Hokkaido is the northernmost island of Japan and is an absolute winter wonderland during the winter months. A group of us originally decided to travel here with the snow festival in Sapporo as the initial goal, but the entire island as a whole has many unique qualities to offer, and we couldn't help but see as much as we could.
Sapporo Snow Festival
When we first arrived, we were immediately drawn to the dreamy little ice skating rink that was surrounded by the festival's activities. While we were on the ice, snow was dancing all around us and it grew increasingly difficult to skate on freshly fallen snow. I've never experienced an outdoor rink while my surroundings were experiencing freezing temperatures, so this was all quite the new experience for me.
The festival as a whole was a little different than what I was expecting. I had seen photos of exquisite masterpieces on Pinterest; however, I wasn't aware that it all took place right in the middle of the city. Downtown buildings were literally hugging an ice sculpture of a fire breathing dragon, and there were convenience stores hovering behind a large-scale Cup Noodle. With that being said, it was still interesting to explore! Live performances were around every corner, and every 5 feet we came across a food stand with options that ranged from chocolate covered bananas, to honey drizzled cheese sticks. The whole event seemed to be tourist hub with plenty of activity, but we were ready to see what else Hokkaido had to offer.
Our next day in Hokkaido took us to the city of Biei and thankfully, we got the 3 day Inter City bus pass through Hokkaido X. At first I was hesitant due to the fact that it is 5,000 yen; however, I realized I initially underestimated the size of Hokkaido as a whole (aka transport was going to be expensive no matter where we went). Even traveling to and from the airport wasn't estimated to be cheap, so we figured that the pass would be worth it since we intended on making the most of our time there!
We headed out on an adventure that took us about 3 hours away by bus. Biei was not a short commute, and the destination that we were looking for was even farther. The mystical blue pond has become an intriguing destination to travelers to capture after gaining recent publicity. The Blue Pond is a desktop background option for OS X Mountain Lion and has been seen by millions all over the world. A landscape with such beauty has the ability of stealing the breath from all who glance at its beauty. No pressure.
One could can safely assume that our expectations were pretty high, so imagine our disappointment when the famous Blue Pond had blankets of snow covering the anticipated allure of the tinted reflection. We recovered pretty quickly from this let down and used it as an opportunity to explore the rest of the surrounding area. I launched delicately packed snowballs, trudged through knee deep mounds, failed at thawing my bitter appendages, and put my feet on the frozen sheet which coated the pond itself. Overall, we made the most of our time here in spite of the weather technicalities.
Shiragihe Falls & Bridge
Shirahige Falls is the water source that supplies the renowned Blue Pond. During warmer parts of the year, this natural beauty is surrounded by lush vegetation; however, during this time, parts of the waterfall are barely even flowing due to the frigid temperatures. What was once an active waterway had transformed to be both frozen and hesitant. Everything was surrounded by the chilled air, and it seemed as though everything had slowed down consequently. Beautiful sights were captured in time, and the whole world was simply at peace.
Noymond Organic Cafe
On our last day in Hokkaido, we were hoping to find a nice place to head to before we embarked for the airport. Although breakfast joints weren't typically too readily available, we came across Noymond Organic Cafe and my little "health nut" heart could not have been filled with more sunshine.
Although the selection was not terribly extensive, the quality of all the options were impeccable. From french toast, to hamburgers, I was impressed to know that each offering was completely organic and relatively wholesome.
My french toast came with a fresh side of fruit, and I chose to top my meal with the fluffiest of whipped creams! I honestly could not be more satisfied with my choice! The fruit that came with my crispy french toast was both fresh and succulent. After a few days of ramen and pizza slices, this selection left me feeling satiated and rejuvenated.
Our trip to Hokkaido ended on a very sweet note and it was exhilarating to explore the northern (and bitter cold) region of Japan!
Maybe next time I'll be prepared with real snow boots and stronger heat packs.