What is Yuki?? May be we remember some Japanese people who has this name. Some people even may know its meaning as happiness. But only few know Yuki also means snow. I guess in Hokkaido everybody knows this. As Hokkaido gets very high snowfall in winter. Here winter dominates of all the seasons. Then what is Matsuri??? Festival. Yes I am talking about Snow Festival which is an exciting, freezing, memorable event which takes place in winter.
I have seen sculptures made by stone, wood and other materials in my country. But I never knew that people make sculptures even with snow and ice. Yes cutting an ice piece into a master piece needs skill. There are so many difficulties associated with it. And keep one thing in mind, you have to bear that cold temperature (-ve degree centigrade temperature) while doing it on street.
But Sapporo (Hokkaido, Japan) has sturdy people who are doing it from years. It’s called Yuki Matsuri (Snow Festival) which takes place each year in the month of February for a week. It’s a very big winter festival in whole Japan. It has become a major wintertime spectacle in Sapporo attracting over 2 million visitors from all over Japan and abroad.
The first Sapporo Snow Festival was held in Odori Park in 1950, with only six snow statues made by local high school students. In 1955, the Self Defense Force joined in to make a massive snow sculpture. In 1959, twenty five hundred people participated in making snow sculptures and the nationwide media reported the Snow Festival for the first time.
In 1965, Makomanai site was officially opened as the second site. Sapporo hosted the Winter Olympic Games in 1972, and the Snow Festival was widely acknowledged around the world through international media.
In 1974, the International Snow Sculpture Contest began as a part of the Snow Festival. Since then, a number of teams from various regions of the world; including Shenyang (China), Alberta (Canada), Munich (Germany), Sydney (Australia) and Portland (U.S.A.), each of which has a close relationship with Sapporo, have been participating in the contest.
In 1983 the third site at Susukino was opened adding a new aspect to the festival with the ice sculptures illuminated by the street neon lights. In 1984, the duration of the festival was extended by two days and became seven days. In 2005, Makomanai site was closed after forty years. The site was temporary moved to Satoland until the present Tsudome site was set up as the second site in 2009.
(Reference: Sapporo Snow Festival Executive Committee)
Snow festival in Sapporo takes place in 3 different places. 1) Odori, 2) Susukino, and 3) Tsudome.
1) Odori– Odori is a focal point of the festival. Odori is a park of around 1.5 km between 1-chome and 12-chome, and the statues are lit up at night. The 11-chome site is for international participants, where teams from around the world display their works, and you can also watch their works in progress during the festival.
A great view over the Odori Site is available from the Sapporo TV Tower at the eastern end of Odori Park. The tower has extended hours (8:30 to 22:30) during the festival. Admission to the top observatory deck costs 720 yen per adult. If you purchase 1100 yen ticket it allows a day and a night visit.
(Photo by Prashant)
2) Susukino– The Susukino Site Minami 4 jo ～ Minami 7 jo, exhibits about one hundred ice sculptures. Susukino is located only one subway stop south of Odori Park. The ice sculptures are lit up daily until 23:00 during snow festival.
(Reference: Sapporo city)
3) Tsudome -Tsudome, the community dome is the second largest site of the Sapporo Snow Festival. The less centrally located Tsu Dome Site is a family oriented site with three types of snow slides, snow rafting and more snow sculptures. Inside the dome, there are plenty of attractions for children and you can take a break or have refreshments in the spacious rest area. It’s a place where you can really enjoy the wonders of Hokkaido in winter. Inside the dome, there are many food stands where you can taste different food of Hokkaido and Japan. The good thing is here you can even taste some other country foods. And dome is provided with a stage for events. The Tsu Dome Site is open daily from 9:00 to 17:00.
(Photo by Prashant)
From New Chitose Airport, you can take a JR train or a bus to Sapporo. Rental cars are also available at the airport. There is a special information counter for foreign travelers next to the JR ticket counter in the basement floor of the airport. The information staff provides services in English, Chinese and Korean. All the sites are accessible by both bus and subway. While the Odori and Susukino Sites are in central Sapporo, the Tsu Dome Site is located outside the city center. Access is possible by shuttle bus or in a 15 minute walk from Sakaemachi Station, the terminal station of the Toho Subway Line (10 minutes, 250 yen from Sapporo Station). Shuttle buses to the Tsu Dome Site also depart from the Odori Site, from Sapporo Station and from Asabu (210 yen one way, every 15-30 minutes).
(Reference: Sapporo city)