The 2019 Sapporo Snow Festival presents sculptures including virtual singer Hatsune Miku, thoroughbred racing horses, and tennis player Ōsaka Naomi. Various digital technologies make the works even more striking.
From Humble Beginnings to Hundreds of Sculptures
The Sapporo Snow Festival dates to the winter of 1950, when a group of local high school students installed six snow sculptures, ranging from three to five meters in height, in the city’s Ōdōri Park 7-chōme area, which at the time was used as a dumping ground for snow cleared from surrounding streets. The event has since become a hallmark of winter in Sapporo, growing even further in recent times to become one of the major winter events in Japan nationwide. Today it annually welcomes over 2.5 million visitors from around the world.
On the occasion of this, its seventieth anniversary, the festival ran February 4–11, 2019, at its main venues of Ōdōri and Susukino. The Ōdōri venue was occupied from 1-chōme to 12-chōme with a variety of large snow sculptures, many created by residents of the city. They ranged in subject matter from popular fictional creations like virtual pop singer Hatsune Miku and characters from Star Wars on the one hand to themes associated with Hokkaidō on the other, including thoroughbred racing horses and the “Red Bear” freight train. In all, some 200 installations were exhibited.
At night, digital technologies, light, and sound are applied to make these snow sculptures even more entertaining. One especially popular technology is projection mapping, which allows the Hatsune Miku snow sculpture to come to life in AR at the swipe of a smartphone.
Other events include a skating rink, a ski jump, and the Hokkaidō Food Square, offering various flavors of the northern island in wintertime.
Citizen’s Square is the stage for distinctive snow sculptures made by local residents. The sculpture at 9-chōme is of Japanese professional tennis player Ōsaka Naomi, while 12-chōme sports a sculpture of Chiko-chan, a character from a variety TV show on NHK.
Susukino Ice World 2019 (Susukino Venue)
The Susukino venue sports ice sculptures along Ekimae-dōri from Minami 4-jō-dōri to Minami 7-jō-dōri.
This “sushi galore” ice sculpture appears to contain fish and shellfish used in sushi frozen in mid-swim.
The Illumination Street, with its passage of dazzling decorative lights made by laying a tunnel arch upon blocks of ice, is a perennially popular place for selfies and other photography.
The Ōdōri venue by night as seen from the TV Tower.
(Originally written in Japanese. Reporting, text, photos, and videography by Laufen Katsu. Banner photo: Ōdōri Park lit up with Snow Festival Illumination.)