Diary

Team Sweden
Sapporo Snow Festival 1997

This is our diary with pictures and short stories about what happened each day during our participation in the Snow Festival in Sapporo.

Saturday 970201
Sunday 970202
Monday 970203
Tuesday 970204
Wednesday 970205
Thursday 970206
Friday 970207
Saturday 970208
Sunday 970209





Saturday 970201

01:00 The computer, that we are updating this home page with, finally works. It worked fine the day before but we suddenly ran into a problem. To solve it we had to call Holland. Thank you Per at the HP helpdesk!

06:30 We woke up one hour too late but made it to the airport anyway. The Japanese communication system really works.

08:25 We were starving and we were looking forward to a nice breakfast on the plane. However, in Japan they only serve breakfast on planes leaving before 08:00. After a one hour and ten minute plane ride with 14 air hostesses and four trainees running around we landed safely in Chitose.

10:30 We rented a car and went directly to a restaurant and ordered large Aussie sirloin steaks. Snow sculpture builders need a lot of food. At the restaurant we realized that we hadn't decided where we were going skiing. Luckily there are a lot of places in Hokkaido to ski.

12:00 Subaru + driving on the left hand side = Difficult !! However Per managed to get us all safely to Yubari after a little sightseeing tour.

14:00 We are about to start skiing, but first we had to get the team clothes on. We are all wearing clothes from SOS (Sportswear of Sweden). Check out our sponsor page! We have a few different hats to wear but we decided to go for the Viking one. Telemark skiing for four hours in beautiful sunny weather. All Japanese ski school students were wearing the same clothes but different number-signs. We said hello (Konnichiwa) to a group of 25 17 years old Japanese girls and we got a uniformed load Konnichiwa back - they must have been practicing on this. If they see a Gaijin (foreigner) wearing a strange Viking hat and he/she says Konnichiwa - answer with Konnichiwa and then continue with a load Kawaii (cute).

17:00 We took the car to Sapporo and in Sapporo we took a tour around Odori Park. The place where we will defend the Swedish colors by building a Viking out of a 27 m3 block of snow. We saw the first sculptures and we all felt that we now knew why we were here.

19:00 We arrived at the hotel. It was a large nice hotel much nicer than we expected.

20:00 After getting unpacked we went down to the bar - the bar where we will sit and update this home page. We are right now sitting in the bar and writing on a portable computer. We are using a mobile phone to download the pictures to our Internet server in Tokyo. We will use the same equipment to read mail while we are building. Tomorrow will be another day of skiing Telemark.

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Sunday 970202

08:00 We were planning to leave early for the ski slope, but we were a little too tired after the busy day yesterday so we stayed in bed a little longer. However, we sent out a scout to check out the building blocks. He found all of Sapporo covered in nice new snow. If we could lean all of Sapporo we could have been skiing telemark in the streets. He also checked the snow in blocks and found out that it was really hard. It will be a tough job.

10:15 We left for a ski area close to Sapporo, Teine. There is a highway that takes you there but we instead decided to see how well we could read a Japanese map. We took back roads but got there without any problems. It was snowing heavily when we reached the slope.

11:30 It was snowing so heavily that Per and Helena decided to buy new goggles. When we got out from the store the weather had changed - it was beautiful and sunny. When the weather cleared we saw something on top of the slope - an amusement park with a large "Paris wheel". The Japanese girls were laughing and shouting "Kawaii" today too. A couple of them almost fell out of the lift when they saw our Viking hats. We saw another - Japanese - Telemark skier today. We are writing this in the car this time - we have not made it to the "Updating Bar" yet.

15:45 We are heading back to the hotel after a day with nice soft snow. We are writing this in the car this time - we have not made it to the "Updating Bar" yet.

20:00 Helena Björkman from Sweden Center Foundation had gathered a group of people for Shabu Shabu Dinner "eat as much as you want". We certainly did, while demonstrating to the dinner guests how our updating of the web is done. On the picture you can see Jonas, the "glass designer" at Sweden Hills.

