Hokkaido, Japan’s northern island, welcomes some of the most abundant snowfall on the planet, maintaining sub-zero temperatures from November to late February. While the climate may be challenging, it sets the stage for ideal conditions for creating stunning snow and ice sculptures. Capitalizing on this, locals have transformed Hokkaido into the host of some of the world’s most exquisite snow and ice festivals.
The Shikotsu Lake Ice Festival stands out as one of the most enchanting showcases of ice and light in Hokkaido. Situated just an hour and a half from Niseko and an hour from Rusutsu, this magical lakeside exhibition showcases dozens of magnificent ice structures, some towering over a story high. The event exudes a local and friendly atmosphere, featuring ice slides, illuminated walkways, and structures that visitors can even walk through. To reach the festival, you can opt for a taxi or hire a car, and there’s also a sightseeing bus available from Sapporo to the site.
Sapporo Ice Festival
The Sapporo Ice Festival stands out as the most renowned winter festival in Japan, running from February 4th to February 10th in 2024. Spread across three main sites, the largest of which is located in Odori Park in central Sapporo, this event is Japan’s biggest winter festival, showcasing impressive displays of massive snow and ice sculptures, some towering as high as apartment buildings, with intricate details on each one. The Susukino site features intricate ice sculptures beautifully illuminated by colored lights, creating a mesmerizing reflection of the vibrant nightlife district. The third site at “Tsudome” is the most interactive and family-friendly, offering activities such as snow tubing, snowball throwing, snow rafting, and a large indoor arena with various activities for kids and families.
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 17th from 10:00 – 16:30 and on February 18th from 10:00 – 16:30, and there’s a free shuttle bus to the site.
Just an hour away from both Niseko and Sapporo, the Otaru snow light path festival is one of Hokkaido’s most recognised 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 10th till February 17th for the 2024 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.