Does Japan’s winter season inspire you traveling around? To be honest with you, it is an inspiring season for me. Even though it is regarded as the end of the growing season from the view point of nature, I myself feel very moving. Probably I am too much excited to participate in the snow festivals held throughout Japan. I am pleased to inform all of you that Japan hosts a number of famous snow matsuri. Most of them have their own unique characteristics to impress you. How cool is that! Seriously, you will be delighted experiencing the festivals along with having the delicious Japan’s winter dishes.

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Otaru canal in winter. Photo Credit: Reginald Pentinio at Flickr.

In winter, temperatures begin to drop, snow start falling all over creating an icy weather and as the day become shorter nighttime arrives earlier. If this is the weather you admire then a trip to Japan in winter would be a great idea. Don’t be afraid of the chilly winter weather here, especially when you travel in the northern Japan. Though when winter rolls in, some part of central Japan make you feel like you are in Hokkaido. If you dress up well and walk carefully then there is nothing to worry about. However, today I will expose the top 10 snow festivals you could participate in this winter in Japan.

1) Sapporo Yuki Matsuri

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A giant snow sculpture at Odori during Sapporo Snow Festival. Photo Credit: Takuya Yoshimura at Flickr.

Sapporo Yuki Matsuri or Sapporo Snow Festival is said to be the biggest snow festival in Japan. It started its journey in 1950 with a hope of attracting thousands of visitors. It is said that Hokkaido has so many more wonders to offer throughout the year and this festival is just the ONE among them that you are going to discover in early February. Every year, it is held in the second week of February at Odori Park in downtown Sapporo. More than two million both domestic and foreign visitors participate in the festival. They are all interested in visiting this winter festival because it offers a unique and once in a lifetime experience. Don’t you think that observing rows of giant snow and ice sculptures with live stage events are worth a visit?

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Ice Sculptures! Photo Credit: Charles Lam at Flickr.

Please note that the festival is held at three different locations. It is breathtaking experiencing the gigantic snow sculptures at the Odori Park. While on the other hand, at the Susukino Site, exhibits about one hundred ice sculptures. They look pretty gorgeous in the evening and at night when each and every ice sculpture is lit up. The third location – Tsu Dome Site is particularly famous for having some fun time with snow slides and snow rafting. The site is packed with lots of kids during the festival time. Surly they know how to enjoy the winter! No surprise that their parents like it too! In addition, find the food stalls and watch the live stage events performed by the artists. Good luck! Learn more here.

2) Yokote Kamakura Festival

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Yokote Castle at night! Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Anyone planning to visit Tohoku this winter in February should get to Akita prefecture. Why?! Seriously, at the time you will be overwhelmed by the atmosphere you receive in Yokote. Yokote is city located southeast corner of Akita Prefecture. It is a famous place for seeing large and small sizes of Kamakura or so called igloo-like snow houses. The city transforms into a winter wonderland once they are all built at different locations across the city. You can have delicious rice cakes (mocha) and drink sweet sake (amazake) inside a big size snow hut. Please bear in mind that locals there are hospitable and friendly! The small kamakura, that are usually seen along the Yokote River look amazingly beautiful when they are illuminated by candles at night. Sometimes words can’t describe the view! Want to know more about this festival? Please read this post right away.

3) Asahikawa Winter Festival

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Asahikawa winter festival’s giant snow stage. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

The Asahikawa winter festival (Asahikawa Fuyu Matsuri) is stunningly awesome. It is said to be the second largest snow festivals in the Hokkaido regions. If you are looking for a real winter adventure then a trip to this snow festival will be an unforgettable experience. Please note that the festival will be held from February 7 to 12, in 2017. The festival is held in two distinct sites, they are: Asahibashi site, and Heiwa Dori. What impresses me the most about this snow festival is that I can’t wait to see the biggest snow sculpture! In fact, it is used as a stage for music and other live performances. The stage has a different theme for each year. Who knows what theme it has got for this year?! Of course they are going to surprise me and you too. To learn more about this snow matsuri please read this article where I have described everything that you need to know before visiting this winter event.

4) Tokamachi Snow Festival

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The snow carnival and firework display. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

According to me, Tokamachi snow festival is the biggest snow festival in the Chubu region. I had participated in this matsuri several times before. Each and every time I visited it I was totally overwhelmed, especially the snow carnival which takes place at Tokamachi Elementary School ground. Though it is always impressive looking at the snow sculptures come in different sizes that feature Japanese historical landmarks and popular movie, anime and manga characters. In addition, along with viewing beautiful snow sculptures you could enjoy your time participating in the tea ceremony, kimono fashion show, the snow carnival, live dancing and music stage events. The festival has got everything to please you! Please note that it will be held from February 17 to 19, in 2017. You get ready for it! Learn more.

5) Otaru Snow Light Path Festival

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Otaru Canal during the festival. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Some cities around the world particularly become beautiful upon arrival of winter season. One example of this is Otaru. It is a historic port city in Hokkaido packed with beautiful architectures and souvenirs shops. Though visitors gather there all year round, a large number of tourists from different parts of Japan including foreign visitors arrive in Otaru to experience its unique snow festival called Otaru Yuki Akari no Michi. You have a great opportunity to visit Hokkaido’s most prestigious snow festivals (Sapporo Snow Festival and Asahikawa winter festival) together with this one. The glittering snow lanterns, candles and sculptures of different sizes create a great pleasant winter atmosphere. You walk along the famous Otaru canal and enjoy the surrounding view that looks impressive with the shimmering snow lanterns and illuminations. To get to know more about this festival including travel guide please find it here.

