Winter has some of the least known Japanese festivals. Keep reading to learn about some festivals that celebrate the beautiful Japanese winter!
Of all the festivals in Japan – and there are many! – the winter festivals are perhaps the least known globally. People across the world know about Japan’s spring and autumn seasons, social media feeds are always filled with pictures of the beautiful Sakura and Momiji. However, winters in Japan are just as beautiful, and many winter festivals celebrate it.
There are snow festivals for those interested in skiing and snowboarding and ice sculpting festivals for those wishing to see the beauty in winter. Of course, there are also many festivals in Japan’s winter months that celebrate more traditional Japanese culture. Want to find out more? Then read on!
Sapporo Snow Festival
The Sapporo Snow Festival is by far the most popular winter festival. It might just be one of the most popular festivals in Japan full stop. People flock to the Sapporo Snow Festival to see the snow sculptures of pop-culture icons. Expect to see the likes of Mario and friends, a whole lot of Star Wars characters, Doraemon, Pikachu, Anpanman – the list is endless! The sculptures look especially impressive when they are lit up at night.
The festival attracts hundreds of food vendors, so expect to see streets lined with all of your favorite Japanese snacks. There are play areas for children, and live music on snowy stages.
Sapporo Snow Festival always has a wonderful, wintery atmosphere. What’s more, it’s very convenient to access as it is set in Sapporo’s city center. Therefore, don’t worry about transport, and when you’re done you can stay a night at one of the many wonderful hotels in Sapporo – and warm up!
The festival is held from the 4th to the 11th of February this year (2022), if you’ve missed it, it will be around the same dates next year!
Asahikawa Winter Festival
The Asahikawa winter festival in Hokkaido is famous for its world-record-breaking ice sculptures. Every year sculptures build a giant centerpiece that doubles as a stage to host dances, music, and a variety of other acts.
At night the skies are lit up with fireworks. If you are a live music fan, then you will enjoy the Asahikawa Winter Festival. What’s more – it’s free!
Looking for traditional Japanese culture? Well, in the city center you will find several Japanese craftsmen sculpting ice sculptures (among plenty of other crafts!) These works of art are then illuminated as the sun sets, creating a beautiful ambiance against the snowy backdrop.
This winter festival also holds many fun attractions for both adults and children. Try out the ice playgrounds, with ice slides! Rent and ride a snowmobile. For the adults, why not check out the ice bar?
The festival is held from the 4th to the 6th of February this year (2022), again – if you’ve missed it, it will be around the same dates next year!
Tokamachi Snow festival
If you were beginning to think that all of Japan’s winter festivals were all the way up in Hokkaido, don’t worry. Although Hokkaido has the perfect climate for snow festivals, Japan is a country made of many mountainous regions which provide altitudes cold enough for such events. The mountains in Niigata prefecture are the home of the Tokamachi Snow Festival, a much more convenient stop for those of us living further south.
Unlike the giant Sapporo Snow Festival, Tokamachi is much smaller in scale. However, with this smaller scale comes a much more intimate and cozy charm. Each year the town comes together as a community to host the Tokamachi snow festival.
Snow sculptures are erected all over the town, crafted by professionals and beginners alike. The real highlight of the weekend is on Saturday when the town hosts a carnival. Expect live music and fireworks set on a stage made of snow!
If you are worried about the busy Sapporo Snow Festival, then Tokamachi offers a great, quieter alternative.
The event runs across the weekend of the 14th to the 16th of February and is easily accessible from Tokamachi station.
Hakuba’s Powder Love Festival
For many people, you can’t mention snow without thinking of skiing and snowboarding. Whilst some like snow festivals for the pretty sculptures or the traditional Japanese cultures, some people just want to get out into the mountains and start shredding!
If you want to snowboard and enjoy a festival at the same time, then the Powder Love Festival is for you. Set in Hakuba, Nagano, this winter festival is going to be a lot of fun.
Whilst the previous three snow festivals on this list are all family-friendly, we recommend the Powder Love Festival to adults only.
Powder Love features three days of DJs playing in bars and nightclubs in the town of Hakuba. It’s a definite party atmosphere. Spend the days on the mountain skiing or snowboarding, spend the evening dancing and partying the night away.
The event is held from March 11th to March 13th of 2022. We recommend getting a highway bus to the location, as getting up the mountains can be difficult. Highway buses run to Nagano from most major cities in Japan.