TRAVEL | What to Do
2023 SAPPORO SNOW FESTIVAL GUIDE
Article | November 12th, 2022 | Dayna Hannah
If you haven’t gone to the Sapporo Snow Festival (Sapporo Yuki Matsuri), you’ve never been walking in a real winter wonderland. Every February, Japanese and international artists gather in Hokkaido to create ice sculptures and snow statues for the winter festivals. During this time, Sapporo City doubles in population as two million visitors gather to join in the fun.
WHAT DOES THE SAPPORO SNOW FESTIVAL CELEBRATE?
The Sapporo Snow Festival began in 1950 when local high school students built six snow statues in Odori Park. More than 50,000 people showed up, and it became an annual tradition. The first towering sculpture debuted three years later, and by 1955 the Self Defense Force began to participate with imposing designs.
Every year, the festival saw increases in innovations and participants. It caught national attention in 1959 and world-wide coverage during the 1972 Winter Olympics. Now, it’s a celebration of art, winter sports, local cuisines, and Sapporo’s relationships with cities across the globe. 2023 will be the 73th Sapporo Snow Festival.
WHERE IS THE SNOW FESTIVAL IN SAPPORO?
There are three sites you can visit, and each offers unique attractions and activities.
Odori Koen is the main site of the Sapporo Snow Festival. The centrally located city park stretches 1.5 km from the Sapporo TV Tower to the former courthouse. Along the way, you’ll see several enormous statues and sculptures and hundreds of smaller ones. But there’s a whole lot more to do besides appreciating the exhibits!
Start by taking in the view of the entire park from the TV Tower’s observatory. When you exit, you’ll come across an ice skating rink where you can rent skates for a small price. On the second and third blocks, you can watch themed shows, and competitive skiers and snowboarders show off their skills on a jumping ramp. Further along, you’ll finally reach the ice and snow statues.
From the third to the fifth blocks, you’ll pass three massive structures that are as tall as buildings. They’re often recreations of famous landmarks or feature pop-culture characters depending on the yearly theme. On the sixth block, you can take a break at the food stalls before moving on to the next colossal displays. You’ll also pass small sculptures made by locals, while the twelfth block hosts an international food festival.
Depending on the day and time that you go, you’ll also be able to watch performances. Some of the snow and ice sculptures double as stages and hold contemporary and traditional music concerts, plays, and contests. From sunset, lights and projection mapping illuminate the sculptures until 10:00 pm. The Odori Site of the Sapporo Snow Festival is free to enter day or night.
The Susukino area is the largest entertainment district in Hokkaido and the best place to grab dinner and go duty-free shopping in the city. If you arrive in Sapporo before the festival, you can watch sculptors carving their pieces with chainsaws at all hours of the day to get ready for the Ice Sculpture Contest. The Susukino Site is the smallest of the three, but it’s well worth exploring.
From Susukino Station, you’ll see ice sculptures lined up one after the other. They’re much shorter than the ones in Odori Park, but they have intricate details and sometimes objects and seafood frozen inside of them. As you go further away from the station, you’ll also see interactive displays. There’s always an ice bar where you can grab a quick drink and often a small playground for children also made from ice.
The Susukino Ice Festival takes place on a public street, and you can see it at any time. However, for a real treat, go at night when neon lights illuminate them until 11:00 pm. Afterward, hit the town and explore the many bars and restaurants.
If you’re traveling with young children, the Tsudome Site offers family-oriented activities. Unlike Suskino and Odori, Tsudome has indoor and outdoor facilities so you can take a break from the cold. Also, instead of admiring artistic feats, the main draw of Tsudome is that you can have fun in the snow.
Outside, you’ll see quite a few sculptures and snowmen made by other attendees. You can build one yourself before moving on and practicing your throwing arm at the snowball target range. You can also walk through the snow maze and play mini-golf, but the real attractions are the hills and slides. You can sled, fly down ice slides, and go snow rafting on inflatable tubes.
If the weather starts to turn, or if your little ones start to get tired, you can have just as much fun inside of the dome. Gourmet food stalls sell local delicacies, and there are plenty of seats for everyone to take a much-needed break. There’s also an indoor playground with inflatable equipment if your kids are ready to play, but you haven’t recovered just yet.
HOW LONG IS THE SAPPORO SNOW FESTIVAL?
