Hokkaido, Japan Feb. 28 Wed 12:46PM
Sapporo Snow Festival
Sapporo, which is the capital of Hokkaido, is one of the most popular destinations in Japan. Because of its location, it snows heavily just like other parts of Hokkaido. This makes winter the perfect opportunity to visit Hokkaido for skiers and snowboarders. However, during the beginning of February the No.1 activity in Sapporo changes to something still snow related, but very different. It’s the Snow Festival!
The Sapporo Snow Festival, which started in 1950, is an annual event that is held at the beginning of every February. It is the biggest winter festival and attracts more than 2 million visitors every year. There are several different highlights, but the gigantic snow statues/buildings throughout Odori Park must be the climax of the festival, and they wow every single visitor who has visited from all around the world.
In Odori Park, which stretches in a north-south direction for 1.5 km (1640 yard) in the center of Sapporo city, visitors can see many different sizes of artwork made by snow and ice. They are detailed and sophisticated. Some are funny and others are serious. The biggest works reach 15 meters high. This size of snow statue needs 5 tons of snow, which is carried in by 500 trucks. From preparation to completion, it can take more than 4 months. And it is known that the Japanese Self Defense Army is involved creating these big snow arts. It’s good idea to visit the Odori site at night time as well, since these snow artworks are illuminated at night. (Illumination finishes at 22:00). The view from the observatory at Sapporo TV Tower during this festival, which is located on the south side of Odori Park, is magical and somehow heart-warming. Also, a special snowboard jump ramp called Park Air is built, where high level jump performances can be seen. In addition, to warm up visitors from the inside, there are a plenty of food stands serving Hokkaido’s popular meals such as raamen noodle, soup curry, corn and so on.
At the Susukino site, which is usually regarded as an area for adults, beautiful & detailed ice sculptures are displayed. The ice sculptures that contain some seafood inside are very unique to Hokkaido. There is an illuminated tunnel that transforms the icy-cold atmosphere into a space full of smiles and flashing lights. During the festival, the competition and award ceremony are conducted.
There is another location called Tsudome, which requires a bus ride to get to. Although it is not as convenient as the two sites mentioned above, it is fun to visit, especially for those traveling with kids. The Tsudome site has snow chutes and snow rafts, which are perfect for both adults and kids to experience and enjoy Hokkaido’s powdered snow. The Tsudome site also has a big rest area and eating booth. Both should be helpful after playing with snow attractions for a while.
Sapporo Snow Festival is held when it is chilly. The average temperature in February 2016 was -2.9℃ (26.78F). As this temperature suggests, it snows. This means that one needs to be careful about what to wear. Since it is possible to spend hours walking outside in the raw cold, a pair of gloves, a long, thick coat and the warmest sweater that one can find are necessary. Furthermore, because there are so many people, especially at Odori Park, the streets tend to get icy and slippery, which means shoes that do not slip easily are a must.
Sapporo Snow Festival is definitely the most popular event in Hokkaido!
Every year, each site is expected to be very busy with preparation until the last minute. If you want to see how the festival is prepared, you can go to Odori site on the day before the opening or go to Susukino site three days before the opening and you will see the people working on the ice sculptures. All the ice sculptures will be destroyed on the next day after the Snow Festival for safety reasons. So the festival is really short and that’s the only period you can enjoy this snow and ice museum during one year. That’s also the reason why it’s so hard to book the hotel during this season. For those who wish to experience the special winter atmosphere created by snow and ice sculptures, Planning ahead is strongly advised. This fascinating, memorable scene can only be found at the great northern gala, Sapporo Snow Festival.