One of the best things about travelling in Japan in winter is winter festivals. Winter in Japan is pretty cold, especially in northern areas like Hokkaido, Tohoku region and Northern Kanto region, and one of the best ways to enjoy the snowy and icy winter in Japan is visiting snow festivals.
Numbers of winter festivals are held across the country between January to March featuring spectacular snow white, ice sculptures, illuminations and traditional Japanese winter scenery. In this article, I’d like to introduce some of the most spectacular snow and ice events that will be held in Japan in 2020 winter. From Sapporo Snow Festivals to Kamakura festivals, here are 7 best winter festivals in Japan 2020!
1. Sapporo Snow Festival
Sapporo Snow Festival (さっぽろ雪まつり) is one of the most famous winter festivals in the world, which is held in Sapporo City, Hokkaido. Sapporo Snow Festivals is held for for one week in early February, and attracts over 2 millions visitors from Japan and all around the world. The festival features hundreds of small and large statues and sculptures made with snow and ice which are displayed in 3 different zones around Odori Koen Park in the city center: Odori Site, Susukino Site and Tsu Dome Site. The light-up will be held from sunset to 22:00 during the festival. It is an extremely popular event, and it’s highly recommended to book hotels in advance since they are tend to sell out during the festival season. ▶ 5 Best Hotels near Sapporo Station and Sapporo Snow Festival
Asahikawa Winter Festival (旭川冬まつり) is the second largest snow festival in Hokkaido after Sapporo Snow Festival, and attracts over 1 million visitors every year. Numbers of visitors attend both festivals since they are held around the same time in early February, and two cities are about 130 km apart (less than 2 hours). The festival is held in Asahikawa City, Hokkaido which is famous for Asahiyama Zoo. Asahikawa Winter Festival displays numbers of impressive snow and ice statues and sculptures in various sizes and designs, and the illumination can be seen at night. There will be also special events, shows and fireworks during the festival.
Yokote Kamakura Festival (横手かまくらまつり) is a traditional snow festival held in Yokote City, Akita Prefecture. Kamakura is a traditional snow hut, especially common in northern part of Japan during winter. Yokote Kamakura Festival is the biggest Kamakura festival in Japan featuring countless Kamakura huts and lanterns decorating the city. Visitors can actually go inside the large Kamakura huts and enjoy winter traditional food Mochi (soft rice cake) and Akazake (warm sweet sake). Also Kamakura illumination will be set by Yokote River after the sunset with over 100 small snow lanterns.
Zao is a popular Onsen and Ski resort in Yamagata Prefecture. Zao is best known for “Juhyo”(ice trees) created by “hard lime” which is formed by heavy snowfall and freezing winds. It’s one of the most spectacular natural winter phenomena you can see in Japan. The unique view of the Juhyo trees are often described as “Snow Monsters”. Visitors enjoy skiing through the snow forest with hundreds of snow monsters or watch them from the rope-way during winter. Zao Snow Monster Festival (蔵王温泉樹氷まつり) is held from late December to early March, featuring several special events including the light up at night which illuminates the vast hill with hundreds of snow monsters.
Tokamachi Snow Festival (十日町雪まつり) is one of the most traditional snow festivals in Japan, which started in 1950 (the same year as Sapporo Snow Festival). The festival is held in Tokamachi City, Niigata Prefecture for 3 days in mid February. Niigata is one of the most popular getaway for skiing/snowboarding from Tokyo where you can access by Shinkansen (bullet train) within a few hours. In 2019, Tokamachi Snow Festival celebrates its 70th year anniversary. The festival features numbers of snow and ice sculptures and statues which are displayed at several locations in the city during the festival. Besides, there will be special events take place at the large snow stage including live performance of dance, songs, light displays and fireworks. Visitors can also enjoy delicious local food and drinks at the venue.
Hours: 18:00~21:00 on 15th /9:00~21:00 on 16th /9:00~15:00 on 17th
6. Yunishigawa Onsen Kamakura Festival
Another spectacular Kamakura festival takes place in Kanto region, Yunishigawa Onsen Kamakura Festival (湯西川温泉かまくら祭) is held at Yunishigawa Onsen town in the deep mountain of Tochigi Prefecture from late January to early March annually. The festival features hundreds of large and small Kamakura statues. At night, countless of small Kamakura lanterns with candles lightens up the traditional Onsen town and creates the magical scenery of snow winter wonderland. The event also features various hands-on activities, such as Kamakura making experience, snow rafting, delicious local food and illuminations at night. There are several traditional Onsen ryokan inn in the town where you can stay over after joining the event, too.
The light-up event of the Icicles of Misotsuchi (三十槌の氷柱) is held at Chichibu area in the western Saitama Prefecture. Chichibu is one of the most popular nature getaways from Tokyo which can be reached within 2–3 hours by train or car. The icicles of Misotsuchi is a gigantic natural made icicles which size is over 30m wide x 10m high. It’s one of the most spectacular winter phenomena that you can see around Tokyo. Between January to February is the best time to see the icicles as its size gets bigger and more spectacular, and the special light-up event is held at the site after sunset. The colourful lights illuminate the icicles and turns them into an amazing art of mother nature.
How did you enjoy the list?? Which snow festival would you like to visit most?? Don’t miss a chance to see these spectacular snow and ice events only this time of the year! If you are planning to visit one, just make sure to put very warm clothes on 🙂
For more exciting events and things to do in Japan this winter, here are some more articles for you to check out!