Hokkaido Travel Guide Winter

Sapporo Snow Festival (Yuki Matsuri) 2024 | Visit Hokkaido

Sapporo Snow Festival (Sapporo Yuki Matsuri) is one of the most popular winter festivals in Japan.

It’s the largest winter festival in the country as well with attracting approximately two million people visit this widely known winter festival every year. If you want to see beautiful ice sculptures in Hokkaido, embark on a trip to Sapporo.

In my opinion, Hokkaido may not be a great place to see Sakura (cherry blossom) in comparison with the spring beauty on the Honshu island, but indeed it is a great place for enjoying your winter vacations in Japan.

The four seasons – spring, summer, autumn and winter bring something very important that we all can fully experience in Japan through different activities.

Hamamatsu Castle Snow Sculpture at the Sapporo Snow Festival. Photo Credit: Hirotomo t at Flickr through Creative Commons Licensing.

Whenever I do think of Hokkaido, three things come in my mind. What are they?

The first thing that comes in my mind is the Sapporo Yuki Matsuri, the second one is the Lavender season in Furano and the third is the ski resorts in Niseko.

You can enjoy your time exploring the Sapporo Snow Festival and have fun skiing on the slopes. Unfortunately, you can’t expect to see wonderful lavender field in Hokkaido during winter, to do so you have to come here in summer.

History of The Sapporo Snow Festival

You Will Be Seeing This Kind of Small Cute Snow Statues. Photo Credit: Iyoupapa at Flickr through Creative Commons Licensing.

Do you know the year when the first Sapporo Snow Festival was held? I assume some of you have figured it out already but for those who have not figured it yet I want to give you the answer.

The first Sapporo Snow Festival was held in 1950 in Odori Park. It was the time when local high school students made only six snow statues. That sounds quite nice to know, right?

History says, even though they had made only six snow statues that attracted about fifty thousand visitors! Though it was not fully developed and widely known by the world’s snow lovers.

Odori Park View from Sapporo TV Tower Observation Deck! Photo Credit: David McKelvey at Flickr through Creative Commons Licensing.

At the time when it was being popularized nationwide by celebrating it each year, many people in the region thought it was going to be a popular winter event in the future.

In the winter of 1959, about twenty five hundred people participated in making snow sculptures.

The festival was celebrated for five days. The Japanese media took it seriously and it was reported nationwide as a result many people knew about this festival.

Here is the Anpanman Snow Sculpture! Is not it Cute? Photo Credit: hirotomo t at Flickr through Creative Commons Licensing.

In 1972, the Olympic Winter Games was held in Sapporo city. That was a very good turning point to tell the world about this famous snow festival.

Indeed, international media reported this festival greatly as a result it was widely acknowledged around the world. After two years later in 1974, the International Snow Sculpture Contest took place as a part of the snow festival.

Teams from different parts of the world such as China, USA, Australia, Canada and other nation had participated on the contest.

In 1984, two additional days were added and then it became seven days of snow festival. In this 21st century, it has become a large commercialized event that attracts millions of visitors from around the world.

When would the Sapporo Snow Festival Begin?

Such An Amazing Ice Sculpture! I am Sure You Don’t Want to Miss Seeing Like This. Photo Credit: iyoupapa at Flickr through Creative Commons Licensing.

The Sapporo Snow Festival is held in the second week of February in Sapporo city every year. In 2024, the festival will be held from February 4-11.

In order to enjoy the whole week you need to have a complete tour plan, prepare it before you arrive here in Hokkaido.

I would suggest you to get to Sapporo two days earlier before it begins. As a result you will get enough time to get prepared for participating in the snow festival.

This is not only the winter festival you are going to experience in Hokkaido but also Otaru Snow Light Path Festival and Asahikawa Winter Festival.

About The Festival Sites

Cute Rilakkuma is Here! Photo Credit: hirotomo t at Flickr through Creative Commons Licensing.

There are three main different sites where the Sapporo Snow Festival is held and staged, they are: Odori Site, Susukino Site, and Tsu Dome Site.

Please note Tsu Dome venue was excluded in 2023.

There was a site called Mokamani Site which was officially opened in 1965. Then back in 2005, it was fully shut down by the authority. So, it is no longer an available site for visitors.

When I first arrived in Sapporo we (my friends and I) decided to visit the Odori site. You could do the same too. We were viewing the gigantic snow sculpture and skating for a while! Then we headed to the next site of Susukino.

We did have very good time in this site, around 14:00 we agreed to visit the third site that is called Tsudome. I just told you what we did in our first day.

