The Sapporo snow festival: an open-air ephemeral museum

Each year in February, more than 2 million Japanese and foreigner visitors meet in Sapporo, main city of Hokkaido, in order to attend a very unique festival: the Sapporo Yuki Matsuri or Sapporo Snow festival. In the snowy city of Sapporo, 250 snow and ice sculptures rival in imagination for the enjoyment of the young and the not so young alike. Dive into this magical atmosphere. 


An international event

In 1950, six students of Sapporo decided to build snow sculptures just for fun. The action seduced the inhabitants. Two years later, the exhibition became a festival and was already attracting participants and visitors.

The little festival developed locally until 1972, the year when Sapporo become the host town of the winter Olympic games and underwent massive modernization. The fame of the festival then exceeded the region and in 1974 the first international ice sculpture competition was held.
 
It has been one of the world’s most important winter event ever since. 

 


 

Out in the open

The festival is held in 3 parts of the city : Odori, Susukino and Tsu Dome.
 
The main site of the festival is located along Odori Park in city center. The biggest snow sculptures, some over 15 meters high, are exhibited there. Concerts and other events take place in this area too.
Not too far away, in the busy Susukino neighborhood, is held the ice sculpture competition. A pageant, which elects each year the Snow Queen, is also held.
 
The third site, Tsu Dome, open from 9AM to 5PM and a little outlying, offers, on top of snow sculptures, gliding games (sleds, labyrinths…). Inside the dome, enjoy the concerts while tasting local delicacies available at food stalls. 

 


A magical walk during the day...

The appeal of Sapporo snow festival is mainly the staging of the ice and snow sculptures. During the daytime, you can admire the artists’ talent and dexterity, which as a team carve enormous pieces of work of unlimited creativity: fantastic animals, daily life scenes, frescos and historical monuments, along with some popular Japanese icons.
 
Don’t hesitate to wander around these works realized by local artists, some representing popular cartoon characters

 

...as well as during the night.

On the first day of the festival, the chain saws are waking up: the ice sculpture competition’s participants start the shaping of their work on a 130 kg ice block and will be at work until the end of the day. Visit the festival in the evening when the artists give the last touches to the sculptures.
 
At night, the sculptures are lit up. Stroll through the statues in this dreamlike atmosphere until 10PM at Odori and 12PM at Susukino. It is a great opportunity to enjoy the view of the exhibition from the Sapporo telecommunication tower which is open until 10:30PM during the festival.

 


Sapporo, hometown of ramen

A Japanese festival is never complete without a tasting of the local delicacies. Sapporo itself is famous countrywide for a large number of culinary specialties.
 
You will find ramen stalls set up for the occasion, try the miso ramen or the butter corn ramen. Also taste the curry soup with grilled scallops, cheese stuffed pumpkin skewers, accompanied with a local beer. Another dish to try, a little pricier but popular nevertheless: the Genghis Khan, composed of thin slices of grilled lamb with vegetables. 

 

Traveling tips


The winter in Hokkaido is very rigorous. Don’t forget to bring with you warm clothes, gloves, hats and, above all, non-slip snow boots
 

It is also the right time to get kairo (auto-heating bags to put in your pockets, 100 yen each) available in most shops.
There are a lot of travelers so book your accommodation early on.
 
For more information, visit the festival official website.

How to go to the festival?

The Odori and Susukino are located in dowtown Sapporo. All the metro lines stop at Odori station. Not far from there, you can reach Susukino on foot or by taking the Nanboku line and getting off at Susukino station.
 
However, the Tsu Dome site is a little further away. A few shuttles can take you there from Odori or Sapporo train stations. You can also take the Toho metro line (10 minutes from Sapporo train station for 240 yen) and then walk for about 8 minutes from Sakaemachi station. 
 

                      

 
 

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