北海道JaLS STAFF BLOG

Ice festival !

2013年02月22日 13:59
カテゴリ:from Hokkaido JaLS

This week-end, JaLS students could enjoy Shikotsu Lake Ice Festival !

Of course, it’s about ice sculptures (who said “again” ?) but these are different from the ones you can admire at Susukino (Sapporo).
They are lit up by colored lights that give them a shiny, magic charm.

You can taste the local speciality : Himemasu-don, fried fish from Shikotsuko Lake laid on rice. If you don’t like fried dish, try festival food like butter-potatoes, grilled octopus, sweet sake, grilled corn…even ice-cream if you are not afraid of being cold inside as outside as well.

You can walk around the icy statues, play on icy slides…and go inside an ice temple where everyone stick its 5-yen coins on walls (the japanese pronuncation of 5 yen is Go-en 五円 which is also the same as ご縁 which means “fate”)

And last but not the least : fireworks !

The entry is free and all the work is done by volunteers so to support future events, please make a little donation.

Hopefully, see you next year !

Snow Festival : a 64-years long story

2013年02月20日 14:53
カテゴリ:from Hokkaido JaLS

Sapporo Snow Festival just ended a few days ago… it’s a little sad but snow doesn’t desappear like that in Sapporo so we can still play for at least 2 months !

Why such a big event is so short ? Because temperatures can vary suddenly in Sapporo and it doesn’t take much time for the snow to melt. Imagine a 10-meters high mountain like-statue falling apart on the crowd ? Keeping it short is the best idea.

Of course everyone knows about the festival attractions : giant snow sculptures, slides, food stands… but do you know its history ?

Everything started in 1950 with 6 pupils from junior-high school who decided to build a snow statue in Odori Park and it attracted 5000 people !

 

A few years later, Japan Self-Defense Forces decide to launch a contest of the most beautiful giant snow sculpture. Following that, the festival became popular in the media.

In 1974, the international snow sculpture contest started and since then, Germany, Australia, Canada, China…etc many countries competed to win the 1st place.

This year’s first price : Taiwan !

If you want to learn more about the snow festival, there is a Museum dedicated to this event where you can see the previous editions’ models, posters… at Hitsujigaoka park.

Here is the link in Japanese : http://www.hitsujigaoka.jp/amusements/yukimatsuri.html

Nowadays, around 2,000,000 people visit Odori Park each year. Do you want to join them next time ?

 

 

In February, love is in the air

2013年02月14日 13:48
カテゴリ:Japanese Culture

Of course it’s Valentine’s Day !

In Japan, the 14th February is a real celebration…for chocolate-making companies.

In fact, women are supposed to offer chocolates to their lover and it’s the best occasion for love confession. Recently the trend is not limited to your beloved but also, all the people you love: family, friends, colleagues…Generally, girls like to make chocolate themselves as a proof of their affection.

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For busy people, supermarkets, convenient stores, bakeries, chocolate factories are overflown with prettily wraped chocolates. You can find any shape, any taste for any price in the wide range of products.

As nothing is received without gratitude in Japan, they planned another occasion, the White day, to give men the opportunity of paying back. On the 14th March, men are offering gift to women (not necessarily chocolates, but bags, cookies, jowellery…) and sometimes, they are expected to spend a little more than their Valentine’s gift…Very gentleman isn’t it ?

Business or not, Valentine’s Day is part of Japanese culture and you must admit that it’s a delicious excuse to give up your diet.
It’s also Valentine’s day at JaLS and teachers gave chocolates to their students: yummy panda !

Curling (カーリング)

2013年02月12日 14:51
カテゴリ:from Hokkaido JaLS

Do you know what is curling?

Have you ever played this game?

 

If you come from the west (especially Canada), you may probably have heard of and may even be an expert in this sports. But for people living in the East, curling is a sport activity that can only be seen on the television when there is Winter Olympic Games. However, nowadays, this game is getting popular in Japan and we are happy to let our students have a go at this funny sport!

 

 

It was our first time to play curling so the coach taught us the basic skills including how to slide on the ice ground, how to deliver the curling stone, as well as how to make use of the curling broom.

