Tokyo, Kyoto, and Hiroshima are some of the “must see destinations” for those traveling in Japan both domestically and internationally because of their shopping, history, and culture. For most international travelers planning a trip to Japan, visiting Hokkaido can be seen as a bit out of the way or cumbersome, because unlike the other cities listed above, Hokkaido is not accessible by the shinkansen (bullet train). The most practical way to get to Hokkaido is by air, although there is also the “twilight express” a night train that makes trips to Hokkaido from some of the larger stations throughout Honshu.
One of my biggest regrets after having lived in Japan for 2 years was that I didn’t make it to Hokkaido for one of the most popular events held annually in Sapporo, Hokkaido’s Yuki Matsuri, or Snow Festival.
Hokkaido, the northernmost region of Japan is no stranger to snow, the Niseko region, ranks as the 2nd most snowy place in the world with an average of about 49.5 ft (15 meters) of snow fall a year. Instead of sulking at the weather, the city of Sapporo celebrates the annual snow accumulation with a week long snow festival.
The festival takes place every February from the 5th-11th and boasts 400 sculptures created from a combination of snow and ice held at three different locations throughout the city of Sapporo: Odori Park, The Tsudome Community Dome, and Eki-mae Dori (a main street near the central station). Roughly 3,500 five-ton truckloads of snow is transported to Sapporo from various sites located outside of the city limits to be used to create the different sculptures.
While the snow and ice sculptures are definitely the highlight of the snow festival there are many different snow related activities to enjoy throughout the city including; ice arenas for skating, tubing down snowy slopes, skiing at any of the impressive skii resorts, and of course build a snowman!
With over 2 million visitors attending each year, if you plan to make a trip to this festival it is recommended that you book hotel accommodations at least 6 months in advance. Don’t miss out on this event by waiting too late to secure a hotel/hostel (that was my downfall).