Life in Ashoro

A letter from a Canadian living in Japan.

Japan. Photo by Hannah Ballhorn

By Hannah Ballhorn

It has been extremely quiet around Ashoro lately due to the COVID-19 virus. All of the schools in Japan have been temporarily closed with hopes to prevent the spread of the virus and limit contact in the community. Like everywhere else around the world, many community events and gatherings have been cancelled, but things are starting to look better here. Ashoro has been following these guidelines and there have been no reported cases. Myself and the second CIR feel extremely safe and are getting anxious to start the new school year in April.

One event that is taking place on March 14, despite the current outbreak, is White Day. People are able to celebrate this in the comfort of their homes or in the workplace. This is a Japanese tradition that is related to Valentine’s Day. Valentine’s Day in Japan is extremely different from Canada in the sense that females do not receive gifts on this day from their significant others it is solely for men. However, on White Day men are expected to buy women chocolate and gifts. So this holiday is dedicated to women and chocolate, and I am a supporter for obvious reasons!

Since things have been very quiet here in Ashoro I thought I would share my experience from the Sapporo Snow Festival. It is a world-famous winter festival that takes place in Sapporo for just about two weeks in February every year. Sapporo is on the East side of Hokkaido close to the ski areas, which are all about a three to four hour drive from Ashoro. Very similar driving time from Wetaskiwin to Canmore and Banff!

The festival draws in millions of people from all over the world every year to participate in and admire the events and displays. The ice sculptures are absolutely breathtaking, and come in all shapes and sizes, some representing traditional Japanese culture, Disney movie characters, professional athletes, and some measuring up to 25 meters wide and 15 meters high!

The main attraction area is located in Odori park which is 12 blocks long and is full of snow festival attractions. During the festival, there is tubing, ice carving shows, and a food festival where you can try food from all over Japan. Specific to Sapporo, you are able to try the famous miso ramen, which I highly recommend.

The festival also has a bit of a German flair to it due to Munich Germany being the sister city of Sapporo. Alongside the Japanese food, you can also enjoy many different German dishes and beer. After experiencing the festival, I think it is an event that should be on everyone’s bucket list!

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Tubing in Sapporo, Japan at the snow festival.

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