Giant Snow Sculpture, How Beautiful! Photo Credit: iyoupapa at Flickr through Creative Commons Licensing.

Odori Park site is the main attraction of this snow festival. This is where you will find some amazing large snow sculptures depicting famous structures of the world including Japanese castles.

Though hundreds of small sculpture could be seen here as well. In order to see large ice statues you have got to come here. no way!

These sculptures are lit up daily until 22:00. In fact, this site hosts the International Snow Sculpture Contest at the International Square. You and your Children together could do ice skating here, it is so much fun!

Ice Skating at the Sapporo Snow Festival, Odori Park. Photo Credit: David McKelvey at Flickr through Creative Commons Licensing.

Tsudome (The community dome) seems to be the second largest site of the Sapporo snow festival.

This site was replaced by the Sapporo Satoland site in 2009. Generally, there are some fun activities you could do with your little ones.

There are giant snow sliders and snow rafting area including some snow sculptures. Inside the dome you can find food stalls, have some foods from there, surly you would feel good! It is open daily from 9:00 to 17:00.

This is How Visitors Have Fun at Tsudome Site. Photo Credit: David McKelvey at Flickr through Creative Commons Licensing.

At the Susukino site you will be experiencing the night view of ice sculptures. Susukino is a red-light district and rated as number one Japan’s red-light district.

It is located not far away from Odori Park, only one subway stop south of it (the park). Various type of snow sculptures are usually made by the ice sculpture contestants.

You will realize how artistic they are only when you see their work in the festival. Their snow sculptures are lit up on daily basis until 23:00.

Ice Eagle Sculpture at the Susukino Ice Festival, Sapporo. Photo Credit: Ko-nekobus at Flickr.

The Foods You Must Try

I know every tourist is interested in trying at least some traditional Japanese foods when they are in Japan on a visit.

Right now, probably you are thinking about the best foods you could taste in Sapporo city during its snow festival. This year, I went to Nepal with some of my friends, the journey was incredible!

We have tasted few Nepalese traditional foods. Wow! Those were very delicious; I especially like Momo and Chow Mein.

In my opinion, one must eat traditional foods of the country you visit. Therefore, I encourage you to feel free to taste our delicious Japanese foods.

A Food Stall That Sales Famous Sapporo Foods, Odori Park. Photo Credit: Ali M at Flickr.

Only for thinking about your appetite there are number of restaurants await for you. Let me tell you what you can eat there. In fact, you could try every dish you want but there are some famous Hokkaido’s local delicacy you must try!

For example, you could try Miso Ramen, Sushi, Crab, Jingisukan, Yakitori, Soup Curry and Okonomiyaki. I recommend you to have at least one of these.

Dairy products, Fresh sushi and Ramen are quite famous food in Hokkaido. If you have to go to bar then please head to Susukino.

You will find great bars and restaurants there. Honestly, it will not be a bad idea having a dinner with some Sapporo residents. This is what I did when I visited the festival last year. I guess you better find few friends from there at facebook and be friends of each other.

Your Winter Outfits Would Like These! Photo Credit: Commander, U.S. 7th Fleet at Flickr through Creative Commons Licensing.

Few Tips for Enjoying Your Sapporo Snow Festival

I will share few travel tips with you so that you could enjoy your entire trip to Sapporo yuki matsuri. This also includes the fun things you could do. Gear Up!!!

1) First of all, make sure you have got enough cash. Your international credit or prepaid card would not work here. Please never forget this! Read this to have an idea when and where to use cash and your credit card.

2) Wear warm clothes such as sweater, jackets, boots, hand gloves, cap and sunglasses (if needed). Learn how to dress right during winter in Hokkaido.

A Concert is About to Start In front of a Beautiful Lighting Snow Building Sculpture. Photo Credit: iyoupapa at Flickr through Creative Commons Licensing.

3) My friend and I saw the Odori Park from the Sapporo TV Tower during the festival time. In my opinion, this is the perfect place for viewing spectacular snow sculptures.

You will have to pay 1000 Yen as observation admission fee there. In fact this is one of the popular sightseeing attractions in Sapporo city.

4) Visit Suskino Ice Festival in order to see different types of snow sculpture. Some of them are very cute! Though, it depends on the artists who create them with their own hands.

5) Enjoy the concerts and events that usually take place at the snow sculpture stages. The last time I went there I truly enjoyed the concert performed by the locals.

6) As I have mentioned before about having Sapporo foods, I guess you should not leave this town without having Miso Ramen! This is a Hokkaido style miso ramen which is a bit different than the ones you eat other parts of Japan.

