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A must-see in Sapporo! How to get the most out of the famous Snow Festival!

# Sightseeing spots
December 14, 2018
This huge event draws over 2.5 million visitors from around the globe every year who come to experience the majesty of wintertime in Hokkaido. If you’re coming all this way, you might as well get the most you can out of the festivities, right? With that in mind, in this article we’ll provide you with recommendations on the best scheduling, clothing, and transportation you’ll need to enjoy the Sapporo Snow Festival.

When will the 2018 Sapporo Snow Festival be held?

Sapporo Snow Festival snow sculptures

2018 marks the 69th annual Sapporo Snow Festival. Festival dates are as follows:

[Odori Site and Susukino Site]

  • Monday, Feb. 5 through Monday, Feb. 12 (national holiday)

[Tsudomu Site]

  • Thursday, Feb. 1 through Monday, Feb. 12 (national holiday)

Visitors from all over Japan come to experience the Snow Festival, making for a huge turnout every year. Because of this, public transportation is expected to be congested, so it’s best to make sure all your plans on what to see, where to stay, and how to deal with the cold weather are in order before you go!

Below you’ll find all the information you’ll need to get the absolute most out of the Sapporo Snow Festival.

The 3 main areas of the Festival

The Snow Festival can be separated into 3 main “sites”: the Odori, Tsudomu, and Susukino sites. Each area is host to its own unique snow sculptures and attractions, and each has their own unique way of getting there. Below, we’ll explain the characteristics of each of the 3 areas.

Odori Site: Home to enormous snow sculptures

Snow sculptures lit up

The main area of the Sapporo Snow Festival is the Odori Site. The 1.5 kilometer-long park, located in the center of town, is filled every year with unique snow sculptures.

Odori Park features all sorts of sculptures to see: from the large-scale ones constructed by the Japan Self Defense Force, to others big and small built by local volunteers, to those utilizing large-scale projection mapping to make for immersive experiences - there’s all sorts of things to see here!

Running a total of 12 blocks of the city, each block is home to its own unique theme, and is perfect for those who want to stroll through the winter wonderland taking in the sights. As Odori Site offers excellent access to the other areas of the festival, we recommend that visitors who want to see as many sculptures as they can use this area as their hub.

Opening Hours: Open 24 hours (*Sculptures are illuminated until 10:00pm)

Tsudomu Site: Play in the snow to your heart’s content

The Tsudomu Site

The second area of the Sapporo Snow Festival is the Tsudomu Site. Here visitors will find all sorts of activities that feature snow such as slides built out of snow, snow rafting, and even snow golfing!

This snow theme park is perfect for those that love to play outside in the winter. The Tsudomu Site also offers plenty of activities for children, making it great for the whole family! All of the attractions allow for hands-on fun, so if you’re going to make the most of this area, be sure to prepare for the cold by wearing ski pants and proper boots.

The area also features the Hokkaido Gourmet Land, offering some of the finest food Hokkaido has to offer, along with plenty of other events put on by local organizations! For those looking to get out and have some fun in the snow, the Tsudomu Site is a must!

Opening Hours: 9:00 am to 5:00 pm

Susukino Site: Full of bewitching ice sculptures

The Susukino Site

The third area of the Sapporo Snow Festival is located in Susukino, Japan’s famous entertainment district. Here, visitors will find a plethora of bewitching, artistic ice sculptures on display. At “Fureai Hiroba” where visitors can actually climb up on ice sculptures, and along Illumination Road, a great spot to snap photos, these wonderous sculptures create a romantic atmosphere you’ll surely never forget.

The sculptures lit up at night are truly some of the most beautiful in the whole festival. For visitors with some extra time in their schedules, we recommend taking a stroll around the Susukino Site at night.

And, being in the entertainment district, another great point about this area is all the places to eat and drink nearby. If you find yourself getting a little chilly, then pop in to a restaurant to try some fresh and delicious Hokkaido cuisine.

