Japan is famous for Sapporo’s Snow Festival, which millions of people flock to Hokkaido to see. I, however, opted for the easier option of going to the nearby town of Ono for its Snow Festival. Predictably, I was thoroughly disappointed but it was a fun morning.
The town of Ono is surrounded by mountains and usually has snow all through the winter months. Yet this year the winter has been incredibly mild, so it was a fine sunny day when my friend and I visited and there was a distinct lack of snow! The main festival takes part on the Saturday evening when ice lanterns are lit with tea lights, sake is drunk and fireworks mark the annual event. The next day however has the morning-after feel to it and the lanterns were either melting or being kicked over by small children. There were giant igloos still standing and a fun ski slope for sleighing, yet that was pretty much it. No ice sculpture of famous buildings to be seen, whatsoever.
The morning market in Ono turned out to be the most interesting part, especially as many friendly locals would start a conversation with us just because we were the only westerners at the festival. As we walked down the street with stalls selling freshly caught crabs, local vegetables and beans for the Setsubun festival, we couldn’t help but notice the music playing over the loudspeakers. At first it was a rather creepy-sounding lullaby, then it moved on to a famous symphony as moving and dramatic as Gladiatior’s Now we are free, it seemed totally out-of-place in this small-town market place where obaa-chans (grandmothers) were happily selling their home-grown potatoes to the few people around. Japan never fails to surprise.
Here are some sketches I did along the way 😛