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Sapporo Winter Festival –The Most Magnificent Snow and Ice Sculptures in Japan

by Viola
sapporo winter festival

I am so happy to say that I was finally able to check Sapporo Winter Festival off my bucket list this year! This event had been one of my goals ever since I moved to Japan. Held annually every February, the Sapporo Yuki Matsuri in Hokkaido, Japan is one of the biggest and most spectacular winter festivals in the world.

I attended the event in Sapporo from February 8th to 11th, along with many other English teachers living in the Miyagi prefecture of Japan. (Thank you MAJET for the fabulous trip organization!)

 

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Hands down, this is now one of my favourite experiences since coming to the land of the rising sun. I am usually a diehard summer girl and do not care much for any activities related to winter, but I got to admit, winter in Japan is something special. Yuki Matsuri definitely convinced me of that. 

In this post, I share the things you need to know for visiting the Sapporo Snow Festival, from what to expect, to tips on getting the best experience. So put on your beanies, hats, and scarves! Into the snow we go!

Note: Please consult the official event website for information such as dates and hours. This article is for reference only.

*This post contains affiliate links, which means at no extra cost to you, I may receive a commission if you make a purchase.

 

Sapporo Winter Festival Introduction

The “Sappori Yuki Matsuri” (In Japanese: yuki= snow, matsuri= festival) has a long history. The event started back in 1950 and has become a very famous festival in Japan as well as around the world. Every year, millions of people flock to Hokkaido for the one week in February where hundreds of magnificent snow and ice sculptures are on display for public enjoyment. And it’s free free free! There are also food, contests, and tons of fun winter activities. It’s really an event for all ages! The festivities are spread over three main sites in the city: Odori Park, Susukino, and Tsudome. Read on to discover what each site offers and see some stunning photos!

Sapporo Yuki Matsuri 2018

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Snow sculptures in Odori Park

Location: Odori Park (Sapporo, Chuo, Odori 1-12)

Access: Odori station exit 2, 5, 6, or 8. Odori Station is accessible from JR Sapporo Station by either the Toho or Nanboku line.

Hours: All day. Illumination turns off at 22:00.

sapporo winter festival

Starting with my favorite site, the Odori Park is where you would find most of the snow sculptures. Stretching as far as 1.5km (13 blocks) through downtown Sapporo, the park looks like a magical white wonderland. You can see humongous statues sculpted out of pure white snow and clear ice. The artistry is just amazing. The subject of the sculptures are interesting and varied. The topics showcased range from historical buildings, to popular culture, to cartoon characters.

 

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2018’s supersized snow works included:

Final Fantasy XIV – Battle of Winter Wonderland

A labour of love by the Ground Self Defense Force. You could see a photo story and watch a time lapse video of how this sculpture was made in the little booth right next to the piece.

sapporo winter festival

 

Astro Boy

This piece was built to commemorate the legendary cartoonist Osamu Tezuka’s 90th birthday. The Astro Boy theme song was playing in the background while I cried over my long gone childhood when I used to watch this cartoon.

sapporo winter festival

 

Yakushiji Temple

The details on this recreation of the iconic Buddhist structure in Nara was impeccable. More stunning was the night time projection mapping show that combined colors, music, and special effects perfectly! I had to pick my jaw off the floor after the performance. It was wizardry!

sapporo winter festival

 

Taiwan – The Taichung Railway Station

This historical site in Taiwan had been reimagined with ice and colorful lights! It also served as a backdrop for the main entertainment stage where many musical performances took place at night!

odori park yuki matsuri 2018

These are just a couple examples of the huge monster sculptures. The smaller sculptures were equally delightful. I loved the cartoon and anime character pieces, including:

 

Peanuts

sapporo winter festival

 

Dragon Ball

sapporo winter festival

 

Anpanman

sapporo winter festival

 

Hatsune Miku

sapporo winter festival

 

And the most popular character of all: 

Minions

sapporo winter festival

Minions

, Minions, and more Minions.

