- What is the Sapporo Snow Festival?
- The 3 Venues of the Sapporo Snow Festival: What Makes them Unique?
- The Odori Site
- The Tsudome Site
- Susukino Site
- The Making of Sapporo Snow Festival's Giant Sculptures
- Other Snow Festivals in Hokkaido: Sapporo's not the Only One!
- So-unkyo Onsen Ice Fall Festival
- Asahikawa Winter Festival
The Sapporo Snow Festival takes place in the crisp winter air of Sapporo, and awes visitors with a huge variety of giant snow and ice statues, delicious local cuisines, and all kinds of family-friendly attractions. This giant event is hosted in 3 sites - Odori Park, Tsudome and Susukino - and is one of Hokkaido's most famous events!
This guide will give you an overview of the Sapporo Snow Festival's venues, events and dates. We will be introducing you to the best ways to get the most out of the Sapporo Snow Festival, so check it out if you plan on visiting the event!
What is the Sapporo Snow Festival?
Citizens' snow sculpture
As of 2019, the Sapporo Snow Festival met its 70th anniversary. This event takes place across the 3 areas of Odori, Susukino, and Tsudome, and is counted among the top 3 snow festivals of the world. It takes full advantage of the abundant ice and snowfall of Hokkaido, that has come to symbolize the prefecture.
The festival of course features snow sculptures that represent Hokkaido, but also of world-famous travel landmarks such as the Helsinki Cathedral of Finland, and Mount Yu Shan of Taiwan. There are stage performances on top of the snow sculptures, such as classical concerts by the US Navy and VR vocaloid concerts, that gathered excited crowds of spectators.
With a skating rink, snow slide and ski-jump show, the Sapporo Snow Festival has variety of activities for everybody to enjoy.
The Sapporo Snow Festival takes place in Odori and Susukino between February 4th and 11th, and at the Tsudome venue between January 31st and February 11th.
Different events take place on different days, so be sure to check the festival schedule on the official website beforehand.
【Sapporo Snow Festival Official Website】
Sapporo Snow Festival Museum
The Sapporo Snow Festival began in 1950, with just 6 small snow sculptures built by local junior and high school students. Over 50,000 citizens gathered around the sculptures, and celebrated winter by dancing, watching movies, having snow fights and more.
In 1953, the first giant snow sculpture was created. A few years later, the country’s Self Defense Force joined in on the giant snow sculpture making, and as years past, the festival gradually grew bigger and bigger.
To celebrate the 1972 Sapporo Winter Olympic Games, the giant snow sculpture of Gulliver was introduced on live television, bringing in attention from Japan and from overseas. The sculpture measured 25 meters tall, and is the tallest snow sculpture of the festival on this day.
Today, the Sapporo Snow Festival is considered as one of the world’s top 3 snow festivals, along with the Quebec Winter Carnival in Canada and the Harbin Ice and Snow Festival in China.
Those who want to learn more about the Sapporo Snow Festival can visit the Sapporo Snow Festival Museum located on Sapporo Hitsujigaoka Observation Hill.
The 3 Venues of the Sapporo Snow Festival: What Makes them Unique?
Lit up snow sculptures
The 3 venues of the Sapporo Snow Festival are Odori, Susukino and Tsudome, and all 3 offer distinct charms.
The Odori site hosts giant snow sculptures the size of buildings, and the Tsudome site has a variety of attractions to get you moving in the snow. The Susukino site houses many intricately built ice sculptures, creating a romantic atmosphere after dark.
Here, we will introduce what makes each of these sites special, and the best ways to enjoy them thoroughly!
1. The Odori Site: Giant Snow Statues & Hokkaido Street Food
Food stalls offering Hokkaido specialties
During the event, Odori Park becomes the main site of the Hokkaido Snow Festival. Over a whole 1.5km between 1-chome and 12-chome (a Japanese unit of town-mapping), Odori Park hosts snow sculpture exhibits, stage events, as well as Hokkaido specialty food stalls around 6-chome. Here, you can savor Hokkaido's abundance of delicious food with the seafood bowls, corn cobs, Sapporo ramen and Jingisukan lamb BBQ.
Odori Site at night
If you climb the Sapporo clock tower on 1-chome at night, you can see the entirety of Odori Park and its snow stages illuminated beautifully.
During the Sapporo Snow Festival, a giant skating rink is also placed near the clock tower. This large skating rink measures 20m by 17.5m, and combined with your view from the clock tower, is a great way to spend your evening.
