auspices of the Japanese media firm Hokkaido Broadcasting Co. (HBC), ” Mr. Mei added.

One of Philippines’ oldest cathedrals takes center stage in Sapporo Snow Festival 2015

“This is our way 0f showing our deep gratitude to your country and the Filipino people and we all look forward to a deeper relationship with our country, with the Japanese people and more fruitful collaboration as we explore possibilities in our partnership,” the official of Sapporo Tourism Authority added.

Three main spots of the Snow Festival

Furthermore, there are 5 large snow structures, and one ice structure in Orori according to the Sapporo Tourist Association Executive Committee representative. Of the five sculptures, 2 were created by Japanese celebrities while the 3 were done by the citizens of Sapporo.

At the Odori site, visitors can enjoy the various masterpieces created by sculptors such as famous huge snow sculptures of different images depending on the artists’ concept. These huge snow sculptures are approximately more than 25 meters wide and 15 meters high. All of these are lighted daily.

While there are huge snow sculptures, the Odori Site also exhibits more than one hundred smaller snow statues and hosts several activities such as concerts and events with a background of huge snow sculptures.

And for those who did not bring a professional camera to take their solo or group photo with family or friends, there are free photos for visitors, and various food kiosks that offer not only Japanese food but also other food International food. The food kiosks also offer Halal food for Muslim guests.

For the Susukino area, which is located in Sapporo’s largest entertainment district, it is just a walking distance from Odori, it has around 60 high sculptures which are lovely to see especially at night when colorful lights illuminate both snow and ice sculptures. All these ice sculptures are lighted up daily until almost midnight, but not on the festival’s last day as they close it earlier to prepared for the demolitions of these snow sculptures.

Coca-Cola releases 70th Sapporo Snow Festival limited edition in can

For those who are looking for a family-oriented site during the Sapporo snow festival, Tsu Dome Site is what I would recommend.

Interestingly, the Tsu Dome Site has around 50-70 thousand estimated guests every year.  While it may not be that popular for those who would like to witness the amazing snow and ice sculptures, kids and their families will certainly enjoy various activities available there like snow slides, snow rafting, and more snow sculptures. Inside the dome, there are many food stands and a stage for events where everyone can have fun.

While both Odori and Susukino areas are the ones that are most popular and visited during the Sapporo Snow Festival, the Tsu Dome area is truly worth visiting to explore the beauty of Sapporo.

In closing, Mr. Mae said, “The Sapporo Snow Festival is unique and 95% Japanese know about this.”

Apart from the foreign tourists going to Sapporo to witness this celebrated winter festival, Japanese tourists coming from other parts of Japan also come to Sapporo to witness the lovely celebration that keeps them deeply rooted in their heritage and culture.

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