And more Minions…What’s with the obsession guys?

Sapporo Yuki Matsuri

 

Other things to look out for at the Odori park site:

The International Snow Sculpture Competition

Countries from all over the world flaunt their best snow works. A piece usually reflects something from the culture of the home country. Ironically, many of these places don’t even have snow. Australia? Hawaii? How did they prepare for the contest?? I was disappointed by the fact that Canada didn’t enter in 2018. After all those years of threading through thick snow every winter in Toronto, I don’t get to see Canada at a renowned snow event? It just didn’t make sense. You better enter next year Canada! I’m watching you.

Sapporo Yuki Matsuri

odori park yuki matsuriMedusa by USA

The first prize in 2018 went to Thailand with their spectacular piece depicting cock fighting, a popular Thai pastime. Cock means rooster everyone I am not speaking dirty…just clearing that up.

 

Shiroi Koibito PARK AIR – skiing competition

On the block of Odori 3 chōme, a huge jump platform is set up for ski and snowboard enthusiasts. You can watch professional and amateur skiers and snowboarders show off their skills. I was the most impressed with the junior participants. Some of these 9 year old kids can do 360 backflip jumps! What the heck was I doing at that age…

Sapporo Yuki Matsuri

 

Food Food Food!

You can’t leave the park without trying some regional Hokkaido food like crab on a stick, grilled oysters, and fresh dairy products. There are also classic winter festival drinks like hot wine and kid friendly snacks like chocolate covered fruits. There are several booths with heaters where you can take a break and warm up with your food and beverages.

Sapporo Yuki Matsuri

odori park sapporo snow festivalMinion bananas anyone?

 

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Ice sculptures on Susukino Street

Location: Sapporo, Chuo, Minami 4 – Minami 7 roads in 4-chome

Access: Susukino station exit 3 or 5. Susukino is accessible from Sapporo Station by the Nanboku line.

Hours: All day. Illumination turns off at 23:00 (turns off at 22:00 on the last day of the festival)

Sapporo Yuki Matsuri 2018

A 10 minutes walk away from Odori Park is the Susukino site of the festival. Here the main attraction is…ice ice baby! Check out the ice sculpture contest and the interactive section where you can touch the icy artworks. So many photo ops! The sculptures are the prettiest at night when they are illuminated.

 

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Some pieces from 2018:

Sapporo Beer of course

Sapporo Yuki Matsuri 2018

 

GargoyleSapporo Yuki Matsuri 2018

 

Frozen sea creatures…Sapporo Yuki Matsuri 2018

 

Winter activities at Tsudome

Location: Sapporo Community Dome (Sapporo, Higashi, Sakaemachi 885-1)

Access: Walk for 15 minutes or take the free shuttle bus from Sakaemachi station to the site. Sakaemachi station is accessable from Sapporo station by the Toho line. There is also a shuttle bus that takes people directly to the Tsudome site from Odori Park 3 Chome for 100 yen.

Hours: 9:00 to 17:00

A free shuttle is available from Sakaemachi station to Tsudome. Or

Tsudome is where you can really get in on all the fun! This site is especially perfect for families with children. There are gigantic snow slides and a huge snow maze. You can hear the beautiful sound of kids giggling everywhere. Half a day will pass easily here and you will totally forget that it’s cold when you are frolicking so hard.

sapporo winter festival 2018

 

Several awesome sculptures here too!

Pikachu

sapporo winter festival 2018

 

Toy Story

sapporo winter festival 2018

 

And of course…more Minions.

yuki matsuri 2018

 

Tips on attending Yuki Matsuri

Book early

You should be booking flights and accommodation for the Sapporo Snow Festival like today! Millions of people attend the event every year, so you can only imagine how packed it gets. Our trip organizer booked the trip for us in September and locked everything down. Oh ya rockstar planning!