The "international square" on 11-chome displays snow sculptures made by participants from all around the world. All of the sculptors show off their cultural personalities, making this a display of vivid international variety! Warm red wine and snow sculpture merchandise are also available for purchase.
2. The Tsudome Site
Tsudome is a normally a community sports center, but during the snow festival, transforms into a snow-based amusement park that seeks to entertain children with the concept of "interacting with snow in the grand nature of Hokkaido".
The snow raft ride of Tsudome
The most popular attractions are the giant snow slide, and snow-raft ride that puts you on a rubber float, and down a snow ramp. For smaller children, there are safer play areas where they can have fun with small shovels and buckets.
Food booths and rest areas are placed inside, making it a good venue for the elderly too. The Tsudome site is perfect for families arriving with their children, to enjoy Hokkaido's winter to the fullest.
A shuttle bus connects Tsudome to the Odori site, making access between the two very easy too!
3. Susukino Site
The Susukino Site is located in Susukino, the largest entertainment district of Hokkaido. The venue is also called “Susukino Ice World”, since this is where you can find a large number of ice sculptures. Many of the ice sculptures are a part of the Ice Sculpture Contest held during the festival.
At night, the ice sculptures seem as if they are glistening from the streetlights. There is also a street called “Illumination Road”, where the sides are lit up with colorful lights.
At the Susukino Site, there are other attractions such as the Fureai Square, where you can play with ice. There is even an Ice Bar, where you can enjoy drinks on a counter and charis made of ice.
The Making of Sapporo Snow Festival's Giant Sculptures
Giant snow sculpture in the making
One of the representative sights of the Sapporo Snow Festival are the giant snow sculptures. They are made by the Sapporo Giant Snow Sculpture Committee and the Ground Self Defense Force Sapporo Snow Festival Committee.
The Ground Self Defense Force participates in making the snow sculptures as a part of training in the snow. About 10,000 Self Defense Force members participate every year.
The sculpting process begins in September, when there is no snow. This is when the designing and planning of the sculpture takes place.
The snow sculptures in the making
In late December, the wooden base of the sculpture is built onto the venue grounds. The official snow sculpture construction begins in early January.
The snow for the sculpture is brought to the venue via trucks from other parts of the city or from the outskirts. The total amount of snow used at the Sapporo Snow Festival is equivalent to that of 6,000 0.5-ton trucks.
The snow loaded onto the trucks are dumped into the wooden bases, and then shaped into place. After the snow is hardened, the wooden bases are removed and the designs are carved into the snow.
Finally, the surface is polished, and the sculpture is complete.
Unfortunately, you are not allowed to go near the snow sculptures while they are being made. You can watch the process from a bit further away.
Watch the disassembling process!
The ice and snow sculptures are disassembled after the festival. The disassembling process is open to the public, and this is a popular post-festival event.
The sculptures are instantly dismantled with heavy machinery. It is a bit sad to see the beautiful sculptures being destroyed just like that, but it in itself is a sight like no other.
Other Snow Festivals in Hokkaido: Sapporo's not the Only One!
Hokkaido is home to many other winter festivals. Here are a few in some different parts of the prefecture.
So-unkyo Onsen Ice Fall Festival
The Sounkyo Ice Fall Festival is held in the town of Kamikawa in central Hokkaido. 30 ice sculptures, small and large, are displayed alongside the Ishikari River.
At night the ice sculptures are lit up in 7 different colors. On the weekend of the festival, there are also firework shows
The So-unkyo Gorge area is home to some hot springs as well. Since the temperatures can drop below -10℃, it might be a good idea to warm up in the baths.
Asahikawa Winter Festival
The Asahikawa Winter Festival is held in the city of Asahikawa, located in central Hokkaido.
This festival, too, is famous for its huge snow sculptures. The snow sculpture built in 1994 was approved by the Guinness World Records as the largest snow architecture.
The International Ice Sculpting Competition is held at this festival too. After the competition, the sculptures are lit up under the night sky.
Dress warm to enjoy the Sapporo Snow Festival!
The Sapporo Snow Festival is a huge event filled with snow sculptures, snow attractions, and packed with Hokkaido's northern charm! Be sure to dress warm though, as average temperatures in Sapporo around early February can be as low as -3.4℃. A single coat might just not be enough, so bring gloves, a winter hat, and scarf to meet your needs.
【Odori Venue】 4 Odori-nishi, Chuo-ku, Sapporo-shi, Hokkaido 【Susukino Venue】 From Minami-yonjo-dori Street to Minami-nanajo-dori Street 【Tsudome Venue】 885-1 Sakae-machi, Higashi-ku, Sapporo-shi, Hokkaido