Japan’s northern island of Hokkaido receives some of the most snow on the planet, with temperatures remaining below zero most of the year. This climate may be tough, but creates perfect conditions for snow and ice sculptures. Locals have made the most of it, and Hokkaido now hosts some of the most beautiful snow and ice festivals in the world.
Shikotsu Lake Ice festival
The Shikotsu Lake Ice festival is one of the most stunning displays of ice and light in Hokkaido. Located just one and a half hours from Niseko, and only one hour from Rusutsu, this magical lakeside display features dozens of magnificent ice structures – some over a storey high. The event has a local, friendly atmosphere with ice slides, illuminated walkways and structures you can even walk through. Getting here will require either a taxi or hire car, but there will be a sightseeing bus going from Sapporo to the site.
Niseko Ice Village
Niseko’s Ice Village is a little closer to home with smaller, but equally impressive ice sculptures. This local event features a maze of enchanting ice structures, beautifully lit with candles and lights. Weave through the tunnels and rooms to find hidden pieces of art, and look out the windows for views across Niseko’s snowy landscape. The best time to view The Ice Village is at night, and there is a free shuttle bus from Hirafu to the site. It is located halfway between Niseko Village and Annupuri, with entry cost just ¥500. This is must-see on any trip to Niseko.
Sapporo Ice Festival
The Sapporo Ice Festival is by far the most well-known winter festival in Japan and runs from February 4th to February 11th in 2019. The festival has three main sites, with the biggest being in Odori Park in central Sapporo. This event is Japans biggest winter festival and has impressive displays of massive snow and ice sculptures as big as apartment buildings with incredible detail on each one. The Susukino site has intricate ice sculptures on show, wonderfully illuminated by coloured lights that almost mirror the surrounding nightlife district. The third site at “Tsudome” is the most interactive and family friendly with snow tubing, snowball throwing, and snow rafting as well as a large indoor arena featuring activities for kids and families alike. SkiJapan.com will be running a shuttle bus to the festival, so contact our team for details.
Kutchan Yukitopia is an incredibly fun, local event that’s great for families from all over the world. There are ice slides, food stalls, snow-bikes, snowmobile demonstrations, snow tubing and more. One of the most entertaining events is the pond skim and pond walk, where participants attempt to cross an ice-cold pond for a cash prize. Kutchan Yukitopia is a free event in Kutchan at Asahigaoka ski hill. It runs on February 16th from 10:30 – 17:00 and on February 17th from 10:30 – 15:00, and there’s a free shuttle bus to the site.
Otaru Snow Light Path festival
Just an hour away from both Niseko and Sapporo, the Otaru snow light path festival is one of Hokkaido’s most recognisable with stunning views of the canal lit by twinkling candlelight. The snow path starts close to the JR station, and winds through the snowy streets down towards the canal. Along the way you’ll find ice slides, cute animal shaped sculptures and romantic photo spots. It’s easiest to get a train from either Kutchan or Sapporo, depending on where you are. The event runs from February 8th till February 17th for the 2019 season.
If you’d like any more info or to visit any of these beautiful winter festivals, we’d love to hear from you. Contact our team today.