The Tsudome Site kicks off from February 4th to February 11th. The Susukino and Odori Sites open from February 4th to the 11th. You can visit Odori and Susukino day or night. However, Tsudome is only in operation between 9:00 am and 5:00 pm.
With so many local and foreign travelers coming in during this time, airfare and hotel prices rise quickly. It’s best to make your reservations as soon as possible and consider arriving before the official dates. The week before the festival starts, you can watch trucks delivering snow and designers scaling scaffolding in preparation.
The best time to see the statues and sculptures is in the morning on the first day. By going early, you’ll avoid most of the crowds and see the displays in their full glory. At the end of the week, they tend to look somewhat melted and a little dirty. In the past few years, rising temperatures and unseasonal rain have also made their upkeep slightly challenging.
HOW DO YOU GET TO THE SAPPORO SNOW FESTIVAL?
Most cities in Japan have curvy roads, but Sapporo’s streets follow a grid pattern making them easy to navigate. Many don’t have names but use coordinates like “North 1 West 3,” and their signs prominently hang next to stoplights. From Sapporo Station, you can take the subway to the Susukino and Odori sites, but they’re so close together, it’s more convenient to move between them on foot.
You’ll want to dress warmly, but more importantly, make sure you have proper shoes. The snow in the downtown area can get slushy and slippery during the day and freezes at night. Bring boots that are waterproof and consider purchasing detachable ice grips when you arrive. Or take the warmer route.
Underground walkways connect Sapporo, Odori, and Susukino Stations from north to south, and stretch from the first to the fifth blocks of Odori Park from east to west. There are exits you can take for nearly every block, or you can take a shortcut through one of the several department stores inside. In a wintery town like Sapporo, it’s the best way to get around!
WHAT IS GEISHA
CULTURE | Arts & Entertainment
Article | January 2nd, 2023 | Dayna Hannah
Always wondered exactly what a Geisha is? Read more for answers and where you can meet a maiko or Ge......
6 TRADITIONAL JAPANESE ART STYLES AND WHERE TO SEE THEM
CULTURE | Traditions
Article | January 2nd, 2023 | Dayna Hannah
Six traditional Japanese art styles, and how you can experience them.......
12 OF OUR FAVORITE JAPANESE FESTIVALS
SPECIAL EVENTS | Festivals
Article | January 2nd, 2023 | Dayna Hannah
Attending a Japanese festival is an experience unlike any other! Here are our favorite annual events......
Where is Sapporo Snow Festival 2023? ›
2023 Sapporo Snow FestivalIs Sapporo Snow Festival worth it? ›
The Sapporo Snow Festival is amazing! It was my first time in the snow and I was a bit overwhelmed by just how much snow there is in Sapporo and how soft and fluffy it is. Maybe I was imagining a snow cone all icy and crunchy but I really hadn't expected it to be so dry and well … powdery.Do you need tickets to the Sapporo Snow Festival? ›
Entry to the venues is free. Organizers may cancel events, alter schedules, or change admission requirements without notice. Always check official sites before heading to an event.How cold is it at the Sapporo Snow Festival? ›
The average temperature is -3.4°C, and it snows often. Make sure to dress warm when you visit!What month does it snow in Sapporo? ›
As the cold begins to draw in, the first snowfall of the year can be seen in November. From late December, the amount of snow begins to increase as Sapporo transforms into a winter wonderland just waiting to be explored, covered in pure white snow that lasts until March.What do you eat at the Sapporo Snow Festival? ›
All the usual Japanese festival food is available including yakitori chicken skewers, okonomiyaki pancakes and takoyaki octopus balls, but as this city is famous for it's seafood don't miss the winter speciality: crab nabe hot-pot. Buses take visitors to the festival's second site away from the city centre.Is Hokkaido snow festival 2023 Cancelled? ›
The International Snow Sculpture Contest will not be held in 2023. Teams from countries, regions, and cities around the world will compete to create snow sculptures.What do you drink at Sapporo Snow Festival? ›
Crabs & Beers
What better way to warm up than to fill your belly with snow or king crabs and pair it with a nice bottle of the famous Sapporo beer. You can have your beer served cold or warm.
