When it comes to celebrating the beauty and elegance of winter, no other snow festival around Japan does it in a more majestic and awe inspiring way as the city of Sapporo.
For seven magical days and nights in February, Sapporo is hosting the annual Sapporo Snow Festival aka Sapporo Yuki Matsuri, turning Sapporo city center into an epic winter wonderland.
If you are one of those who loves to enjoy the beauty of snow through ice sculpture, here is your chance to enjoy!
Brief History of Sapporo Snow
The festival originate back in 1950 when a couple of high school students and their art teacher took over a small area in Sapporo Odori Park along the city main street and constructed five meter high snow statues attracting about 50,000 visitors to the park.
This tradition of building snow statues then grew larger through the following years. Five years later in 1995, Japan’s Self Defense Force stationed in Hokkaido trucked in a massive mound of snow to Odori Park to build the first massive snow structure which became the signature feature of today’s festival.
This activity attracts both Japanese and International snow and ice sculptor to exhibit their artwork to over two million visitors of the annual festival.
Sapporo Snow Festival layout
Staging over 400 breathtaking snow ice sculptures, the festival is organized in three locations throughout the city.
The Odori Park and Susukino Street sites at the city center are the two main staging areas, accompanied by the Tsu Community Dome site, located northwest of Odori Park.
Odori Park site
Stretched for about 1.5 kilometer from east to west of Sapporo downtown, The Odori Park site holds the main festival large-scale snow ice sculptures. Various colossal theme based sculptures and installation are constructed between Minami 1 to Minami 12 venues.
While strolling around the park to watch both the construction and the display of the massive sculptures, park visitors can enjoy a variety of local food stalls serving the locally brewed Sapporo beer with traditional Japanese cuisine, fresh seafood, steaming hot Ramen and Yaki-soba, as well as international dishes such as Turkish kebab, Indian curry, and freshly baked pizza.
From sunset around 5:30pm to 10pm every night, Odori Park turns into a bright and colorful ‘Alice in Wonderland’ theme park with sculptures night illumination, 3D mapping projections, and a variety of art and music acts performed on special ice stages.
Susukino Street site
The second site of the festival, the Susukino street site, is located between Minami 4 and Minami 6 venues. This site is in a walking distance from Odori Park.
Filled with many restaurants, bars and hotels, Susukino Street is Sapporo vibrant nightspot district. Susukino Street stage about 100 ice sculptures and host the International Square where participating teams from Japan and around the world compete for the first prize of the International Snow Sculpture Contest.
Susukino Street official activities end at 11pm but the place is bustling with festival goers all night long.
Tsu Dome site
The third site, Tsu Community Dome, is located about 15 minutes walk from Toho subway line in Sakaemachi Station.
Surrounding the dome are the open-air venues with large snow slides and snow rafting areas.
The all-weather dome itself holds all sorts of family and kids attractions including a skating rink, food and drink court, and a large warm rest area to escape the outdoors cold weather.
The dome activities start at 9am and are closed by 5pm. Although the festival ends on February 11, Tsu Dome continues the festival activities until the next week on February 18.
Sapporo Snow Festival – One Day Plan –
For a full day festival experience, it is best advised to start the day at the Tsu Community Dome to enjoy the daily snow sport contests and activities for both adults and kids alike until the early afternoon.
From there, take the Toho Subway line back to Sapporo Station which located just right outside the Odori Park.
After reaching the Odori Park, enjoy a daytime walk around the park full of ice snow sculptures.
During the walk, you can watch the construction teams building the massive structure and enjoy warm food until sunset to view the illuminations, projection art, and live performances until early evening.
After that, take a short walk to Susukino Street to end the experience at the nightlife district.
It is also important to not forget to keep yourself warm with layered clothing. Remember that February temperatures in Sapporo can drop well below -10C degrees during the night.
Feb.5(Fri.) – Feb.11(Thu.) 2016
Official Website: http://www.snowfes.com/english