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Hokkaido Events Calendar: Exciting Autumn and Winter Festivals and Events

Hokkaido Events Calendar: Exciting Autumn and Winter Festivals and Events

Date published: 10 October 2019
Last updated: 22 January 2021

While Honshu is at its peak of summer in early September, at this time Hokkaido is entering autumn, the harvest season. And within a month winter arrives quickly. We will introduce annual events held in Hokkaido during autumn and winter.

The event that symbolizes the harvest season is the Sapporo Autumn Fest. There are other harvest festivals held in various locations. Once the snow starts to fall, many romantic events are held in the white scenery. Winter is when you can really experience the charm of Hokkaido!

Many events have been canceled due to Covid-19. Be sure to check official websites before attending.

Table of Contents
  1. Sapporo - Sapporo Autumn Fest
  2. Kushiro - Lake Akan - Marimo Matsuri
  3. Sapporo - Sapporo White Illumination
  4. Sapporo - Sapporo Snow Festival
  5. Otaru - Otaru Snow Light Path
  6. Chitose – Lake Shikotsu Ice Festival
  7. Asahikawa - Asahikawa Winter Festival
  8. Sounkyo - Sounkyo Onsen Hyoubaku Festival

Sapporo - Sapporo Autumn Fest

Early-mid September

Photo credit: peacefoo / Shutterstock.com
Photo credit: peacefoo / Shutterstock.com
Photo credit: icosha / Shutterstock.com
Photo credit: icosha / Shutterstock.com

During Sapporo Autumn Fest, gourmet food stands gather at Odori Park! It is held at Odori Park, from 1 Chome, where the Sapporo TV Tower is located, to 11 Chome (excluding some parts). Each block has a designated theme with booths. Seafood and mountain food area, Hokkaido Ramen Festival, Sapporo gourmet selection, and even bars and booths that serve wine and sake. The highlights are the Hokkaido municipality booths, where cities, towns and villages sell their local dishes. One can enjoy eating a selection of crab, oysters, and other seafood - plus meat, vegetables and many different delicacies from around Hokkaido.

Hours: 10:00 AM ~ 8:30 PM during the festival
Access: Immediately after getting off Odori Subway Station

  • Sapporo Autumn Fest
    • Address 〒060-0042札幌市中央区大通西1、4〜8、10〜11丁目/1〜11 Chome Odori, Chuo-ku, Sapporo, Hokkaido 060-0042
    • TEL: 011-281-6400 (Sapporo Tourist Association)

Kushiro - Lake Akan - Marimo Matsuri

October 8 ~ 10

Marimo are moss balls that grows in Lake Akan and which are very rare in the world. They are also designated as a national treasure in Japan. In order to protect the marimo, the Ainu, indigenous people of Hokkaido, established the festival Marimo Matsuri (festival). The event takes place over a three day period at Lake Akan Onsen.

On day 1 a speech and viewing of the marimo is held; on day 2 a ceremony to greet the marimo and a torch march is conducted with Ainu traditional dance; and on the third and final a ceremony to send the marimo off to Lake Akan on a dugout canoe is held. During the festival you can visit the Ainu Kotan (Ainu village) and the hot spring district.

-Day 1: Opening speech (from 10:00 AM), Viewing (from 1:00 PM)
-Day 2: Marimo dance parade (from 1:00 PM), marimo greeting ceremony and traditional dance (from 7:30 PM)
-Day 3: Ceremony to send off the marimo (from 10:00 AM)

Access: 1 hour 45 minutes by bus from JR Kushiro Station, get off at Akanko Onsen

  • Marimo Matsuri
    • Address 〒085-0467 北海道釧路市阿寒町阿寒湖温泉/Akanko Onsen, Akan-cho, Kushiro, Hokkaido 085-0467
    • TEL: 0154-67-3200 (Akan Tourist Association)

Sapporo - Sapporo White Illumination

Late November ~ late December (Odori Park)

This winter event first started in 1981 and was the first illumination event to be held in Japan. With Odori Park as the main location the event is also held at Minami 1 Jo-dori, Sapporo Station south exit station square and Sapporo Kita 3-Jo plaza. The Odori Park event is held from late November to late December, however the other locations will be held till early February or mid-March. At Odori Park 780,000 light bulbs are decorated on trees and objects from 1 Chome ~ 6 Chome. To celebrate their 30th anniversary with their sister city, Munich, Germany, they have been holding a Munich Christmas event at 2 Chome from 2002. One can enjoy German dishes, hot wine and Christmas goods.