Several concerts and events are held in Odori Park during the week of the Festival. Food and souvenir stalls are located streetside, and an ice skating rink can be found in front of Sapporo Tower. If you'd like to view the park from above, this can be done from the Sapporo TV Tower at the eastern end of the park.What is the best month to visit Sapporo? ›
Is Sapporo the snowiest city in the world? ›
The snowiest city in the world, with an average of 26 feet — or eight meters — of snowfall every year, is Aomori City in Aomori Prefecture, Japan. For comparison, the average snowfall in Sapporo, Japan, — which comes in at number two on the list of snowiest cities — is 16 feet, or almost 5 meters.How do people dress for Sapporo in the winter? ›
In terms of footwear, snow boots or shoes with non-slip soles are a good choice. A long, warm coat is also essential to protect you against the extreme cold of this period. Underneath, knitwear or a turtleneck over a warm inner layer is recommended. For your lower body, windproofed or fleece-lined pants are best.Is Sapporo foreigner friendly? ›
Sapporo has a highly functional and convenient city and office environment. It attracts many domestic and foreign visitors and residents.What do you wear to a snow festival? ›
- Thick socks.
- Woolly hat.
- Snow boots/outdoor footwear.
The Snow Festival began as a one-day event in 1950, when six local high school students built six snow statues in Odori Park. In 1955 the Japan Self-Defense Forces from the nearby Makomanai base joined in and built the first massive snow sculptures, for which the Snow Festival has now become famous.What month is most likely to snow? ›
December, January or February is the snowiest month for a majority of the U.S.How long does the Sapporo Snow Festival last? ›
About the Sapporo Snow Festival
The festival will be held at the Odori and Susukino sites for eight days from February 4 (Saturday) to February 11 (Saturday, national holiday), 2023.
Japan's snow season typically begins in mid- to-late December, just before Christmas, and continues through late March or early April. This will vary from resort to resort based on the actual snow conditions. The season peaks from mid-January to late February.Which popular dish is Sapporo known for? ›
Ramen of all different regional varieties in Japan are quite frankly delicious and diverse in their own ways, but Sapporo's famous miso ramen is world-famous. Miso enriched with a pork bone broth is particularly delicious and hearty during the cold weather in Sapporo, but still delicious all year round.What time does Sapporo Snow Festival start? ›
|Dates of Exhibition||ebruary 4th, 2020 (Tuesday) to February 11th, 2019 (Tuesday/Holiday)|
|Venue||Odori Park(Odori-nishi 1-chome to 12-chome, Chuo-ku, Sapporo)|
|Light up||Sunset to 22:00|
Where is the biggest and most famous snow festival in Japan located? ›
The Sapporo Snow Festival (さっぽろ雪まつり, Sapporo Yuki Matsuri) is held during one week every February in Hokkaido's capital Sapporo. It is one of Japan's most popular winter events. The Sapporo Snow Festival was started in 1950, when high school students built a few snow statues in Odori Park.What months does it snow in Hokkaido? ›
January and February are the coldest months, during which the central and northern parts of Hokkaido experience heavy snowfall. Snowfall can continue until early May.Can you take a train from Tokyo to Hokkaido? ›
Currently, two trains are operating on the Hokkaido line: Hayabusa and Hayate. The majority Hokkaido Shinkansen trains are Hayabusa, which run between Tokyo Station and Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto Station, and seat reservation is required. The journey from Tokyo to Hakodate takes approximately 4 hours and 4 minutes.How long to spend in Sapporo? ›
It is best to give yourself at least 1 day to 2 days in Sapporo to explore this charming city. You will be delighted by its attraction, food, and drink, shopping as well as nightlife in this wonderful city. If you are to visit Sapporo during winter, remember to include Sapporo Snow Festival.Can you drink tap water in Sapporo? ›
Yes, drinking water from taps in Japan is safe. For environmental reasons, try to use a refillable water bottle rather than buying bottled water whilst travelling in Japan.How alcoholic is Sapporo? ›
Average analysis per 12oz serving: 4.9% ABV. Calories: 140. Carbohydrates: 10.3 grams.Which is the biggest snow festival in the world? ›
In 2001 the Harbin Ice Festival was merged with Heilongjiang's International Ski Festival and got its new formal name, the Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival. In 2007, the festival featured a Canadian themed sculpture, in memory of Canadian doctor Norman Bethune.What city in Hokkaido is very famous for its beer and snow festival? ›
Sapporo is the gateway to Hokkaido, known for its food (specifically ramen and seafood), nightlife, and the annual snow festival held in February.Is Sapporo or Tokyo better? ›
Being the largest city, not only in Japan but in the world, Tokyo has a much far superior nightlife than Sapporo. In Tokyo, counting bars alone, there are over 29,000 bars. Whilst Sapporo is the largest nightlife city north of Tokyo, it has only 4,000 bars, and that's including clubs, restaurants and pachinko slots.Do you need a car in Sapporo? ›
Besides, self-driving is not required if you are planning to visit major cities such as Sapporo or Otaru only. But if you plan to visit smaller towns such as Lake Toya, Niseko, Furano, and Biei, especially during flower blossom season, it is best to plan for a Hokkaido self-driving trip.
