Japan’s snow festival is a beautiful annual event — here are 2018’s most impressive snow sculptures

Over 50 years ago, a group of high school students on the Japanese island of Hokkaido decided to build snow sculptures. They invited the public to visit, and come they did. “The festival attracted about fifty thousand people and soon became a major winter event of Sapporo,” the 2018 Sapporo Snow Festival official history reads.

In modern times, millions of people visit Hokkaido’s largest city – Sapporo, like the beer of the same name – each February to celebrate the Sapporo Snow Festival. It’s easy to see why:

Sapporo Snow Festival 2018

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Dale North

Though I wasn’t lucky enough to be there myself, my former colleague-turned-composer Dale North flew to Sapporo for the festivities. Here’s a tour through his eyes of the best snow sculptures from this year’s festival!


The 2018 Sapporo Snow Festival ran from February 1 through to February 12. Sometimes snow is brought in for the festival, but Sapporo gets plenty snowy on its own as well.

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This is the snow in Sapporo on February 7 — not kidding around!
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Dale North

The city of Sapporo is beautiful unto itself, and acts as a beautiful setting for the annual festival.

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Dale North

This view of Sapporo from above helps to illustrate how nice the city is unto itself. It’s a sister city with Munich in Germany and Portland in the US, among others.

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This shot was taken at the top of the Sapporo TV tower, which overlooks the annual snow festival.
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Dale North

The festival is held in designated parts of town. Snow sculptures, for instance, take up their own area. Here’s one starring characters from “Final Fantasy XIV,” a relatively recent entry in the long-running “Final Fantasy” video game series.

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Dale North

Though not all of the festival’s sculptures are large, there are some absolutely massive structures like this one:

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Dale North

And this monument to famous manga artist Osamu Tezuka featuring Astro Boy:

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Dale North

And this tribute to everyone’s favorite 2AM munchie: Cup Noodles!

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Note the people on the left for scale.
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Dale North

In addition to snow sculptures, there are ice sculptures as well!

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Dale North

The ice section is called “Ice World” — pretty on the nose!

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Dale North

It, too, is home to noodle homage.

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Dale North

This extremely elaborate, circular dragon isn’t too shabby either.

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Dale North

Dragons, as it turns out, are a popular subject for ice sculpture.

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Dale North

Even the smoking section is encased in ice walls!

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Dale North

And this tribute to the beer named after Sapporo, served all around the world, is similarly fantastic.

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Dale North

There are dozens of ice sculptures at the Susukino section of the Sapporo Snow Festival, and visitors are encouraged to slowly walk along and take it all in.

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Dale North

It’s an easy sell: Just look at this gorgeous night scene.

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Dale North

But let’s not kid ourselves — you’re here for the elaborate snow creations, right? Check out these chickens engaged in battle!

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The amount of detail in this sculpture, all done in snow, is remarkably impressive.
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Dale North

And this whale making a big splash!

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Dale North

And yes, as expected, there are plenty of recent cultural references here. Check out these sweet manga cats!

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Dale North

It’s not all Japanese cultural references, either. Your favorite “Minions” showed up in Sapporo.

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Dale North

Even Charlie Brown and Snoopy paid a visit, doghouse and all.

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Dale North

Colonel Sanders even made the long trip to Hokkaido from Kentucky for this year’s festival.

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Dale North

There are plenty of snow sculptures that pay homage to far older cultural references as well. We’re still talking about sculpture after all — an artistic medium that’s been in use for thousands of years of human civilization.

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Dale North

It makes a lot of sense to see homage to the massive Buddhist and Hindu sculpture of Asia, for instance.

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Dale North

That’s why you’re just as likely to see a gorgeous floral sculpture like this as you are to see a “Minions” sculpture.

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Dale North

No matter the size or level of detail involved, all the Sapporo Snow Festival sculptures are — by their very nature — ephemeral. That’s why visiting is so special: It’s a once in a lifetime chance to see these sculptures before they disappear forever.

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Dale North

Which makes these hulking buildings made entirely out of snow all the more impressive. Imagine sculpting a building by hand, knowing it’s only going to last a short period of time.

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Dale North

The stage is also made out of snow, and it’s a usable stage for musical performances during the festival.

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Dale North

Here’s another look at the same building:

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Dale North

There are <em>plenty</em> of manga and anime-based sculptures, to say nothing of sculptures dedicated to “Idols” (musicians).

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Dale North

This Aqours sculpture, for instance, references the idol group of the same name that sprung from <a href=”https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Love_Live!_Sunshine!!”>the anime “Love Live! Sunshine!!”</a>

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Dale North

Here are a few more sculptures from this year’s festival. First things first: Medusa!

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Dale North

Okay let’s walk that back a bit — here’s an adorable bear holding a heart.

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Dale North

This panda-as-sphinx is pretty fantastic as well.

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Dale North

Don’t even get me started on whatever this guy in the lower right is.

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Dale North

It’s understandable why over two million people visit the Sapporo Snow Festival each year: It’s full of ornately detailed, limited-edition works of art.

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Dale North

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Dale North

For now, the festival is closed for another year. The time is right to book your flight and hotel for next February’s festivities!

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Dale North