Now over 60 years old, the annual Sapporo Yuki Matsuri or the Sapporo Snow Festival held in the capital city of Hokkaido welcomes more than 2 million visitors each year.
It is usually held in early February when temperatures drop to an average of -4°C, ensuring the ice sculptures remain pristine and intact for the duration of the event. Key areas where the festival is held include Odori Koen, the Susukino district and the Tsudome.
If you want admire massive building-sized ice sculptures then you have to go to Odori Koen, where these magnificent creations are on display. Many of them are made by the Japanese Self-Defense Forces, business groups, and artists.
Looking to spend a night out in town? We suggest going to the Susukino district, which is known for its nightlife. Besides the karaoke parlors and host bars, you’ll also be able to find intricate ice sculptures here.
The third site to visit is in Tsudome and perfect for those who want to let loose and have a jolly good time. Fun activities include snow rafting, ice slides and making your way through a snowman labyrinth. However, it is a bit out of the city and is only open from 9am to 5pm, so perhaps going on a different day would be your best option.
The first two sites are accessible 24 hours a day as they are located in public areas. However, do take note that the lights will be turned off at around 10pm each night.
There is no admission ticket, which means you can save on buying snacks and souvenirs! Like most festivals there’ll be plenty to see, do and eat! With Hokkaido being famous for their fresh produce, a visit there will leave your tummy filled with delicious munchies!
Odori Site and Susukino Site
Access: 2 mins walk from Odori station or 10 mins walk from Sapporo station
Access: 15 mins walk from Sakaemachi station
Things you need to know:
1. Bring anything that will keep you warm, basically. Preferably three layers of it including a sweater, thermal wear and a proper winter garment. To complete your winter look, get a knitted hat and gloves.
2. Roads are slippery as the snow has turned into ice from the foot traffic. Hence it is strongly advised to bring good shoes or purchase ice grips to add-on to them.
3. There’s plenty of opportunity for photo taking but try to avoid using your DSLR or point-and-shoot when it snows as the moisture may cause your camera to malfunction. On the upside, most smartphones nowadays are water-resistant, so you’re probably better off using that instead.
4. Food can be expensive here but that is common at most festivals. Having said that your visit to the Sapporo Snow Festival would not be complete without the food! So bring cash along as the majority of the stalls do not accept credit cards.
5. If possible try to avoid going on the last week of the festival. It might be crowded but you’ll get to see the sculptures and statues as they are shiny and new.
End your day playing in the snow with a soothing bowl of ramen at Ramen Sapporo Ichiryuan (5 minutes from the Sapporo Station of the Toho Subway Line). They serve the best ramen in town!
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