Sapporo is the fifth largest city in Japan, with more than 1.9 million residents, that is located on the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido. Hokkaido used to be a home to a number of indigenous Ainu settlements until it was put under control of the Japanese government in 1807. In 2017, 2.79 million foreign tourists visited Hokkaido as it is a popular destination for skiers and snowboarders in the winter with large ski resorts, such as Niseko, and also attracts hikers, cyclists and campers in the summer months.
Sapporo is also known for its cold weather; the average temperature in January is -4°C with some days getting as cold as -14°C. Its annual snowfall average is around 191 inches and it is famous for the Snow Festival that is held for a week in February each year. This year, it is held between 4th and 11th February for the 70th time. Sapporo Snow Festival first started in 1950, when local high school students built a few snow statues in Odori Park (now the main site for the Snow Festival). Since then, it has turned into a large, commercialised event that attracts more than 2 million tourists from Japan and across the world. It became known through international media when Sapporo hosted the Winter Olympic Games in 1972. Many tourists come for the sculptures made from snow and ice. In the past, there has been sculptures of characters from films such as Star Wars and characters of popular Japanese comics and animations, as well as sculptures of ancient Japanese castles. During the period of the festival, the sculptures are lit up daily until 22:00. Some of the larger sculptures are more than 25 metres wide and 15 metres tall – it requires approximately 32,500 tonnes of snow in total that is transported by Japan Self-Defence Forces from different places across Hokkaido and the transportation process itself takes two weeks. Apart from the spectacular sculptures, there are food stalls that sell Hokkaido’s delicious local seafood such as scallops, crabs and sea urchins!