Every year in February, Asahikawa City is home to Hokkaido's second largest winter festival (the biggest being the Sapporo Snow Festival). The city is surrounded by mountains and is located in the central part of Hokkaido, to the north of Sapporo. It is the coldest major city in Japan and holds the absolute record for the coldest temperature ever recorded (-41 °C). The average daytime high in February during the festival is just below -2 °C.
Asahikawa Winter Festival
If the crowd of 2 million visitors of the Sapporo Snow Festival frightens you, then the lower key Asahikawa Winter Festival might just be what you are looking for! You get a similar Nordic town atmosphere in a picturesque setting but without massive crowds.
It's nonetheless a pretty big festival. To rival the one held in Sapporo, Asahikawa is famous for building a massive snow sculpture lit at night which is the highlight of the event. Asahikawa proudly holds the record for the biggest snow sculpture ever made.
The snow structure changes from year to year. People of the city are always eager to see what this year's main piece of snow architecture will look like.
Ice sculpture watching is also part of the fun of attending this festival. They are colorfully lit at night.
This sculpture, titled "The King of Wishful Thinking" was part of the 2017 display.
The ice sculptures are made as part of an international ice carving competition. They can be enjoyed throughout the day. The details in some sculptures are almost unbelievable.
There are some family-oriented activities on the site of the festival. Kids are battling it out in this "bubble park".
The matsuri also features a fireworks show. In the crisp clear winter sky of Hokkaido, the fireworks are particularly beautiful.
This is Hokkaido, so you're bound to discover amazingly fresh seafood. While you are in Asahikawa, try the crab! Winter is the season for most Hokkaido crabs and you can bet that you can find excellent one there at a reasonable price.
Asahikawa has its own kind of ramen that you should definitely try. The hearty Asahikawa ramen is made from a combination of pork and seafood broth. There is also lard in the soup which makes it rich and flavorful. It makes the perfect winter comfort food to enjoy while you're at the festival.
As part of the festival, you can see penguins marching down the streets of Asahikawa. They are happy to do so. It's part of their exercise routine. Their home is the Asahikawa Zoo, which is known in Japan for being one of the best in the country. If you go to the Asahikawa zoo, you can also see the penguins walking around in the zoo to get their exercise. It's one of the few places in the world where you can get into close contact with the arctic bird.