February Festivals and Fun

  • By Tsuyuki

February means fluffy snow, festivals and lots of fun in Hokkaido. Guests visiting Niseko during the month of February will have the opportunity to enjoy the delights of the winter festivals.

Sapporo Snow Festival

Located in Sapporo, the Snow Festival is the largest and most famous in Japan for its impressive snow and ice sculptures.This year, the festival was held between the 4th and 11th of February, with the dates varying slightly each year. 

Over 2 million visitors annually travel to the festival, with snow sculptures in Odori Park and ice sculptures in Susukino. The festival is free to attend, with tasty food and drinks available for purchase at the food and drink stalls at the base of the Sapporo TV Tower.

Preparations for the snow festival in Sapporo starts over a month in advance, with the Japanese military and community members constructing the sculptures.

For guests staying in the Niseko region, the Sapporo Snow Festival can be a day trip by public transport or car. Those wishing to catch public transport should catch a bus to JR Kutchan station, then catch a local train from Kutchan to Otaru, then catch a train to Sapporo. The journey should take approximately 3 hours each way.

Those wishing to drive can drive from Hirafu to Sapporo in 2-3 hours depending on the road conditions. 

Lake Shikotsu Ice Festival

From late January to early February, tourists gather at the Shikotsu-Toya National Park to see the impressive ice sculptures at Lake Shikotsu. 

The awe inspiring rows of ice sculptures are built by freezing water from the lake, forming unique, interesting shapes, snow castles and more. The sculptures are best viewed during the evening when colourful lights illuminate the sculptures, offering an exciting display, like a colourful ice kingdom. Horse rides, ice slides and ice skating are popular attractions, making this festival fun for the whole family.

After a day enjoying the ice sculptures and activities, festival goers can warm up and reenergize with a range of delicious food and drink options from the food stalls, or soak in one of the local hot springs.

Entry to the festival is free for children, and ¥500 for highschool students and older.

The Shikotsu Ice Festival is located less than two hours drive from Hirafu, or around 40 minutes from Sapporo.

Otaru Snow Light Path

The Otaru Light Path is open in Otaru every February in the areas of Unga Kaijo and Temiyasen Kaijo. 

In Unga Kaijo, small small sculptures with candles illuminating them line the path along the side of the canal. Visitors can wander along the 300m path and enjoy the display of lights. The Temiyasen Kaijo festival area is held in the space where the old railway line used to be. Here, visitors can see lanterns, small snow sculptures and food vendors sell a variety of tasty options along the walk. 

In addition to the festival areas, the town is illuminated with many shops displaying lanterns, creating a wonderful winter wonderland.

Tourists staying in Niseko can access the festival by catching a shuttle or bus to JR Kutchan station, then catching a local train to JR Otaru station. The festival areas are accessible within a few minutes of the train station. 


Yukitopia is a local winter snow festival held every February in nearby Kutchan town, at the local Asahigaoka Ski Hill. This year it was held on the 18th and 19th of February. Attendees enjoyed family friendly winter events, games and food stalls serving everything from baked sweet potatoes, to French crepes. 

Festival goers got involved with fun snow rides including tubing, snow rafting, snow biking, and other fun activities. Entry to the festival is free.

Setsu guests had easy access to the festival via the Setsu shuttle direct to JR Kutchan station, and Yukitopia free shuttles operating from JR Kutchan station to the festival.

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