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Otaru Lights Up the Winter Night
Historic Japanese town's Snow Festival smaller but no less spectacular than Sapporo's
David Michael Weber (crossfire)     Print Article 
Published 2006-02-20 15:35 (KST)   

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Yuki Matsuri a Frozen Delight

Visitors walk along Otaru's Canal, all lit up.
©2006 D.Weber
Sapporo's Yuki Matsuri -- Snow Matsuri -- may get all of the international press, and rightly so because of its incredible colossal snow sculptures that dwarf visitors, but neighboring Otaru has a snow festival of its own that, while small and humble, shines or rather gleams in its own right. It is known, appropriately enough, as the Snow Gleaming Festival - Yukiakari no Michi.

A message from Otaru's citizens.
©2006 D.Weber
In the daytime, Sapporo's Yuki Matsuri far outshines Otaru's festival, but at night Otaru puts up some fierce competition in the romantic department. At night Otaru glows from the thousands of candles placed in simple snow structures spread throughout the town, lending it a graceful, magical-like quality.

Snowball modern art.
©2006 D.Weber
In many ways, Otaru's Snow Gleaming Festival in its simplicity better represents Japan than does Sapporo's grandiose Yuki Matsuri. Traditionally, Japanese have often preferred simple austere beauty to that of the grand and ostentatious. The elaborate Toshogu Shrine in Nikko and the dazzling Golden Pavilion in Kyoto are the exceptions, not the rule. The mammoth snow sculptures in Sapporo require weeks and thousands of workers to build. In Otaru, sometimes all that is required is a small hole in the snow and a handmade candle in order to achieve the desired affect.

A Snowman Valentine.
©2006 D.Weber
Among Japanese visitors to both snow festivals, some have the feeling that Sapporo's Yuki Matsuri dominates the day but Otaru's Yukiakari no Michi rules the night unquestionably.

©2006 D.Weber
Visitors can participate in the festival by purchasing handmade candles and placing them among the many small snow sculptures that dot Otaru.

©2006 D.Weber

©2006 D.Weber

A Snow King Kong in Snowy New York
©2006 D.Weber

©2006 D.Weber

©2006 D.Weber

©2006 OhmyNews
A native Tennesseean, David M. Weber is currently at the grammatical grindstone cranking out gerunds, dangling modifiers and perfecting tenses as an English teacher in Japan. In his travels, he has hiked the Inca Trail, been mugged in Mexico City, broke his leg in Switzerland, attempted to bike through Mexico and failed, climbed Pyramids in Egypt and Mexico, drank great quantities of beer at Oktoberfest and gambled at Monte Carlo.
Other articles by reporter David Michael Weber

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