Japan is the country of the festivals, in summer there are many dance festivals and huge firework displays, and in winter the major events are the snow festivals. A number of winter festivals are held throughout the country, especially in the Tohoku and Hokkaido regions. These areas receive a lot of snow every year and host snow festivals that are attracting many people. Each festival has its own unique features, such as kamakura (snow hut) and lanterns. Many travelers who come to Japan in winter, visit Japan for their superb snow conditions for skiing, with large amounts of powder snow, but don’t miss out on the fun of these snow festivals too! Let’s have a look at some of the best snow festivals in Japan!
- 1. Sapporo Snow Festival
- 2. Jozankei Snow Lantern Festival
- 3. Lake Shikotsu lce Festival
- 3. Sounkyo Onsen Hyobaku Festival
- 4. Hirosaki Castle Snow Lantern Festival
- 6. Aizu Erosoku Matsuri (Aizu Painted Candle Festival)
- 7. Yokote Snow Festival (Canceled)
- 8. Zao Jyuhyo Festival
- 9. Aone Onsen Snow Illumination (Canceled)
- 10. Tsunan Snow Festival
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1. Sapporo Snow Festival
We start off the list with without a doubt the most famous winter festival: the Sapporo Snow Festival – one of the biggest snow festivals in Japan. Sapporo Snow Festival is held every year in early February at Ōdori Park, Susukino and other venues in Sapporo City. The highlight of this festival is the artworks that are created by carefully shaving large ice blocks. The ice sculptures come in all sizes and sorts, from the White House and the Arc de Triomphe in Paris to popular Japanese anime characters. Each piece is elaborately created and fascinates all who see it.
Sapporo Snow Festival 2023
February 4th (Sat.) – 11th (Sat.)
Sapporo Snow Festival
2. Jozankei Snow Lantern Festival
Jozankei Onsen Snow Lantern is another festival organized in Sapporo. The festival was first held in 2011 with the idea of welcoming guests with snow candlelight by all Japanese ryokan and hotels. About 2,000 snow candles decorate the whole area of Jozankei and what makes these candles extra special is that they are all handmade by the staff working at the hot spring resort. The numerous candles flickering in the snow are a very romantic sight at night, a great dating spot!
Jozankei Snow Lantern Festival 2023
January 28th (Sat) – February 4th (Sat)
Jozankei Snow Lantern Festival
3. Lake Shikotsu lce Festival
Lake Shikotsu Ice Festival is held in the hot springs around Lake Shikotsu, a caldera lake near Chitose, Hokkaido. The winter event displays ice sculptures created by sprinkling lakewater, which is famous for its high transparency. At night, the ice sculptures are spotlighted with colorful lights, creating a fantastic sight. The magical frozen lake and its ice castles are a fantastic way to enjoy a cold winter day and night! The Lake Shikotsu Ice Festival shows a completely different face in the daytime and at night and is well worth a visit.
Lake Shikotsu Ice Festival 2023
January 28th (Sat) – February 23rd (Wed)
Opening hours 10am – 8pm
Illumination 4:30pm – 8pm
Chitose-Lake Shikotsuko lce Festival
3. Sounkyo Onsen Hyobaku Festival
Sounkyo Onsen in Kamikawa-cho, Hokkaido, holds a beautiful ice waterfall festival every winter. In winter, the temperature in this area drops well below 0 and it is so cold that the water falling from the waterfalls freezes. Thanks to this natural phenomenon, the frozen waterfalls transform into a beautiful ice world. This festival is held from evening to night, and the sparkle illumination is also displayed, so you will definitely enjoy it. There is also a rest area where you can buy a hot drink and a spot to take good pictures, so be sure to check these spots. A popular activity is the Lake Shikotsu Winter Trekking Tour, combine a day of trekking with a visit to the spectacular event!
Sounkyo Onsen Hyobaku Festival 2023
Not officially announced yet but usually from the end of January to the middle of March
Sounkyo Ice Fall Festival
4. Hirosaki Castle Snow Lantern Festival
Hirosaki Castle Snow Lantern Festival is held every winter in Hirosaki in Aomori Prefecture. The snow festival welcomes you with many handmade lanterns and miniature kamakura which are set up throughout Hirosaki Park. There are about 150 snow lanterns made by citizens, and about 300 miniature kamakura lined up near the lotus pond. Each of these snow lanterns has a picture of a Nebuta warrior. The snow lanterns are erected around Hirosaki Castle, one of Japan’s 12 original castles and a popular cherry blossom viewing spot in spring. In winter, the many sakura trees that are illuminated spectacularly, together with the kamakura and the lanterns surrounding the castle create a magical snowy kingdom.
