The Asahikawa Winter Festival (旭川冬まつり, Asahikawa Fuyu Matsuri) is Hokkaido's second largest winter festival after Sapporo's Snow Festival. The festival takes place over a week in early February, about the same time as the Sapporo Snow Festival. Hence, it is possible for winter visitors to visit both festivals on the same trip as the two cities are only an 80 minute train ride apart from each other.
While Asahikawa may not be able to boast having Hokkaido's biggest winter festival, it certainly has one of the biggest snow sculptures. Every year one massive sculpture is made as a stage for music and other performances. The giant sculpture of a Korean fortress in 1994 even made into the book of Guinness World Records as the largest snow construction built. The giant sculpture has a different theme each year, such as a snowman castle in 2010 or the Daisetsuzan Mountains in 2011.
The giant snow sculpture is located in the riverside Asahibashi Site, one of two festival sites, that is named after nearby Asahibashi Bridge. Other attractions found at this festival site vary from year to year, but usually include several smaller snow sculptures, snow slides, snowmobile rides, horse drawn sleigh rides and an ice bar. The Asahibashi Site also serves as the location for the festival's opening and closing ceremonies, both of which usually include a fireworks show.
The festival's second site is the Heiwa Dori pedestrian street, which leads over roughly one kilometer from Asahikawa Station to the vicinity of the Asahibashi Site. About 50 ice sculptures are displayed there, to be judged in an ice sculpture competition. For the first few days of the festival the sculptors can be seen at work, after which the sculptures are left on display. The sculptures look particularly attractive during the evening when they are illuminated.
The Heiwa Dori pedestrian zone leads from Asahikawa Station for about one kilometer through the center of town. From its end, it is about a 10-15 minute walk to the festival's Asahibashi Site by foot. Alternatively, there are free shuttle buses that run about every 20 minutes between Asahikawa Station and the Asahibashi Site during the festival.