 

At first, we were all very nervous as we all came from countries that never snow. In other words, we are not used to walking nor playing on ice ground  >.<  However, we found this game so interesting when we gradually got used to the slippery ground.

 

See ~ we LOOK so professional after an hour’s training  :p

What are you waiting for? Come and let’s have a game in Sapporo !

 

 

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My Life in Sapporo Shared House

2013年02月06日 16:50
カテゴリ:Living in Hokkaido

Once I have made up my mind to go to Hokkaido, I have decided to stay indoors whenever possible. It is just too cold outside!

Thus on the day of moving in, I surprised myself by saying ‘yes’ when my housemates invited me to play suberidai (滑り台) on Sunday.

 

We drove to Takino Suzuran Koen (滝野スズラン公園) in the afternoon and found there was a long queue lining up for suberidai. It’s obvious that suberidai is a very popular game in Hokkaido during winter.

 

To play suberidai, we need to borrow swimming rings which requires no rental fee. (COOL!) Then we queued up for the ‘lift’ which pulled us up to the slope and slid down from the top of the slope to the bottom. I couldn’t believe such a simple game brought us so much fun and I could hardly remember how many turns I did!

 

 

It’s getting dark (also the weather was getting worse) so we walked to the parking lot at around 3.30pm.

‘Where is the car key?’ one of housemates who drove the car asked. Everyone remained silent, hoping that he was playing joke on us. No matter how cruel it is, you need to accept the reality — WE LOST THE KEY!

 

It was so bad that we could not find the car key even with the help of the playground staff. It was so kind that the playground staff drove us to the visitor centre and wait for our friend to bring us the spare key. When we were waiting for the key in the visitor centre, we played lots of mini games which are popular in Japan.

 

It was already 8pm when we arrived home.

Although we were tired, we couldn’t wait to join the nabe (なべ) party in living room   \(^^)/

 

 

Although we crashed into a small accident today, we had so much fun and I begin loving to hang around with friends regardless the coldness outside.

 

 

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A survival guide for icy territory

2013年02月01日 14:21
カテゴリ:Living in Hokkaido

Let’s enjoy the winter in Sapporo without a broken leg ! With a good preparation, everything is absolutely fine.

First and obvious advice : buy good shoes which means warm, studded shoes. With a good grip on the ground, you have no chance to fall.

If your country is all summer year-round, no worries, you can find practical shoes for a reasonnable price in Sapporo.
To stay fashion, you can add removeable ice cleats to your boots and you are done.

Second, watch your way. If pavements are fine, crosswalks are more vicious : it’s a real skating rink so be careful while crossing.
Sometimes, it’s not you who are slipping but the others around. Check out if cars are actually stopping before crossing. Another advantage of Sapporo is that the snow is piling around roads so you are protected from any traffic accident.

Third, avoid ice.
If streets seem strangely empty when you go outside it’s not because everyone fled to Caribbean, they are underground.
As we said before, there is an underground walkway that connects Sapporo Station to Susukino Station in where you can access the buildings surrounding the area.

Fourth, a ground that doesn’t look icy is still a threat.
Especially when you enter a building, after passing the safe carpet area, many people forget their vigilance and fall. Why? Because your stoles are covered by snow so it becomes really slippy in contact with a solid floor.

These little advices can help you anytime and don’t worry too much about falling, after all, without ice, there wouldn’t be ski, snow festival or igloos…everything that makes Hokkaido, the best place ever.

Winter at the zoo !?

2013年01月29日 13:48
カテゴリ:from Hokkaido JaLS

Today’s activity was Asahiyama zoo ! Students got to discover that beautiful site and its attractions.

They admired the penguins march ! Outside of their home, penguins are parading so close to visitors that they could almost touch them !

Polar bears and seals seemed very happy surrounded by snow and ice, while tigers and other felines relied on their fluffy fur to fight the cold.

However, there is a strange animal that shouldn’t be playing outside, right キリンさん? (“kirin” means “giraffe”)

After the tour, students could buy very cute plushies, stationery or phone straps figuring their favorite animals at the souvenir shop.

