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Sapporo Snow Festival: A Guide to Japan’s Most Anticipated Winter Event

Japan takes “let it snow” to a whole new level in the northern part of the country where snow falls like fine powder and ice is transformed into various stunning shapes.

Hokkaido prefecture is a popular tourist destination mainly for its ski resorts and winter festivals. The most popular one is held in its capital, Sapporo, which gets over two million visits each year.

The Sapporo Snow Festival or Sapporo Yuki Matsuri is one of Japan’s most anticipated winter festivals. It features ice sculptures, stunning light displays, concerts, and other events. The one-week celebration turns the city into a literal winter wonderland and is an experience you wouldn’t want to miss.

Ready to dive into the snowy festivities? Here’s everything you need to know about it:

 

When is the Festival?

The 2020 Sapporo Snow Festival is happening from February 4 to February 11.
 

How to Go to Sapporo Snow Festival

Train Hokkaido

Sapporo is the capital of Hokkaido prefecture, the second-largest island of Japan, located in the northern part of the country. It’s known for its winter festivals and snow-capped mountains, making it a prime winter destination.

Whether you plan on going directly to Hokkaido or decide to make a stop at Japan’s other exciting cities, here are the best ways to get to Sapporo:
 

By Plane (Manila to Sapporo)

There are two airports in the city: New Chitose Airport (CTS) and Sapporo Okadama Airport (OKD), the former being the main international airport serving the Sapporo Metropolitan area.

There are no direct flights from Manila to Sapporo, so you will have to make a transit in either Tokyo’s Narita International Airport (NRT) or Osaka’s Kansai International Airport (KIX). From there, the domestic flight to CTS will take about an hour and a half.

There are several airlines serving flights to Sapporo. JetStar has flights for as low as PHP 13,000, with a layover in either Tokyo or Osaka. 

New Chitose Airport is about 50 kilometers away from Sapporo’s city center. You can either take the Japan Rail Express train to Sapporo station this will take about 37 minutes and will cost about JPY 1,070.

Bus services are also available at the airport and have several routes with prices ranging from JPY 630 to JPY 1,100.
 

By Train

With Japan’s extensive and well-run railways, trains are definitely the best way to get around the country.

However, taking the train to Sapporo from Japan’s major cities is both time-consuming and expensive. The whole journey from Tokyo to Sapporo can take about eight hours and cost around JPY 29,000.

If you decide to take this route, simply take the JR Tohoku or the Hokkaido from Tokyo to Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto (this will take about four hours), and then transfer to the Hokuto limited express to get to Sapporo (this will take about three and a half hours).

If you’re coming from Osaka, you will have to take the Shinkansen Nozomi from Osaka Station to Tokyo Station. From there, just follow the Tokyo to Sapporo train route mentioned in the previous paragraph. This will add another two and a half hours to your total travel time.

Read A Basic Guide to Using the Japan Rail Pass
 

By Ferry

Japan has an extensive ferry network that has long-distance ferries traveling between ports in Honshu (the main island) and Hokkaido. Most of these ferries arrive in Otaru or Tomakomai. 

It’s no secret that the fastest and easiest way to get to Sapporo is by plane, but if you have time, you can enjoy a more affordable and scenic way of travel.

If you’re in Tokyo, you can port from Oarai in Ibaraki prefecture to Tomakomai in Hokkaido, which will take about 17 or 18 hours. Prices vary depending on room type, season, and the ferry line.
 

Getting Around Sapporo

Sapporo Tram

  • Subway: The most recommended mode of transportation in the city, Sapporo’s three-line subway can take you to a lot of places in the area. It will cost around JPY 200 to JPY 360 per ride. You can also purchase a Kitaca prepaid card (Hokkaido’s IC card which is similar to Osaka’s ICOCA or Tokyo’s PASMO) and skip purchasing tickets every time you ride the train or bus. One-day subway passes that give you unlimited rides are also available, costing around JPY 830.
  • Tram: This is a unique transportation mode in the city. As it’s only seven minutes from each stop, it’s considered to be one of the fastest ways to get to and from a certain area.
  • Bus: The city has several bus lines, like JR Hokkaido Bus, Jotetsu Bus, and Hokkaido Chuo Bus, all of which can take you to your desired destinations.
  • Underground walkways: Sapporo is a great city to explore on foot and can feel like a walk in the park. Check out the city’s underground walkways that are home to several restaurants and shops that will keep you entertained.

 

What to Expect

The Sapporo Snow Festival is the biggest snow festival held annually in February at Hokkaido’s capital, featuring spectacular ice sculptures and snow activities. Three locations will host the festival: Odori, Susukino, Tsudome
 

☃ Odori Site

Odori Site - Japan Rail Pass
Image Credit: Japan Rail Pass

The festival’s main site is staged in the 1.5 kilometer-long Odori Park. This site features several concerts and events, as well as hundreds of snow sculptures in different shapes and sizes made by locals and professionals.

Apart from dozens of snow and ice sculptures throughout the park, here are some of the highlights you shouldn’t miss this year:

  • Skate Rink: Have fun as you glide through the ice in the middle of this winter wonderland spectacle. 
  • Shiroi Koibito PARK AIR Jump: Witness professional snowboarders and freestyle skiers in action!
  • Hokkaido Food Park: Sample some of the delicious signature dishes of Hokkaido!
  • The 47th International Snow Sculpture Contest: Visit the international square and watch teams from Australia, Finland, Singapore, and more compete in this stunning event!

For the complete list of features and events, click here.
 

