Sapporo Snow Festival

Sapporo Snow Festival
There are a lot of winter festivals around the world, but the Sapporo Snow Festival stands out because it was created by children. What started as a relatively modest event has grown to become one of the largest winter events in Japan, attracting about 2 million people every year.

Sapporo is the fourth largest city in Japan by population, it is located on the island of Hokkaido. The city is known for its Snow Festival (Yuki Matsuri). The history of the event began in February 1950 when six local high school students built six snow statues in Odori Park. Beyond all expectations, the festival attracted several thousands spectators, so it was decided to make it an annual affair.

The festival began to grow in 1955. That year members of the Japan Self-Defense Forces stationed at Camp Makomanai in Sapporo joined in to build a massive snow sculpture. The Sapporo Snow Festival was acknowledged nationwide in 1959 and received international acclaim in 1972 when Sapporo hosted the Winter Olympics.

Two years later, the International Snow Sculpture Contest was founded. Since then, teams from many countries have participated in the contest, including teams from Sapporo's sister cities such as Portland (Oregon, USA), Munich (Germany), Shenyang (China), Novosibirsk (Russia) and Daejeon (South Korea).

The Sapporo Snow Festival takes place every February and lasts about a week. The festival has three main sites. Odori Park is located in the very heart of the city, dividing Sapporo into north and south sections. During the festival, spectacular snow and ice sculptures made by festival participants from around the world are scattered across the park. The sculptures are especially beautiful in the evening when they are lit up with colorful lights. Odori Park hosts the International Snow Sculpture Contest, live musical performances, and a number of other events and attractions.

The second site is Sapporo Community Dome, commonly known as Tsudome. It is a multi-purpose hall owned by the city. The Tsudome site features a variety of snow and ice slides, a huge maze made of snow, a show rafting area, plenty of attractions for children, and food stalls offering a variety of regional delicacies from all over Hokkaido.

Finally, the third site is Susukino, a red-light district of Sapporo known for its bars, restaurants, hotels, and adult-oriented establishments. The Susukino site features around 100 sculptures, predominantly ice carvings. The main highlight of the site is the Susukino Queen of Ice, a female beauty pageant held every year.

In 2021 and 2022, the event was held online due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Sapporo Snow Festival

Photo by Alex Hurst




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