Experience the 5 Best Winter Festivals in Hokkaido, Japan!!
by Web HTIT team
When winter comes and the snow begins to pile up, a large number of fun events and festivals are held all around Hokkaido. You’ll be amazed at how the local areas utilize the below freezing temperatures to create epic snow and ice festivals! Let’s have a look at 5 winter festivals and recommended things to do there that we would love for you to experience
#1) Glide down a slide made of ice at the Lake Shikotsu Ice Festival! (Lake Shikotsu, Chitose)
Visit the “Lake Shikotsu Ice Festival” in Chitose and enjoy a long run down an ice slide built along the coast of Lake Shikotsu! It’s held every year from late January to mid-February. The massive ice sculptures are quite popular, created by spraying water from Lake Shikotsu and freezing it with a blower. During the day, the sculptures are illuminated with a soothing blue color resembling the Lake’s majestic shade of blue. While at night, the sculptures take on a magical feel and are colorfully lit, creating a true winter wonderland atmosphere. Definitely try the ice slide when visiting this festival! The ice slide is a few meters high and 5 meters wide made entirely of ice! It’s quite slippery so if you get a good start you can enjoy a long run. The kids especially love this attraction and have fun going back again and again for more. It’s an attraction for all ages to enjoy and will surely put a smile on your face! There’s also a children’s skating rink and horse rides to enhance their experience as they can enjoy viewing the ice sculptures from a higher perspective!
#2) Enjoy a cocktail surrounded by ice at Hoshino Resorts Tomamu’s “Ice Village!”
Hoshino Resorts Tomamu is known for having winter temperatures that drop to as low as negative 30 degrees Celsius. Here you can explore a city made of ice known as the “Hoshino Resorts TOMAMU Ice Village” There’s a church, hotel, bar and a long slide all entirely made of ice! Make sure to stop by the Ice Bar for a cocktail and enjoy the surreal experience completely surrounded by ice walls. You’ll even find that the bar counter, tables and chairs are made of ice too! The drinks are beautifully placed on display behind the counter creating a wonderful atmosphere with a talented bartender who will serve you a drink to your liking. There are over 50 kinds of drinks to choose from, which are served over the ice bar in cups made of ice! One of the most popular drinks served here is a cocktail made of fruits, such as lime and blueberry mixed with vodka. Kids can enjoy the atmosphere too as the bar also serves non-alcoholic drinks! Come and experience the Ice Village for yourself anytime from late December to mid-March!
#3) Relax in a special hot spring on the ice over Lake Shikaribetsu Kotan!
At 810 meters, Lake Shikaribetsu is the highest elevation lake in Hokkaido, where a mystical ice village appears every year on the lake’s surface. It’s known as the famous Lake Shikaribetsu Kotan! There is also an ice bar here with drinks to be enjoyed out of cups made of ice, but more than that we highly recommend experiencing the Rotenburo (outdoor hot spring) built on the lake’s frozen surface! Just a few people at a time can enjoy relaxing in this surreal hot spring on ice! It’s made possible by drawing hot water from a hot spring source off the lake shore and directing it into a large specially installed tub through a long pipe. There is only one tub and depending on the time slot, it’s reserved for “women only,” or “men only.” There is a “mixed” time slot as well. You’ll be amazed at how the dressing room is entirely made of ice and snow! It truly is quite a liberating experience relaxing in this special hot spring overlooking a picturesque frozen lake.
There is also an Ashiyu (foot bath) where you can sit and enjoy a lighter version with the same spectacular view!
#4) Make soap bubbles at the Tokachigawa Onsen Sairinka Festival!
There’s a large event called, “the Sairinka Festival,” which is held every year at the Tokachigawa Onsen where the winter nights are below freezing temperatures. With digital lights and sound operating together, an impressive production is put on creating a magical fairy-tale like world. Around 600 symbol towers light up in a variety of colors with some as tall as 5.4 meters! There are lots of attractions and things to do including the “frozen soap bubble” booth, which we highly recommend! Here you can have fun creating a magical scene right before your eyes! The bubbles don’t freeze instantly in the negative 15 degree temperatures, but burst into crystalized rainbow-colored fairy dust absorbing the colorful background lighting. It’s fun seeing who can make the biggest bubbles! There is also a very nice hand bath with a natural Tokachi hot spring flowing through a carved-out log. Enjoy taking a break from the cold frozen night and warm up your hands in the natural spring. You’ll be amazed at how smooth your hands will be afterwards! The festival is held from late January to late February.
#5) Enjoy gliding down a giant slide in an inner tube at the Sapporo Snow Festival!
It’s safe to say that the biggest winter festival in Hokkaido is the Sapporo Snow Festival. It’s a famous festival recognized internationally attracting over 20,000 foreign visitors every year. The festival consists of 3 venues with the “Tsudome Site” known as the place for “family playgrounds” and “hands-on activities.” Located about 30 minutes from the city center by public transportation, you’ll find a huge venue where kids and adults can enjoy a massive snow slide, snow rafting and more! Definitely try the inner tube snow slide! This is quite a popular attraction with numbered tickets being passed out on crowded weekends. The massive slide is 10 meters high and about 100 meters long. It’s a spectacular site seeing the finish line off in the distance from the top of the slide. 3, 2, 1, GO! As you slide down seated in the tube, you’ll find that you’ll spin around sometimes even backwards as your tube bounces of the banks of the slide. Enjoy the exhilarating high speeds on the finely carved out slides and rest assured as there are plenty of staff ready to help and guide you at the top and bottom of the slide. The slide is open for about a week to 10 days from late February.
Winter Festivals in Hokkaido incorporate ice and snow to create spectacular events! Of course, you can have a good time observing the variety of attractions that each festival has to offer, but imagine how much more exciting it would be to experience the activities for yourself! Make sure to dress warm so you can enjoy Hokkaido’s freezing winter to the fullest!