Children playing cheerfully on a slide at the “Asahikawa Winter Festival” venue.
© Kyodo News
There are regions in the northern part of Japan that receive a lot of snowfall once it becomes winter. Although the heavy snowfall can sometimes hinder transportation by blocking roads and railways, life in the snow country is not all that harsh. The snow that turns towns and fields into a silvery landscape is transformed into beautiful snow sculptures and delightful playgrounds by the hands of people to kick off the much-loved “yuki matsuri” (snow festivals).
Japan’s Biggest Snow Festival
The “Sapporo Snow Festival” venue in Sapporo, Hokkaido crowded with many tourists. © Kyodo News
The beautiful light-up of Odori Park in Sapporo during the “Sapporo Snow Festival”. © HBC
When it comes to the biggest festivals in Japan revolving around a snow theme, the “Sapporo Snow Festival” is the biggest, held every year in Hokkaido, the northernmost region of Japan. Large snow sculptures, more than 10 meters high, and beautiful ice sculptures are lined up along the Odori Park, which stretches for 1.5 kilometers through the center of Sapporo, and they are even illuminated with lights at night. A small event, which began in 1950 when local junior high and high school students made six snow sculptures, has now become known as a huge event lasting seven days with as many as two million tourists visiting from within the country and abroad every year.
One of its major venues is an amusement zone where children can experience various snow activities. Here, giant slides that are 100 meters long are very popular, where you can slide down a snow hill from 10 meters high on tire inner tubes. There are also many other fun activities unique to the snow country such as riding around in a rafting boat pulled by a snow mobile in fields of snow or experiencing bamboo skiing, which has been passed down as a local recreational activity since long ago.
Guinness World Record Holding Giant Snow Sculptures
The “Asahikawa Winter Festival”, which is famous for its giant snow sculptures that are nearly 20 meters tall, is held in Asahikawa in Hokkaido as well. These snow sculptures, which have been recognized for being recorded in the Guinness Book of World Records as the “largest snow structure in the world”, are built every year using only snow that has been hardened without any framing. It is also known for its environment friendly initiatives such as gathering and effectively using snow that has piled up and obstructed the roads.
Giant snow sculptures are a popular attraction at the “Asahikawa Winter Festival”. The popular movie and animation character, “Transformers”, has become the snow sculpture design for three years in a row from 2012 and the light and sound show at night has become a major must-see. © TOMY
If you go to the venue, many snowmen that citizens have made by hand will welcome you. An international ice sculpture competition is also held and at night you can enjoy the colorfully lit up landscape. Of course there are also all sorts of events as well as the various snow activities such as the snow slides.
Small snowmen that are made by participants and line up at the venue.© Kyodo News