- Location: Sapporo, Haikkodo, Japan
- Preferred Timing: February (usually between 5th and 11th February, but check festival schedule before you finalize you travel plans)
- How to Reach: Sapporo is easily accessible from the New Chitose Airport, which is well connected to Japan’s major international airports at Narita, Kansai and Nagoya. The Okadama Airport is also close by. You can use Sapporo’s excellent subway system to travel around Sapporo. Buses, taxis and streetcars abound in Sapporo. The Hokkaido Railway Company also has regular trains that serve Sopparo.
- Nearest International Airport: New Chitose Airport
You always thought that snow sculptures were exclusively made from snow. Susukino, one of the sites in the Sapporo Snow Festival, will challenge your notion. At the ice sculpture show that will be held between South 4 and South 7 of the Station Avenue in Sapporo, there will be ice statues with real crabs, squids and salmons. During the fist week of February, the town of Sapporo in the Hokkaido, Japan turns into a virtual fairyland, with exquisite snow and ice sculptures lining the main road of the city, illumined magically at night. It is presently one of Sapporo’s, and Japan’s, major opportunities at promoting international relations and strengthening cultural bonds with the world.
Origin of the Sapporo Snow Festival
More than two million people are expected to visit the Sapporo Snow Festival 2009, which begins on February 5. The beginnings, however, were much humbler than that. A group of six students got together at the Odori Park in Sapporo, Japan in 1950 to make some small statues from snow, reviving the old spirit of snow festivals in Japan that date back to pre-War years. The Self Defense camp from the neighboring Makomanai base joined forces in 1955 and the first monumental snow sculpture was greated, like most of the modern massive structures. From there on, there was no turning back as within a couple of years, it was already showed signs of becoming a major snow festival in the Hokkaido region.
With the growth in size, popularity and participation, there have been quite a few changes in venues over the years. The three festival sites where the festival is held at present are the Odori Site, the Tsudome Site and the Suskino Site. All of them have amazing ice sculpture shows and snow statue exhibitions. Some of the best ice sculptures are built here, by the best artists who arrive here from all over the world, some of which can blow your mind away.
Ice Statues at the Sapporo Snow Festival
The range of events at the Sapporo Snow Festival is extremely varied. There are snow-sports, children play areas, beauty pageants and other artistic competitions and cultural shows. The highlight of the festival, is however, the snow sculptures of Sapporo Snow Festival. Artists are provided with the snow and basic implements by the authorities, following registration. The competitors have to abide by certain rules and guidelines laid down by the event authorities. Using some of the most basic carving and chiseling tools, the sculptures effectively create what can only be described as poetries in snow. The sculptural themes are usually topical, subjects and figures who have gained popularity in Japan in the last one year, where popular culture play a major role.
The winners of the ice sculpture competition in Sapporo are selected by a panel of judges, whose identities are kept undisclosed at the beginning of the event to guarantee neutrality. They choose from among 400 ice statues, most of which are displayed in the Odori Park area. If you manage to place yourself at a strategic spot like the Odori Park Television Tower, you will get a clear and panoramic view of the magnificent sculptures.
Places of interest in and around Sapporo
Do not forget to check out some of the local delicacies during your visit to the Sapporo festival, including potato and corn and fresh diary products. There are some wonderful attractions around the town of Sapporo as well. The Sapporo Museum of Sculpture and the Zoo are great places to visit. If you want to indulge yourself in some skiing activity, drive to Sapporo Teine, a half hour drive from downtown Sapporo. It has a six-km slope with wonderful powder snow. The experience is hard to beat.