Sapporo's Wonderful Celebration of all Things Snow
There were quite a few impressive snow sculptures this year on a wide variety of topics from the traditionally Japanese, such as the cover photo of fan favorite Final Fantasy and their 30th anniversary, as well as a celebration of Japanese animation and virtual idol fandom in Sapporo's own mascot, Hatsune Miku.
Snow Miku Takes the Stage
Snow Miku was a huge draw this year, showing up in her very own ice sculpture, stage promotion, snow festival only merchandise, as well as being extremely prominent in displays and souvenir stands around the festival site itself, various hotel gift shops, and even Chitose airport's 4th floor exhibits as well. Seeing fans dressed up in Miku costumes and cheering at her songs is always an interesting experience, and this year's festival had no shortage of fan enthusiasm for the virtual idol. I couldn't resist and got myself a little Miku doll as a reminder of festival 2018.
Eat, Drink, Explore
Beyond the large ice sculptures, there are plenty of other interesting things around the festival grounds to look at and enjoy. Various food stalls have all the traditional festival faire such as takoyaki and fried chicken skewers, as well as many local Hokkaido favorites such as lamb and deer skewers and soup curry stands. There were plenty of opportunities to eat and drink just about anything Hokkaido has to offer at the food court as well.
Plenty of Live Entertainment
Live idol bands and cosplay shows were another highlight of the festival and drew some rather intense fans that were almost as much fun to watch as the performers. Idol fan culture simply has to be seen to be believed as the fanatics cheer on their favorites.
All said, Sapporo's Winter Festival simply must be experienced first hand by everyone at some point in their Japan journeys. While Tokyo and Kyoto tend to get much of the attention of travelers visiting Japan for the first time, and with very good reason, Sapporo has its own unique brand of charm as a Japanese city and the winter festival showcases everything special about this great northern city.