And you ? Do you want to join us next time ?

Where are the Hokkaido people?

2013年01月22日 19:01
カテゴリ:Living in Hokkaido

When I first arrived in Sapporo, I was astonished by the street view here. You can hardly find a person in the street !!

 

‘Where are the Sapporo people? Are they spending the winter in south part of Japan where the climate is much warmer?’

 

Questions came up in my mind when I was walking along the street. Finally, I got the answer when I walked down to chikagai (地下街).

 

In chikagai, heater warms up the air. Also, chikagai protects you from the strong wind outside. Furthermore, there are many boutiques and restaurants in chikagai. You can spend the whole day in chikagai without getting bored#

# Sapporo Chikagai runs from Sapporo JR Station to Susukino Subway Station. It also links to various shopping malls and commercial buildings.

 

 

Another way to warm your up in Hokkaido severe winter is kairo (カイロ). It is a small pad stuffed with vermiculite which produces heat in contact with oxygen. These pads are available in drug stores, convenience stores and 100 Yen Shop.

 

The most basic type of kairo is to warm your hands. Recently, there are different types of kairo appear in the market. Say for example, there are warm pads which can be attached to clothes to make your body warm and even smaller pads to be put into shoes to keep your feet warm.

Stay warm!

 

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Sapporo map and directions

2013年01月21日 13:23
カテゴリ:Living in Hokkaido

New in Sapporo and already lost ? No worries, we are here to guide you !

First, you must know that Sapporo is divided in ten wards, called “ku” 区. Sometimes their name are logical as based on their location (North ward “Kita-ku” 北区, Center Ward ”Chuo-ku” 中央区…) or on the contrary, totally random (The white stone ward “Shiroishi-ku” 白石区、ainu-language derived Toyohira-ku, 豊平区).

Concerning the orientation in the city, the system is based on cardinal points and number of streets such as New York city. The starting point is the TV tower. From here, the further you go, the streets number will grow higher. Then, your position is marked this way :
North/South Number East/West Number.

It’s very easy to find your way in Sapporo, just follow our little map and you will get the trick in no time !

Here is Hokkaido JaLS directions and a view of the signs that will guide through the city. As they are everywhere, there is no chance to get lost.

At first, you won’t probably be able to distinguish where is North or South… but try to remember some key locations such as Sapporo Station or Tanukikoji to figure out your position.

Don’t be affraid to be lost, you may discover things that maps don’t show.

Coming of Age Day

2013年01月16日 16:24
カテゴリ:Japanese Culture

What’s the age of a teenage turning into an adult in your country?

 

In Japan, young people gain the right to vote when they reach 20 years old#, which means they start carrying the social responsibility. In other words, 20 is the turning point in a Japanese’s life. To value this important stage, Japanese Government names the second Monday of January the Seijin-No-Hi (成人の日).

# Japanese are officially permitted to smoke and drink alcohols from 20s.

 

On the day of Seijin-No-Hi, people who reach 20 that year all dress up nicely. Young men dress themselves up in suits while young woman are in kimono wears.

 

And actually, the date and way to celebrate Seijin-No-Hi did change as time went on.

 

Long time ago, when Japanese were still adopting the lunar calendar, Seijin-No-Hi was on the 15th January. With the rise of Meiji Revolution in 1868, the Meiji Government abolished lunar calendar and adopted Gregorian calendar. Seijin-No-Hi thus changed from lunar calendar 15th January to Gregorian calendar 15th January. In 2000, Japan Government finalized the date of Seijin-No-Hi the second Monday of January every year.

 

In the past, young people reaching 20 years old that year celebrated with families. Nowadays, many young people take part in the official ceremonies organized by ward offices. For example, Sapporo Central District Ward Office has announced the Seijin-No-Hi Ceremony to be held at Sapporo Park Hotel this year.

 

 

Interested in the Seijin-No-Hi Ceremony?

Please feel free to drop by and have a look if you’ve got the chance next year  🙂

 

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