What started as a student-organized event has quickly morphed into the internationally recognized Sapporo Snow Festival. It is one of Japan's largest winter events and every year it attracts more visitors from Japan and an increasing number of visitors from abroad, too. Every winter, about two million people come to Sapporo to see a large number of splendid snow and ice sculptures lining Odori Park, the grounds at Community Dome Tsudome, and the sights and lights along the main street in Susukino. If you are planning to attend and want a little more information about the history of the festival, what you can do and other logistics, read Cover-More’s guide to the Sapporo Snow Festival in Japan.

History of the Festival

The Snow Festival began in 1950, with six snow statues made by local high school students in Odori Park. In 1955, the Self-Defence Force joined in the fun and made a massive snow sculpture. At the time, it was a spectacle to be seen, but nowadays it’s the sort of sculpture for which the Snow Festival is famous. The Festival has grown from this humble student-focused beginning to become one of the biggest and most well-known winter events around the world.

When to Go

For seven days in February, Sapporo is turned into a winter dreamland of crystal-like ice and white snow. In 2015, the Snow Festival runs from February 5th through February 11th. This is the 66th Annual Sapporo Snow Festival and there are still tickets available for purchase to enjoy the winter wonderland festivities.

How to Get There

While the Odori and Susukino Sites are in central Sapporo, the Tsu Dome Site is located outside the city centre. Access is possible by shuttle bus ($1AUD one way, with bus departures every 5-10 minutes) or by taking a chilly 15 minute walk from Sakaemachi Station. This is the terminal station of the Toho Subway Line (it takes about 10 minutes to arrive here from Sapporo Station and costs around $2.50AUD.

Shuttle buses to the Tsu Dome Site also depart from the Odori Site and from Sapporo Station ($2AUD one way, every 15-30 minutes). Note that no parking is available near the Tsu Dome Site.

What to See

Odori Site

The main site for the Snow Festival is the Odori Site in Sapporo's centrally located 1.5 kilometre long Odori Park. The festival's famous large snow sculptures—some measuring more than 25 metres wide and 15 metres high!—are exhibited there. The sculptures and other art pieces are lit up daily for a great view of them, regardless of when you visit the site.

Beyond the dozen or so large snow sculptures the Odori Site also puts more than one hundred smaller snow statues on display and plays host to several concerts and events. One of the coolest things to do? Attend one of the concerts where they use the sculptures as their stage-talk about a unique experience.

If you prefer to get a birds-eye view of the Odori Park, try heading to the Sapporo TV Tower near the park’s eastern end. The tower is open from 9:00am to 10:00pm. Admission to the top observatory deck costs $7.20AUD per adult. Alternatively, if you purchase an $11AUD ticket, you’ll be allowed to visit the Tower for a day visit and a night visit.

Tsu Dome

The less-centrally located Tsu Dome Site is a family oriented site with three different kinds of snow slides, snow rafting and even more snow sculptures (can you see a pattern emerging as to what the Snow Festival does best?). Inside the dome, there are plenty of food stands for every taste—kids included—and a stage for events. The Tsu Dome Site is open daily from 9:00am to 5:00pm.

Susukino Ice World

The Susukino Site is located in and named after Sapporo's largest entertainment district. This Ice World shows off about 100 additional ice sculptures and is located just one subway stop south of Odori Park. The ice sculptures are lit up daily until around 11:00pm so you can visit and take photos of everything day and night.

Travel Tips

Pack plenty of layers. The difference in temperature inside and outside is often extreme as businesses pump the heat indoors while the freezing cold settles in outdoors. It’s recommended that you wear layers of warm clothing that can easily be taken off and put back on—with this sort of temperature differential, you’ll want all the options you can get to stay comfortable.

Sapporo is used to plenty of snowy, wintery conditions, but sometimes transport services and events can be cancelled due to the weather. Before you leave to go to an event or to sightsee around the city, contact the facility to ensure they are open.

Consider purchasing shoes designed to handle snow-covered roads and sidewalks. If you don’t want to do that for between $10-20AUD you can purchase no-slip cleats to attach to your shoes while you need them.

If you are a fan of winter sports, winter weather and winter holidays, then the Sapporo Snow Festival is for you. Check out ticket prices and start planning now for your February fun holiday to Sapporo, Japan. Consider adding travel cover to your holiday plans to protect your investments, health, belongings and more.

Image courtesy of Flickr user Nazmi Hamidi.