The 70th Sapporo Snow Festival

It’s back, it’s cold, it’s awe-inspiring, it’s exciting, and it’s bigger than ever! Japan’s biggest winter festival makes its triumphant return for 2019!

Unless you’ve been living under a particularly warm rock, it’s likely that you’ve heard of Hokkaido’s (and Japan’s) premiere winter festival. Taking place over two different sites, with the main Odori site spanning over a kilometer and a half (or 12 city blocks), comes something that has to be seen to be believed. If you’ve never witnessed the snow festival, it’s difficult to paint a picture of this incredible concoction of towering snow statues and ice sculptures, live music and events, games and activities, and near endless columns of street-food, pop-up restaurants and top-up beverage stations.

The words “snow statues” and “ice sculptures”, like most of the others, don’t do them justice. Snow and ice are trucked in by the Japanese SDF by the barrack-load, which are then used to fashion incredibly huge, incredibly intricate recreations of pop-culture icons, worldly locations, and even historical buildings. Recent feature pieces include a gigantic Darth Vader (with accompanying tie-fighter) from “Star Wars”, a hulking panorama of Goku and the gang from the acclaimed “Dragon Ball” series, and a 30ft sculpture of a roaring dragon and knight from popular “Final Fantasy” franchise. These sculptures are often accompanied by music and light effects, bringing a whole new dimension to the artistic (and logistic) feat which allowed for their creation.

In addition, there are hundreds of smaller sculptures and statues, each with different themes and backstories, with many made for the snow sculpture competition and many donated for the love of the festival. While you browse the exhibits — which span the entire length of central Sapporo’s Odori Park and lead up to its iconic TV tower — there’s plenty extra to see and do, with hundreds of shops, stalls, and events around to serve the million plus visitors that attend the festival every year.

Did I mention that it’s cold? It’s very cold. Sapporo is notorious for its blistering temperatures during the deep winter months (even more so than places like Niseko, if you can believe it) so be sure to wrap up warm, wear gloves, scarves — anything to keep the air and snow out — and make your way down to the festival during the late-afternoon or evening when it’s fully illuminated. It’s well worth it, so go – enjoy – and thank me later.