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Macao joins Japan’s winter wonderland

Mon, 25th Jan 2016
Building a snowman in winter is a pleasure for the average person but the Japanese have taken it to another level at the Sapporo Snow Festival. (January 2016)

The first edition of the Sapporo Snow Festival took place in 1950. Since then, February has become famous for this festival in Sapporo, capital of the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido.

Millions of tourists flock to this festival to see sculptures made of snow and hundreds of experienced teams fly in from around the world to build ice sculptures. In 2016, Macao is taking part for the first time.

This year the Macao Government Tourist Office (MGTO) decided to bring the best of Macao to Hokkaido by building a replica of the Ruins of Saint Paul.

The piece, which is 17 metres high and 26 metres wide, represents the facade of this 16th century church. It will require 2,500 cubic meters of snow, the equivalent to 464 trucks.

The Macao snow sculpture was built in 30 days by 100 members of Japan’s Self Defence Forces. This team is also responsible for all the official construction at the festival.

Macao’s huge ice sculpture will be displayed next to other globally famous structures that make the festival one of Japan’s biggest tourist attractions.

“This is an important event to take part in, so that MGTO can project Macao’s heritage and also promote Macao on a larger scale in Japan,” said Maria Helena de Senna Fernandes, director of MGTO.

“The Sapporo Snow Festival is a very popular annual event attracting every year around two million visitors of all ages and nationalities, as well as receiving a wide media coverage,” MGTO said. “Therefore, we believe that the participation will help to raise the image of Macao and lure more visitors to the city, not only from Japan, but from other countries.”

From six to hundreds of sculptures

The first Sapporo Snow Festival was held in Odori Park in 1950, with only six snow statues made by local high school students. Beyond all expectations, the event attracted about 50,000 people and soon became a huge winter event.

In 1972, Sapporo hosted the Winter Olympic Games, through which the Snow Festival became widely acknowledged by the international media; this created further interest worldwide.

In 1974, the Snow Festival added an Inter-national Snow Sculpture Contest; teams from different countries in the world, including China, Canada, Germany, Australia and the United States, came to show their skills.

The organisers always wanted to innovate. In 1983, they added a new dimension – the neon lights used commonly on street buildings were integrated into the ice sculptures.

With the increase of visitors, the festival was in 1984 extended to seven days, the length it is today. Currently, it is divided between two sites. The number of pieces varies each year; the organisers try to offer the public a great variety of displays made out of snow and ice sculptures. They have created a special area reserved for the International Snow Sculpture Contest and the works in snow by individual citizens.

For risk-takers who enjoy building sculptures in temperatures as low minus 5o Celsius, the festival accepts applications three months in advance.

The Sapporo festival shows that snow is a material that inspires artists all over the world.

Macao roots and the passion for snow

Season Lao, a Macao artist and photographer who lives in Hokkaido, explained that snow land-scapes have been very inspiring to him.

Born in Macao, Lao decided to move to Japan; he has dedicated most of his time to photographing the scenery of snow.

This year the MGTO invited Season Lao to be part of the team that is showing the best of Macao at the snow festival.

“MGTO contacted me a few months ago to help the creative team from Japan that is visiting Macao to produce a television series that will be showcased in Japan,” said Lao. “It was a proposal that I couldn’t refuse.”

According to Senna Fernandes, the main attraction of Macao’s presence at the festival “will be the replica of the Ruins of Saint Paul” and there will also be other attractions like 3D mapping, food delicacies and multi-media projects.

Text Catarina Mesquita

Photos António Sanmarful

Illustration Fernando Chan

(Issue N. 32, January 2016)