by Sam, staff writer of japan-guide.com
2017/02/07 - 2017 Asahikawa Winter Festival
Today I headed to Hokkaido's second largest city to check out the opening day of the 58th Asahikawa Winter Festival. Though smaller and not quite as famous as the Sapporo Snow Festival, the Asahikawa Winter Festival also showcases an array of snow and ice sculptures which are spread out over two sites in the city and illuminated in the evenings. A 90 minute train ride and convenient side trip from Sapporo, the festival will run all this week until Sunday 12th.
The centerpiece of the week-long event is a massive sculpture located at the riverside Asahibashi Site. Among the largest snow sculptures in the world, this year's creation measures 20 meters high and 130 meters wide, and incorporates a huge snow stage on which entertainment events including musical concerts are held. The sculpture is entitled "Dream Zoo" and commemorates the 50th anniversary of the local Asahiyama Zoo. Imagined by a designer living in the city, the sculpture depicts a polar bear diving into water alongside other animals.
There are an array of other smaller sculptures at the Asahibashi Site in addition to fun attractions, including slides, a snow maze, banana boat rides and an area where visitors can decorate their own snowman. A few of these attractions require a small fee. Some of the most thrilling are the long and fast ice slides that descend from the top of the main sculpture. There is also a small food fair where numerous food stalls sell a variety of festival favorites.
The Asahikawa Winter Festival also features an international ice sculpture competition held along the Heiwadori Street pedestrian path from Asahikawa Station. The construction of these dozens of sculptures hasn't begun yet however, meaning there isn't a whole lot to see on the street just yet. This should all change within a few days when the sculptures are complete and illuminated nightly, and in the meantime there is an ice rink outside the station to keep visitors occupied.