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Sam's Japan Travel Journal
by Sam, staff writer of japan-guide.com

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2017/02/07 - 2017 Asahikawa Winter Festival

This year's main sculpture

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 sculpture depicts a polar bear diving into water
Impressive attention to detail
A jovial atmosphere prevails as visitors take in the many sculptures
The mid-sized sculptures were a hit too
A beast of the jungle brought to life with terrifying realism
A particularly detailed sculpture depicts a seal breaking through surface ice
Some of the sculptures doubled as slides for children
Hold on to your hats!
The attractions also include this large ice slide
Colorful designs in the make-your-own snowman area
Efficiently crafted snowmen
Food stalls galore selling a host of festival favorites
Cooks tending to their culinary delights
Looks delicious!

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.

Heiwadori's ice sculptures not yet crafted
Ice, but not yet sculpted
The only installation I saw on Heiwadori
An ice rink lies just outside Asahikawa Station

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List of Posts:
2017/07/27 - On the road in Tohoku: Driving through Miyagi and Yamagata
2017/06/22 - Mount Shirane reopens for exploration
2017/06/16 - Craft Beer Japan: Brewing on Premises at Hitachino Nest
2017/05/30 - Exploring Nikko
2017/04/27 - Wisteria Watching at Ashikaga Flower Park
2017/04/24 - Nemophila flowers at Hitachi Seaside Park
2017/03/06 - Craft Beer Japan: Kanda
2017/02/21 - Tokyo Early Spring Update
2017/02/16 - Renovations start at Kiyomizudera's main hall
2017/02/09 - Crane Watching in Kushiro
2017/02/07 - 2017 Asahikawa Winter Festival
2017/02/06 - 2017 Otaru Snow Light Path Festival
2017/02/06 - 2017 Sapporo Snow Festival
2017/01/20 - Craft Beer Japan: Osaka
2017/01/16 - Early Blooming in Atami

2016/12/31 - Travel Highlights 2016
2016/09/13 - Walking the Roots of Japan
2016/07/28 - Hakone Update
2016/04/26 - Tonami Tulip Fair 2016
2016/04/19 - Kyoto Railway Museum