CHILL OUT WITH SOME WINTER CHEER
AS the colder months cast their frosty shadow over Japan, it is worth knowing there are several major winter events that travellers can cosy up to during the country’s seasonal freeze.
The Sapporo Snow Festival held in February each year is one of Japan’s most popular winter festivals. This chilly spectacle features an impressive parade of sculptures carved from snow and ice, attracting more than two million visitors locally and from across the globe each year. The event is divided into three main displays throughout Hokkaido’s capital: the Odori Site, Susukino Site and Tsu Dome Site. All locations feature an amazing number of artistic ice statues; however, the Tsu Dome Site is the only location that offers less risk-averse visitors the chance to slide their way down a selection of exhilarating snow slides.
For those looking to bundle up festivals in Hokkaido, The Otaru Snow Light Path Festival takes place in nearby Otaru and runs concurrently with the Sapporo Snow Festival. For 10 days the city is decorated with charming snow lanterns in the Unga Kaijo and the Temiyasen Kaijo regions. Both walks are conveniently located close to rail transport, making it possible to traverse the events on foot. For travellers seeking romance, the Unga Kaijo area is recommended as it features a 300m walk along the town’s picturesque canal that is lit up at night by a flotilla of small buoys.
For the visitor seeking to combine their penchant for icy spectacles with some warming food and wine, the Yokote Kamakura Festival may be your best option. Taking place 15-16 February in the south-eastern Akita Prefecture city of Yokote, the festival is renowned for its snow houses called Kamakura. Created to honour the water deity in Japanese culture, locals invite visitors into their Kamakuras during the evening where they are offered grilled rice cakes and warm rice wine.