Sapporo Cancels Snow Festival for first time ever

For the first time ever Sapporo cancels Snow Festival!

Yes, sad news out of Hokkaido for the participants who create the amazing ice sculptures every winter, the 2 million or so visitors who normally flock to see them and appreciate the associated events, and for the local economy which normally benefits from a ¥65 billion injection of funds from visitors.

Sapporo Snow Festival Swedish entry
Sapporo International Ice Festival Swedish entry © Carmen Price / Snow action

Sapporo Mayor Katsuhiro Akimoto had flagged the cancellation at a news conference last week when he said it would be difficult to host it. That was confirmed yesterday with the official cancellation.

Given Sapporo’s run of COVID-19 cases, with several clusters attributed to the Susukino entertainment district – by far the largest in the country north of Tokyo (and arguably Japan’s best aprés ski disrict) – it was likely inevitable.

Mooted replacements include online presentations, but nothing can replace the festival itself.

Apart from the amazing ice sculpture artwork, they feature light show illuminations some of which are next level. When we went last in 2018 those featured stories from popular video games, like Final Fantasy XIV: Arctic Armageddon – the game popular in Japan since 1987 that claims over 30 million worldwide accounts. It had the best display in our book, and we don’t even play it.

The whole thing normally goes for 12 city blocks, 1.5km, along Odori Park.

Time for a hot Yellow Tail .. © Snow Action

There are lines of food, drink and souvenir stores a bit like a big fair. Apart from great Japanese food you could choose from the French Moet Ice Lounge or the humbler Aussie Yellowtail wine stall.

Throngs of happy people move along checking out the different zones and performances on offer.

2019’s 70th anniversary Sapporo Snow Festival was already hit by the start of COVID-19 after China stopped group travel in February and visitor numbers were down to a third of normal.

Following that setback it will be a hammer blow for the economy in 2021 to lose it completely.

We’ll all have to wait till 2022 – definitely it’s well worth programming into your back-to-Japan snow trip then. Sapporo skiing is awesome as well at Sapporo Teine and Kokusai so spend a few days, ski, party and enjoy then!

For updates and details check the official Sapporo Travel site and the Hokkaido Travel site is also good

Final Fantasy display Sapporo Snow Festival
Final Fantasy was the crowd favourite in 2018 © Snow Action