The Sapporo Yuki Matsuri or Sapporo Snow Festival is held in early February in the capital of Hokkaido prefecture, Sapporo, and is one of the most popular winter festivals in Japan, bringing together more than two million visitors each year.
While it is true that winter and snow festivals were already organized in Sapporo before the Second World War, the Yuki Matsuri or Sapporo Snow Festival is relatively recent, since it originated in 1950 when six high school students began to Build six large snow sculptures in Odori Park, located in the heart of Sapporo.
Five years later, Self-Defense Forces soldiers from a nearby base joined the students and built a bunch of snow sculptures and from there the event became a tradition and became more popular, becoming what it is today. One of the winter festivals with more national and international recognition, known for the spectacular nature of its snow and ice sculptures, some of which can reach 15 meters in height.
The Sapporo Snow Festival usually brings together some 400 snow and ice sculptures. The vast majority are located in Odori Park, a hundred in Susukino, and a few in Tsu-dome. Since 1974, the festival organizes the International Snow and Ice Sculpture Competition that has the participation of several foreign countries.
As we have already mentioned, the Sapporo Snow Festival is held in three different locations: the Odori Park, the Susukino area, and the Tsu-dome area, and below we will tell you more about each one so that you can decide for where do you want to start your visit.
Located in the heart of Sapporo, the Odori Park is, without a doubt, the central location of the Sapporo Snow Festival. It is here where the most spectacular ice sculptures are built, which are around 15 meters high and 25 meters wide. Some of these sculptures are so immense that they serve as a stage for concerts and various events during the festival.
Typically, about 12 large snow sculptures and a hundred medium and small snow sculptures are built. All of them are illuminated with intense light sets (which play with the sculpture’s design) until 10 pm.
The medium and small sculpture area is very quiet and does not have as many crowds as the large mounts area, so we can visit it with much more tranquility. There we can find snowmen the sea of interesting and funny, even. And of course, there is no shortage of snow and ice sculptures of characters known in Japan such as Hello Kitty, Funasshi, or even others related to new models of shinkansen, curling competitions or other winter sports, etc.
The Odori Park area also has an area dedicated to sponsors and another area with many stalls of typical Hokkaido food and local specialties, as well as an area for ski jumps, an ice skating rink, and a play area for children.
You should have a typical Sapporo ramen burning under the falling snow while you see the illuminated sculptures, it is, plain and simple, spectacular.
If it is not snowing and therefore there is good visibility, we can enjoy a good view of the entire Odori Park from the observatory of the Sapporo TV Tower, located at one end of the park.
The second area where we can enjoy this festival is located in the heart of the Susukino district, the neighborhood for partying and with more entertainment in Sapporo and is full of restaurants, bars, discos, and karaokes.
On the main street of Susukino (Ekimae-Dori, between Minami 4 and Minami 6 streets), we will find a hundred ice sculptures carved in great detail and illuminated for the occasion until 11 pm (until 10 pm on the last day) of the festival. It is the Susukino Ice Festival or Susukino Kōri no Saiten.
And how could it be otherwise, considering that Susukino is the most nightly neighborhood in the city, with many bars and restaurants, this is where we can find an Ice Bar or ice bar, of course!
Susukino is relatively close to Odori Park, a few blocks away (or a subway stop if we don’t want to walk), so we can visit both areas in one day.
Located a little further from the city center, the Tsu-dome area is especially dedicated to families with children, as huge snow slides and specific areas are built during the Sapporo Snow Festival ‘snow rafting’. Open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., inside the dome, there are food stalls, games for children, and a stage with a multitude of family leisure activities.
To get there, we can get on one of the shuttle buses that leave from Odori Park or Sapporo Station or, if we feel like it, walk about ten minutes from Sakaemachi Station, the closest to the Tsu Dome.