☃ Susukino Site

Sapporo

Located in Sapporo’s largest entertainment district, Susukino exhibits over a hundred ice sculptures! This year, the theme is “Finding Delight in Ice” and features interactive sculptures. Here are some of the highlights:

  • Illumination Road: Walk down this popular street and watch the ice glow in the evenings until 11 PM.
  • Ice Queen Photoshoot Event: Only in Susukino can you take a photo with the Ice Queen!
  • Ice Sculpture Contest: Witness a stunning ensemble of ice sculptures and vote for your favorites!

For the complete list of features and events, click here.
 

☃ Tsudome Site

Tsudome site - Japan Rail Pass
Image Credit: Japan Rail Pass

If you’re looking to get down and dirty in the snow, Tsudome is the place for you! Enjoy the different snow slides and other ice activities that will definitely give you that unique Hokkaido experience!

  • Snow slides: From tube and tunnel slides to sledding slopes, Tsudome is the outdoor winter venue of your dreams.
  • Ice Glass Making Experience: Try your hand at ice glass making.
  • Snow Park Golf: This sport just got a lot cooler!
  • Snow Rafting: Hop on and go on a thrilling ride.

For the complete list of features and events, click here.
 

Quick Tips

Snow Carving

  • Bundle up: Sapporo’s winters are considered snowy and freezing and February is the coldest month of the year. It’s important that you pack thermal garments like thick coats, scarves, and snow boots to keep you nice and warm as you explore this stunning city and enjoy the festivities.
  • Book in advance: It’s always good to be one step ahead. Skip the line and come prepared for a smoother and less time-consuming trip. Taking the train to Sapporo? You can easily book your JR Passes on Traveloka.
  • Make an itinerary and do your research: There are a lot of sights and unique activities that Sapporo has to offer and it’s only right that you experience as much as you can during your stay. Researching before your trip and making an itinerary not only helps you organize your schedule, it also lessens your chances of getting lost.

 

Where to Stay

Sapporo hotel

Here are some recommended accommodations in Sapporo offering stylish accommodations, a great location, and a wide range of facilities and amenities for a budget-friendly price.

Book Sapporo Hotels here
 

Where to Eat

Sapporo Beer Garden

Home of the world-renowned Sapporo beer, fresh seafood, and other popular Japanese dishes, Sapporo offers a delicious range of traditional dishes that will definitely satisfy your palate.

🍽 Sapporo Beer Garden

Dine at this Hokkaido Heritage site and enjoy the free-flowing drinks right from the brewery! Feast and savor other Japanese specialties like the red king crab and hand-rolled sushi for 100 minutes. Skip the line and book in advance here.

  • Location: 9-2-10, Kita7 Jo, Higashi-ku, Sapporo, Hokkaido, 065-0007
  • Open hours: 11:30 AM – 10:00 PM (Last order at 09:30 PM)

Ramen

🍽 Rāmen Kyōwakoku

Your Japan trip wouldn’t be complete without having a bowl of ramen. When in Sapporo, you should try their famed miso ramen.

  • Location: 2-1, Sapporo ESTA 10F, Kita 5 Jonishi, Chuo-ku, Sapporo, Hokkaido
  • Open hours: 11:00 AM-10:00 PM (Last order at 09:45 PM)

🍽 Fugetsu at Sapporo Station

Okonomiyaki is one of the most popular Japanese staple dishes often found in stalls along the street. The Japanese pancake is topped with various toppings like seafood bits, vegetables, and meat. Experience this one-of-a-kind delicacy at a small food joint inside Sapporo station. 

  • Location: Sapporo ESTA 10F, North 5 West 2, Chuo-ku, Sapporo-shi, Hokkaido
  • Open hours: 11:00 AM – 10:00 PM (Last order at 09:30 PM)

🍽 Kaisen-Shokudo Kitano Gourmet-tei

For authentic and fresh Hokkaido seafood, book a meal at this restaurant!

  • Location: 22-4-1, Kita-11-jonishi, Chuo-ku, Sapporo-shi, Hokkaido, 060-0011
  • Open hours: Monday – Sunday & Day before holiday & Holiday 7:00 AM – 03:00 PM(Last order at 02:30 PM)

 

Other Things to Do in Hokkaido

Mt Yotei - Niseko

  • Get to know Japanese culture: There is no doubt that Japan has one of the most unique cultures out there and Hokkaido’s capital provides just the right amount of modern and traditional to get you going. Visit the many historic and art museums or stroll through the city in a kimono!
  • Visit Ishiya Chocolate Factory: It’s a sweet escape in Sapporo! Tour this charming chocolate factory and try Hokkaido’s specialty white chocolate, “shiroi koibito,” which is a perfect souvenir to take home to your loved ones.
  • Explore Niseko: Known as Hokkaido’s most popular ski resort, Niseko has fine powder snow and spectacular landscapes that attract many skiers from across the globe. If you’re a fan of shredding the slopes, this is a must-visit!

Furano - Lavander fields

  • Discover Furano and Biei: With stunning natural landscapes and rural sceneries, these towns at the center of Hokkaido are great to explore and get to know. Visit in July when the lavender fields are in bloom in Furano or take a scenic drive along Biei’s rolling hills and vast fields.
  • Visit Hakodate City: Known as Hokkaido’s most romantic city, this port on the southern tip of the island boasts elegant and sophisticated cityscapes that are influenced by foreign cultures. The exotic city is also known for its spectacular night view from Mount Hakodate.

 

Have a one-of-a-kind winter experience in Hokkaido. Book now on Traveloka!

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