Tsuru-chan Makes Her Sapporo Yuki Matsuri Debut!

AJET’s Mascot at the Snow Festival
by Catrina Caira, Hokkaido

Initial Sketch
finished tsuru-chan group shot

A short time ago, in a land not so very far away, an intrepid team of adventurers braved the cold to venture north of the wall to bring Tsuru-chan, the adorable AJET mascot, to the masses coming to the Sapporo Yuki Matsuri. They came from both near and far; from Akita, Aomori, and all over Hokkaido to see this quest through.

The journey began, as most quests do, with an idea. This idea came on a cold November day to an inspired JET named Pat. He did not let the idea pass but instead asked his energetic block leader, Taylor “Do you think we could make a snow sculpture at the Sapporo Yuki Matsuri?” With that the quest was born and Taylor set out to assemble the hardy souls from across block one willing to brave the cold and see it through.

Many soon stepped forward including Stephanie B., Catrina C., Samuel H., Saille B-L., Kiruthika P., Sakinah M., Craig M., Son M., Lauren B., Pat O., Michelle H., Claire F., Jordan F., Chris S., and Lynn A.. But who was to lead them? The CIR Sakinah M. of Sapporo was the first to come forward. She volunteered her linguistic talent to lead the team through the labyrinth of paperwork required. But the paperwork labyrinth was just the beginning.

Next was the dread lottery, this event with its low odds of survival and poor choice of timing required the second leader of the brave souls to step forward. Michelle was the first of the team to brave the winter’s chill and go to the lottery on the 10th of December. She fearlessly chose the best possible location for the amazing Tsuru-chan having been one of the lucky less than 80% of entrants to be chosen to continue to the next phase of the quest. The spot was chosen, the entry successful, but now the design must be made. The ideas flew across the Facebook message boards with the inevitable (cue music) “do you want to build a snowman?” leading to the initial design.

Just before Christmas at a local donut shop the quest continued when a small advance scouting team of four people (Saille, Craig, Michelle, and Sakinah) fought with clay and pencils to produce the spectacular final design for Tsuru-chan’s Sapporo Yuki Matsuri debut. The design was submitted, accepted and the quest moved onto the next phase.

The great challenge to come was the carving. This was to be a monumental effort requiring the skills of 16 questers and 3 days of effort. Though most of the tools were borrowed from their local allies, the Sapporo Yuki Matsuri organizers, some of their tools had to be provided by the questers. Catrina bought rubber coated gloves and smoothers from Higashikawa for the team to use. Lynn brought a bucket and trowel from her home and everyone brought their boundless energy and willingness to help, some having come from quite far away to ensure the completion of the quest. Despite having only one member of this elite force who had ever carved a snow sculpture before the team was not to be stopped and fought on to the finish.

The charge was lead on Friday night with the small 3 man advance force of Catrina, Craig, and Saille. They spent hours chipping away the large amounts of extra snow from the block to give the sculpture its general shape. After 5 tiring hours the sculpture was starting to take shape and celebratory hot beverages were had by all before calling it a night.


Saturday began with our team continuing where they had left off the day was to see 14 hardy souls put their blood and sweat into the quest. The day was spent making the sculpture look like Tsuru-chan building/hugging a snowman. Large amounts of snow were shaved away with the smoothers, or chipped away with hatchets, cleavers, and chisels. Next was to be the smoothing of the snow and adding snow back in places as needed to see the design come to life. Snow cannot just be added to the sculpture though, first some water was mixed with the snow to allow it to stick better and hold its shape. This process was to continue for 8 long hours before the team called a halt to rest and recharge.


Finally the final day of carving was at hand a team of 5 JETs met this last hurdle with great excitement and added details to the sculpture, completing the wall behind Tsuru-chan, adding details to her hat, and wings, and finishing her neck feathers and foot. Finally the snow removed during sculpting had to be relocated. With a final dusting and a few pictures, the sculpture was done.

A week later millions of people would see the beautiful sculpture, a sign in front of the sculpture proclaiming to all the success to the quest. After four months of work, Tsuru-chan had made her Sapporo Yuki Matsuri debut.

The efforts of this intrepid band of brave souls were to be recorded not just in the pictures and memories of the participants and eventual viewers; they were to receive media attention from Asahi Newspaper and a forthcoming Tofugu blog post (www.tofugu.com).

Article used with permission from writer, Miki Morimoto from the Asahi Shimbun