Sapporo Snow Festival to be held for first time in two years, but without citizens’ sculptures   

Mask-wearing tourists enjoying the nighttime snow sculptures at the Odori venue of the Sapporo Snow Festival. February 2020, Chuo-ku, Sapporo
Tourists sanitize their hands with alcohol at the Odori venue. February 2020, Chuo-ku, Sapporo

It was officially announced on November 26 that the 72nd Sapporo Snow Festival will be held in February 2022 for the first time in two years. Those involved in the tourist industry in Sapporo have expressed their relief and hope that the festival will help provide a route to economic recovery in the region. However, due to measures to prevent the further spread of COVID-19, the scale of the festival will be reduced, with the venue limited to Odori Park in Chuo-ku, Sapporo, and no large-scale or citizens’ snow sculptures. Some of those involved in building snow sculptures in the past say the decision is “inevitable” but “disappointing”.

“The occupancy rate of rooms during the snow festival is usually full. Holding the festival will lead to the movement of people.” Ebina Satoshi, manager of the Sales Planning Office of the Century Royal Hotel in Chuo-ku, Sapporo was relieved to hear the news that the Snow Festival will be resumed, as the hotel had been under severe financial pressure since last year due to the Coronavirus pandemic. Takakura Emi, marketing manager of the Sapporo Grand Hotel, also in Chuo-ku, said, “I hope that many people will come to Hokkaido in conjunction with the government’s tourism support measures.”

■Large ripple effects

The most recent Snow Festival in 2020 attracted approximately 2 million visitors, and the economic effect on the areas around the venues was substantial. For that reason alone, retailers and taxi companies, which have been badly affected by the decline in tourism, welcome the festival being held.

The CEO of a souvenir store in the Tanuki-koji shopping arcade in Chuo-ku said, “The recovery of footfall in Sapporo is lagging behind that of Otaru and Hakodate. The holding of the Snow Festival is significant.” In addition, the managing director of a taxi company in Nishi-ku said, “It is a major event in Hokkaido, so we welcome the holding of the festival. It will be a good opportunity for people to go into the city center and increase the number of passengers.

Meanwhile, the scale of the event will be reduced as a measure to prevent further spread of infections. The festival will not be held at the Tsudome (Higashi-ku) and Susukino (Chuo-ku) venues, and the sale of food and beverages and the building of large-scale and citizens’ snow sculptures will not take place at the Odori venue.

Mr. Koishi Takumi, a sculptor from the city of Ebetsu, who has been involved in the making of snow sculptures for approximately 50 years and also serves as a technical instructor, accepted the decision calmly. “During the making of the citizens’ snow sculptures, groups gather at a distance of about one meter and talk enthusiastically as they work. We have no choice but to cancel this part of the event to prevent infections.”

■The Spirit of Hospitality

Mr. Kikuchi, who has been involved in ‘hospitality activities’ around the Tsudome venue for the past 15 years, expressed his regret at the cancellation of the event there for the second consecutive year, saying, “Considering the fact that the number of people infected with COVID-19 is increasing again overseas, we have no choice but to reduce the size of the event.”

Although the event will not be held at the Tsudome site, plans are currently underway to hold a display of snow candles created by local children and their parents, around Sakaemachi Subway Station, as an alternative event. “It’s sad and disappointing that we can’t hold the event at Tsudome. However, I believe in the resumption of the festival itself and want to maintain the community’s hospitality,” said Kikuchi optimistically.


Odori Park