- February 09 2016
The Snow Festival in Hokkaido! We Went to Sapporo Yuki Matsuri: Snow Statues
This probably needs no explanation, but when it comes to the most famous snow festival in Japan, it’s definitely the annual “Sapporo Yuki Matsuri”, which happens in Sapporo, Hokkaido! We went to the 2014 festival, which was its 65th year anniversary!
Sapporo Yuki Matsuri’s Where and When is Sapporo Yuki Matsuri?
Sapporo Yuki Matsuri usually happens from the weekend of the first week of February and lasts 7 days. However in 2014, it took place from February 5th to 11th. The festival happens in many locations that cover the entire city, such as around “Ohdori Koen (Ohdori Park)” near Sapporo Station and around the “Susukino” area. We also hear that recently, they sometimes they relocate the festival to a studio called “Sapporo Tsudome” and extend the festival until the second week of February.
Our Time is Limited, but Can We Still Enjoy It?
Actually, the main purpose of this trip was to go to the Hyoto Festival, which takes place in Shikotsuko Lake, located in Chitose City next to Sapporo. As a result, we only got to visit Sapporo Yuki Matsuri in our spare time, which was about two hours.
But yes, we did enjoy the festival very much even though we weren't there very long! As we stepped onto the festival grounds, we were surprised by the overwhelming number of food stands and the huge snow statues. It was a very satisfying sightseeing experience.
Sapporo Yuki Matsuri Ohdori Location
The Ohodori Location was divided into 12 sections (Blocks 1 to 12), each with its own snow statues and events. First, we’ll introduce the big snow and ice statues.
After you walk through the underground path from Sapporo Station and take the Exit 6 of Ohdori Station from the Chikatetsu Nanboku Line, located in front of the ticket gate, you'll end up outside. And this is the first thing you’ll see: “Taiwan – Tradition and Modern”, a big ice statue of famous sightseeing spots of Taiwan assembled in one place.
Although it was snowing and freezing when we arrived, I was wearing Sorel’s snow boots that I bought just for this trip, so I was not cold at all! Haha.
We kept walking and arrived at the neighboring Block 5. The artists created athletes of various winter sports out of snow to show their support for Japanese athletes in Sochi Olympics and a successful “Sapporo Asian Winter Games” in 2017.
When we got there, there was a Taiko (Japanese drum) performance going on. It was cold.
This was taken from the side of the statue.
This is the “Shimin Hiroba (civic plaza)” location, where snow statues created by the citizens are exhibited. This location also offers a food stand street called “Hokkaido Shoku no Hiroba (Hokkaido’s food plaza)”, and we all enjoyed tasting food from different parts of Hokkaido island. For more about this food street, please check out.
This is the “Sultan Abdul Samad Building” sculpture created by the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force.
Along with many statues of animals living in Hokkaido, there was also this lovely statue, which says “Love for Everything”.
A snow slide was attached to this statue, and many little kids were enjoying the ride down.
This is an enormous snow statue of I'timād-ud-Daulah (India). Although it was sunny just a second ago, it suddenly started snowing. During our two hour visit the weather kept changing from snow, to sun, and back to snow again.
We heard that they illuminate this statue at night. It must be even more beautiful then.
This is also from the Civic Plaza. There were many interesting snow statues lined up. First, this is “Momotaro”. “Momotaro” is a Japanese folk tale, where a boy named Momotaro was born from a peach. With his friends, who included a dog and a pheasant, he exterminated demons. The dog, pheasant, and even the demon who is struggling with Momotaro are delicately created with snow.
This is the “Omotenashi” girl, Takigawa Christel, who people were talking about when Japan was competing to host the 2020 Olympics last year. Her eyes are a little scary! Haha.
This is a statue of a Japanese pear fairy themed character called “Funasshi”, which local children made in class. Japanese kids love this character.
This is another popular children's character, a statue of a character from a children's TV show called “be Ponkickies”.
These are Gachaping and Muck, monster characters. They are reproduced faithfully to the originals. When it gets dark, they are illuminated in green and red, which are their signature colors.
The sign says, “Now taking pictures in front of the huge snow statues!”
Wherever we went, there were many places where you can take commemorative photos. But you don’t need to ask a stranger if you take pictures with your family and friends. It’s a great service, isn’t it?
These are Gachaping again, and they’re here to prevent people from going inside. So adorable!
The 10th block is the end of the Ohdori area.
Take Chikatetsu Tozai Line or catch a shuttle and go to Block 1 at the end of the opposite side.
Block 1's landmark is the Sapporo TV Tower. This skate rink prepared right in front of the tower is 21 meters long and 25 meters tall. It’s 500 yen per adult and 300 yen for children (12 and under), and the prices include the rental shoe fee. Although we only got a glance of it since we didn't have time, it looked fun! But I can’t actually skate…
Block 2 had ice statues, not snow statues.
We forgot to take a picture of the big main ice statue, “Heart Palace”, but we saw a lot of ice sculptures lined up. Since they’re sculptures, it's hard to see what they are when they're covered with snow.
The feathers of the hawk were so delicately crafted.
There was a booth where they give you a small picture of yourself for free. Although it sounds like great memorabilia, it’s actually a tiny picture printed on part of a postcard, and you have to pay if you want a larger print. Great business. Haha.
The thing you can see in the background is the “Heart Palace”, which the statue I mentioned earlier that I forgot to take pictures of. Like other areas, you can get your picture taken for free here, so many people, including couples, were in line to take pictures.
Oh my god! There was a ski jump set. We heard that there’s actually a competition going on at certain times. It’s amazing, isn’t it?
We went to the snow festival for the first time, and we think that two hours was absolutely not enough time. Because we had to walk fast to see everything, it was a lot of work. Although you don't need a whole day, if you plan to relax while enjoy the statues and eat good food, it’s probably better to have 4… well, more like 5 hours.
My friend and I were talking about what to wear because we were worried about the cold. However, it was fine after we layered undershirts with a down coat. When I left my bags at the airport, I accidentally left my hat and gloves too, but I was able to survive the cold. My hands and feet are naturally warm after all. But maybe it’s better to have a hat because it snows on and off. There are many places to rest on the festival grounds, and you can always run to those places if you’re too cold, so it's okay if you don't wear a lot of heavy clothing. (Probably…)
We think it’s totally worth a visit if you haven’t been to the festival yet. However, it is extremely crowded, so please go prepared.
Please read the other article for our shopping and eating experiences at the snow festival! We’ll introduce the gift shops we found and our time strolling and eating at the food stands.