Hours: 4:30 PM ~ 10:00 PM (December 23 ~ 25 closes at 12:00 AM)
Access: Immediately after getting off Odori Subway Station

  • Sapporo White Illumination
    • Address 〒060-0042札幌市中央区大通西1〜8丁目/Odori 1〜8 Chome, Chuo-ku, Sapporo, Hokkaido 060-0042
    • TEL: 011-281-6400 (Sapporo White Illumination Executive Committee)

Sapporo - Sapporo Snow Festival

Early February

One of the city's most famous winter events, where people from around the world visit. This festival is held in three locations Odori Park, Susukino and Sapporo Community Dome (aka Tsudome). The main stage is Odori Park and covers 1.5km of space with over 200 snow and ice statues are on display. It also holds the International Snow Sculpture Contest along with large slides, snowboard jump stand and various food stalls. At night, illumination and projection mapping are used on the snow and ice statues. An ice skating rink is opened up at the TV Tower at 1 Chome. At Susukino, they have ice statues and an ice bar. At Tsudome there is a large snow slide, which is popular with the kids. When visiting, expect the area to be snowy and footpaths to have a certain amount of ice on them; it's advisable to wear shoes with good grip or even strap-on ice cleats.

Hours: any time (illumination sundown ~ 10:00 PM)
Access: Immediately after getting off Odori Subway Station

  • Sapporo Snow Festival
    • Address 〒060-0042札幌市中央区大通西1〜12丁目/Odori Nishi 1〜12 Chome, Chuo-ku, Sapporo, Hokkaido 060-0042
    • TEL: 011-281-6400 (Sapporo Snow Festival Executive Committee)

Otaru - Otaru Snow Light Path

Early-mid February

During this event snow candles are place in various locations of Otaru City, such as Otaru canal and former Temiya Railway Line site. The candles are made by over 2,000 volunteers and have attracted attention as an event actively involving civic participation. Snow is put in a bucket to form a shape and a candle is placed inside to create a snow candle. There are also other various objects on display. At the Otaru Canal, glass float candles are lit and create a magical sight.

Hours: Anytime (Candles are lit from 5:00 PM ~ 9:00 PM)
Access: 10 minute walk from JR Otaru Station to Otaru Canal area

  • Otaru Snow Light Path
    • Address 〒047-0007北海道小樽市港町/Minatomachi, Otaru-shi, Hokkaido 047-0007
    • TEL: 0134-32-4111 (Otaru Snow Light Path Executive Committee)

Chitose – Lake Shikotsu Ice Festival

Late January ~ Mid-February

A historical event that will reach its 40th anniversary in 2018. A sprinkler sprays water from Lake Shikotsu, which doesn’t freeze in winter, on different sized objects. These frozen objects have a bluish luster to them during the day, called Shikotsuko Blue, and at night they are illuminated to create a magical atmosphere. During the event they have fireworks and ice pillar weddings.

Hours: 9:00 AM ~ 10:00 PM (illumination from 4:30 PM ~ 10:00 PM)
Access: 55 minutes by bus from New Chitose Airport

  • Lake Shikotsu Ice Festival
    • Address 〒066-0281北海道千歳市支笏湖温泉番外地/Shikotuko-Onsen, Bangaichi, Chitose, Hokkaido 066-0281
    • TEL: 0123-23-8288 (Shikotsuko Festival Executive Committee)

Asahikawa - Asahikawa Winter Festival

Early February

This expansive winter festival is held beside the Ishikari River at Tokiwa Park, which is located at the foot of Asahi Bridge, a symbolic bridge for Asahikawa, and Kaimono Park, in front of JR Asahikawa Station.

At the spacious riverside the world’s largest snow statue that was registered in the Guinness Book will be constructed. In front of the large snow statue is a stage where music and dance events are held. Around the giant snow statue, other snow statues constructed by local groups will be on display. They also have activities such as snow slides and snow zip-line. Around JR Asahikawa Station and Kaimono Park, the World Ice Sculpture Contest is held, where ice sculptures created in 40 hours are on display.

Hours: 9:00 AM ~ 9:00 PM (last day, until 8:00 PM)
Access: Shuttle bus from JR Asahikawa Station

  • Asahikawa Winter Festival
    • Address 〒070-0044北海道旭川市常盤公園/Tokiwa Park, Asahikawa-shi, Hokkaido 070-0044
    • TEL: 0166-25-7168 (Asahikawa Winter Festival Executive Committee)

Sounkyo - Sounkyo Onsen Hyoubaku Festival

Late January ~ mid-March

An annual event held by a special stage near the Ishikari River in Sounkyo Onsen. At the event ice buildings, objects, icefall shrine and ice slides are made by freezing water from Ishikari River. At the main stage exciting drum performance and Ainu traditional dances are held. After sunset the snow objects are colorfully illuminated, creating a magical atmosphere.

Hours: 2:00 PM ~ 10:00 PM
Price: 300 yen (as a contribution)
Access: About a 2 hour bus ride from JR Asahikawa Station, then a 5 minute walk from Sounkyo

    層雲峡温泉 氷瀑まつり
    • Address 〒078-1701北海道上川郡上川町層雲峡/Sounkyo, Kamikawa-cho, Kamikawa-gun, Hokkaido 078-1701
    • TEL: 01658-2-1811 (Sounkyo Tourist Association)

Top image credit: Nattawut Pichai / Shutterstock.com

*This information is from the time of this article's publication.
*Prices and options mentioned are subject to change.
*Unless stated otherwise, all prices include tax.

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