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Japan In Winter: 10 Must See Japanese Snow Festivals! 2018 Edition

Japan In Winter: 10 Must See Japanese Snow Festivals! 2018 Edition

Aomori 2017.11.01

Enjoy wintertime in Japan at these snow festivals from Hokkaido, Aomori, Niigata, Tochigi and other regions! Amazing ice sculptures and illuminations, along with special events make these festivals absolutely unique!

Translated by MATCHA_En

Written by MATCHA

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Visiting Japan in the Winter? Go to a Snow Festival!

Even if they’re experiencing the same season, the north and south areas of Japan have very different temperatures. Some places experience snowfall and others see no snow at all. If you particularly want to see snow, or you are not a fan of snow, you should do some research in advance.

People who like snow should definitely visit a snow festival. These festivals are held annually in snowy areas.

Starting with Hokkaido, the earliest place to see snow, we’ll take you through various snow festival sites across Japan, along with the average periods for snowfall.

1. Hokkaido: Sapporo Snow Festival 2018

Sapporo Snow Festival

From: The Sapporo Snow Festival 2018, An Extravaganza Of Snow And Ice!

In Hokkaido, snow starts to fall around the end of October and early November.

As the northernmost region of Japan, it sees the earliest snowfall in the country. Sapporo, Hokkaido’s center of government, is host to the annual Sapporo Snow Festival, Japan’s largest snow festival, which takes place in February.

Photo courtesy of: Sapporo Economy & Tourism Bureau, MICE Sightseeing Promotional Dept.

The venue for the festival is the Sapporo city center, including the Odori Park.

The main appeal of the festival is how these impressive architectural creations are completely made out of ice and snow. People come from all over the country to view the rich variety of snow and ice sculptures. There’s more to the festival than just enjoying the world of ice; with many food and drink booths and rest areas all over the venue, it’s easy for families to join the festivities.

2018 Sapporo Snow Festival

Schedule: Feb. 5th-12th, 2018 (Odori Park and Susukino), Feb. 1st-12th, 2018 (Tsudome)

For more details, check out The Sapporo Snow Festival 2018, An Extravaganza Of Snow And Ice!

Also read:

Sapporo Area Guide: Transportation, Sightseeing Areas and Souvenirs
Sapporo - 10 Destinations to Visit in Hokkaido's Largest City!
Explore Sapporo in Two Days with This Model Itinerary!

2. Hokkaido: Asahikawa Winter Festival

The Asahikawa Snow Festival is also held in Hokkaido in Asahikawa. The city is located slightly north of Sapporo, so its snow season starts somewhat earlier.

Asahikawa is known for its Asahikawa Zoo, a famous and very popular spot. However the standout of the snow festival is the Guinness World Record-holding giant snow sculptures, which is an extraordinary scene only visible in winter.

This ice sculpture depicts Shuri Castle, an Okinawan World Heritage site. This might be the only place where you can see Shuri Castle in gleaming silver and white.

The sculptures are on display for about a month, and the World Ice Sculpting Championship is held at the same time; the atmosphere becomes quite romantic after night falls, when the sculptures are all illuminated.

2018 Asahikawa Winter Festival

Schedule: Feb. 7th-12th, 2018
Website: http://www.city.asahikawa.hokkaido.jp/awf/ (external site translation)

Also read:

Hokkaido Exclusive: 5 Must See Festivals
Flying... Penguins? Many Unique Exhibitions At Asahiyama Zoo!

3. Aomori: Hirosaki Castle Snow Lantern Festival

Photo provided by: Aomori Tourism Federation

In the Tohoku region, snow starts to fall in Aomori prefecture at the start of November.

Once the winter comes and the snow starts to pile up, Aomori becomes a world of pure white. The prefecture is the host of the annual Hirosaki Castle Snow Lantern Festival held in Hirosaki Park, a national historical landmark.

Photo provided by: JNTO

The eponymous lanterns are essentially modern-day streetlights.

The Hirosaki Castle Snow Lantern Festival has been held since 1977, when the local citizens decided to make lanterns in order to liven up the town during the long and cold winter. This warm event can only be enjoyed for a few days, so please check the schedule carefully.

Near Hirosaki Park, you'll also find a Starbucks built in one of Aomori's Tangible Cultural Properties too. Why not stop by and check out this building and get a warm drink after sightseeing?

2018 Hirosaki Castle Snow Lantern Festival

Schedule: Feb. 9th-12th, 2018
Website: http://www.hirosaki-kanko.or.jp

Also read:

Feel The Warmth of Aomori In Its People, Food, Scenery and Hot Springs
Traditional Japanese Lamps: Tell "Toro", "Andon", and "Chochin" Apart
Japanese Encyclopedia: Toro Nagashi

4. Aomori: Aomori Yukiakari Matsuri

Aomori snow festival

Photo courtesy of: Aomori City Economy Dept. Tourism Division

The Aomori Yukiakari Matsuri (Snow Light Festival) is a week-long festival celebrated by the citizens of Aomori city, with handmade snow lanterns and candles. It's very conveniently located too, in the Nebuta House Warasse West Plaza, just a minute's walk from JR Aomori Station.

