Using one of Sapporo’s most abundant natural resources and their imaginations, a few students fashioned several snow sculptures in Odori Park way back in 1950. Fast-forward to today, and the Sapporo Snow Festival is a wintertime extravaganza that draws millions every year. Visit for a taste of Hokkaido hospitality, great food and drink, and stunning illuminations.
- Watching the projection mapping shows
- Going to the Sapporo Big Air event—a ski and snowboard jump contest
- Listening to live music near Sapporo TV Tower and at other stages around Odori Park
- The International Snow Sculpture Contest began in 1974
- There are about 400 snow and ice statues at the festival
- Soldiers from Japan’s Ground Self-Defense Forces help with the larger sculptures
When the magic happens
The festival itself runs for a week in early February, but teams from Japan and abroad begin sculpting their creations up to a month beforehand, and the process is almost as magical as the result. Remember to bring some nonslip winter shoes or boots, or buy some strap-on spikes from a convenience store.
Breathtaking scale and numbers
They think big in Sapporo: expect four or five sculptures to be the size of buildings and a host of smaller ones on the west side of Odori Park. Towards the far west end of the park, international snow-sculpting teams from about 20 different nations compete in the festival each year.
Illumination and projection mapping shows light up the night
Be sure to stay around into the night to take in some of the amazing light shows projected right onto the building-sized sculptures. The shows start as soon as it gets dark and run for roughly five to ten minutes each. Large trees are also decorated, and there are sculptures lit up throughout the park.
Other cool ways to have fun
Take some runs down the big snow slides, ride a snow raft or have an epic snowball fight at Tsudome. Later on, have a warm beverage or two at the Susukino venue’s ice bar, and enter the ice sculpture contest there if you’re feeling creative. A camera is a must for this festival, but you can also get a professional photo taken for a fee.
Carving out the competition
You can see lots of beautiful ice sculptures lit up all the way along the middle of the street starting at Susukino Station, and ending up near Nakajima Park. There are also small bars, some made out of ice, for a quick drink as you walk along looking at the sculptures.
Eat, drink and take part of the festival home with you
You can sample local produce, seafood, and meats from all around Hokkaido at the festival as well as famous dishes from restaurants. Try the hot mulled wine, and if you get chilled sit in the tents or rooms available near the food stalls to warm up. There are plenty of souvenirs, toys, t-shirts, knick-knacks, and postcards at the festival as well.