Kamen Rider Show As part of the Sapporo Snow Festival! Photo Credit: likeablerodent at Flickr through Creative Commons Licensing.

7) There is a beauty contest called the Susukino Queen of Ice. Don’t forget to attend to this beauty contest show. You know, someone is going to win this competition! Just you be part of the contest!

8) Kids and adults both could enjoy time spending few hours at Tsudome (The community dome). Do the fun things there and play with snow. I think the snow sliders experience would make you very happy.

Here is an Ongoing Live Performance! Photo Credit: hirotomo t at Flickr through Creative Commons Licensing.

9) Make sure you don’t drop your camera off your hands. As it is a useful travel accessory I suggest you to take it with you wherever you head to during the festival.

A lot of great moments are waiting for you there. You have to take a lot of pictures to memories your trip in future. Don’t you think so?

10) Finally, winter holiday trip to Hokkaido is not complete without visiting three great winter festivals: Sapporo Yuki Matsuri, Otaru Snow Light Path Festival and Asahikawa Winter Festival.

You will be glad to know that you can visit all these festival one by one within not less than 3 days. So, apart from visiting Sapporo yuki matsuri I recommend you to get to the other two winter festivals (mentioned above) as well.

Access – How to get to these sites?

Shuttle Bus Service is Available During the Sapporo Snow Festival. Photo Credit: David McKelvey at Flickr through Creative Commons Licensing.

As the Sapporo Snow Festival takes place in three different sites, you will have to move from one place to others timely.

There are helpful volunteers who would like to help you so that you take the subway and shuttle buses at the right time. It is very easy to get to Susukino site from Odori site since both of these sites are located in the town centre where the snow festival is held.

It will take a 10-minute walk to reach Susukino from Odori Park. Only Tsu Dome is located outside the city center. This is where you have to take either subway train or shuttle bus.

You may be thinking about accessing the Tsu Dome from the Odori site!

There is no problem at all, just take the shuttle buses or subway line (Toho Subway Line) from Sapporo station and get off at Sakaemachi Station. Then take a walk for a while to reach the site. Be sure to check on Google Maps for the right direction.

Accommodation – Where to Stay in Sapporo?

Breakfast in Sapporo Ryokan
Your Breakfast in a Ryokan! Enjoy the Meal. Photo Credit: Neil Hunt at Flickr through Creative Commons Licensing.

Sapporo’s downtown areas such as Sapporo train station and Odori park areas have many world’s class hotels to stay in at night. It is also possible to rent an apartment for a short stay where you could live like your own home.

These sorts of apartments owners may not be able to speak with you in English, that’s a real problem! However, if you know basic Japanese then who cares! You will have a kitchen and laundry of your own. Use them till you leave the rental apartment.

I stayed 4 nights at Sapporo Grand Hotel in Sapporo. I highly recommend this hotel which I can place it as number one hotel in Sapporo city. It takes only 5-minute walk from JR Sapporo Station, in fact, it is a real good advantage for you.

The room I stayed was cleaned with fully air-conditioned, and Wi-Fi internet facility. You can even visit a memorial library in this hotel.

Overall customer service was great and they have helped me various way to know more about Sapporo city. You must ask them if you really need something to know, don’t hesitate! Here are the other best hotels of Sapporo city, please book in advance prior to the festival days.

Holiday Inn ANA Sapporo Susukino

Mitsui Garden Hotel Sapporo

Hotel Sunroute Sapporo

Sapporo Aspen Hotel

Nest Hotel Sapporo Ekimae

When you decide to stay in a Japanese ryokan, you will have to follow few rules. Please learn them here. For example, you will be served Japanese style breakfast in the early morning.

Two million people visit Sapporo Snow Festival; in this case you have to think of advance hotel and ryokan reservation.

Before you arrive here please find some best hotel deals in Hokkaido. You may not get a reservation if you arrive here late. So it will be great to make a hotel reservation from your home before you fly to Hokkaido.

Are you Coming to see Sapporo Yuki Matsuri?

Sapporo is the number one tourist destination of Hokkaido. I am familiar with this city, are you? Probably not but you would be familiar with it once you decide to get there in February.

In Japan, February is the month of celebrating winter festival throughout the country. You can have a day trip to Otaru city from Sapporo which sparkles in the evening with illuminated candle lights during the Otaru Snow Light Path Festival.

I thank you for reading this article. You all are welcome to the 2024 Sapporo Snow Festival. Was this article useful to you? I tried my best to deliver you the exact information and you can rely on the information I gave you here.

My travel tips surly would help you, no doubt about that. However, make a good travel plan to visit the Sapporo Snow Festival at the right time. Have fun!

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