Sapporo Snow Festival in Hokkaido, Japan
The Sapporo Snow Festival or the “Sapporo Yuki Matsuri” is held annually in Hokkaido, Japan. It will start on January 31 this year and will end on February 11. You will see cherry blossoms blooming in spring while you will witness a magnificent fireworks display in summer. In autumn, you will find a colourful foliage. For winter, you will experience the whiteness and coldness of snow. This festival is one of the most popular winter festivals in Japan. You surely wouldn’t miss this one!
When did it all began?
This “matsuri” or festival started when highschool students built six snow statues in Odori Park in 1950. To everyone’s surprise, it attracted 50,000 people across Japan. From then on, the Japanese community in Hokkaido started to celebrate it yearly on a large scale. The event attracts two million visitors annually.
Starting in 1955, Japan’s Self Defence Force helped making enormous snows sculptures. In 1959, it was reported in nationwide news that 2,500 Japanese people helped hand in hand in creating these wonderful creations. This was the first time that it was reported in local news. Furthermore, the Mokomanai site was officially opened as the second site in 1965.
In 1972, Sapporo hosted the Winter Olympic Games and the Snow Festival was widely known through international media. 1974 came, several countries from the globe participated in the International Snow Sculpture Contest. Some of the countries involved are Australia, China, Canada, Germany and USA. Each representative from the respective countries has a tight relationship with Sapporo.
The Susukino site was a new addition to the festival in 1983. This is a great additional feature because of the ice sculptures illuminated by neon lights.
Unfortunately, the Makomanai site was officially closed after forty years in 2005. It was moved to Satoland until Tsudome site appeared as the second site in 2009.
Three locations for the festival: Odori, Tsudome and Susukino
There are three sites you could visit when you plan to enjoy the snow festival. These are the Odori site, Tsudome site and Susukino site.
The Odori site is located at downtown Sapporo. This is where you could find enormous and magnificent ice sculptures.
The Tsudome site is the place where your family could play and hang out. This attraction includes snow rafting and slides. You and your loved ones can play in this area, rest or even enjoy some refreshments.
Susukino Ice World
On this third location and last site of the festival, you could lay your eyes on the snow illuminations and enjoy hot drinks at the ice bar.
Just how do you make the snow sculptures found in Sapporo Snow Festival?
The very first step is to prepare the base. The snow is transported and bulldozed on the site to make a firm base. The next step is heaping up the snow to seven meter high. Then, wooden panels are installed for the figure of the snow sculpture. Snows are then filled in the wooden panels. When the snow hardens, the wooden panels are removed. After, outlining and carving the sculpture are set to be done. Once outlining and carving are done, the frames are removed.
Access: how to get to Sapporo Snow Festival?
You can take a JR train or you could also ride a bus from New Chitose Airport. Rental cars can also be found in the airport. There’s no need to worry if you’re a foreigner travelling for the first time in Sapporo since they offer help in Chinese, English, French, German, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Spanish and Thai.
The Writer’s Personal Thoughts
The Sapporo Snow Festival in Hokkaido is surely magical as we have seen in the photos. The Japanese people are amazing to have this kind of festival. Creating snow sculptures so huge and with intricate details requires concrete planning and hard work.
I already experienced the magic of snow but not in Hokkaido, Japan. I should go visit and experience this festival soon. The snow is indeed otherworldly for people like me who are living in tropical countries like the Philippines. We only see them when we visit countries that have four seasons. I promise to visit Sapporo and witness these with my own eyes someday!