Japan Travel in the Know: Snow and Ice Igloo Hotels in Hokkaido

Do you know a Japanese elementary school bag? It’s common in color, design, size, and everything, a symbol of Japanese elementary school students. The bag is called “Randoseru” in Japanese which originates from the Dutch word “Ransel” meaning a bag in English. Let’s call it Ransel here in this article for your pronunciation convenience. Can you believe it? All the elementary school students use it across Japan. In my childhood like more than 30 years ago, only two colors were available: black for boys; red for girls, though any color seems to be available now as shown in the above image.

A Ransel was very expensive. As I remember, it was about 500 USD at that time. However, elementary students are supposed to use it for the whole elementary school period of six years. Considering the promised quality to survive long-term super-rough usage by kids, I’m sure the price was not too expensive. For example, we usually sat on it when having a long chat with friends on the way back home (because a Ransel has a 3D structure like a soft suitcase). In winter, we wore it on our front and ran and took a head-first dive on a snow-covered road to compete for a sliding distance (because a Ransel has a smooth surface). As you can imagine, Ransels always get worn and battered in the sixth grade.

Hokkaido snow is too powdery for snow igloos

When I was a kid, I even enjoyed commuting in snow as above. Let me tell you another way to use Ransels for playing in the snow. It’s a snow igloo. First, we need six kids ideally, so that we can have six Ransels. Piling them up in the order like three-two-one from the bottom; covering the Ransels with snow to make a snow mountain; beating the snow mountain until it is firm; pulling out the Ransels one by one. The headache for kids is the snow of Hokkaido doesn’t suit very well for such play. Hokkaido is very cold in winter, and the snow quality is too powdery to build a snow igloo, snow balls, etc. I know it’s a great condition for skiing and snowboarding, and that’s one of the reasons why many people come to Hokkaido from all over the world in winter, though.

Photo credit: https://storyweb.jp/lifestyle/102108/

Snow igloos are one of the winter features in Hokkaido. You can see them anywhere because many hotels build it as an attraction. No worries. Professional adults don’t use Ransels but heavy machines, and their snow igloos are tough even though they are made of the powdery snow of Hokkaido. My favorite is La Vista Ice Bar run by La Vista Taisetsuzan Hotel only in winter. As its name suggests, it’s a bar, and the building is made of ice (not snow though). The bar is illuminated with colorful lights that make the bar look beautiful from both inside and outside due to the translucent ice walls. The highlight of the bar is you can enjoy drinks served in glasses made of ice.

You must try snow and ice igloos in winter in Hokkaido

I don’t know if it will happen again this winter, but once before the COVID, there was an event where you can stay one night in an ice igloo. It was a limited time event, called “Ice Star Hotel.” Even the bed was made of ice, but mind you: it’s a hotel. You don’t have to worry about being frozen while sleeping. Thick and warm blankets were provided, of course. In addition, attention was paid even to the interior design, and our furniture was installed there as shown in the image below. More and more foreign tourists have come back to Japan lately due to the relaxation of entry restrictions, and I hope such igloo events will be back as well.


Photo credit: https://japanobjects.com/features/randoseru


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Shungo Ijima

He is travelling around the world. His passion is to explain Japan to the world, from the unique viewpoint accumulated through his career: overseas posting, MBA holder, former official of the Ministry of Finance.