22:00 After all that food we needed the walk back to the hotel. On the way home, we studied the snow sculptures in Odori Koen. Some are magnificent, some are made by amateurs (like us). We met a group of young Japanese people that were VERY excited when we told them we where the Swedish team for the festival. They promised to come and cheer at our sculpture later in the week. By 23.00 we are back at the hotel writing the last of today's happenings. See you tomorrow.

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Monday 970203

11:00 The Swedish Viking exhibition is in Sapporo the same time as we are here. We had decided to visit the exhibition together with members from Hokkaido-Sweden Society, and Swedish language students at Tokai University. It was a great exhibition and we got a lot of ideas for our sculpture. After the exhibition we all went for a nice Japanese lunch.

16:30 "Team Members Meeting". All 21 teams gathered in Sapporo Grand Hotel and we were told all the rules. There was also a draw to decide which team would get which snow block. Before the draw we decided that we wanted the highest number, i.e. 21 - and we got it. A perfect place to show our great Viking. All the teams seemed very serious and there were a lot of questions about specific rules. Most of the other team members are artists and several so called kitchen artists. The kitchen artists make beautiful food art or ice decorations when they are not building snow sculptures. The winners of the competition the years before have basically all been from warm countries; Malaysia, Indonesia etc. Countries like Sweden and Denmark are still in the lower B-group. But now we are sure to compete in the A group next year, not because of the superiority of our statue but because the Festival Committee decided to let everyone compete in the same group from next year on. The meeting ended with all teams honoring each other with small gifts in the form of pins, stickers and golden elephants. We immediately decided to use our now already famous Viking venture horn hats as gift collectors. And with these on our heads we entered the Welcome Party in the same hotel.

18:00 Welcome party. The party started with speeches by the president of the festival, the Sapporo vice mayor and other officials. After that and a common Kampai all the teams were to be presented. We were the only team that sang a song, "Helan går", and afterwards people started asking about our web address. Then we had beer and good food and got to know some of the other people, among them the Australian Team, the Danish Vikings, The team from USA and three Miss Sapporos! (see today's picture on the "home"-page). The "Miss Sapporos" grabbed our arms and wanted to follow us to Sweden. We choose not to join the Danes and the Aussies at the first bar round, instead we went back to the hotel and visited our usual corner in the updating bar. You are reading the result at this very moment. Finally we went to bed, sure of having made a very strong Viking way of a first impression.

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Tuesday 970204

7:30 We had an early breakfast to prepare for our meeting with the mayor. However, being "Gaijins" (foreigners), the food quickly disappeared from the buffé-table and only very little was left for the last people to enter the breakfast room. Maybe they will learn until tomorrow.

8:15 All teams met in the hotel lobby to take a bus to the Mayor's office. We were supposed to meet the mayor at 9:30, and some of us wondered why we had to leave the hotel at 8.15, when the mayor's office was only 10 minutes away. Japanese organizers like to do everything well organized, so we could only follow their schedule. By 9.30 the Mayor showed up, and we all got a chance to exchange gifts. The Swedish team gave him a nice glass Caraffe, a booklet on Vikings and our Viking team T-shirt. He was very glad for all the present, but it seems that he wasnīt too keen on liqueur.You see, when he left the room and all his assistants where gathering the presents from the different teams, they removed all the liqueur. Heīs probably not allowed to receive gifts like that. When we left the meeting a lot "Misses" arrived - beautiful girls from all over Japan that have come to work at the snow festival.

10:15 After the meeting with the mayor we walked through Odori Park to look at some other sculptures. In the park there were a lot of Japanese kids and when they saw us with our Viking hats they all came running up to us and wanted us to sign our names on their papers - we felt like big stars. Many people think that we are professional skiers with the nice SOS clothes with Volvo and Ericsson written on the sleeves.

12:30 It was almost time to start building but first an opening ceremony. All the teams gathered with a girl in front holding a sign with the country's name - just like the Olympics. The Self Defense Forces Orchestra played, the Snow Queens and Miss Sapporos handed out flowers and there were a lot of prominent guests present. Right after the ceremony we climbed on top of the block of snow and sang the Swedish national anthem while waving the Swedish flag. (Meanwhile the Danes two blocks away had their first "little one" even before they had built their renowned bar). It was now time to start building. We measured the block very carefully and drew a coordinate system and we of course wrote our home page address on the block. And then, with the barbed wire saw - we started to cut down large blocks of snow.