 

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Booking.com

 

Aim for the first half of the festival

Although the festival lasts all week, it’s best to go early if you can. That is if you want to see the sculptures fresh at their best. As it gets towards the second half, the snow sculptures get quite dirty and the ice sculptures slowly start to melt. A sweating mermaid is frankly a bit sad to see.

 

Dress for success

Hokkaido is cold, cold, cold! Sapporo gets especially freezing at night so it’s crucial to protect yourself with a heavy coat, scarf, warm hat, gloves (with touch pads) and thick socks. Pack an extra pair of socks in your bag just in case a change is needed. There is nothing worst in life than wet feet! The choice of shoes is also important. Consider getting some attachable treads for the bottom of your winter boots as the streets can get slippery from the ice.

 

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You will inevitably find yourself with frozen fingers while trying to snap photos. In that case, some hand warmers will feel like heaven in a packet.



Other things to consider are tissue paper for runny noses and sun glasses for preventing snow blindness. You’d be surprised at how bright it can get during the day! My eyes! It burns!

 

Take advantage of the underground paths

A secret passage way? Sort of. Because Sapporo is so cold, there is a whole underground city for people to get around downtown without being outside. Head down to Pole Town and it barely feels like winter anymore! There are also tons of shops and restaurants in here so it’s kind of an attraction in itself.

 

Leave your drone at home!

This is for the photographers/bloggers. There is a strict no drone policy at the festival sites so don’t even try. I know you are thinking about how epic the view would look from above, but the rules are rules. I had to leave my drone at home and was a bit salty about it. You can still get tons of cool shots though!

 

I could keep talking this amazing festival forever but you can watch a video of the Sapporo Winter Festival on The Blessing Bucket Facebook Page to get more ideas about this epic AF event! 

 

Going to Japan soon? Plan your trip in 4 easy steps

Book A Flight: Find the cheapest flights on Skyscanner, my go-to search engine. 
Find A Hotel: Score affordable accommodation on Booking.comReceive $16 off your first booking with my link here
Buy insurance: You never know what may happen on the road. Protect your trip & gear with World Nomad, the best travel insurance company ever. Get a quote here.

Read up on the best advice: Love a good old fashion guide book. Suggested reading: Lonely Planet: Japan Travel Guide

 

If you want more Japan travel inspiration, make sure to check out my Japan Instagram Story Highlights.

 

Bon voyage!

 

 

 

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sapporo winter festival yuki matsurisapporo snow festival

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29 comments

G Isabelle February 17, 2018 - 3:47 am

That is so cool, I had no idea this existed in Japan! And it’s particularly interesting because an artist will put all his hard work into these pieces and then they melt! My favorite is the dragon hehehe XD

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Viola February 17, 2018 - 5:16 am

Yes a really awesome way to bring artists from all over the world together indeed! <3

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Katy February 17, 2018 - 4:48 am

Ahhhh, I wish we would’ve made it up to Sapporo for the Winter Festival! It looks like so much fun, and those snow sculptures are so cool!

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Viola February 17, 2018 - 5:15 am

Yes Katy you should definitely go next time! It’s really cool!

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Tracy February 17, 2018 - 5:32 am

It looks totally awesome! I would love to see all those snow sculptures! I had wanted to go to Japan in spring to see the cherry blossoms but now a winter trip looks essential too!

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Viola February 17, 2018 - 8:52 am

Hi Tracy! Japan is beautiful every season for sure. The autumn leaves are also worth chasing haha 😀

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Stella February 17, 2018 - 8:15 am

heard about he Sapporo Snow Festival before but I’ve never got the chance to go! wish I could witness this awesome event in the future! 🙂

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Viola February 17, 2018 - 8:53 am

Maybe next year Stella? 😉 It’s definitely a wonderful festival!

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Alyse February 17, 2018 - 9:09 am

This is so awesome!! I have the Sapporo Snow Festival on my bucket list. Each year I enjoy seeing the different types of sculptures they create and your post covers this year’s festival beautifully – well done and thanks for sharing!

