If you have a few blank spaces on your bucket list, pencil in “visit the Sapporo Snow Festival.”
My husband and I spent three unforgettable days attending the 64th Sapporo Snow Festival. Our first two days in Sapporo were filled with beautiful, albeit cold, weather and some amazing sights:
▼Eagle ice sculpture at Susukino
▼Close-up of the eagle.
▼Wishing those were actually filled with beer…
▼Fish and crabs frozen in ice
▼Another fish-filled ice sculpture.
▼Ice carving contest in progress on Susukino Road.
▼Hmm, where to start…
▼Staring down the dragon.
▼Plans for wings.
▼There was an Ice Bar that was created in the middle of Susukino Road offering hot alcoholic beverages. Of course, we had to stop and visit.
▼Enjoying some hot yuzu sake at the ice bar.
▼An ice coelacanth. Look at those teeth!
▼We went on the second day of the snow festival and were lucky enough to witness the 40th International Snow Sculpture Contest in progress. Teams from all over the world gathered to show off their carving skills and create some amazing works of snow art. It was amazing to see how they actually make each snow sculpture.
▼Team Thailand sawing away at their sculpture. They used what appeared to be barbed wire attached to two wooden dowels.
▼Team New Zealand
▼There was even an international food court near the International Snow Sculpture Competition. Food from India, Russia, Malaysia, and other countries could be sampled.
▼Many snow sculptures were already finished at the start of the festival.
Melon Kuma (“Melon Bear”), half bear, half melon. The official, terrifying mascot of Hokkaido.
▼A vending machine complete with frozen ice drinks.
▼One of Japan’s popular entertainers, Wild-sugi-chan.
▼Chopper from the manga/anime, One Piece.
▼Rilakkuma, a popular character in Japan.
▼Anpanman! Part sweet bean bread, part superhero! A beloved childhood character for many people in Japan.
▼And now for the most famous attraction of the Sapporo Snow Festival, the enormous snow sculptures.
Standing at over 15 meters high (50 feet) was a snow sculpture titled, “Ise Jingu: A Modern Legend.” This sculpture features scenes from Ise Jingu, which is said to be Japan’s most sacred Shinto shrine.
▼The detail of this sculpture was impressive!
▼Balls of frozen ice serve to accent the sculpture.
▼This was a replica of the Hoheikan Historical Guest House, famous for being the oldest wooden western style hotel in Japan. At night, images were projected onto the face of the house. The polar bears colored in the house with crayons.
▼Balloons emerging from the house.
▼Taiwan’s Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall.
Each large snow sculpture also doubled as a stage. Here, a rockband is getting ready to perform.
▼This is a snow replica of Wat Benchamabophit in Thailand. It was built to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Thai royal family visiting Japan for the first time.
▼In commemoration of its spring reopening, a replica of the Kabuki-za in Ginza, Tokyo was created. This was byfar the most detailed piece.
▼A day view of the Kabuki-za.
▼Chibi Maruko-chan is a popular Japanese cartoon. Here Maruko-chan and her family are shown in Hawaii. There were hula performances on the stage throughout the day and the colors projected onto the sculpture also changed at different times.
▼This sculpture was sponsored by Audi. It’s made entirely out of snow and a projector was used to make the car seem like it was moving and changing colors. It was awesome and probably my favorite display!
▼There was plenty of fun for the kids, too.
A mini steam engine train for children (and some adults) to ride.
▼Brought to you by Cup Noodle.
▼An ice slide!!!!!! I wanted to slide down this so badly, but only little kids and their parents were on it. I was tempted to grab an unsuspecting child and slide down.
Although there was snow on the ground and plenty of slippery sidewalks to traverse, the melting ice and lack of snowfall made me wonder if Japan’s northernmost island actually deserves its reputation as being a freezing winter wonderland. Sure, we were surrounded by ice sculptures and enormous buildings of snow and it was pretty chilly, but the sunny skies and glittering icicles made it seem as if Hokkaido isn’t anything close to a harsh environment. However, the weather on the third day made me regret ever doubting the power of winter in Hokkaido.
▼My husband taking pictures in the snow.
▼Now it’s a ice/snow sculpture.
▼All of the ice sculptures are covered with snow after an entire morning of snowfall.
▼Snow continued to fall into the night.
▼A worker uses a snowblower to try and clear the ice sculptures of snow.
Pictures cannot do the Sapporo Snow Festival justice. The ice sculptures glistening in the street lights of Susukino must be witnessed firsthand to fully enjoy their beauty, and standing next to a replica of the kabuki-za made entirely out of snow, nose turned high into the air, is a humbling experience. The scent of grilled snow crab, Sapporo ramen, and fresh oysters mingling with the chilled night air and the stomach rumbling it causes is a wonderful feeling. The Sapporo Snow Festival is not to be missed. If you ever find yourself in Japan in the beginning of February, be sure to take a northern detour and experience this magical event for yourself.
Photos: Khoa Dinh