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Canadian Sculptor represents Canada - Part 2

By Patricia Leguen March 31, 2003

} Travel Journal 2001 - Part 2 Canadian Sculptor represents Canada After a week in Sapporo, I was finally able to see more than just Odori Park and bustling Susukino Street where dozens of large ice carvings were on display. Sapporo is famous for its very icy streets in the winter. There is not a lot of snow but it is very humid and nippy. The committee However, it does not prevent Japanese girls to walk around in high heel boots and miniskirts. Sapporo is more of a western city than anything else and I was looking forward to going to Nayoro, in northern Hokkaido. Nobody had heard about it and I could hardly find it on a map but it ended being a great location for its first international snow sculpture competition. I had three days to look around Sapporo. On the third day, we took the bus to go to Noboribetsu Onsen, the famous hot springs about 2 and a half hours away. It was so beautiful and peaceful there. The baths were everything I expected. The day before we had tried other ones in the suburbs and this Australian tourist and I were the only women there. The second day I decided to try the train to go to Otaru by myself. It is a city famous for its glass blowing. I got off the crowded train, walked half a block and heard three guys speaking Spanish. So, I greeted them in Spanish and they were quite surprised. I knew they were the sculptors from the Spanish team, I recognised them from their photos on the competition website. Otaru is a city by the sea with a beautiful canal where locals tie string after string of floating candles across in glass bowls. There are a lot of art galleries displaying Italian glass works, even a venetian gondola boat in the middle of one. I ate fresh sushi made in front of me. It was expensive but very tasty. Everything is expensive in Japan anyway. What struck me the most was the price of fresh crabs: $60 a piece for a medium-sized one. A work in progress The next morning, we met several other teams who were staying at the same hotel. The organisers had arranged for a bus to pick us all up at ten to go to Nayoro. The trip ended taking six hours! The further North we drove, the heavier the snow. I had never seen so much snow in my life: huge snow banks. Parts of the freeway were closed and at times we were only going 20 miles an hour. We had lots of time to talk and admire the scenery. We arrived at the Maple hotel (the city is twinned with Lindsay, Ontario), checked in and went to the official welcome on the snow stage at the sculpture site. It snowed constantly. The site was a large open area with lots of space between the 20 blocks of pure white snow. Then we headed to the opening reception at another hotel. I had the privilege to sit next to the Mayor and I used all the Japanese I knew. The Dutch team was at our table as well. The food was excellent. They had a large screen where they showed each of us and our designs, then we watched a show including Japanese music, dances, karate and sword demonstrations. I stayed up late eager to meet all the new teams. I already knew the French, the American, the Italian, the Czech from previous competitions and the Spanish team of course (I run into them again in the subway in Sapporo). The opening ceremonies building > The competition lasted 3 and a half days and we could work as many hours as we wanted to. We could not use water as a bonding agent on our sculptures unlike in Sapporo. It is better anyway because otherwise you can tell the difference in surface texture. My sculpture was called Tenacity, the earth torn apart by cultural, religious and political differences represented by a nucleus of geometric shapes at the top and bottom trying to separate the world. A regiment of the Japanese army had built giant slides and a beautiful backdrop of tall snow trees and animals at the carving site. A steep snow staircase led to a platform from where you could have an aerial view of all the sculptures. We ate lunch in an adjacent log cabin and every day different sponsors volunteered to prepare the food for us. Over 200 sponsors helped organise this international competition and it was a huge success. A snow slide The temperature was mild although it snowed heavily every afternoon and the sun shone. I got a really nice tan in only four days but it also meant that we had to work at night when the surface of the sculpture was harder. You cannot polish snow when the sun shines right on it. I was all happy that all my bruises from Sapporo had disappeared after a week (when you hit yourself with the chisels or the shovels, you hardly notice it when it is cold out). On the third day, the board on the scaffolding I was standing on with one of my team-mates broke in half. It was a 6 foot fall. These are the professional hazards of snow sculpting. I always wear kneepads, a back brace and wrist bands, Sorel boots good to - 60 C and a Gore-Tex jacket and ski pants. At least when you fall on snow, it cushions you a little. It hurts more when you are carving ice and a piece breaks off and falls on you. With sand, it just collapses and flows back where it came from and you have to start over again. Trivy Fountain It was also particularly interesting to make the parallel in the same country between a long established event in a very large city and a brand new one in a small town. At the carving site in Sapporo the blocks were in a square pattern with little space in between and the public could only view the front of the sculptures. In Nayoro the site was a large city park and people could walk around the sculptures. Although it is nice to interact with the public, it is difficult when there are thousands of people walking by all the time. In Nayoro we had a lot more opportunities to interact with the other sculptors in a more informal way and we were not restricted by a set schedule. The community was involved as well and after the award ceremony there was an outdoor barbecue and concert. It reminded me of the international snow sculpture competition I went to in 1997 in the capital city of Greenland (population of 13,000) and the international ice and snow competitions I went to in 1999 in Harbin, China (a city of 9 million people). A finished sculpture The head of the tourism office invited all the captains to his house one evening for a traditional dinner. Every other night I went out to Karaoke clubs with the Italians and the French. My team-mates went to bed early and had a hard time getting up in the morning. I feel so energised when I go to these events that I don't want to waste time sleeping. The day after the competition we went on a bus tour of the city: a Buddhist temple, a tea ceremony, a demonstration at an archery, a visit to the local museum, etc. The farewell party was held in a local club. We presented a book with sketches and messages of thanks to the president nicknamed snow man. He was very touched and hoped that he could convince the mayor and have the second competition next year and not in two years. We were all sad to leave Nayoro the next morning, so were the volunteers and interpreters who came to the railway station to say goodbye. The trip back took almost 6 hours to the airport in Sapporo. At one point the train could not proceed because there was too much snow on the tracks. We were ready to volunteer to shovel, if need be. We all parted at the airport knowing that we would see each other again in the future. I know I will go back to Japan and I continue to take Japanese lessons in the meantime. __________________________________________________ Copyright © 2001 Patricia Leguen View more of Patricia's work on her website.