Enjoy Hokkaido in the Winter! A Convenient Guide to the Sapporo Snow Festival
The Sapporo Snow Festival, which is held in Hokkaido – an area with the harshest winter in Japan – has many events unique to the snow country. Here is a guide to the snow festival for those who are visiting for the first time.
What is the Sapporo Snow Festival?
The Sapporo Snow Festival is held in Sapporo, Hokkaido, every February. It is a festival where you can enjoy large and small sculptures made from snow and ice. It is an event with a long history, and is one of the largest in Hokkaido, attracting more than 2 million visitors from both Japan and abroad.
The festival started in 1950, amidst the post-war reconstruction, when local junior high and high school students created six snow sculptures in Odori Koen, which was a dumping ground for snow. In addition to exhibiting the sculptures, events such as snow fights and carnivals were held, attracting approximately 50,000 visitors. The first large snow sculpture was created in 1953, and in 1955, the Ground Self-Defense Force built their first sculpture. The sculptures by the Ground Self-Defense Force continue to captivate visitors for their amazing technicality. There are numerous materials about the festival exhibited at the Sapporo Snow Festival Museum in Sapporo Hitsujigaoka Observation Hill, so be sure to take a look.
Clothing and Preparations
The festival is held during the coldest time of winter, when it is frosty even during the day, so be sure to bundle up. Layers of heat-retaining innerwear, shirts, and sweaters should be topped with outerwear that have high wind resistance. Clothing developed specifically for the cold, such as skiwear, are recommended. The ground is slippery, so either wear winter boots or purchase slip-proof covers for shoes (about 1,000 JPY), which are sold at stations and kiosks. Disposable body warmers that can be attached to your socks help prevent cold feet. You can purchase them at convenience stores or drug stores. Be sure to bring hats, earmuffs, and gloves as well.
The snow festival is held at three sites: the Odori Site, with huge snow sculptures and ice sculptures that impress with their exquisite craftsmanship and overwhelming size; the Susukino Site, where you can enjoy the beauty of delicate ice sculptures; and the Tsudome Site, where you can experience gigantic slides and snow rafting. Each are accessible by subway from JR Sapporo Station. There is also a shuttle bus to Tsudome Site.
The highlight of the event is the huge snow sculptures at Odori Site. They are based on famous buildings and trendy characters from around the world, and will amaze you with their exquisitely recreated details. You'll want to go during the day to appreciate the details, but be sure to see the sculptures lit up at night, from sundown to 10:00 pm, as well. The details of the large ice sculptures are more noticeable when lit up at night. It will take about an hour and a half to see all of Odori Site, which stretches from east to west.
Nearby Tourist Attractions
There are many tourist attractions in Sapporo, so why not visit them at the same time? The popular Sapporo Clock Tower (200 JPY) is near Odori Site. It was built 130 years ago, and has been designated as an Important Cultural Property of Japan. It was originally built as the military drill hall of Sapporo Agricultural College.
The American-style neo-Baroque former Hokkaido Government Office is also in a convenient location. It is a brick building nicknamed "Akarenga-chosha" (red brick government building), and is also an Important Cultural Property of Japan. It is free to the public, and has exhibits of materials that tell the story of Hokkaido's history.
In 2018, Odori Site and Susukino Site are open from February 5 (Mon) to February 12 (Mon). Tsudome Site will be open from February 1 (Mon) to February 12 (Mon). We hope you will go to see the wonderful art created with snow and ice.
*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.
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