27.3 million tourists visit Hokkaido’s biggest Snow Festival
Hokkaido’s much-anticipated winter extravaganza, the Sapporo Snow Festival, is coming back on January 31, 2020!
Sapporo Snow Festival is the biggest winter event in Hokkaido and has captured the hearts of over 27.3 million festival-goers in 2019. What started as a small-scale event with only snow sculptures made by local high school students has by now evolved into a world-class winter celebration, gathering snow-sculpting elites from across the globe. Together, these snow craftsmen build around 200 snow/ice sculptures all across the Odori, Susukino, and Tsudome sites. Some of these sculptures take months to complete! One can find familiar faces resembling famous anime and cartoon characters as well as architecture, which are often the most-anticipated highlights of the event.
Aside from snow sculptures, there are also snow activities, projection mapping shows, and countless places to snap some beautiful photos. You’ll never run out of delicious stuff to eat, as oysters, scallops, jingisukan (grilled mutton), and many more local dishes are served at the countless food stalls. Wanna get a taste of a real winter festival? Head straight to Sapporo this winter for an event you’re sure to never forget!
W1 to W12, Odori-koen, Chuo-ku, Sapporo, Hokkaido
4 – 11 February 2020（illumination until 10 pm）
W4, S4 to S7 (Ekimae-dori), Chuo-ku, Sapporo, Hokkaido
4 – 11 February 2020（illumination until 11:00 p.m.）
Community Dome, 885-1 Sakae-machi, Higashi-ku, Sapporo, Hokkaido
31 January 2020 – 11 February 2020 9 am – 5 pm
Enjoying the ultimate coffee break in gorgeous Furano
With vivid flower fields in summer and heavy snowfall in winter, Furano is a treat to visit at any time of year.
Cafe Goryo is a spot where you can enjoy a special moment in Furano. The aroma of freshly brewed coffee greets you as you walk into this red-roofed building, renovated by its owners from an old barn built-in 1929. This café is run by a globetrotting couple, so it’s no surprise to find an array of dishes inspired by cuisine around the world. Organic vegetables are sourced from their own farm and are a perfect match for the atmosphere of this old wooden building and their in-house roasted coffee. If you happen to visit during the winter months, you can sit with your cup of coffee in the warm ambiance created by an old-school wo0d-burning stove.
If you need a place to stay, you should seriously consider staying at their 80-year-old kominka (an old Japanese-style house turned inn) for an unforgettable night. The quiet otherworldly winter scenery seen from the windows of this old building will give you a feeling of being displaced from time.
Ethereal realm trapped beneath the frozen lake’s surface
Underwater ice bubbles are a phenomenon that is created when methane gas from sediment at the bottom of a lake gets frozen before it reaches the water’s surface. During the wintertime, this kind of extraterrestrial scene can be found beneath the surface of Lake Nukabira near the town of Kamishihoro. Just make absolutely sure that when you do go to admire this beautiful natural phenomenon that you are careful to stay well away from the gas holes and only walk on the thick layers of ice. The best adventure is the one you return home safely from!
One important detail that you should be aware of, however, is that the ice bubbles are only around for a short period of time after the lake has frozen and before snowfalls hit the region (roughly until the end of January), so make sure not to miss your opportunity to see this aquatic miracle!
Nukabira Onsenkyo, Kami-Shihoro-cho, Kato-gun, Hokkaido
About 90 minutes by Tokachi Bus from JR Obihiro Station Bus Terminal, get off at Tokachi Bus Nukabira Eigyosho Office bus stop then walk for about 20 minutes
https://kamishihoro.info/ (Japanese only, so please use translation service)
A village made of ice in Shikaribetsu
Lake Shikaribetsu in the town of Shikaoi freezes over every year in January. Taking advantage of this frozen lake scape, the dreamlike village Shikaribetsuko Kotan appears on the surface of the lake for a two month period.
Lined with snow-block-stacked igloo lodges, this kotan (“village” in the Ainu indigenous language) made of ice and snow attracts over 40,000 visitors annually despite the below-freezing temperatures. You can toast with self-made ice glasses at the Ice Bar, soak in the Open-Air Onsen Bath where the temperature difference between the water and the frigid landscape can reach up to 60 degrees, or get a glimpse of the Ice Chapel which is built from an altar to ceiling entirely out of ice. With all these unique attractions, there’s no end to the fun in this Winter Wonderland!
If you’re looking to take in some wintery nightlife, think of spending a night at the Ice Lodge (reservation necessary) taking in the nighttime light-up event. And for those of you who don’t have much confidence in beating the cold, consider staying at the Shikaribetsukohan Onsen Hotel Fusui, which is within walking distance from the venue.
Shikaribetsukohan, Shikaoi-cho, Kato-gun, Hokkaido
25 January 2020 – 22 March 2020
About 1 hour and 40 minutes by Hokkaido Takushoku Bus from JR Obihiro Station Bus Terminal, alight at the terminal Shikaribetsuko (Shikaribetsukohan Onsen)
https://kotan.jp/ (Japanese only)
The habitat of a special natural monument in Tsurui village
Tsurui Village in the Akan region is a part of “the Most Beautiful Villages in Japan Union,” and you can expect not only pastoral vistas but also groups of cranes designated a Special Natural Monument designated by the Japanese government.
tancho (red-crowned cranes) was worshipped by the indigenous Ainu people as the Deity of the Wetlands. Nowadays the number of tancho cranes residing in Hokkaido is said to be around 1,700. From November to late-March, some 200 cranes (600 at peak season) fly into Tsurui Village to search for food. Photography is only permitted in 3 photo spots in the village, the Otowa-bashi Bridge, Tsurui / Ito Crane Sanctuary, and Tsurumidai. But the bird fanatics out there will find that these three spots are more than enough to snap some pics of this rare creature in its natural habitat.
The mating season reaches its peak in February, making it the perfect time to head to Tsurui Village to witness the crane’s courtship dance (pictured above).
Please be aware that, to protect the cranes, watching these birds is not allowed in areas other than the three above designated sites.
Tsurui-mura, Akan-gun, Hokkaido
About 60 minutes by Akan Bus from JR Kushiro Station
Hokkaido is known around the country as the Food Paradise of Japan. Each region of the island has its own delicacies to savor and enjoy.
Surrounded in all four directions by oceans, Hokkaido is a gourmet haven blessed with flourishing agricultural and seafood products. If you are a seafood lover, the fish and seafood found in Hokkaido have high-fat content to beat the severe winters, which makes them incredibly nutritious. As they are showcased on the cheap at fish markets and fish ports, tourists won’t be surprised to find that sushi toppings at many kaiten-zushi (conveyor-belt sushi) restaurants are much fattier! Another fan favorite is soup curry, a thin curry-based soup enriched with delectable Hokkaido vegetables.
There are tons more! The famous butadon that originated in Obihiro (pork bowls which started as a dish to keep warmth and combat tiredness in cold areas), shime parfait from Sapporo (a dessert to finish off a night of drinking originated in Sapporo), and ramen galore (miso-based from Sapporo, soy sauce-based from Asahikawa, or salt-based from Hakodate.) There’s a local mouthwatering dish no matter where in Hokkaido you go! Sit back and enjoy our top picks of the best Hokkaido delicacies!