Every first week of February, a place in Japan becomes a venerable winter wonderland. I’m talking about the Sapporo Snow Festival. This festival is one of Japan’s largest winter events and attracts a numerous number of visitors from Japan and abroad every year.
Sapporo is the capital and largest city in Hokkaido, Japan. One of Japan’s nicest cities, Sapporo has lovely open boulevards filled with trees to enjoy in summer and excellent snow in the long winter. This city is particularly crowded in the winter because it plays host to a number of well known ski resorts and the Sapporo Snow Festival.
The Snow Festival originated sometime in 1950, when some local high school students constructed six snow statues in Odori Park. In 1955, the Self-Defense Force joined in and built the very first massive snow sculpture, for which the Snow Festival has been known for. The Festival has blossomed from these humble beginnings to become one of the biggest and most well known of Hokkaido’s winter events and is considered an international level festival.Â The festival is focused on Odori Park, in the centre of Sapporo. It consists of a combination of large replicas and artistic sculptures; children-themed attractions; and a separate section for world-wide competitors. The festival could be enjoyed in the day because of the snow sculptures and some entertainment programs on numerous snow stages for the visitors – but at night the sculptures are lit up creating a very beautiful spectacle, along with some live music.
Along with the current festival, people can also check out the highlights of past festivals through The Sapporo Snow Festival Museum which is located in the Hitsujigaoka observation hill. Another site of the festival is Sapporo Sato-Land Farm Park. While there, one can frolic in the huge mazes and slides made entirely out of snow. There are also cross country skiing in this site. Or for a romantic ride, how about a horse drawn sleigh ride through the park? The last site for the winter festival is in Susukino, where along with its very vibrant nighlife, plays host to numerous mesmerizing ice sculptures, some with live crab or salmon in them. There is also a photo session with this year’s Ice Queen. There are also ice sculpture contests for those who would like to participate. Susukino, or the whole Sapporo Winter Festival in general, is best visited at night where the ice sculptures, as well as the snow sculptures in Odori Park, are illuminated.
For seven days in February, these statues and sculptures turn Sapporo into a winter dreamland of crystal-like ice and white snow.