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Sapporo Travel Diary 2017: Lifting off to the Okurayama Ski Jump Viewing Lounge

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I suppose the most well-known detail about the Okurayama Ski Jump Stadium is the fact that it held the 90-meter ski jump competition during Asia’s first-ever Winter Olympics in 1972. Historic as that may be, it was not my greatest takeaway from our visit here.

I had very little idea of what to expect from this excursion because I didn’t do any research about the Okurayama Ski Jump Stadium beforehand, so imagine my surprise when this turned into one of my favourite locations for reasons completely unrelated to ski jumping!

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You head inside through that long tube housing an escalator. Once you get to the top it’s easy to spot the Ski Jump ramp, looking like a great white slide. The snow lining the ramp is utterly pristine and incredibly smooth. The first thing that went through my mind: Wait, do people “jump” from the top of that thing down to the bottom? That’s crazy!

To be entirely honest, I have only a few ideas about winter sports– understandably so since I come from a tropical country. Of course I know ice skating, hockey, and skiing, but I had no idea what ski jumping was. This was in fact my first time ever in a ski jumping stadium. Naturally I went on YouTube to see how you do the whole ski jumping thing, and WHOA MAMA. I don’t ever want to do it haha!

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Basically the ski jumpers slide down that first thin slope on the very top to gain some speed and maybe get a feel of the wind. Once they arrive at that “launching platform” with the logo of the Olympics on it, they get quite literally launched into the air! I can see how many people would find this sport exhilarating. For seconds that seem like an eternity, you don’t feel the motion of “jumping” so much as you really are just suspended in the air.

Like flying.

And the amazing part is when the ski jumpers land– so gracefully like gymnasts on their feet!

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That scoreboard you see there usually flashes the points given by the judges, and also the distance the competitor was able to cover during the jump. During competitions, the perfect score is 20 points. The contestants also get one trial jump plus two scored jumps. Pretty fascinating stuff.

The Okurayama Ski Jump Stadium holds numerous competitions throughout the year, and in fact many athletes come here to train even in the summer. But on occasions when they’re not holding any event, regular people like me can come here and partake in the less daunting sport of riding the ski lift. Hehehe.

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I’m normally a bit of a daredevil when it comes to theme parks, but those fast roller coasters don’t really scare me because I know I’m attached to a seat on a rail. Water slides are fun for me too because I know the ride will just follow a path. But launching my own body down a ramp? Yeah, I think I’d rather sit tight on a ski lift!

Speaking of which, this is my first time riding on a ski lift and I have to say I LOVE THE EXPERIENCE. These lifts can sit two people at a time, and it doesn’t really stop for you when it’s your turn to ride so you have to possess some presence of mind when you’re getting on. The people manning the lifts will instruct you to stand at a specific location, but you have to watch for the seat so you can time when you will plop down on it perfectly. Don’t forget to lock yourself in with the security rail!

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This ride up the slope to the Okurayama Ski Jump Observatory takes only 5 minutes, but it felt longer. Depending on how much you enjoy feeling like you’re on top of the world, it can be a good or a bad thing. I was able to enjoy the view, as well as the feel of the wind sweeping gently across my face. There was nothing but snow and air beneath my feet.

Soon enough you will catch sight of the Observation Deck. The view going down is much better though, and you will get to see that a little later.

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I often feel like I’ve forgotten how to properly enjoy some down time, and being up here where you don’t really have a choice but to sit back and enjoy the ride, I think I found how to do it again. Up here, I was able to let go of the worries and silence the background noise in my mind. Up here, I was able to focus on all this winter beauty.

I snapped some quick photos (blogger duties) and proceeded to kick up my feet, but not before Abi snapped a quick photograph of us on the ski lift. I realize now that Abi and I could be mistaken for sisters because we both look so Chinese and even our glasses kind of look the same haha!

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Arriving at the top of the slope, there is a set of stairs that will lead you to the Okurayama Ski Jump Observation Deck. Actually, it’s quite a cozy little nook that can more appropriately be called a Viewing Lounge rather than a real Observation Deck. It’s certainly not the highest viewing point I’ve been to, but it’s probably the most intimate.

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I must’ve been to over dozens of observatories through my travels. At first I didn’t think much of it, but as I discovered more dimensions to traveling I began to appreciate this activity a lot more. A trip is no longer complete until I get that glimpse of the sprawling city I’m in from somewhere up high.

Tokyo. Dubai. New York. And now Sapporo. Each city is different in a way that goes beyond the obvious landmarks. Each city has a unique pulse that makes it move or stop, that makes it tick. You can feel this beat as you look out. As you trace the shape of the cityscape with your eyes. As you watch the tiny figures on the ground below go about their motions.

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In Sapporo the pulse feels more subdued and even delicate in a way. The snow is gentle like a feather; floating down quietly on top of houses and buildings. It even tinges the brown-grey mountains with a lovely sheen of white. Often when I look out at Sapporo’s cityscape I am reminded of scenes from those fantasy stories set in snowy towns. The sort where everybody knows everybody and neighbors take care of each other.

I could look out at this amazing view for hours, and to tell you the truth, a snowy Sapporo cityscape has become one of my favourite sights. Actually the reason why I decided to write this post in the first place was so that I could show these photos to you all. They’re some of my favorites.

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If you look down from the Viewing Lounge, you will get a first-person view of the Ski Jump slope. That bar perpendicular to the slope is where the competitors sit in wait for their turn. Pushing off from that bar, that’s where they begin to ski down the slope until they fly off the platform. A flight of 90-meters high. Are you brave enough for that?

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There’s a small counter here where you can have a coffee break or a soft serve break. Trust me when I say Japan makes THE BEST soft serve. Here in Hokkaido especially, dairy capital of Japan, the soft serve seems even creamier. Highly recommended!

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After polishing off the ice cream it was time to go back down. Part of the great experience of this trip is without a doubt the ride on the lift, but heading down the slope gives you even more reasons to smile because the view is just phenomenal. There is no glass or reflection to hinder your eyesight out here. All you have to do is look in the right direction.

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I like this view even better during the winter. I’ve seen pictures of this area in full bloom but the charm of a winter view seems more… fitting. I can’t get enough of this pristine, powdery Sapporo snow.

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One last look before the ski lift goes on its final descent…

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On our way out of the Okurayama Ski Jump Stadium, I couldn’t help but take one last glance towards the Viewing Lounge. It looks so deceivingly small, and it is not one of the grandest viewing decks I’ve visited by far, and yet it managed to carve a special place in my heart for itself.

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When I have the chance to return to Sapporo with my family, I wouldn’t think twice to include this location in our itinerary. Just for the experience of riding the ski lift and seeing what I feel is winter Sapporo’s best angle, I think coming all the way here is worth the trouble.

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Oh isn’t she lovely?


How to get here: Take the Tozai Subway Line to Maruyama Koen Station (210 yen), then take Bus No. 14 to Okurayama Kyogijo Iriguchi (about 15 minutes, 210 yen) where you can walk uphill to the Stadium for about 10 minutes.

You can learn more about Sapporo and the Okurayama Ski Jump Stadium through their website!

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