Sapporo – the capital city of Japan’s northern island of Hokkaido! The word ‘island’ doesn’t really do justice to the sprawling scope of Hokkaido – think of it as Scotland, and Sapporo as Edinburgh, and you’ll have an idea of the wild and wintry atmosphere of the place. Sapporo is the fourth-largest city in Japan by population, the home of ‘miso ramen’, soup curry, lamb BBQ, a fantastic variety of seafood, along with Sapporo brewery and the world-famous Sapporo brand of beer.
Notable landmarks include the Clock Tower, the TV Tower, and Odori Park. What has really put Sapporo on the international cultural map, however, is the Snow Festival.
Every February, visitors can walk among giant ice sculptures that dominate Odori Park and other public spaces throughout the city center. These 400-plus sculptures include images of famous men and women through history, and global landmarks such as Osaka Castle, the Statue of Liberty, the Eiffel Tower, the Parliament Tower, the Pyramid of Giza and many more. The statues are traditionally carved by soldiers from Japan’s Ground Self-Defense Force, who are also responsible for transporting into the capital the tons of extra snow and ice used as raw material. The Festival had its humble beginnings in 1950, when just six bored high-school students decided to build some snowmen in Odori Park. Since then, the event has snowballed (groan) into the global attraction it is today, and there is discussion of going back to its roots and getting more local residents involved in the creation of the sculptures.
Voice of the Sword took place in Tokyo during August and September, and Voice of the Mirror’s settings were Tokyo in October, Edo in the year 1814, and a bizarre alternative-reality Japan where the Kagetori had succeeded in their attempt to ‘acquire’ the Earth.
It is now February, and before the end-of-year exams the entire second grade of Chiyoda High School go on a school trip to the Sapporo Snow Festival. After the traumatic events of the first two books, Reiko Bergman and her friends are hoping to hang out with their friends, chow down on some oishii ramen and sushi, and generally have fun.
If you have read the first two books … you know that is not what’s going to happen.
This is the setting of Voice of the Jewel, and I can also confirm that Chiyoko, Hikaru Genji, and Officer Kato of the Nine Star Division (who investigate supernatural threats to the Japanese nation) will all be returning as supporting characters. There is, however, a brand new antagonist. In volumes one and two Reiko fought Tengu, Kappa, Tanuki and the alien Kagetori, but if you want to know who is the shadowy figure stalking Reiko and her classmates through the falling snow and icy streets of Sapporo … stay turned to this blog!