Opening Hours: Open 24 hours (*Sculptures are illuminated until 11:00pm, and until 10:00pm on the final day of the festival)

5 points to keep in mind in order to make the most of the Snow Festival

Visitors going to the Snow Festival for the first time may have some apprehensions about visiting. But have no fear! Here we’ll go over 5 points to keep in mind for first-timers!

What’s the best time to go sightseeing?

Sapporo Snow Festival ice sculptures

The festival gets the most crowded on weekends. The first and last days of the festivals can get pretty congested, too. So, for those of you who would like to visit when it’s relatively less crowded, we recommend checking the festival out on weekdays in the morning through afternoon.

Sapporo Snow Festival illumination event

With lots of events and illumination displays, the festival can get pretty crowded at night even on weekdays. If you’re planning to see the festival at night, we recommend preparing in advance and getting there early.

Make your lodging accommodations early!

Hotels around the Sapporo area

During the Snow Festival, just about every hotel within close proximity to the festivities will be booked up - which is why we recommend making your reservations as soon as possible if you plan to come.

For visitors who want to keep their lodging costs to a minimum, it might be best to make reservations at a hotel located a fair distance away from the major festival sites. While this will make getting to the festival a little more difficult, as long as you get out the door early enough, you’ll still have plenty of time to see the sights!

Take the necessary precautions against cold weather!

Sightseeing around Sapporo Station

It’s said that February is the coldest month of the year in Hokkaido, and even during the day temperatures can get far below freezing. For those visitors who have never been to Hokkaido, this can be quite the shock!

Which is why we recommend not leaving anything to chance when it comes to preparing for the cold. Wearing layers is an absolute must. We recommend 3 to 4 inner layers with a sweater and wind breaker over that. Down jackets and thick coats will also help keep out the cold.

Three other areas that first timers sometimes neglect are their hands, feet, and neck. Even if you forget to cover just one of these areas, the cold can spread throughout your whole body quicker than you’d think! Thick gloves and socks are a must, and don’t forget to bring something to cover your ears as well as a neck warmer. Basically, just try to keep as much of your body unexposed to the elements as possible. This is an absolute must!

Handy things to bring

A woman warms her hands with hand warmers

Hokkaido roads in mid-winter get icy and can be quite hard to walk on. Even locals can slip and fall sometimes, so purchasing some attachable anti-skid bands for your boots is probably a good idea.

Shops at train stations or emporiums nearby offer these attachable anti-skid bands, so you’ll be able to easily find one.

Disposable hand warmers are also a huge help when it comes to the cold. Placing some of these in both pockets of your coat will allow you to quickly warm up your hands if they start to get cold.

Most people will find that after walking around Sapporo for just an hour in the winter, the cold will quickly become an issue. Don’t overdo it! If you find yourself getting cold, be sure to pop into a local store and take a break before heading back out.

Access to the festival sites

Sapporo city in the wintertime

Here, we definitely recommend the Sapporo subway system. While it gets quite crowded during the Snow Festival, it offers the best accessibility when it comes to getting to the various areas of the festival. Visitors should be particularly careful when visiting at nighttime, as this will overlap with the typical evening rush hour.

Also, you should avoid taxis in general. With various restrictions on transport placed on many areas of the city, traffic jams around the festival sites are a common occurrence. If you find yourself caught in a traffic jam, you may not be able to move for quite some time, so it’s best to just avoid taking a taxi.

Getting from the Odori Site to the Susukino Site by train is relatively easy, but Odori Site to Tsudomu Site is a rather long ride. Also, you’ll have to walk about 15 minutes from the train station to the Tsudomu Site. There are shuttle busses running from the closest station to the Tsudomu Site, so we recommend hopping on one of these. Make sure to check the time tables on the day, before you head out to the festival!

Get the most out of Japan’s famous Snow Festival

View of the Snow Festival from Sapporo TV Tower

We hope you learned a lot about the Sapporo Snow Festival.

Make sure to take care of all the necessary preparations to make the most of your time at the festival. The Snow Festival is beloved by people from all over the globe, and we hope you’ll enjoy your time there as well. We’re certain that it’ll be the experience of a lifetime!

Pricing information and schedule may not be up to date and are subject to change without notice. Please check before your trip.