Hokkaido, often depicted in Japanese films as a winter wonderland with its snow-capped mountains and charming downtowns, epitomizes the quintessence of a snowy landscape. Japan's northernmost region, Hokkaido transforms into a magical realm during winter, blanketed in a coat of snow under the winter sky. As the chilly season rolls in, enthusiasts of ice and snow, alongside those seeking winter adventures, gather here. The myriad winter activities in Hokkaido not only celebrate the frosty climate but also turn the biting cold into an exhilarating experience.
This winter, the much-anticipated 2024 festival lineup in Hokkaido is set to dazzle. The Sapporo Snow Festival, Asahikawa Winter Festival, Lake Toya Fireworks Festival, Lake Shikotsu Ice Festival, and Jozankei Onsen Yukitouro (Snow Lantern Path) promise an unforgettable journey through this enchanting snowscape. Prepare to be captivated by Hokkaido, a mesmerizing realm of snow and ice, where each festival offers a unique glimpse into the heart of winter's beauty.
- 1. Sapporo Snow Festival
- 2. Asahikawa Winter Festival
- 3. Lake Toya Fireworks Festival
- 4. Lake Shikotsu Ice Festival
- 5. Jozankei Onsen Yukitouro (Snow Lantern Path)
1. Sapporo Snow Festival
The Sapporo Snow Festival, hosted annually in Sapporo, stands among the world's most illustrious winter spectacles. Drawing an international audience, the festival is held across three sites, each showcasing spectacular snow and ice sculptures. These colossal artworks, ranging from intricate to awe-inspiring, are the festival's crown jewels. Master sculptors breathe life into the snow, creating masterpieces that draw art aficionados and snow sculpture enthusiasts worldwide.
The 2024 festival's pièce de résistance is a stained glass-themed masterpiece, featuring enchanting snow fairies, native Ezo deer, brown bears, and owls, emblematic of Hokkaido's rich wildlife.
At night, the sculptures are lit up, further enhancing their dreamlike allure. Complementing the visual feast, the festival also offers a taste of local flavors with an array of street stalls and restaurants nearby. Spanning eight days, the Sapporo Snow Festival is a must visit.
📍Location: Odori Site, Susukino Site, Tsudomu Site (admission to all three is free)
📅 Dates: February 4 - 11, 2024
✅ Official website: https://www.snowfes.com
2. Asahikawa Winter Festival
The Asahikawa Winter Festival, a prestigious event among Japan's top three winter festivals and the second-largest snow festival in Hokkaido, is celebrated for its colossal snow sculptures. Renowned for having the world's largest snow structure, a feat acknowledged in the Guinness Book of World Records, the festival presents an awe-inspiring spectacle unique to this season. This festival is a magnet for tourists and locals alike. Ice sculpture artists exhibit their extraordinary skill and creativity, carving lifelike figures from ice and snow. By day, these sculptures glisten under the sun's rays, while at night, they're transformed by enchanting lights into a surreal landscape.
Beyond the sculptures, the festival is alive with a variety of activities and performances, including spectacular fireworks that illuminate both the concert hall and the night sky. Additionally, the surrounding attractions of Asahikawa, like Asahiyama Zoo and the pristine winter vistas of Biei-cho blanketed in snow, are not to be missed.
📍 Location: Ishikari River Asahibashi Lakeside Venue, Heiwa-dori Shopping Park
📅 Dates: February 7 - 12, 2024
🏮 Hours: 17:00-21:00 (until 20:00 on February 12)
✅ Official website: https://asahikawa-winterfes.jp/
3. Lake Toya Fireworks Festival
Lake Toya hosts the majestic Lake Toya Fireworks Festival each winter. Celebrated as one of Japan's long-running fireworks display, this festival is a highlight of the region's winter calendar. Visitors can bask in the breathtaking views of the ice-enshrined lake, providing a stunning backdrop for the dazzling fireworks show. Strolling along the frosty lakeside while witnessing the fireworks over the icy waters is like stepping into a snow-laden fairyland.
Owing to its immense popularity, this year's festival has been extended to span 22 days. Each night at 20:30, the skies above Lake Toya will come alive with a spectacular light show, further enhancing the magical ambiance of this enchanting winter spectacle. This festival is not just a display of fireworks; it's an invitation to experience the whimsical allure of a Hokkaido winter at its finest.
📍Location: Lake Toya Main Pier
📅 Dates: February 3 - 24, 2024
🎆 Starts at 20:30 (approximately 8 minutes)
💰 Admission fee: 500 yen
✅ Official website: https://www.laketoya.com/event/winterfireworks/
4. Lake Shikotsu Ice Festival
The Lake Shikotsu Ice Festival, a hallmark of Hokkaido's winter, unfolds at the enigmatic Lake Shikotsu, cradled by snow-draped mountains. Here, ice sculptors demonstrate their exceptional craftsmanship, creating an array of breathtaking ice sculptures along the lakeside. By day, these sculptures radiate the famed Lake Shikotsu Blue, a natural, mesmerizing hue unique to the area.
Come nightfall, the sculptures are transformed by a kaleidoscope of lights, casting a magical glow over Hokkaido's winter landscape. Adding to the charm, a selection of high-quality hot springs nearby offers the perfect retreat to warm up and unwind.
📍 Location: Shikotsuko, Chitose-shi, Hokkaido
📅 Dates: January 28 - February 23, 2024
🏮 Hours: 16:30 - 20:00
💰 Admission fee: 500 yen
✅ To see photos from the previous year: https://ikidane-nippon.com/en/features/a01064
5. Jozankei Onsen Yukitouro (Snow Lantern Path)
Jozankei, a well-known hot spring destination just an hour's drive from Sapporo, is a haven of relaxation with 56 springs, discharging 8,600 liters of rejuvenating hot water every minute. In winter, Jozankei transforms into a mystical wonderland, especially at the Jozankei Shrine, where numerous snow lanterns cast a serene glow, illuminating the shrine's surroundings. Visitors can walk through paths where 2,000 lanterns crafted from ice and snow create a captivating ambiance.
Throughout the village, various snow lanterns, softly lit, enhance the night's ice and snow world with their mysterious, warm luminescence. As snow gently falls, a stroll along the snow-covered path under the tranquil light of snow lanterns becomes a mesmerizing experience. This lantern-lit walkway, unique to Hokkaido, has emerged as a quintessential winter spectacle, blending the tranquility of snowfall with the gentle beauty of lantern light.
📍Location: Jozankei Shrine
📅 Period: January 27 - February 3, 2024 (18:00-21:00)
💰 Admission fee: 500 yen for high school students and older
✅ Official website: https://jozankei.jp/event/yukitouro/
Hokkaido, more than just a cinematic dreamscape, tops many people’s winter travel wish list. If you visit in winter, you are bound to be amazed by the creative artistry displayed in the various snow festivals. Envision yourself by the shores of Lake Toya, under the spell of spectacular fireworks that light up the winter sky. Or picture a stroll amidst the ethereal ice sculptures of the Lake Shikotsu Ice Festival, each step revealing a new facet of winter's beauty. These experiences in Hokkaido aren't just trips; they're the fabric of unforgettable winter memories.
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