16:00 We had to stop building to attend the Eve Snow Festival - for which people had been standing in line the whole day. This is THE event in Sapporo and everybody wants to get a ticket. All the teams again marched in behind a sign with the name of the country. This event was broadcast live on TV. We were of course wearing our team shirts and the Viking hats. We had planned to sing a song as well but unfortunately we did not get the chance this time. However, we walked out through the crowd and waved - again like the Olympics.

18:30 We could start building again. We had an unofficial contest with our new neighbor India to saw down the largest block of snow - they won. We got so excited building that we made a large whole in the back of the Viking, but we fixed that with some water and snow. You can see what the sculpture looks like now, in our Progress Report. We have to admit that this is actually the first time we are building a snow sculpture (you out there who are experienced in building snow sculptures have probably realized this), but after some hours we had formed the top part of the Viking and it looked like a Viking helmet with two horns. We now felt that there is a Viking in there. There were a lot of people around our statue. We have a great spot for our sculpture. We can't even count how many pictures we have been in; as soon as we turn our head away from the statue we hear "Shashin Shashin" (picture, picture). We have also been filmed by TV stations. Today we met the people in charge of the official Sapporo Snow Festival home page. They had seen our page and they were especially impressed by our daily update system. After a Big Mac we headed home. It is one o'clock at night when we are writing this and we will build from 9:00 to 22:00 tomorrow. Hence, it is time to go to bed.

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Wednesday 970205

If you tried to read our home page yesterday - you couldn't. The server of our provider was down the whole day. We are very sorry about this, but now we are back with new stories.

8:00 Breakfast. This time they had lots of food for everyone. They obviously learned something from the day before. At the breakfast table we decided the tactics for today's sculpture-work. The tactics were to make the sculpture look as much as possible like a Viking . Great tactics, right?

9.00 This was when we were allowed to start sculpturing. We were of course a bit late, but after a few hours' work you could see the face, and the shield also came forward in the snow block.We realized we still had a lot of snow to remove and we even had to use our great barb wire saw again.

11:00 Sugimoto-san, the newly elected president for Hokkaido-Sweden Society, and his colleages came to visit us at the sculpture. They where very thoughtful and brought us coffee, rather they had a catering company bring us coffee, and they also brought cookies and presents for us in order to support us in our work. Thanks for the visit!

11.40 Today's schedule included a lunch with the Secretary of Honorary Consulate of Sweden in Sapporo, Ms Kawai. We met her at Korakuen Hotel where we were going to a Chinese restaurant. As we entered the restaurant, we were guided into a private room for five. And there we where in our wet "snow-clothes" and our stupid hats. We took off our jackets and shoes before Malin and Helena realized they had to go to the ladies room. But at a really nice hotel you can go to the "ladies" room in your wet socks without any problems. We had excellent Chinese food and it was very nice to take a break and sit down for a while. After lunch Ms Kawai accompanied us to our Viking to see how it was doing. She seemed to like it.

15:00 After two hours of more HARD work, Malin's "host-mother" from her student time in Hokkaido four years ago, visited us. Malin was happy to see her, and we all decided on going out on Saturday. We continued our work on the Viking, which was getting closer and closer to "the real thing". There was a lot of snow to get rid of, and Per worked so hard that both his shirts were soaking wet. Itīs nice with a little bit of hard work.

16:00 Asaoka-san from Per's and Jan's office, Science and Technology office - Embassy of Sweden, called on our mobile phone and told us that they couldn't access the home page. Helena went in to the "Teams quarters" to check what was wrong. It seemed that IAC (Internet Access Center), our Internet provider, had hardware problems and the server was down, and would be so for while ahead. Catastrophy!! Here we buy a one year Internet connection that will be focused on ONE WEEK and this week they are able to mess it up!! Baaaaaaad. -

16:10 Continue with the sculpture! Malin works on the helmet with guidance from Helena. One person on top of the Viking's head, and another out among the audience to get a good view for eye measurement. By now however the helmet was taking itīs shape, and we were getting more and more surprised by the fact that there actually was a Viking inside that snow block. Jan was working hard on the sword, and Per was working on the shield, as well as removing some snow. Sometimes too much, but there are tricks on getting the snow back on itīs right place.