6) Iwate Snow Festival

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Iwate snow festival’s fireworks display! Photo Credit: Jase Hill at Flickr.

I find no reason not to include this one on this list. Seriously it is amazing to participate in this snow festival. The festival is held at Koiwai farm in Shizukuishi town, Morioka. It is a quite famous snow festival in Iwate prefecture and said to be one of Tohoku’s 5 Great Snow Festivals. In winter, constant snowfall occurs here in Iwate as a result making either small or giant snow sculptures is not a daunting task. It does create a great festival atmosphere that anyone would life to be part of. Nothing could beat this yearly winter event that sparkles all the time once it begins its journey till it ends. The main highlights of this festival are the night illumination, dancing shows, singing, fireworks display, snow sculptures and fun winter activities. In addition, there is a food stall that offers various kinds of local delicacies to the visitors and if you want then you can have you dinner inside a kamakura igloo house. Are you interested in visiting this festival? Then please read my experiences and get some travel tips.

7) Hirosaki Castle (Yuki-Doro) Snow Lantern Festival

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A lantern made out of snow at Hirosaki Castle. Photo Credit: www.en-aomori.com.

Four seasons beauty at Hirosaki castle grounds look very attractive. Impressive cherry blossom display can be seen in spring while on the other hand deciduous trees planted all over the castle grounds provide striking fall colors in autumn. Please note that summer here is also breathtaking that provides lush green space to have some rest. In winter, excessive snowfall on its ground offers making snow lanterns and snow huts. Instead of visiting it on day time you better get there in the evening time as all the snow lanterns and huts are lit up with candles. The castle grounds itself part of Hirosaki Park. During the festival, the atmosphere you get there is really fascinating! I could guarantee you that you would fall in love with this snow matsuri once you get in the park and start discovering the hidden winter beauty there. Please read more about the festival here.

8) Zao Snow Monster Festival

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The frosted cover trees of Mount Zao. Photo Credit: zaoropeway.co.jp

So far in this post you have seen some spectacular snow and ice sculptures. These are created by the artists who are skilled in making various designs of snow sculptures. But this time they are kind of useless and you really don’t need them to enjoy the Zao Snow Monster Festival or Zao Juhyo Matsuri. Instead of them, the freezing winter weather is the core sculptor and offers you to experience the stunning snow monsters or so called Juhyo in Japanese. You don’t have to do anything else there just be a spectator, that’s it! The landscape you will see there would make you feel really uplifting!

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Juhyo and Zao ropeway. Photo Credit: zaoropeway.co.jp.

The festival is held at the famous Zao Onsen resorts in Yamagata prefecture. The main attraction of the festival is the snow monsters or the frosted covered trees. They are scattered all over the slopes of the Zao mountain range, truly they look very impressive in the month of February! In order to see illuminated Juhyo you have got to take the Zao ropeway. During the festival, breathtaking night illumination is held. In addition, you can view awesome firework displays. If you like skiing or snowboarding then go for it, you would certainly enjoy your time. Take this challenge and have some fun time with these outdoor winter activities there. You can read more about Zao Snow Monsters here.

9) Aizu Painted Candle Festival

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This view is beautiful! Photo Credit: aizutabinet.co.jp

When you embark on a trip to somewhere else in Japan you should not just travel but experience most of the things you encounter along the way. Probably some places across Japan would amaze you with their local delicacies while on the other hand; some other places would make you familiar with their traditional arts & crafts. The craft that you are going to discover through this snow festival is called erōsoku or floral painted candles.

The Aizu painted candle festival is held in Aizuwakamatsu city, Fukushima prefecture. Aizu painted candles are very popular in Japan as traditionally they are lit up at the Buddhist temples or home. I always buy them from a Buddhist supply store located in my home town.

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Aizu painted candle festival’s bamboo tubes. Photo Credit: www.aizu.com.

Well, you won’t see gigantic snow sculptures in this festival arena; instead you will see thousands of candles painted with beautiful floral designs across the city especially on the grounds of Tsuruga Castle, Oyakuen Garden, and Aizu Bukeyashiki. Various techniques including bamboo tubes and covers are used to make the candle lights breathtaking and unique. You have got to walk along the designated walking trails in order to enjoy the magical winter beauty of this popular winter event. Come here in the second week of February and catch all the live actions! Check out this official site to get the exact festival schedule of this year.

10) Yunishigawa Kamakura Festival

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Yunishigawa Onsen Kamakura Snow Festival at night. Photo Credit: S.R.G – msucoo93 at Flickr.

It is similar to Yokote Kamakura Festival, though the views are totally different, so is the length of the festival. This winter, the festival will be held from January 28 to March 05, 2017, at different sites across the town. Yunishigawa is one of the most popular Onsen (hot spring resorts) in Tochigi prefecture that receives tons of snow each year in winter. During the festival hundreds of snow houses (kamakura) of various sizes are made to attract the visitors. In the evening, night illumination takes place and rows of miniature snow huts along the riverside are candlelit perfectly. You would be surprised to know that there are barbecue meals provided inside the snow huts at the Heike no Sato main venue. Enjoy it fully!

Visiting Japan in winter won’t be a bad idea in fact; endless discoveries are waiting for you here. I have highlighted only a small part of Japan’s winter beauty. Seriously you could experience many things here expect these ones. Although winter tends to be a hard time for all living beings, some hidden winter gems of Japan would inspire you making your life moving in the right direction and enchanting. Oh, wait a moment, before you leave please read this post to know how to dress up well in winter in Japan.

Copyright 2016 @ takkhis