The Sapporo Snow Festival is one of the most popular, free, annual events in Japan. It is held every February and attracts over 2 million people every year. The venue, Sapporo, is the prefectural capital of Hokkaido, the northernmost prefecture which receives large amounts of snowfall during the winter season. The popular festival started off in 1950 when high school students built a few snow statues. Since then, it has grown into an annual, one-week-long festival, which attracts visitors from all over the world. Attending seasonal events will help you understand the impressive changes and features of each season in Japan while interacting with locals as well. Here is the ultimate guide to Sapporo Snow Festival which allows you to make the most of your wintertime in Japan!
- When is Sapporo Snow Festival 2023?
- What is Sapporo Snow Festival?
- How to visit Sapporo Snow Festival
- Don’t forget to try Hokkaido’s best food
- Where to stay during the Sapporo Snow Festival
- Japan Wonder Travel Services
- Other articles you might like
When is Sapporo Snow Festival 2023?
February 4th (Sat.) – 11th (Sat.) 2023
It’s planned to carry on a smaller scale due to Covid-19 and the exhibition was planned to be only at Odori Park and Susukino Site. Tsudome Site, the competition, and street food vendors were canceled this year.
What is Sapporo Snow Festival?
The Sapporo Snow Festival is a big winter event that is annually held in Sapporo, Hokkaido. It is carried out by Sapporo city and other public organizations as one of the most popular events that draws visitors not only from other areas of Japan, but also from other countries. It is one of the three biggest snow festivals in the world along with Quebec Winter Carnival in Canada, and Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival in China.
The history of the festival dates back to 1950, when the students at local schools started to build some snow statues at Odori Park, one of the main sites of the festival nowadays. Besides the snow sculptures, some other activities were organized including snowball fights and a carnival. To everyone’s surprise, over 50,000 people visited the festival and since then, the festival is organized every year in February.
As the festival became more and more popular, the size of the snow statues also got bigger. In 1953, local high school students made a giant snow exhibit, which was 15 meters high with an extraordinary amount of snow collected by trucks and bulldozers. It enabled them to create a number of large snow statues much to the delight of the visitors. Around that time, citizens started to participate in creating their own exhibits, which brought a variety of exhibits with different designs.
In 1972, when the Sapporo Olympic Games were held, the snow festival was widely introduced to other countries, bringing more fame to the festival. Since the Winter Olympics of 1972, the number of visitors from around the world increased and so did the activities. The International Snow Sculpture Contest was started in 1974, aiming for a greater international relationship through the impressive event. From 1984, the two day event was extended to seven days. Since then, the symbolic winter event has grown into the largest snow festivals in Japan and even in the world, with many other attractions and events including dancing on ice, dogsled racing, and even movie events.
How to visit Sapporo Snow Festival
The Sapporo Snow Festival is held at three separate sites. Each of them features different kinds of events and exhibits, which gives you totally different experiences with beautiful snow. Here are the three main sites and their respective highlights.
Odori Site (Main Site)
Odori Site is where in 1950 the foundation of the snow festival was laid down. It was at this park, where local high school students built the snow sculptures for the first time. Nowadays, you’ll find hundreds of sculptures here, some measuring more than 25 meters wide and 15 meters tall. You can also enjoy the winter attractions.
How to get to Odori Site
From JR Sapporo Station, it is about a10-20 minutes’ walk to the site Odori Park. Take the West Exit and continue to walk down to the basement. Take the underground walkway called Sapporo Ekimae-dori underground walkway and go up to ground level at the exit no. 5.
Tsudome Site *Cancelled in 2023
The second largest site, Tsudome Site, is the family-friendly, but less central location of the Snow Festival. It features several large snow slides and outdoor snow rafting areas where visitors can enjoy a snow-ice experience as well as snow sculptures. Inside the snowdome, there are many other attractions to enjoy the winter wonders as well as some food stalls.
Highlights in Tsudome Site
- Perfect spot for families and who enjoy outdoor activities.
- Enjoy winter sports such as snow slides and snow rafting.
- Take a break at indoor facilities with restaurants and play areas for kids.
How to get to the Tsudome Site
From JR Sapporo Station, take the Toho Line and get off at Sakae Station. Access the ground from exit no. 2 after a 10 min walk. A shuttle bus service is also available from Odori Park Site.
The third main site of the Sapporo Snow Festival is Susukino Site, located near Odori Park. Susukino is a popular drinking area in Sapporo, so here you can enjoy some drinks at the ice bar! You can also ride on the ice sculptures and take stunning pictures on Illumination Street. The ice sculptures are lit up daily until 11pm. Although the Susukino site is the smallest of the three sites, it still features about 100 ice sculptures.
*This information is based on the past, we will update new information for 2023 once more details are officially announced.
How to get to Susukino Site
From JR Sapporo Station, take the Namboku Line and get off at Susukino Station. The easiest access to the festival ground is from exit no. 3.
Don’t forget to try Hokkaido’s best food
One of the highlights of your Hokkaido trip is going to be its local food. Hokkaido is rich in nature and has the benefit of the cool weather, so they can harvest a wide range of vegetables, produce dairy products and catch a large amount of delicious seafood. At Odori Park Site during the snow festival, there are many food stalls serving Hokkaido’s best local foods! (*food stalls are canceled in 2023)
Sapporo ramen is a must-try food and the most popular local specialty in Sapporo. Hokkaido’s signature ramen is miso ramen, and an especially popular one is with butter and corn as toppings. A warm bowl of Sapporo miso ramen will be extra tasty in the cold weather like Sapporo in February!
You can also try other local specialties of Hokkaido such as seafood, mutton dishes and zangi fried chicken.
There are also many great restaurants where you can eat Sapporo’s specialties around the main site of the Sapporo Snow Festival. Take a look at our list of recommendations to visit during the festival!
Where to stay during the Sapporo Snow Festival
During the snow festival, it might be difficult to book hotels and the price can be relatively higher than usual as it’s a peak season. When you decide to go to the Sapporo Snow Festival, book your hotel as soon as possible!
- Hotel Resol Trinity Sapporo – Luxurious hotel across Odori Park, with spa facilities at the top floor.
- Mercure Hotel Sapporo – Comfortable hotel in the lively Susukino area.
- Randor Residential Hotel Sapporo Suites – New luxury hotel at the heart of Sapporo.
Japan Wonder Travel Services
If you need some help organizing your trip to Japan, you should definitely check out our private tour with an English guide. We will be happy to help you make your trip to Japan a safe, comfortable, and unforgettable memory!
Join our private walking tour to explore the highlights in Tokyo!
Sapporo offers more than the snow festival in winter, and it can be a perfect getaway destination for everyone in any season. Join our private tour and explore the exciting city with our friendly guide!
Some people might have a negative impression of winter in Hokkaido because of the severe cold and heavy snowfall. But these conditions offer some of the best conditions for some amazing winter festivities. When you visit the Sapporo Snow Festival you will soon realize that the cold and the snow are part of the charms that Hokkaido offers to visitors, allowing them to experience the beauty of nature closely. The Sapporo Snow Festival can be your first step to understanding how people in Hokkaido have maintained their daily lives in harmony with the extraordinary weather while enjoying it. Immerse yourself into the white world full of beautiful snow statues and other attractions.
Stay informed of the best travel tips to Japan, the most exciting things to do and see, and the top experiences to have with the Japan Wonder Travel Newsletter. Every week we will introduce you to our latest content.
Other articles you might like
This post contains some affiliate links. When you click through and make a purchase we may receive some commission, at no extra costs to you.