Asahikawa Winter Festival
Marvel at the largest snow sculpture in Japan.
- Dates: Feb. 6 to 11, 2019. Time: 9 a.m.-9 p.m. (may vary for certain activities)
In January 1902, the city of Asahikawa in the center of Hokkaido prefecture experienced the lowest temperature ever recorded in Japan’s history: a heart-stopping -41℃ (-42℉). Combined with its annual snowfall of around 7.6 meters (25ft), this makes it a natural choice as the location of one of the country’s largest snow festivals.
Second only to Sapporo Snow Festival in terms of popularity, the Asahikawa Winter Festival boasts a colossal snow sculpture that dwarfs any of those its rivals create. In fact, the snow sculpture of a Korean fortress built in 1994 made it into the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest snow structure ever made.
The theme of this show-stopping centerpiece changes each year, but its ability to wow the crowds remains constant. Doubling as a frozen stage, it plays host to fireworks shows, live music and other performances during the festival.
Another of the event’s highlights is the international ice sculpting competition that takes place on Heiwa Dori (Heiwa Road) in the city center. During the first two days of the festival you can watch the artists hard at work on their ornate creations. After completion, the amazingly intricate finished sculptures are left on display and colorfully illuminated at night.
An illumination event also takes place at Asahiyama Zoo while the festival is running. The zoo extends its opening hours until 8:30 p.m., and decorates the grounds with beautiful ice candles.
In addition to the sculptures and illuminations, there are all manner of snowy activities to be enjoyed at the festival. These include a 100-meter ice slide, snowmen building, and riding snowmobiles and horse-drawn sleighs. And of course, there are numerous local food stalls, plus an ice bar to retire to afterward – what more could you want!