How many days should I stay in Hokkaido? ›
Places visited include Hakodate, Lake Toya, Noboribetsu, Otaru, Shakotan, and Sapporo. How many days are enough for Hokkaido? We recommended spending at least 7 days if you only have a short amount of time to play around in Hokkaido. You will need 5 days traveling around Hokkaido and 2 days covering Sapporo city.What state has never had snow? ›
Where Has It Never Snowed In the U.S.? Extreme South Florida: Within the “Sunshine State,” no city south of Homestead has ever observed snow. Florida's low latitude and low elevation mean temperatures rarely get cold enough for snow to fall, let alone accumulate on the ground.What is America's snowiest city? ›
1. Syracuse, New York: 127.8 inches. Syracuse takes home the crown as the snowiest city in America, averaging 127.8 inches each winter.What's the snowiest city on earth? ›
Aomori City, Japan
What to do: Located on Honshu Island, Aomori City holds the title of snowiest city in the world, and winter is the best time to take advantage of seafood (like scallops) at the Furukawa Fish Market.
Invest in Waterproof, Slip Resistant, Insulated Winter Boots
You can layer socks (try Uniqlo Heattech socks) or choose wool-blend socks to keep your feet warm, but you will need a pair of good snow boots that are waterproof (or water-resistant), insulated and slip-resistant (non-skid).
Snow boots and non-slip soles are excellent choices for footwear. If you will be exposed to extreme cold, you should also wear a long, warm coat. It's acceptable to put on a turtleneck or knitwear over a warm layer of clothing under a jacket.Is Sapporo the coldest city in Japan? ›
Sapporo has to have a place on our list of the coldest places in Japan, because it's surely the coldest major regional capital and big city in the country.
Sapporo Snow FestivalWhere is the Sapporo Snow Festival celebrated? ›
Located in Odori Park in the center of Sapporo, here you will find a fascinating world of snow and ice stretching across approximately 1.5 kilometers.Where is Sapporo festival celebrated? ›
The Sapporo Snow Festival (さっぽろ雪まつり, Sapporo Yuki-matsuri) is a festival held annually in Sapporo, Japan, over seven days in February. Odori Park, Susukino, and Tsudome are the main sites of the festival.
How do I get to Sapporo Snow Festival? ›
It can be reached using shuttle buses, which depart from the Odori Site and from Sapporo Station every five to 10 minutes. It is a 15-minute walk from Sakaemachi Station. This station can be reached by taking the Toho Subway Line from Sapporo Station.Where is the biggest winter festival in the world? ›
One such annual event is the Harbin Ice Festival in China, known to be the world's largest ice and snow event.What is the biggest snow festival in Japan? ›
The Sapporo Snow Festival, which started in 1950, is an annual event that is held at the beginning of every February. It is the biggest winter festival and attracts more than 2 million visitors every year.Why is Sapporo so famous? ›
Sapporo became world famous in 1972 when the Olympic Winter Games were held there. Today, the city is well known for its ramen, beer, and the annual snow festival held in February.Why do people go to the Sapporo Snow Festival? ›
For seven days in February, a large number of visitors travel to Sapporo to admire the two hundred snow sculptures and ephemeral statues displayed in the city's several districts.How many sculptures are there in Sapporo Snow Festival? ›
The Festival is held across three sites. The principal Odori Site in Odori Park, which is also a main city street is lined with more than 100 snow sculptures of all sizes, including some ten giant snow sculptures ranging in height from several meters to over 10 meters, presenting a magnificent spectacle.