Every winter, the population of Sapporo city doubles as visitors come to experience the Annual Sapporo Snow Festival. Sapporo is the fourth largest city in Japan, and was host to the 1972 winter Olympic games. It is also well known because of the famous Sapporo beer, which was named after the city.
The origins of the snow festival is said to have begun by a group of high school students who built snow sculptures in Odori Park. Each year, more sculptures were built, which eventually evolved into the Snow festival we know of today.
There are three main sites of the Sapporo Snow Festival. At the Odori Park site, this long street stretches throughout the downtown core and holds most of the larger snow and ice sculptures. These sculptures look even more fantastic at night when the lights illuminate the details of each masterpiece.
The lights will be on display every night until 11 p.m. You can also watch snowboarders at the jump park, visit the food tents at the food park, see the international snow sculptures competition, and the citizens’ snow sculptures.
At the Susukino street site, where you can see a variety of ice sculptures, sometimes with marine life still inside. If you’re feeling a bit thirsty, there are sometimes ice bars nearby where you can have a drink of your favorite beverage in an ice mug.
At the Tsudome site located just outside the city core, the most interactive of the sites, you can slide down large snow slides, or go snow rafting, make snow men, go down the tube slider or try bamboo skiing. If you want to get away from the cold, you can enjoy some hot food from the local food vendors. The Tsudome site is accessible by public transport.
After seeing the snow sculptures, you will want to try out many local specialties. Sapporo is known for Ghengis Khan style barbeque mutton, Sapporo Miso Ramen, King Crab and chocolate.
This year’s 64th Sapporo Snow festival runs from Tuesday Feb. 5 to Monday Feb. 11, 2013. For more information about the Snow festival visit: www.snowfes.com/english.
How to get to Sapporo:
The quickest and easiest way to Sapporo city is via airplane. Most major airports in Japan will have flights that go to Sapporo. If you are flying internationally, you most likely will have to connect via Tokyo or Osaka airport.
If time is not an issue, you have the option of taking the Japan Rail Train or the ferry. Both modes of transport can take up to an entire day for the one way journey depending on the departure point.
The most common route is Oarai port in Ibaraki to Tomakomai port and takes approximately 16 hours. The time from Ueno station in Tokyo to Oarai port is 1 hour 30 minutes. Tomakomai is located 1 hour from Sapporo City. Ferry tickets can be booked with the Sunflower company.
The train from Ueno station in Tokyo to Sapporo train station in Sapporo takes approximately 17 hours.