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Sapporo Snow Festival

Sapporo Snow Festival
Central Sapporo, 2007
Genre snow festival
Dates February
Location(s) Sapporo, Japan
Years active since 1950

The Sapporo Snow Festival (さっぽろ雪まつり Sapporo Yuki-matsuri?) is a festival held annually in Sapporo, Japan, over seven days in February. Odori Park, Susukino, and Tsudome are the main sites of the festival. The 2015 Snow Festival dates are 5 to 11 February.[1]

This is one of the largest and most distinctive winter events.[2] In 2007 (58th Festival), about two million people visited Sapporo to see the hundreds of snow statues and ice sculptures at the Odori Park and Susukino sites, in central Sapporo, and at the Satoland site.[3] An International Snow Sculpture Contest has been held at the Odori Park site since 1974, and 14 teams from various regions of the world participated in 2008.[4]

The subject of the statues varies and often features an event, famous building or person from the previous year. For example, in 2004, there were statues of Hideki Matsui, the famous baseball player who at that time played for the New York Yankees. A number of stages made out of snow are also constructed and some events including musical performances are held. At the Satoland site, visitors can enjoy long snow and ice slides as well as a huge maze made of snow. Visitors can also enjoy a variety of regional foods from all over Hokkaidō at the Odori Park and Satoland sites, such as fresh seafood, potatoes and corn, and fresh dairy products.

Every year the number of statues displayed is around 400 in total. In 2007, there were 307 statues created in the Odori Park site, 32 in the Satoland site and 100 in the Susukino site. The best place to get an overview of the creations is from the TV Tower at the Odori Park site.[3]


The Snow Festival began in 1950, when six local high school students built six snow statues in Odori Park. In 1955, the Japan Self-Defense Forces from the nearby Makomanai base joined in and built the first massive snow sculptures, for which the Snow Festival has now become famous. Several snow festivals existed in Sapporo prior to the Sapporo Snow Festival, however, all of these were suspended during World War II.[5]

Owing to the Energy crisis of 1974, snow statues were built using drums. This was due to the shortage of gasoline caused by the crisis and many of the trucks used to carry snow to the site were unavailable. In the same year, the International Snow Statue Competition started and since that year many snow statues built by teams from other countries have featured; especially from sister cities of Sapporo such as Munich.

In years when the accumulated snowfall is low, the Self-Defense Force, for whom participation is considered a training exercise, brings in snow from outside Sapporo. The Makomanai base, one of three main sites from 1965,[6] hosted the largest sculptures, with an emphasis on providing play space for children. Use of the Makomanai site was suspended in 2005 and moved to the Sapporo Satoland site located in Higashi-ku from 2006. In 2009, the Satoland site was moved to the Tsudome (つどーむ Tsudōmu?, Sapporo Community Dome) site. The Tsudome, located close to the Sapporo Satoland, is a dome for multiple sports events.

Nakajima Park was established as one of the festival sites in 1990. However, it was removed as a site in 1992.[5] The third site, known as the Susukino Ice Festival (すすきの氷の祭典 Susukino Kōri no Saiten?), is situated in the night-life district of Susukino and includes predominantly ice carvings. The site was approved as one of the festival sites in 1983.[6] Every year, the Susukino Queen of Ice, a female beauty contest, is held at the site.


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