Sapporo snow festival
The 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.
The three main locations of the festival are the Odori Park, the Susukino area, and the Tsu-dome area, and in addition to the snow and ice sculptures, it includes attractions such as snow slides, bars built with ice blocks, and various competitions.
The origin of this festival took place in 1950 when some high school students from that city made six sculptures of between 3 and 5 meters using the snow that accumulated in block number seven of Odori Park, located in the heart of Sapporo, a place that was used as a snow dump during the winter season.
At that time there was the post-war period: hardships continued and food and other basic items for daily life were scarce. It is said that these students, who did not have even the most elementary knowledge to create a snow sculpture, took the utensils with them to the place and made statues; learning by trial and error, under the direction of an art teacher.
Five years later, Self-Defense Forces soldiers from a nearby base joined the students and built a pile of snow sculptures. From there, the event became a tradition and gained popularity, becoming what it is today: one of the winter festivals with the most national and international recognition that is known for the spectacularity of its snow and ice sculptures. , some of which can reach 15 meters in height.
Currently, the festival usually brings together 400 snow and ice sculptures. The vast majority are located in Odori Park, a hundred in Susukino and a few more in Tsudome. Since 1974, the festival organizes the International Snow and Ice Sculpture Contest that has the participation of several foreign countries.
Located in the heart of Sapporo, Odori Park is the main location for the Snow Festival. They’re the most spectacular ice sculptures are built, which are around 15 meters high and 25 meters wide. Some of these sculptures are so huge that they serve as the stage for concerts and various events during the festival.
Usually, about 12 large snow sculptures and a hundred medium and small snow sculptures are built. All of them are illuminated with intense games of lights (which play with the design of the sculpture itself) until 10 pm. In the area of medium and small sculptures, you can find snowmen and ice figures of well-known characters in Japan, such as Hello Kity, Funasshi, or even others related to new shinkansen models, curling competitions, or other winter sports, etc. The Odori Park area also has an area dedicated to sponsors and another area with typical Hokkaido food stalls and local specialties, as well as a ski jumping area, an ice skating rink, and a children’s play area.
The Susukino neighborhood is full of restaurants, bars, clubs, and karaoke bars, making it the best partying and lively neighborhood in Sapporo. On Susukino’s main street, Ekimae-Dori, between Minami 4 and Minami 6 streets, the Susukino Ice Festival is held, in which about a hundred carved ice sculptures are exhibited in great detail. You can also find the Ice Bar or ice bar, which is a bar armed with brick walls made of ice.
Another activity that usually takes place every year in this place is the female beauty contest “Susukino Queen of Ice”.
Although it is further from the city center, the Tsu-dome area is especially dedicated to families with children, as its main attraction is the snow slides and specific areas for snow rafting. In addition, inside the dome, there are food stalls, games for children, and a stage with a multitude of family leisure activities.
The Sapporo Snow Festival is considered one of the biggest events in Japan during winter. In 2007, during the 58th festival, about two million people attended the festival. That year 307 statues were made in Odori Park, 32 in Scotland, and 100 in Susukino. It should be noted that every year the Self-Defense Forces participate in creating snow sculptures.
The people of Sapporo took the snow that was considered a hindrance to use it as the material of their sculptures, transforming it with passion and ingenuity, and laying the foundations of what would be the Snow Festival. As a legacy of that pioneering spirit, this winter festival, which unveils the city of Sapporo around the world, will continue to evolve.
You may also like to read, Sapporo Snow Festival: Why and where is it celebrated?