Sapporo Snow Festival
Join the most popular winter festival in Japan in February.
- Feb. 4 to Feb. 11, 2020
Every February, Sapporo, in the country’s northernmost prefecture of Hokkaido, is the site of the week-long festival. It sees a lot of snow in winter and—as a city with a lively vibe—is the perfect venue for Yuki Matsuri.
The Snow Festival features hundreds of snow and ice sculptures ranging from big to down-right enormous. Sapporo City’s Odori Park is where the main event takes place. Visitors can take a short walk from Sapporo Station and be entertained all day and night.
Each year, people come to Sapporo to make creative snow and ice sculptures, often based on pop culture. In the past, fan favorites have included carvings dedicated to Star Wars, Final Fantasy, numerous anime characters, and more.
Among the intricate artwork made from snow and ice are pathways lined with food stalls with everything from meat skewers and fresh seafood to “hot milk” (a Hokkaido special), plus live performances ranging from J-Pop to rock.
The multi-day festival’s popularity has skyrocketed, especially among foreign tourists and especially on the weekends. However, it comes from humble roots starting in 1950 when a few high school students made snow sculptures, according to the official site. Despite just six statues, the festival ended up drawing a crowd of 50,000! In 1955, the Self Defense Force joined in to help make the massive sculptures you still see today.
Before you go
The Snow Festival has three sites, with Odori Park being the main one to see snow sculptures. Odori Park also has illuminated snow structures so you can see them at night until 10 p.m. The second is the Tsudome site, which is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and has tons of activities like snow rafting and is great for families.
Last is Station Avenue (Ekimae-dori), which has beautiful illuminated ice sculptures. These are usually open for viewing until 11 p.m. and 10 p.m. on the last day of the festival.
Most people stay in Sapporo city, but you may need to branch out a little depending on how early you book it. Reasonably priced accommodation—like hostels and Air BnBs—book up months in advance, so plan early. Some may end up staying in Chitose City, which is closer to New Chitose Airport. However, it’s 30-60 mins away from Sapporo, depending on the train you take.
While you’re in the Sapporo area, it’s worth heading out of the city after you get your fill of the snow festival, which you could easily enjoy for at least two days. You can also sightsee in the charming port town of Otaru, with its lighted canal and amazing onsen, or Jozankei for skiing and even more onsen.