Saturday, February 06, 2010

Sapporo Snow Festival: Encounter with snowballing Japanese army

From Sapporo on the northern Hokkaido island in Japan

(札幌市- Coordinates: 43°4′N 141°21′E) is the fifth-largest city in Japan by population. It is the capital of Hokkaidō Prefecture, located in Ishikari Subprefecture, and an ordinance-designated city of Japan. Sapporo is best known outside Japan for hosting the 1972 Winter Olympics, the first ever held in Asia, and for the annual Yuki Matsuri in the city, internationally referred to as the Sapporo Snow Festival, which draws more than 2 million tourists from around the world. The city is also home to Sapporo Brewery which is a must to taste with the Sapporo Ramen (Noodle soup with miso) when you hang around Susukino night district with a friendly gang of freezing reporters.

Sapporo Snow Festival is one of Japan's largest winter events, funniest, and attracts a growing number of visitors from Japan and abroad every year. Every winter, about two million people come to Sapporo to see the hundreds of beautiful snow statues and ice sculptures which line Odori Park,the grounds at Community Dome Tsudome, and the main street in Susukino. For seven days in February,these ice statues and sculptures (both large and small) turn Sapporo into a winter "dreamland of crystal-like ice and white snow." Now this looks like a pr agency pamphlet, but quite right, it is a place to visit as Hokkaido is blessed with love for nature and protection for the environment (G8 2008 at Toyako). And there is "un-je-ne-sais-quoi" of provincial atmosphere, relaxing from hectic Tokyo. Hokkaido also being the mecca of ski in Japan with a powder snow that fits all adventurous endeavors.

There I met Morioka-san, a respectable official of the Japanese army -the "Japan Self Defense Forces"- explaining me why his soldiers turned into sculptors and played ice cutting and snow balls for this Sapporo Snow Festival: When I asked him: "are you on military training here and is it a part of the defense responsibility with the civilians?" JSGDF Morioka has this to say: "We have done it for decades now..."


JGSDF Morioka, soldier & ice sculptor

How to make a giant Snow Statue?

- 7 celsius, Sapporo Odori Park, breezing in the wind

APEC 2010

But soon Sapporo will get warmer and will welcome one of the major APEC 2010 ministerial meeting.

What is APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation?)
Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, or APEC, is the premier forum for facilitating economic growth, cooperation, trade and investment in the Asia-Pacific region .

APEC is the only inter governmental grouping in the world operating on the basis of non-binding commitments, open dialogue and equal respect for the views of all participants. Unlike the WTO or other multilateral trade bodies, APEC has no treaty obligations required of its participants. Decisions made within APEC are reached by consensus and commitments are undertaken on a voluntary basis.

APEC has 21 members - referred to as "Member Economies" - which account for approximately 40.5%1 of the world's population, approximately 54.2%1 of world GDP and about 43.7%2 of world trade.

APEC's 21 Member Economies are Australia; Brunei Darussalam; Canada; Chile; People's Republic of China; Hong Kong, China; Indonesia; Japan; Republic of Korea; Malaysia; Mexico; New Zealand; Papua New Guinea; Peru; The Republic of the Philippines; The Russian Federation; Singapore; Chinese Taipei; Thailand; United States of America; Viet Nam.

Purpose and Goals
APEC was established in 1989 to further enhance economic growth and prosperity for the region and to strengthen the Asia-Pacific community.

Since its inception, APEC has worked to reduce tariffs and other trade barriers across the Asia-Pacific region, creating efficient domestic economies and dramatically increasing exports. Key to achieving APEC's vision are what are referred to as the 'Bogor Goals' of free and open trade and investment in the Asia-Pacific by 2010 for industrialised economies and 2020 for developing economies. These goals were adopted by Leaders at their 1994 meeting in Bogor, Indonesia.

Learn more about the Bogor Goals in the 1994 Leaders' Declaration.

Free and open trade and investment helps economies to grow, creates jobs and provides greater opportunities for international trade and investment. In contrast, protectionism keeps prices high and fosters inefficiencies in certain industries. Free and open trade helps to lower the costs of production and thus reduces the prices of goods and services - a direct benefit to all.

APEC also works to create an environment for the safe and efficient movement of goods, services and people across borders in the region through policy alignment and economic and technical cooperation.

Sapporo Mayor Fumio UEDA, host of the APEC ministerial meeting

(Quotes: Apec, Sapporo City Mayor Ueda Fumio, Mofa, Vice Governor HokkaidoTakahara Yoji)

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