The snowfields of Sapporo, on Japan's northernmost island of Hokkaido are once again swarming with visitors drawn there for the annual snow festival.
The snowfields of Sapporo, on Japan's northernmost island of Hokkaido are once again swarming with visitors drawn there for the annual snow festival. As usual, the highlight is an array of immense and intricate sculptures in snow and ice.
SYNOPSIS: This year, white kangaroos reveal that Australia holds centre stage in the display of frozen exotica. Hundreds of thousands of people turn up for the six-day festival. Sapporo is an ideal venue because the sculptures stay firm in its customary freezing weather in February. Eleven countries have spent thousands of dollars each in having delicately-rendered buildings and animals built for the competition.
This cluster of turrets and onion-shaped domes should be familiar, having been shown in countless newsreals. It features a cathedral and other buildings in Moscow's Red Square. Local specialists in snow sculpture design the exhibits, which are put by Japanese servicemen and volunteers from competing countries. Here is Popeye, the famous cartoon character.
Up to 800,000 people have visited the festival in a single day and the authorities expect more than two million to attend throughout the six days.
This year's centrepiece is a replica of the Town Hall in Sydney, Australia. It is almost 15 metres (more than 43 feet ) high and cost 16,500 dollars to build. At night, the models are even more spectacular, especially this red-eyed reproduction of an extinct prehistoric bird, the roc.
To build the miniature Sydney Town Hall, the ice architects worked from plans and photographs supplied from Australia. Sadly, the day after the festival is over, everything is bulldozed into large piles on slush.