18:30 Ericsson - one of our sponsors - had organized a small gathering together with their customer - DTD. They brought wine, beer and - amazake. Amazake is what you get left over when you make sake. It was tasty and warming. We sang some songs for them and presents were exchanged. Everyone seemed to be happy and they all liked the statue (we assume).

21:00 Today's working-day will be over within one hour, so we decided to take a look at the other statues to get some ideas, and to see how they are doing. WOW!!! Some of the teams are professional kitchen artists and their sculptures look fantastic. Itīs wonderful too see them work. Especially the teams from the warm Southeast Asian countries make the most beautiful sculptures and they all of course have their own tools with them. Above you can see the sculpture by the Chinese team. These guys make sculptures in food or ice for big hotels and they are quite good!!

22:00 Timeīs up!! No more work. We are all warned in time by a Japanese/English voice in the loudspeaker. Attention Please. Attention please. There is only 10 more minutes left. Please clean up and return your tools. Attention please. .... all the tools have to be put away by 22:00 every evening. After that, the bulldozer with itīs very skillful driver removes the snow that is not to be used. Itīs a lot of snow laying around everywhere after a days work. After the end of the day (and during the day as well) everyone gathers in the "Teams quarter, a small building for getting warm and eating food and things like that. Some teams leave right away after ten oīclock, but some stay to drink some beer and talk a little. Today - The Danes where "very happy" after having some fun in their bar. They have a nice bar next to their sculpture, were they serve "Gammeldansk". Itīs a lot of fun to meet all the team members from the other teams. Some teams are very serious and donīt talk to us much. Some are serious, but still having a lot of fun. Some are having fun but still trying to do a nice sculpture (like us) and some are just having fun! On the picture you can see Gunny from the USA-team. Tomorrow we will have more fun.

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Thursday 970206

08:00 Breakfast and tactics again. Itīs already our habit to discuss the coming work of the day over a bowl of rice and some dried fish.

09:30 Late start of another 13 hours of snow sculpturing. This third day should be more about details and ideas than hard body work. We started with finalizing the shape, something that took us five hours. A metal band over the helmet and nails in both helmet and shield were some of the new ideas that occurred. And we spent the rest of the day and evening with creating that, the sword and the hair coming out from underneath the helmet. The best idea of the day was when Malin invented the fur. With the angle tool stuck from below into the body of the Viking we could add a small piece of soaking wet snow and that way create small pieces of hair. Slowly this method formed a nice fur which became even better when it started snowing.

11:00, 12:00, 13:00, 14:00, 15:00, 16:00, 17:00, 18:00 and 19:00 Food. Many of the teams have brought food from their home country.The Danish have brought "Gammeldansk" and Fris, a copy of the Swedish Absolut Vodka, and some cheese. Inside the warm and cozy administrative and lunch house there is a white board on the wall. Under the headline "Party schedule" the cooking teams have written when and what they are going to delight the rest of us with. First by the stove today was Hong Kong with Hong Kong stew. Then, one hour later, Gunny from the USA team served his home made Chili con Carne, specially seasoned with his favorite Louisiana Hot Sauce and a bottle of the good old Jack Daniel's. Later in the afternoon a car marked Taj Mahal arrived. Out climbed a chef with a big Indian sari around his head and an even bigger dough in a pot. He lit his oven outside and we baked our own Nan and ate that with curry and curry. Then a Japanese, an American and a small boy celebrated their birthday with a big cake. Singapore had soup and Australia gave all of us white wine and cheese with rum raisins.

22:30 We worked so hard all day that we did not have time to look at the others sculptures. However, after finished working we took a tour around and looked at the other sculptures. Some are really amazing. We had to take some pictures and itīs too bad we canīt show everything here. Above you can see the parts of the sculpture from the Korean Team. Tomorrow is the last day and by one oīclock we must all be finished and tools must be put away. Today we had to take away all the snow around our statue including our beautiful bar. Per is swinging the flag over the bar for the last time. Tonight the bulldozers will take it away. Hope they donīt take our statue as well.

