Sapporo Snow Festival is known as "Sapporo Yuki Matsuri" by the Japanese. It is by far the biggest of its kind, and one of the most attended matsuri in Japan during any season.
An illuminated snow statue in Odori Park
It all started in 1950 when a small group of high school students built snow statues in Odori Park, located in the heart of Sapporo.
Odori Park is an amazingly beautiful linear park. People enjoy it all year-round.
The event gathered steam from there and by 1955, the Japan Self-Defense Forces (SDF) were getting involved in building the first massive snow sculptures! For the SDF, the event was used as a training drill. During years when there was insufficient snow to form the structures in the city, the SDF would bring some from elsewhere. By 1974, the International Snow Statue Competition was instigated and festival's popularity kept on growing. In recent years, as many as 2 million people attended the Yuki Matsuri.
This is the kind of massive statues that have been built in recent years. Do you recognize the Taj Mahal?
How to Enjoy the Festival
There are three sites to the festival. The main site is the Odori Park.
The park is the site of many of the most impressive snow and ice sculptures. It is beautifully lit and very lively. The park stretches 1,5 km, so you'll have lots to see while you stroll up and down. On a side note, even if you go prior to the snow festival, you'll have the chance to see nice Christmas illuminations.
This is where the gigantic snow sculptures can be found. Some of them measure over 15 meters in height! They can be enjoyed during the day, but the best time to see them is from dusk until 10 PM. During that time, the sculptures are lit beautifully.
There are also structures made of huge cubes of ice. These are illuminated as well. With the Sapporo TV Tower in the background, the sight is astounding.
You'll also see many smaller snow statues in the Odori Park.
Want to see unbelievably well-crafted ice statues? If so, the Susukino site is the place you have to go. This is where some of the world's most amazing pieces of ice art is being displayed! The venue is within a short walking distance of the Odori Park.
Sapporo is the capital of Hokkaido and it is also the fifth largest city in Japan. There are plenty of accommodations in the city from youth hostels to luxury hotels. However, be aware that the Snow Festival is so popular that people start booking their accommodation during the summer! If you wait until the last minute, it might be difficult to find a place to stay in Sapporo during the festival.
Hope you've enjoyed this article! There are so many reasons to visit Sapporo, and the snow festival is definitely one of them!