Lake Shikotsu Ice Festival
It's time for an... Ice wedding at this annual winter wonderland in the heart of a national park.
- Dates: Jan. 25 to Feb. 17, 2019; Time: 9 a.m.-10 p.m. (Illuminations will be lit from 4:30 p.m.)
Lake Shikotsu is part of the Shikotsu-Toya National Park, in the northernmost prefecture of Hokkaido. It’s a caldera lake – meaning it was formed in a volcanic crater – and is surrounded by three volcanic mountains: Mount Eniwa, Mount Fuppushi and Mount Tarumae.
During the ice festival, [the] crystal-clear water is put to a very different use: creating a huge range of stunning ice sculptures.
With a maximum depth of 363 meters, Shikotsu is the second-deepest lake in Japan. Its other claim to fame is that it has some of the clearest and purest water in the country. This makes glass-bottomed boat rides a popular activity here.
During the ice festival, however, that crystal-clear water is put to a very different use: creating a huge range of stunning ice sculptures. During the day, these glisten naturally blue in the sunlight, while at night they are illuminated in a host of bright colors to form a magical fairytale kingdom. As you wander around – and even inside – these surreal frozen constructions, you’ll feel as though you’ve been transported to another world!
The ice sculptures may be the festival’s main attraction, but there are plenty of other activities to enjoy during your visit. These include an ice rink and ice slide, plus horse riding and even “ice weddings,” where you can pledge your eternal love for your significant other! As with any good festival, you can also find plenty of local food and drink stalls. Of course, there is an emphasis on hot Japanese foods like Oden (a classic Japanese soup), and hot soba or udon noodles.
On weekends and holidays, there are special additional events, including powerful taiko drumming performances and spectacular fireworks displays on weekends and holidays. The area is also well known for its onsen (hot springs), providing visitors with the perfect way to warm up after an evening of ice appreciation — or perhaps a honeymoon?