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Friday 970207

07:30 The last day of building the Viking and we only had four hours today so we went up extra early to be ready to start at 9:00 sharp. As usual we made plans at breakfast.

09:00 We started carving. We have been working on details for almost a day already but there were still a lot of things to do. The "fur" that we started with yesterday still had to be added in the front and the beard needed some trimming. The more you work with something the more things you find that you want to add. We also wanted to add some "runskrift" (old time Swedish writing) to the shield. We worked really intense and got must of the things done (we did not even have time to eat lunch). It snowed a lot so the Viking got covered with snow - we tried to brush of as much as possible so that the judges could see all the details that we had made.

13:00 ALL DONE !!!!! and the Viking looked better than we had expected when we started and we have reached the goals we set up. We have definitely received a lot of attention - even more than we thought. So many people have taken pictures with us and with the Viking. There are many statues that are more advanced than ours but the crowd loves the Viking and they all stop to take pictures of it. Our Viking hats were also a great hit. What we realized was that we should have brought a manager that could have taken care of the crowd. It was fun for a while with all the people but it was hard to work - we were often physically dragged away in the middle of something to be in pictures (issho ni - shashin shashin). The more experienced teams like the Americans had special people that took care of the crowd. After we had put all the tools away all the teams gathered for a "end of carving Kampai", led by the 80 year old president of the Sapporo Snow Festival (see picture above).

15:30 It was time for the price ceremony. It was a close competition in our group so we did not know what to expect. We knew that must people thought that our statue was the most fun one - but the judges might look for other things. All the teams gathered on stage and the whole thing was broadcasted on TV. The snow festival definitely receives a lot of attention. It was time to hear the result - and the winner in the B-group is...Denmark! Denmark won with a round cheese with holes in it so you could see through it - the theme was "Say Cheese!". What happened to us - we got the Special Effort Prize, which is the same as third prize. Not too bad in other words. Korea (picture to the right) won the A-group with Singapore as runners up. (The Korean sculpture is on a picture above - or at least parts of it.) Some of the A-group statues are really amazing. Before coming here we did not know that it was possible to make something like this in snow. If we will compete again we know that we can to something more difficult. According to the experts the details on our Viking - like the face - were very good - almost world class, so if we make a little more difficult statue we will do even better. Next year however there will only be one group, which means that Sweden will have to compete against the "professionals" from Asia.

18:00 It was time for a farewell party. All the teams, the Miss Sapporo's and the staff of the festival gathered at a disco in central Sapporo. After some food it was time for another competition - dance! The teams were called one by one. We continued with our Viking theme and made some great "follow the lead" dancing including Russian "Kosack-dance". The judges gathered and it was time for another prize ceremony...and the main judge went up to the microphone...the Grand Champions in this year's Snow Festival Dance Competition is...SWEDEN!!!!!! We had won...and we added another official Snow Festival prize statue to the one we got for building the Viking. We stayed on to socialize with the other teams and we all agreed that we wanted to do this some time again.

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Saturday 970208

09:00 It was time for another day of skiing and Per and Helena went to get the car that we were renting for the weekend. However our bodies were pretty soar from all the carving so we took it a little slow. This time the Australian team decided to join us skiing. One of the Australian team members, David, had never been skiing before.

12:00 We arrived at the Olympic sloops outside Sapporo. Are you the official Volvo Ski Team? We were asked this questions several times during this week. This time it was a "spy" from another car company that was out investigating the use of cars by Japanese people that ski that put the question. When we walked of the stage at the Eve Snow Festival (see Tuesday) a lot of people came up and wanted our autographs - they too thought that we were some official ski team that now was going to participate in the Snow Festival. This must be due to the nice ski clothes from SOS and the batches with our other sponsors' names. The Australians arrived at the same time as we and they were also wearing their team clothes. The people in the slope thought that the Swedish and Australian ski teams were visiting them. This was before we started skiing...

