Back in the year 1950 a group of six local high school students had the creative idea to build snow sculptures in the middle of Odori Park in Sapporo, Japan. They didn’t know at the time, but their passion for sculpting snow would turn into a major festival every winter that has been attended by millions of people.
One of the largest winter events in Japan is the Sapporo Snow Festival, which takes place over seven days in February in Tsudome, Susukino and Odori Park. Approximately two million people visit Sapporo to attend this festival and see the ice and snow sculptures, as well as enjoy the food and live musical performances.
Later in 1955 the Japan Self Defence Forces from the Makomanai base decided to join in and also built massive snow sculptures. To this day, the Self Defence Force is still involved in the festival and they bring in snow from outside Sapporo if snowfall is low in the city.
The International Snow Sculpture Contest takes place at Odori Park since 1974 and over a dozen teams from all over the world participate. The sculptures usually depict a person, famous landmark or iconic event from the previous year. There are more than 400 sculptures on display every year.
When is the Next Sapporo Snow Festival?
The 66th Sapporo Snow Festival will take place from February 5th through 11th in 2015. The festival should be enjoyed in the day, as well as at night when the sculptures will be lit up with many sparkling lights to create a magical atmosphere.
Visiting Sapporo for the Festival
Sapporo is one of the newest and nicest cities in Japan and it has a population of nearly two million people. It is a popular skiing destination and it is neat, clean and beautifully designed with lovely wide tree-lined boulevards.
Make sure that you book your accommodation as early as possible – Sapporo tends to get booked out very early during the festival. This city is the main transport hub on the island of Hokkaido, so there are a lot of options for getting there. Bus is a cheaper option than taking the train and there are also ferries connected the ports of Otaru and Tomakomai.
During your visit there are a lot of other attractions to visit in Sapporo including the Ishiya Chocolate Factory, the Sapporo Beer Museum, Odori Park and the historical recreation Hokkaido Pioneer Village. Skiing enthusiasts will also enjoy a trip to Mt. Teine, which was where the 1972 Winter Olympics were held. Or, take a two hour bus to Niseko which is famous for being the best destination in Japan for huge dumps of light fluffy powder.
Plan a getaway to Japan this winter so that you can hit the slopes and enjoy the incredible snow sculptures of the Sapporo Snow Festival. Best to book your hotels in Sapporo early to avoid the rush!