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Viola February 17, 2018 - 12:42 pm

Hi Alyse! I’m so glad it’s on your list! Thank you for reading! 🙂

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Lies February 17, 2018 - 9:15 am

The sculptures look awesome! I’ve never heard of the festival before. I would love to visit one day.

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Nina February 17, 2018 - 10:20 am

All of those ice sculptures are so cute! Do you teach English through the JET program? I teach English in Spain and so naturally, I’ve heard a bit here and there about other opportunities to teach around the world.

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Viola February 17, 2018 - 12:41 pm

Hi Nina! Yes I am on the JET program! Wow you teach in Spain! Very cool. Are you with a program? 🙂

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Chantell Collins February 17, 2018 - 1:59 pm

Your comment about being salty because you had to leave your drone at home, made me giggle. I can imagine you would have got some great photos but I think you did pretty well without it. I love the ice sculptures! So cool. I am not a cold weather person but I would make an exception for this festival :).

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Viola February 18, 2018 - 3:01 am

Haha thanks Chantell! I am usually not a cold weather person too but I loved the festival! So I think you would enjoy as well 🙂

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Jordan February 17, 2018 - 3:37 pm

How insane are those sculptures?! Amazing! I’d love to visit Japan during wintertime, especially because I’m a huge snowboarder 🙂

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Viola February 18, 2018 - 3:00 am

Oh Jordan there are some world class ski/snowboarding sites in Japan. You would love it!

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MG February 17, 2018 - 11:10 pm

I loved reading this! The Minion ice statues (and the Pikachu one) are ADORABLE! I too am surprised there was no entries from Canada – especially given how ya’ll are doing so well at the winter olympics! I love how Australia has an entry – sometimes they struggle to even get snow on the mountains and have to resort to fake snow 😉

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Viola February 18, 2018 - 2:59 am

Haha yes I guess Canada was so busy getting ready to kill it at the Olympics they skipped representing in the arts division this time 😉

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Christina February 18, 2018 - 1:53 am

I do not know where to even start! Those snow and ice sculptures are beyond incredible, I am so amazed by them. I cannot imagine how much better they probably look in person. After reading this post, I would love to go to this festival too.

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Mona Corona February 18, 2018 - 2:30 am

I have read a lot about spring festivals in Japan but know nothing about the winter festivals! So interesting!

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Liz February 18, 2018 - 3:54 am

This looks freezing but like a lot of fun! It’s difficult to decide which sculptures I like best but I like the light projections on the house. Great post!

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Michelle February 18, 2018 - 4:34 am

This is the coolest thing ever! I didn’t know they did this in Japan! Japan is my fiance’s next dream trip. Now I have to make sure we’re there for this festival. haha

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Laura February 18, 2018 - 9:27 am

Harbin ice festival has been on my bucket list for ages but Sapporo looks awesome too! I really want to visit but it looks so cold!

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Viola February 18, 2018 - 11:43 am

Yess I have heard so much about the Harbin festival too! Hope to make it one day 🙂

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Sandy February 19, 2018 - 5:11 am

Ahhh I am dreaming of a trip to Japan!! I’ve never come across anyone that has something bad to say about the country. The ice sculptures look very impressive. Thank you for sharing <3

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Mayi February 21, 2018 - 3:23 pm

Viola, you are so living my dream! I am planning right away my trip for Winter 18/19! I have been dreaming to do this for years!!! The sculptures are so amazing that I will not mind the cold weather just to see them.

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Agness of a Tuk Tuk February 26, 2018 - 3:09 pm

Such a fun festival which I would love to attend one day, Viola! This event is a winter wonderland and those ice figures are masterpieces. Plus, the food there seems truly mouth-watering! 🙂

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ΝΤΕΤΕΚΤΙΒ March 2, 2018 - 7:25 am

You can certainly see your expertise within the work you write.
The world hopes for more passionate writers such as you who are not afraid to say how they believe.
At all times go after your heart.

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