|White Fantasy Attracts International Visitors
For 7 days in mid February every year, hundreds of snow statues and ice sculptures line the streets of Sapporo City, Hokkaido. Varying from replicas of famous Japanese and foreign architectural pieces to depictions of imaginary world, hundreds of sculptures made with white snow and ice create a fantasy atmosphere. The festival began in 1950 when local high school students made six snow statues in Odori Park along the city's main street. It attracted an unexpected number of spectators and, through the following years, the festival gradually became a part of life in Sapporo. Today the festival has grown to Hokkaido's biggest winter event and attracts more than 2 million visitors annually.
The Self Defense Forces stationed in Hokkaido participates in making large snow statues and as many as 150 citizens' groups display unique statues of different subjects. Not only do citizens craft statues and sculptures, but also hundreds of them participate as volunteers in providing tourist information, helping handicapped visitors go along the snow-covered roads on wheelchairs, and serving as foreign-language guides and interpreters for foreign visitors.
In 1972, the Snow Festival was held during the 11th Winter Olympic Games in Sapporo, making the festival known internationally. As a result, the International Snow Statue Competition began in 1974, and in the 24th competition in 1997, 21 teams from 19 countries participated. Among them were teams from Hawaii and Southeast Asian countries where it never snows; member of those teams were chefs who usually make ice sculptures as table decorations.
Photos: Magnificent snow statues at the Sapporo Snow Festival (Hokkaido Tourist Association).
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