Hirosaki Castle Snow Lantern Festival 2023
February 9th (Thu) -12th (Sun)
10am – 9pm
Hirosaki Castle Snow Lantern Festival
6. Aizu Erosoku Matsuri (Aizu Painted Candle Festival)
Aizu Erosoku is a traditional painted candle from the Aizu area of Fukushima. These candles with drawings of seasonal flowers such as chrysanthemums, peonies, and wisteria are all handmade. This festival has started to promote the beauty of this craftsmanship to many people. You can enjoy the warm candlelights in the snow during the festival.
Aizu Erosoku Matsuri 2023
Not officially announced yet but usually in February
Aizu Erosoku Matsuri
7. Yokote Snow Festival (Canceled)
Yokote Snow Festival in Akita is a festival with a history of 450 years and is famous for about 100 large size kamakura. Each kamakura is about three meters high, and four or five people can stay inside. Local children invite tourists who come to see the festival inside the snow hut and serve them amazake and roasted rice cakes. Even though a kamakura is made of snow, it is surprisingly warm inside. Eating and drinking Japanese snacks in the winter wonderland is just a magical experience. In addition, in the schoolyard of the local elementary school and along the riverbank, there are a number of miniature kamakura made by local people. This scenery together with the wintery activities will be a fantastic and memorable experience for you.
Yokote Snow Festival 2023
February 15th & 16th every year
6pm – 9pm
Kamakura rental: ¥3,000 for one hour for a group including mochi and amazake (advance booking is recommended).
Yokote Snow Festival
8. Zao Jyuhyo Festival
Zao, Yamagata Prefecture, is one of the most famous ski resorts in Japan, and is also famous as a tourist destination where you can see “樹氷 (Juhyo)”. Juhyo is often called a “snow monster” because of its appearance but it really is just a very rare natural phenomenon that can be seen only in some places in the world. The festival is more commonly known as the Zao Onsen Snow Monster Festival and takes place all over Zao Onsen Snow Resort, including on top of the mountain! You can take a ropeway that runs from Jyuhyo Kogen Station to the Jizoyama Station at the summit. You can see the snow monsters of Zao spread out all over the mountain area while you are on the ropeway. When you go there at night, you can enjoy seeing the Zao Snow Monsters lit up in the pitch-black darkness, creating an impressive winter world. Other activities held are Winter Hanabi (fireworks), projection displays, and a torchlight ski descent. The festival is held from late December to March and the snow monsters are at their peak in February.
Zao Onsen Snow Monster Festival 2022-2023
Not officially announced yet but usually from the end of December to the end of February
Zao Juhyo Festival
9. Aone Onsen Snow Illumination (Canceled)
Aone Onsen, located in Kawasaki-cho, southern Miyagi, is famous as a hot spring renowned for its beautiful nature. It is said that in the early Edo Period the Date family (伊達家), one of the most famous warrior families, often visited the hot springs for the purpose of curing themselves. At a special site around Aone Children’s Park and Jyappo Hot Spring, local people make about 2,000 small shrines (hokora) with snow and light a snow candle inside each of them. A fantastic winter scene appears and free tonjiru (Japanese pork soup) and cocoa are offered to the first visitors. Although it is held for only one day, every year Aone Onsen’s small snow shrines attract many tourists who seek a fantastic snowy scene. It is also recommended to stay at the hot spring village and go out to see this festival at night!
Aone Onsen Snow Illumination 2023
Not officially announced yet but usually in the middle of February
Aone Onsen Snow Illumination
10. Tsunan Snow Festival
Have you ever seen the beautiful scenery of countless lanterns, flying in the night sky like Disney’s Tangled? Guess what, you can see that very scene here in Japan! More than 1,000 lanterns fly in the sky over Tsunan in Niigata Prefecture and fireworks are set off in the finale of the festival. Tsunan receives some of the heaviest snowfall in the world and to lift the spirits of the locals in these cold and dark winters, Tsunan Snow Festival is organized each year. Winter activities, including snowboard battles, live music, and fireworks cheer up everyone who sees it!
Tsunan Snow Festival
Not officially announced yet but usually in the middle of March
Tsunan Snow Festival
A grand total of 10 snow festivals are introduced here, but there are many more winter events organized in Japan. All of them are as fantastic and impressive as you’d expect with snow huts, fireworks, illumination events, and much more. Each festival has its own unique characteristics and is well worth a visit. Be sure to check their official website or social media to find out when the festival is held and if there are any sudden changes, sometimes the lack or abundance of snow might spoil the winter party. We hope you will enjoy visiting these Japanese snow festivals that have spectacular shows in winter!
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Mao Goto is a Japanese freelancer who was born in Hayama, Kanagawa prefecture, and raised in Tokyo. Since 2016 she lives in the Taito Ward, home to a lot of Japanese culture hotspots such as Asakusa, Akihabara, and Ueno. She has been interested in the field of English education of Japan and got her Master’s degree in March, 2020. A lover of photography, travel, sweets, and cross-stitch. Contact her via Facebook.
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