If you want to visit somewhere this February that is guaranteed to leave you in awe, then you need to visit the Sapporo Snow Festival. It’s an annual festival which takes place in Sapporo, the capital of the most Northern region of Japan, Hokkaido. It started in 1950 at Odori Park when a group of local high school students built six snow sculptures along the city’s main street and displayed them. The sculptures attracted a surprising number of spectators and eventually became a major attraction in Sapporo.
What you’ll see at the snow festival?
Nowadays, the festival draws millions of people, who come from many places worldwide to view the compositions. These range from castles and fairy tale landscapes to depictions of contemporary events or people. The statues usually have a theme which varies annually and is centred around an event, person or architecture which featured in the previous year. In 1972, the Snow Festival took place during the 11th Winter Olympic Games in Sapporo, which ensured that it become known internationally.
The festival’s main focus are the snow sculptures, however there are other activities included, such as snowboarding and a beauty contest. Stages are constructed out of snow and many concerts are held on the sculptures themselves. At night, the constructions are illuminated until 10pm, which offers another take on the structures. You can also get an overview of the entire area from the observation deck of the Sapporo TV Tower (entry ¥700), located at the east end of Odori Park.
International Snow Sculpture competition
In addition, there is an International Snow Sculpture competition that has taken place every year since 1974. Three- person teams from various regions of the world have four days to turn snow into art. This guarantees that the quality of the snow constructions is extremely high and ensures a friendly international atmosphere.
As well as all this, Hokkaido offers its best local foods for purchase at the event, such as seafood, dairy and vegetable products. Delicacies include Takikawa City’s ‘Jingisukan’ (mutton barbecue) and ‘Ramen noodles’ from Sapporo. For an unforgettable winter experience, visit the Sapporo Snow Festival this February and don’t forget to bring your camera.
The Sapporo Snow Festival is on for 7 days, starting in the second week of February.
How to get there
You can get there by air with British Airways who fly five times a week from London Heathrow to Tokyo’s Haneda airport (from £842 return). You can also fly with Japan Airlines and All Nippon Airlines who operate onward flights to Sapporo’s Chitose airport.
If you want unlimited travel on all lines operated by the Japan Railways Group, purchase a Japan Rail Pass. You need to do this in Britain as it isn’t available in Japan. This pass costs about £225. For more details see japanrailpass.net.
Other things to visit in Sapporo
Whilst there, take a trip to the Sapporo Beer Museum, which includes a tour (¥1000). It is a good way of getting out of the cold February air for a few hours. Open 9am-6pm, at 9-1-1 Kita 7-jo Higashi, Higashi-ku.
For further info, check out gojapango.com