June may not be the best time to visit Hokkaido, but many of us Singaporeans visit it anyway since it is our school holidays. While Sapporo is more well-known for its Sapporo Snow Festival in February, there are no lack of festivals in other months of the year. In June, there are two festivals held in Sapporo: Yosakoi Soran Festival in early June and Sapporo Festival in mid June.
Every year from 14-16 June, the Sapporo Festival (also known as Hokkaido Shrine Festival) is held. Our family caught this festival when we visited Hokkaido in June 2014.
Throughout the three days, stalls were set up at two venues: Nakajima Koen and Hokkaido Shrine. On the first day, we visited the stalls at Nakajima Koen. Be there early if you drive, because by noon, there was a long queue for the carpark. Better still, take public transport. (Nakajima Koen is just next to the Nakajimakoen subway station and is walkable from Susukino.)
Among the stalls, you can find all the typical Japanese food like takoyaki, okonomiyaki, yakisoba, yakitori, yakiniku, yaki-EVERYTHING!
We couldn’t resist ordering some of those fragrant yakitori!
We had one chicken skewer and one pork (not just any pork but kurobuta a.k.a. black pig) skewer. The kurobuta one was awesome.
And since we were in Japan, how could we miss out on wagyu beef? We went for the stall that touted ‘top grade’ wagyu beef.
Look at those fats and marbling… *droolz*
We tried one with sauce and one without sauce. Personally, I felt both were a waste of top grade beef since they were fully cooked (I like my beef rare). But still, they were soft and easy to chew despite being fully cooked!
For those who like sweet stuff more than savoury, do not fret. There were no lack of stalls selling sweet stuff like crepes, candy floss, chocolate bananas, waffles etc.
MF went straight for the HUGE candy floss, thanks to the Thomas plastic bag.
He also attacked the chocolate banana which combined his favourite foods: banana, chocolate and rainbow sprinkles.
I ordered a banana and cream crepe. When in Hokkaido, never miss out on anything with CREAM…
We followed the Japanese and sat by the small stream to enjoy our food.
NOT such a good idea when candy floss was involved, because flies started sticking to the candy floss!
There was a mother and child sitting near us and they offered the boys some prawn crackers (better known to us Singaporeans as keropok) from her HUGE bag of crackers. This is why I love Japan, the Japanese are just so nice! In return, we gave her boy some of our candy floss (without flies of course).
All food and no fun makes the kids dull. So after eating, we went to check out the game stalls.
We just had to try the fishing game that always appears in Japanese anime. The aim was to catch the fishes using a paper net. You can bring the fishes that you manage to catch home, or if you do not want to keep the fishes, you can just pay a smaller fee to play for fun.
MF took his fishing very seriously, but did not manage to catch any fishes. MY was just there to create trouble by destroying the paper nets before they even touched the water. The stall owner offered him a metallic net that was available for younger kids, but I told him it was okay (think MY + a metallic net would have killed the fishes).
There was also an area in the middle of the park with haunted houses and bouncy castles.
We spent about 3 hours at Nakajima Koen eating and playing.
That night, we were having dinner at Susukino and spotted a float moving around the area. There were geisha-looking women sitting on it, and the float stopped from time to time and the women would stand up to dance.
The highlight of the festival was the parade on the last day of the festival (16 June). It’s a bit like Singapore’s Chingay Parade, except it takes place over the entire day and they move around the entire Sapporo city centre. Here’s a map showing the parade route and the time it was expected to reach the various points in the city.
We didn’t know about the festival prior to our trip and we had planned to leave Sapporo on the 16th to go to Furano. It would be too late for us to wait around Sapporo station or Susukino for the parade to arrive, so we drove to the starting point at Hokkaido Shrine in the morning instead.
We arrived at Hokkaido Shrine slightly before 9am. Although the parade was supposed to start at 9am, the floats and contingents had already started to move out of Hokkaido Shrine since 8am. We only caught the last few horse carriages and the main float.
The kids couldn’t appreciate such traditional festivals, all they were interested in were ‘horse! horse!’. MF insisted on taking a photo with the horses.
There was a big group of people waiting around to carry the big float.
Some of the men were not wearing shorts!
And finally, the last float was off!
The festival stalls at Hokkaido Shrine were not opened yet by the time the last float had left, so we decided to skip it and continue our tour to Furano. As we drove off, we passed by the parade route and the roads were super congested.
Eventually, we took a U-turn and went by a parallel road so as not to be stuck in the traffic jam.
If you have not experienced a Japanese festival before, why not mark your calendar to visit Sapporo during the next June holidays? The dates for this festival are fixed: 14 to 16 June every year.
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