Sapporo population snowballs during winter festival
The 67th Sapporo Snow Festival opened to the public Friday.
Over the next week, Sapporo, the country’s fifth-largest city, will double in population and become the second-largest city, with more than 2 million domestic and international tourists expected to view more than 180 snow and ice displays on the country’s northern island of Hokkaido..
Kaylee Johnson, an American college student studying in Tokyo, made the trek north to see what has become the largest festival of its kind in the world.
“I never know if I’ll ever have the chance to make it out here again, so I have to do it now with my friends,” Johnson said. “We’re just a big ol’ pack of gaijin (foreigners) from all over the world out here,” referring to her classmates who come from Sweden, Germany, Canada and elsewhere.
Among the most intricate and massive displays is a replica of the Ruins of St. Paul’s, one of the most recognized landmarks in Macau, that doubled as a projection screen for “Attack on Titan,” the popular manga and anime series.
An international snow sculpture contest runs concurrently. Twelve teams representing countries as far as Finland began working on projects Thursday, with a winner to be decided Tuesday.
The bulk of the displays are built by amateurs, including a team of sailors from Naval Air Facility Misawa, Japan. The northernmost U.S. base in Japan has sent a team for 33 years now.
The festival dates to 1950, when local high school students built six snow statues and attracted 50,000 spectators.
The city’s hosting of the 1972 Winter Olympics drew worldwide media to the festival. Today, it’s on many tourists’ bucket list.
The festival ends Feb. 11.