February is the time for the annual Snow Festival, held in Sapporo, usually in the first or second week/weekend of the month. This year, the city will hold the 66th Snow Festival, the event having begun in humble origins back in 1950.
Now over two million people visit Sapporo each year to see the popular ice sculptures and enjoy the festivities, making the ‘Yuki-matsuri’ one of the largest and most renowned winter events in the world. It has hundreds of spectacular sculptures carved in ice and snow, an international ‘snow sculpture’ contest, and even an ‘Ice Queen’ beauty contest in Susukino. But it wasn’t always like this.
In 1950, a group of local high school students created some impressive snow statues in Odori Park. They did this annually and were joined in their efforts by the Self-Defence Force five years later, which is when the first massive snow sculptures were built. That was the basis for the establishment of the Snow Festival as it is today. The Self-Defence Force still participates, providing assistance in carrying extra snow to the site from outside the local area. The main sites for the festival are Odori Park, Tsudome and Susukino.