I’ve been working hard plotting my probable route from Kagoshima to Sapporo and so far I’ve managed to pencil in a line through the Kyushu, the southernmost of Japan’s four main islands. I’m sure it’ll get some further fine-tuning but at the moment it looks like this:

Kagoshima to Beppu via a couple of mountainy national parks and a stretch of the west coast.

From Beppu, which is near the word Oita on the map, I’ll catch the ferry across to Shikoku. There’s another good couple of days plotting my course across that island, which will end at Takamatsu where I’ll catch the ferry to Himeji on Honshu.

I’m also putting plenty of energy into such burning questions as how many pairs of underpants to take (two should do the trick, I think) what tools to take and where to find camp grounds. However, I managed to put all this on hold for a trip to town this afternoon.

As you should know, Sapporo is famous world-wide for its annual snow festival which includes some pretty impressive snow sculptures along Odori, the park in the middle of town. There are also ice sculptures in Susukino and a few other things on around town. People have been working away in Odori on various sculptures and as the festival starts this Friday, many of them are just about ready and starting to come out of wraps. It’s been a bit warmer the last week or so, so I hope this hasn’t melted too much of the snow. There’s cooler weather forecast for the next week though, which augurs well for the festival. I went for a stroll today to see how much progress has been made.

There's a team of people still working hard on this one.

Here's a palace.

This chap is working hard on what appear to be the finishing touches of a cartoon sculpture.

Hear me roar.

This is some sort of carton character but I'm not sure what he's from.

I was not alone in my photography.

The army was working hard on this impressively large palace.

... and it looks like this from behind.

There were lots of smaller ones like these. I think these are the ones they let local citizens make.

Another big one still being worked on.

A hive of people working on the smaller statues.

The whole thing opens formally on Friday and I hope to be able to get to most of the exhibitions. I may need warmers gloves, though – I had quite cold fingers by the time I took the last photos.

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