13:30 It was time for David in the Australian team to do his first downhill "race" ever. Malin decided that it was best that she taught him some basics first. In the beginning David was spending more time on his but than on his skies but he improved quickly. We in the Swedish team took turns being the teacher. Already the second time down he made seven plow turns without falling. By the end of the day he went the whole sloop and only fell three times. We were of course still doing Telemark and this time we meet six-seven Japanese that also were skiing Telemark. It is getting more and more popular in Japan.

19:30 We had made plans to meet Malin's host mother from her stay in Sapporo almost five years ago, Noriko, and her ten year old daughter, Yoshie, at the Sapporo Beer Garden. This place is very famous and always crowded so you have to make reservations long time in advance. It is a big beer hall were they of course serve Sapporo beer and as food they serve lamb meat that you cook yourselves at the table. We could eat and drink as much as we wanted for 1,5 hour. It was very delicious and we ate so much that we started too look round like our Viking. After dinner Noriko invited us to her home for some dessert. Her daughter entertained us with playing Super Mario on her new Nintendo TV game. She was a real expert.

24:00 When we came back to the hotel we heard voices from the room next to ours - and we decided to join some of the other teams for a last farewell. The Koreans were celebrating their New Years and Gunny from the American team was walking around with his video camera. Finally we went to bed - another long day has ended and now we only have one day left before we leave Sapporo.

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Sunday 970209

9.00 Time to get up and clear the rooms to get ready for checkout. By 10 oīclock we were ready and checked out and went for breakfast. After that we took a walk to our statue to see how our Viking was doing. He looked like he had been in a fight because he had lost parts of his sword. Because of the warm weather it had just fallen off!! Our statue wasnīt the only one to be affected by the weather. The Singapore statue had collapsed totally. They did however get the 2nd best prize before their statue collapsed. If you want to see the result from the competition, click here.

11.00 We said good-bye to Sagara-san (boss of the staff that had been helping us all week) and his companions who were guarding the statues. A special thanks to them for putting up with all of us for an entire week. We took a last picture of our statues in the B-group, and came to the conclusion that they looked pretty good. If you want to see the statues in close up, check out the "All the Teams"-page. There you will also be able to see the final shape of our Viking.

11.30 Since it was snowing heavily, and the roads to Sweden Hills - our destination for todayīs trip - are not very good, we were advised not to go there. Sweden Hills is a village on Hokkaido with a couple of hundred Swedish houses (red and white) and where the Sweden Center Foundation hosts a lot of Swedish events. Instead of going there we decided to visit Otaru, a city by the sea not far from Sapporo. It took us about 40 minutes to get there and after parking we went to a large "orgeru doh"-house where you could by all sorts of "musical-boxes". There was probably several hundreds of different musical-boxes in there. After this we went to look for a sushi restaurant. After being guided back and forth on the street a few times we finally found one. Otaru is famous for itīs seafood, and the sushi was delicious. Otaru is also famous for its glass-designs and after lunch we took a quick look in one of the "Crystal shops". It was floor after floor with glass items but we didnīt buy anything this time.

15.30 Time to head to the airport. In spite of the weather, it was rather easy to get to Chitose where we should return our car. We arrived there at 17.00 as we had said to the rental company. Good planning. We did however have a LOT OF BAGGAGE that we had to bring back to Tokyo. We counted it to 16 pieces. We stuffed all this into the shuttle bus and all the other passengers looked something between surprised and frightened, but we all managed to get to the airport.

17.45 Five minutes left before we had to go to the gate to catch the flight home. Chitose Airport had a lot of nice shops and when we arrived a week ago we said - we have to be here in time to do the shopping before we go back. Well now we had five minutes. We went in to the closest store and suddenly we saw a the official video from the Snow festival running on a TV-monitor in the shop. And then we suddenly saw ourselves and that of course meant we had to bye the video. This all took us about five minutes and then we went to the gate.

23.30 Finally we reach home after having had dinner at the Haneda Airport. We were tired but happy after a week full of excitement. This week not only gave us the satisfaction you can feel after having made something with your own hands, but also gave us a lot of new friends from all over the world. We all decided that we must do this again next year!!!!

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