Winter Festivals in Japan for Snow Trippers

Winter Festivals in Japan for Snow Trippers

Snow, Sake & Festivities at Japan's famous Winter festivals.
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The Winter Festivals in Japan are a great opportunity for travellers to experience the local culture on a snow trip. While the Sapporo Snow Festival is no doubt the largest and most famous, smaller festivals give travellers a chance to glimpse the local legends and folklore. Plan your snow trip to coincide with one of these festivals for a fun worthwhile side mission.

Sapporo Snow Festival


The Grand Daddy of Japan’s snow festivals, the Sapporo Snow Festival draws crowds of 2 million locals & tourists each year. Odori park is the main site featuring gigantic snow sculptures built by international snow sculpting teams and street food stalls. Throughout the festival there are live performances, food stalls, ice bars and food and drink specials in participating venues. Definitely worth scheduling your trip around.

Asahikawa Winter Festival


If you are snow tripping to the central Hokkaido resorts, make sure to check out the Asahikawa Winter Festival - the second largest snow festival in Japan. There are large snow sculptures and a festival stage sculpted from snow where live performances take place each day. You can also go on a giant ice slide and sample the readily available street food. Throughout the city, there are little snowmen and Winter illuminations.

Nozawa Onsen Fire Festival

15 January


A truly spectacular event, the Nozawa Onsen Fire Festival is one of 3 of Japan’s famous fire festivals. The festival pays homage to the Dosojin - guardian deities of travellers who are associated with the paths and roads between villages. The festival revolves around shaden - huge wooden structures which serve as vessels for the deities who are called there by priests. During the festival, a great battle takes place between villagers defending the shaden from fire wielding villagers which culminates in aspectacular burning down of the shaden. It’s an exciting immersive festival of sight and sounds and a highlight of any snow trip to Nozawa Onsen.

Iwate Snow Festival

Mid Feb


The Iwate Snow Festival takes place mid February each year. The highlights are the large snow sculptures and snow labyrinths for people to explore, a snow slide & toboggan area and fireworks in the evenings. There is also the chance to try an outdoor onsen and Genghis Khan BBQ in a kamakura igloo.

Otaru Snow Light Path Festival


The Otaru festival takes place for 10 days in February starting the evenings. From Otaru canal to the Temiyasen station, paths and walkways are transformed into a winter wonderland with Winter illuminations, snow sculptures and lanterns. There are places where you can get warm food and drink along the way. 

Hachimantai Appi Snow Festival

Mid Feb


The Hachimantai Appi Snow Festival takes place mid February over a week with a schedule of activities. There will be fireworks displays and festival events at the Appi Kogen and Hachimantai Panorama ski fields. Also available is a multi mountain lift pass and free shuttle buses between the resorts. In Hachimantai city, Sakura Park will play host to music performances, snowball fights, ice slides and play areas for kids, and food stalls.

Namahage Sedo Festival


A spectacular spiritual festival taking place every February every year in the Akita prefecture. Namahage are ogres which are said to have inhabited the Oga peninsula in Western Akita. According to local folklore, these ogres would descend from the mountains to pillage the local community, and the only way to send them away is for the local priest to placate them with mochi. Visitors can take part in this festival at the Shinzan shrine in Oga city where they can watch actors dressed as ogres scoop up and scare little children.

Iiyama Snow Festival & Kamakura Festival


The Iiyama Snow Festival takes place yearly together with the Kamakura village festival on the outskirts of Iiyama city. The month long Kamakura festival transforms the area into a snow igloo village with rides, food stalls, play areas and other Winter activities. In early February, the Iiyama Snow Festival is held there with snow sculpture competitions and live entertainment. It is smaller than the Sapporo Snow Festival, but incorporates a fire performance and an ‘omokoshi’ procession where a shrine is paraded through the crowds.

Madarao Fire Festival

Mid January

The Madarao Kogen Dondo-yaki fire festival takes place in mid January at the Madarao Kogen ski resort. It starts off during the day with participants imbibing sake. At dusk they make a trip up the mountain before skiing down with flares lighting the trails up for all to see. At the village a big bonfire is lit as sake, drumming and more festivities take place.

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