by Sam, staff writer of japan-guide.com
2017/02/06 - 2017 Sapporo Snow Festival
The 68th annual Sapporo Snow Festival (Sapporo Yuki Matsuri) started today and will run through the week until Sunday, February 12th.
The largest and best-known of Japan's snow festivals, this year's Yuki Matsuri features around 200 snow and ice sculptures spread across downtown Sapporo. The main location for viewing the sculptures is in Odori Park at the base of Sapporo TV Tower. The Susukino Site, just one subway station south of Odori, is where an array of ice sculptures are showcased.
This year's festival showcases a Star Wars-themed snow sculpture entitled "White Star Wars". Already a hit with visitors, the piece commemorates the 40th anniversary of the original movie.
Every year some of the large sculptures are modeled after famous foreign buildings as a show of solidarity with the international community. This year features a sculpture of the Taipei Guest House, an impressive building that was originally the residence of the Japanese Governor General during Japan's rule over the island. The ice sculpture is impressively detailed and is intended to highlight the shared history of the two.
There is also a sculpture of France's Arc de Triomphe, next to which is a snow statue of a horse and Jockey. The two sculptures together express a wish that a horse born and raised in Hokkaido might one day win the prestigious Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe horse race.
This year's Japan-themed sculpture is a replica of the historic Central Main Hall of Kofukuji Temple in Nara. 2017 marks the 300th anniversary of the fire that destroyed the grand main hall that was never reconstructed after the disaster. 2018 however is the year that this will all change, with the expected completion of the reconstructed hall in all its former glory. This sculpture both remembers the destruction of the hall and looks forward to its rebirth.
A couple of highlight snow sculptures that reference slightly more recent Japanese culture are the "Decisive Battle" piece, that celebrates the 20th anniversary and success of the video game Final Fantasy VII , and a gigantic Cup Noodle, one of Japan's most popular savory snacks. The sculpture doubles as a slide that kids can have fun on.
There is a sculpture this year entitled "The Whale House". Among the festival's larger pieces, the sculpture is the result of a competition in which school children from across Hokkaido submitted sketches of their "dream house". Needless to say, this design won first prize and has been brought to life in impressive, icy detail, surrounded by other popular designs.
Food stands serving a variety of Hokkaido specialties and international foods are dotted throughout Odori Park. Many of them are located in the park's center making a food fair.
Snow Festival exhibitions are also held along the Susukino entertainment district, just one subway south of Odori Park. The Susukino Site is where the ice sculpture competitions are held. From nightfall to 23:00, the sculptures are illuminated in a magical, wintry display.