During my first trip to Japan I landed in Sapporo. My friends and I decided to tackle Japan from North to South. Being a Canadian citizen, I am very much used to harsh, freezing winters, but I was surprised at the amount of snow there was outside.
Comparatively to Canada, the temperatures are mild. The average during January and February is around -4°C / 24.8°F.
Around noon the temperature can go above freezing, which causes the snow to melt, everything during the day gets slushy and wet. But later, things get cold, -8°C is the standard at night. The drop in temp re-solidifies the water back into ice. This constant melting and freezing creates thick sheets of ice everywhere on the ground. People can often be seen pickaxing their driveways, parking spaces and sidewalks. Sometimes the ice goes unattended and grows into mounds, this causes peoples cars to get stuck because of the ice mounds are uneven or dome shaped.
Things are still accessible in the city because of everyone's effort, however you might still have to walk into huge banks of snow instead of the sidewalk. I was surprised to see the way to remote shrines to have already been cleared out so early in the morning.
I find the Sapporo winters to be quite perfect and mild, with a good amount of snow and no frostbite inducing temperatures.
It's the type of weather perfect for playing outside and enjoying yourself and the Japanese know how to have fun in winter. There are over 10 festivals in February alone in Hokkaido and Tohoku, with games, ice sculptures, slides, and other festive winter activities, you can also go skii, go walk on ocean drift ice or to warm yourself up soak in the warm waters of an onsen.
Despite the wet shoes, I really like Hokkaido as a whole, out of all of Japan it has the most in common with Canada, with it's apple orchards, dairy farms, conifer forests, native northern people and cool temperatures. It has become a home away from home for me and If I were to move somewhere in Japan, it would be there.