First posted in February 2015. Updated January 9th, 2016
The time has come to start planning your visit to the 2016 Sapporo Snow Festival. To get an idea of what is on offer, check out this post from last year!
What do Star Wars, the Manila Cathedral and Doraemon have in common? They were all replicated in snow at the Sapporo Snow Festival in 2015. Over a million visitors descend upon Odori Park and surroundings each year to enjoy all the festival has to offer.
During the day, people meander along the main site, admiring the sculptures up close and sampling different local specialities offered at the various food stalls. The biggest statutes are near the Sapporo Television Tower, with smaller sculptures on display toward the far end of the park. The sculptures portray a range of subjects, although the smaller ones (often designed by local schools) are heavily anime-influenced.
Some sculptures carry a more nostalgic feel. This one of a mother bathing her child was a personal favourite:
With 12 blocks chock-full of artwork and stalls, wandering around for a good few hours is easy. Most people start near the TV tower and work their way towards the smaller sculptures, but I recommend starting at the other end instead, going from small to big (and impressive).
More entertainment is provided by the ski-jump close to the TV tower. Local teams show off their skills accompanied by loud music. A small seating area overlooking the jump is a great place to wind down and watch the spectacle.
Ski Jump by Kirsty Bouwers
From the main site at Odori Park, take a short walk to the smaller ice sculpture site in Susukino. Here, local businesses make displays, with artwork ranging from fish suspended in ice to human-sized glasses of beer.
Stop by the small ice bar to warm up with a coffee or something more alcoholic! With Suskino's bars and restaurants literally steps away, you can easily enjoy a few beers before heading back to the main site.
You'll want to catch the excitement during the evening when the sculptures are all illuminated. Two highlights from 2015 would have to be a Star Wars sculpture of Darth Vader and some Stormtroopers, accompanied by the Star Wars theme song, and a replica of the inner gate of the Kasuga Grand Shrine. The latter had a projection mapping show from 7 pm to 10 pm each night, during which a succession of prints, videos and lights made the sculpture come alive.
Festival food stalls are open late luring visitors with everything from fresh seafood to roasted meats. Tents and small heated areas offer some respite from the cold. For a higher vantage point, be sure to either go up the TV Tower to look out over Odori Park, or take the cable car up to Mount Moiwa for some great views of Sapporo.
The festival attracts people from all over the world. Although quite busy with long queues, the general vibe in Sapporo is always relaxed. The food is good, the people are friendly and the surrounding nature is breathtaking. All in all, Sapporo is a great destination, and the festival will definitely add another dimension to your visit.