This year is fixing to be quite an exciting one for the Sapporo Snow Festival, with sculptures to satisfy lovers of gaming and science fiction, in addition to more abstract structures meant to honor the history of Japanese television. If you’re seeking general information about experiencing this week-long event along with some helpful tips, we have an excellent guide here.
But without further ado, let’s get right into what to look out for this year — sculptures and otherwise.
1. Decisive Battle! The Snow Final Fantasy
With Final Fantasy VII having its 20th anniversary this year, it seems only fitting that the best-selling title in the series should have a masterfully designed snow sculpture. The sculpture will portray the protagonist, Cloud Strife, and Sephiroth, his mentor and nemesis, on the cusp of battle. Both Cloud and Sephiroth will be holding their respective iconic swords: Cloud with the “Buster Sword” and Sephiroth with the “Masamune.”
Final Fantasy VII has been praised over the years for its innovative playability, compelling story and pioneering 3D gaming. The title also holds a special place in my heart because it was one of the first video games I ever owned. Find this sculpture at 4-chome (STV Square) in Odori Park.
2. White Star Wars: the 40th Anniversary of Star Wars
Speaking of anniversaries, the Star Wars franchise reaches its 40th this year since Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope was released back in 1977. While the 2015 Sapporo Snow Festival sported a Darth Vader sculpture, this year his grandson, Kylo Ren, takes the spotlight holding his own uniquely hilted lightsaber. To the side in the droid corner (as I’ve taken to calling it), classic droids C3P0 and R2D2 are joined by newcomer BB-8 from the latest movie, Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens. The Star Wars sculpture can be located at 10-chome (UHB Family Land) in Odori Park.
Need to take a break from looking at still statuary? Try checking out the Shiroi Koibito Park Air Jumping Platform at 3-chome (HTB Park Air Square). You’ll get the opportunity to see skilled snowboarders and skiers make some spectacular jumps.
It’s no secret that at events like this, when you go will dictate much of your experience. If you want to avoid the larger crowds of festival-goers, your best bet would be to go on a weekday morning. Even throughout the day you shouldn’t experience as much crowding as you would at night or on a weekend as a decent number of people are still at work.
If you can’t go on a weekday, you should be prepared for quite a bit of shoulder-to-shoulder shuffling along some of the event’s narrower pathways. However, if you go at night, you can see the Totto Shopping Street snow sculpture in all of its glory at 5-chome East (Environment Square), with shadow pictures being projected as part of the sculpture.
One of my favorite parts of the snow festival is exploring the food options. Among the obvious are the stalls in Hokkaido Food Square, which you can naturally expect to be pricier than if you went to the original restaurants they branch from. There is a wide variety of food — from regional fare to international cuisine. My top choices from the past have been the stands offering authentic Turkish kebabs and Indian curry. However, nearly every major nation has a representative cuisine at this fest. Expect these to be priced in the ¥700 – ¥1,000 ballpark.
If you’re looking to get a bite on the cheap, 7-Eleven convenience stores along (or very near to) the Odori Park strip have plenty of options for ¥500 and lower. My personal “set” is usually two corn dogs and an iced coffee — all priced at only ¥100 each.
Just a short distance from Odori Park, you can easily walk to the restaurant chain Brooklyn Parlor, or nearby Jacksonville. Both are American-style burger joints with very different atmospheres but absolutely scrumptious, hunger-satisfying burgers. Each of the restaurants has a decent selection of adult beverages to choose from, as well.
Getting excited yet? Check out these Instagram shots of what’s happening right now in the lead up to the festival, which begins officially on Feb. 6.