A concert held in front of one of many giant snow sculptures at the Sapporo Snow Festival.
The festival mainly takes place in Odori Park, the central park in Sapporo where one can delight in the snowy spectacles, festival food, music performances, and light shows. Staring up at 50-feet-tall snow sculptures, it’s hard to believe that all of this started back in the 1950s with high school students who sculpted a few snow statues. Their sculptures were 16 feet tall, which is still no mere feat but tiny in comparison to some of today’s structures. Needless to say, the exhibition was well-received, drawing in approximately 50,000 visitors in its first year.
Since then, it’s become an annual tradition, and every year the snow sculptures and the number of visitors continue to grow in size. The snow festival started gaining international attention when Sapporo hosted the 1972 Winter Olympics. Two years later, in 1974, the snow festival opened up its first international snow sculpture contest, reaching a truly global scale that drew in curiosity-seekers and creators.
Year after year, the snow structures become more elaborate, and some of them even have light-projection mapping shows in the evening! People are drawn out to view these shows, despite the freezing temperatures. The festival grew large enough to take over two more areas outside of Odori Park. One is Tsu Dome Site, an interactive community area with a 70-meter-long snow slide, a snow maze, and an area to build snowmen. The other site is in Susukino, the entertainment district, where ice sculptures glisten under the neon lights.
During the Sapporo Snow Festival, which runs for one week, it’s not uncommon to see the park crowded with pedestrians wandering between the snow sculptures, then warming up afterward with a hot meal and drink from one of the many food stalls. Common Japanese festival food fare like yakitori (chicken skewers) can be found, as well as hot sake and hot chocolate to combat the cold.
Thus, the Sapporo Snow Festival is an amazing opportunity to try out some of the best food you can get in Hokkaido. Let’s explore Hokkaido cuisine through Japanese snacks inspired by ingredients from the region, as well as snow-festival-inspired sweets!
Hokkaido’s unique climate and large expanses of countryside allow it to support many agricultural products, including dairy foods. In fact, did you know that more than half of Japan’s milk comes from Hokkaido? Hokkaido’s milk is known for its high quality and creaminess, so, no matter where you are in Japan, it’s not uncommon to see dairy-based products like ice cream and butter boasting that they are made with Hokkaido milk. Below, you’ll find snacks made with real Hokkaido cream.