The sight of the carefully made lanterns illuminated by candle light is fantastic, and one of the highlights of this festival. During this event, there is also a Wish Candle, where if you draw a wish on the candle holder, your wish may come true.

Wouldn't you like to make your own wish at this amazing event?

2018 Aomori Yukiakari Matsuri

Schedule: Feb. 2nd-4th, 2018
Website: https: //www.city.aomori.aomori.jp/kanko/bunka-sports-kanko/kankou/shiki-event/fuyu/01/01.html

5. Iwate: Iwate Snow Festival

Photo courtesy of: Iwate Tourism Association

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Iwate Snow Festival.

In 2018, the main venue will be at the Iwate Takahara Snow Park, with various other events taking place at six venues in total. Here you'll be able to see numerous different large snow statues at the main venue.

Photo courtesy of: JNTO

At the Iwate Snow Festival you can try something a little different too. Here you can enjoy one of Hokkaido and the Tohoku region's signature dishes, Genghis Khan (grilled lamb) inside a kamakura (snow hut)! You can try this at the Koiwai Farm venue.
In the Amihari Onsen Ski Resort, you can relax in a bath with a snow view, and at Shizukuishi Ski Resort, you can go sledding and take a snowy cruise. Plus, at the Morioka Handmade Crafts Village, you can purchase special regional handicrafts, or at the Takizawa Nature Information Center, you can go snowshoe trekking or try other snowy experiences too.

Information about this festival is frequently updated on their official website, so please make sure to check it often to learn more.

2018 Iwate Snow Festival

Schedule: Feb. 14th-18th, 2018

Also read:

Superb View Created by Snows and Snow Festivals Seen Only in Japan
4 Japanese World Heritage Sites You Must Visit in Your Lifetime! (East Japan Edition)

6. Akita: Yokote Snow Festival

Yokote Snow Festival

From: Yokote Kamakura Snow Festival In Akita - A Fantastic Winter Landscape!

The first snow falls in Akita in early November. But in Yokote city, the Yokote Snow Festival takes place each year from January to February.

During the Yokote Snow Festival, you can not only relax inside kamakura (snow huts), but also see dedications of bonden, a special implement used by Shinto priests as well.

To learn more about the festival itself, check out Yokote Kamakura Snow Festival In Akita - A Fantastic Winter Landscape!

2018 Yokote Snow Festival

Schedule: Yokote Snow Huts Feb. 15th-16th, 2018, from 18: 00-21: 00

7. Akita: Inukko Festival

Akita: Inukko Matsuri

Photo courtesy of: Akita Tourism Federation

The Inukko Matsuri is a festival that has taken place in the Yuzawa district of Akita prefecture for about 400 years. At the main venue you will find statues of puppies made from rice flour standing guard; these dogs protect each house from burglary and are where the festival starts from.

This festival takes place in and around the Yuzawa City Athletics Gym, which is a 20 minute walk from JR Yuzawa Station. Other highlights of this festival include a fireworks display, and projection mapping, huge snow statues of dogs, and a special prayer for dogs event, where the health and happiness of dogs is prayed for.

Dog owners from across Japan and around the world come to take part in this irresistible, historical event for dog lovers.

2018 Inukko Matsuri

Schedule: Feb. 10th-11th, 2018

Website: http://akitayuzawa.jp/event/inukko-2018.html

8. Yamagata: Yamagata Snow Festival

やまがた雪フェスティバル

Photo courtesy of: Yamagata Tourism Culture And Sports Dept. Tourism & Hospitality Promotion Section

The Yamagata Snow Festival is an event-filled celebration that began in 2015. It is held at the Mogamigawa Furusato Park, which is a ten minute drive from JR Sagae Station.

With a large snow sculpture as its symbol, here you can enjoy illuminations and fireworks at night in a charming, romantic atmosphere.

There are also food stalls selling gourmet treats from Yamagata and events where you can experience the life and culture of a "snow country". There are even spots where you can make your own mini snow sculptures too, so there is plenty to enjoy both day and night at this festival.

2018 Yamagata Snow Festival

Schedule: Feb. 2nd-4th, 2018

Website: http://www.yamagata-yukifes.jp/ (Japanese)

9. Niigata: Tokamachi Snow Festival

Photo courtesy of: Tokamachi Snow Festival Executive Committee Office

The concepts behind the Tokamachi Snow Festival, which draws huge crowds every year, are “friendship with snow” and “enjoying the snow.”

It is known as one of Japan’s three great snow festivals along with the Sapporo Snow Festival in Hokkaido and the Minami Uonu

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