Sapporo Snow Festival

Photo: David McKelvey on Flickr

Sapporo Snow Festival

Bjorn Koolen

As one of Japan’s most recognizable events of the year, the Snow Festival in Sapporo turns this far northern city into a prime attraction during its cold winter times. The vast majority of our readers will be familiar with the event for its massive snow sculptures on display during the early week of February and are probably equally so tempted to go experience it themselves, so let us take a look at what you can expect and take a closer look at some of the practical matters.

A Rilakkuma sculpture made by the citizens of Sapporo.

A Rilakkuma sculpture made by the citizens of Sapporo.
Photo: Meredith P. on Flickr
First off, although it might seem quite logical, please do bring warm clothing, gloves, thick socks and all those other goodies that you would probably bring with you to the artic because Sapporo does get extremely cold around this time of the year. The temperature is most likely the most important factor you have to take into account when visiting the festival so I would recommend it is better be over prepared than to regret not being prepared at all.
Star Wars in the Snow

Star Wars in the Snow

Photo: Daniel Betts on Flickr

Moving on the three main sites to enjoy the Sapporo Snow Festival, we will first start off with the main event at Odori Park in the city's center. The immense snow sculptures measuring more than 20 meters wide and up to 5 stories high, which might have been your main reason to visiting the event, can be found here. Usually a central theme can be defined for most of the sculpture, which Sci-Fi could ever forget about the massive Star Wars sculpture last year? During the day these statues are lit up until 22:00 while the park also exhibits over a hundred smaller sculptures and hosts dozens of concerts and events. The observatory of the nearby Sapporo TV Tower offers an amazing view across the park for just a few hundred yen.

3

Photo: iyoupapa on Flickr

A bit further along the road you will find the second snow sculpture location in Sapporo’s entertainment district, Susukino. Since the about one hundred ice sculpture exhibited here are lit up until 23:00 those who want to experience the nightlife in Sapporo will easily find dozens of bars, restaurants and cafes to enjoy after taking a look at the ice sculptures.

4

Photo: iyoupapa on Flickr

For the final location we have to move outside central Sapporo to Tsu Dome open every day from 9:00 to 17:00 and accessible by a shuttle bus departing every 10 minute from central Sapporo. Tsu Dome is ideal for families as it features large snow slides and rafting apart from the sculptures. For a quick bite to eat there are plenty of food venues inside the dome itself, where events are also taking place regularly.

5

Photo: MIKI Yoshihito on Flickr

When, how to get there and how much would it cost?  

Now that you are even more excited to go these practical matters come to mind, so let us look into them. Sapporo’s Snow Festival takes place from February 5th to 11th in 2016. You can easily access Sapporo from anywhere in Japan depending on your budget and preferences. For the majority of people the easiest way would be to fly to Sapporo from a nearby airport with airlines such as the budget-airline JetStar or regular airlines ANA and JAL. For those, not so keen on flying, it is possible to take the JR Tohoku Shinkansen from Tokyo to Shin-Aomori Station after which you transfer to the JR Hakucho limited express to Hakodate and the JR Hokuto limited express to Sapporo. This is a rather expensive option though costing over 20.000 yen unless you have a Japan Rail Pass which completely covers this route.

If you were unable to visit this year, better luck next time. But don't forget to plan your trip in advance. It's worth a visit!