Japan's Top 10 Snow Festivals

Japan is famous for its snow festivals, some enormous and monumental, others cozy and intimate. Check out our Top 10 ranking of the best snow festivals to see in Winter 2016!

Japan's Top 10 Snow Festivals

Akita Prefecture

Yokote Kamakura Festival

Yokote Kamakura Festival
Date and time
February 15-16, 2016 (6:00 PM-9:00 PM)
Venue and directions
Doro Koen Park in front of Yokote City Hall/Yokote Park/Buke Yashiki-dori, Haguromachi/Kamakura-dori, Futaba-cho/Yokote East Nigiwai Square (in front of Yokote Station)/Minka Enkido Gorobemura (2/14 and 2/15, 9:30 AM-5:00 PM)/other sites in Yokote, Akita *Touring bus makes circuit out of Ou Main Line at Yokote Station

This festival held in mid-February is a 450+ year-old tradition that consecrates a water god. During the festival, 100 snow huts are installed throughout the city, and children recite local phrases encouraging visitors to enter the huts and worship the water god. Amazake (a sweet beverage) and mochi (rice cakes) are offered to guests. Seeing the town filled with snow huts, all lit up at night, is a wondrous sight.

Hokkaido Prefecture

Sapporo Snow Festival

Sapporo Snow Festival
Date and time
Odori site: February 5-11, 2016 (24 hours. Note: illumination is until 10:00 PM)
Tsudome site: February 5-18, 2016 (9:00 AM-5:00 PM)
Susukino Site: February 5-11, 2016 (24 hours. Note: illumination is until 11:00 PM. Closes at 10:00 PM on last day)
Venue and directions
Odori site (Odori Koen Park: 1-chome through 12-chome, Odori-nishi, Chuo-ku, Sapporo-shi, Hokkaido) Take subway Tozai Line to Odori Station and disembark. Immediately near the station.
Tsudome Site (Sapporo Community Dome -- 885-1, Sakae-machi, Higashi-ku, Sapporo-shi, Hokkaido) Take subway Toho Line to Sakaemachi Station. Exit gate 2; 15 minutes' walk from there. Shuttle bus also operates from Odori site.
Susukino site (Susuki Ice World 2016: Nishi yon chome line from Nishi Shijo-dori though Nishi Nanajo-dori, Chuo-ku, Sapporo-shi, Hokkaido) Near Susukino Station on the subway Nanboku line

The main attraction of the Sapporo Snow Festival is its dynamic and intricate designs. An array of sculptures made only of snow and ice span a 1.5 km area, all in a row. The festival is not only a hit in Japan, but is globally famous, with 2 million people visiting every year. The event is held at major sites in Sapporo like the Tsudome sports center and key shopping streets.

Yamagata Prefecture

Zao Snow Monster Festival (illumination)

Zao Snow Monster Festival (illumination)
Date and time
Snow monster illumination: December 26, 2015-January 1, 2016 and January 9, 10, 16, 17, and 23 through February 28 (total 50 days) 5:00 PM-9:00 PM (last train in departs at 7:50 PM)
Venue and directions
Zao Ropeway (Jizo Sancho Station), 229-3 Zao Onsen, Yamagata-shi From JR Yamagata Station, transfer to Zao Onsen bound bus (45 minutes) and disembark at Zao Onsen. Transfer to Zao Ropeway bound for Zao Sanroku Station (10 minutes on foot). From there, ride to Jizo Sancho Station (17 minutes).
Ropeway admission
Adults (middle school age and higher): ¥2,600 Children (elementary school age: ¥1,300 Infants (before school age): free Group discount for parties of 15 or more: 10% off *Fares are round-trip

When the weather turns cold, the trees along the Zao mountain range naturally freeze and turn into works of art called "ice monsters" or "snow monsters." These attractions are known throughout the world. The frosted trees around Jizo Sancho Station on the Zao Ropeway are some of the finest, and seeing the way they glint in the noontime sun or are vividly illuminated at night is spectacular, with both moods each their own. In addition, the ski slopes at Yamagata Zao Onsen Ski Resort are where you'll see amazing fireworks shows.

Fukushima Prefecture

Aizu Painted Candle Festival

Aizu Painted Candle Festival
Date and time
February 11-13, 2016 (5:30 PM-9:00 PM)
Venue and directions

Tsurugajo Castle (1-1 Outemachi, Aizu-Wakamatsu-shi, Fukushima) Take Ban'etsu West Line to Aizu-Wakamatsu Station. Transfer to Haikara-san city bus and disembark at Tsurugajo Iriguchi (20 mins.) Five minute walk from there
Oyakuen (8-1 Hanaharu-machi, Aizu-Wakamatsu-shi, Fukushima) Take Ban'etsu West Line to Aizu-Wakamatsu Station. Board Haikara-san circuit bus and disembark at Oyakuen (30 minutes).

Tochigi Prefecture

Yunishigawa Onsen Kamakura Festival

Yunishigawa Onsen Kamakura Festival
Date and time
Heike no Sato (main venue): January 23-March 6, 2016 (9:00 AM-9:00 PM)
Yunishigawa Mizu no Sato Snow Park: January 30-February 29, 2016 (10:00 AM-3:00 PM)
*Some other venues
Venue and directions
Heike no Sato main venue (1042 Yushinigawa, Nikko-shi, Tochigi) Take Yagantetsudo Railway to Yunishigawa Onsen Station. Transfer to Nikko Bus bound for Yunishigawa Onsen and disembark at Honke Banhisa Ryokan-mae. 15 minute walk from there
Yunishigawa Mizu no Sato Snow Park (473-1 Yunishigawa, Nikko-shi, Tochigi) Take Yagantetsudo Railway to Yunishigawa Onsen Station. Transfer to Nikko Bus bound for Yunishigawa Onsen and disembark at Yunishigawa Mizu no Sato (30 mins.)
Shuttle bus to and from Yunishigawa Onsen planned to operate during event dates (Sat, Sun, holidays -- 10:00 AM-9:00 PM; ¥200 fare)
Admission
Heike no Sato main venue: Adults: ¥510 Children (elementary and middle school age): ¥250
Yunishigawa Mizu no Sato Snow Park: Adults: ¥800 Children (under elementary school age): ¥500 *Includes cost of sledding and admission to baths at Mizu no Sato Tourism Center
Other venues: free

The Yunishigawa Onsen area gets deep and rich snowfalls, so the area is like a picture postcard full of snow huts, snowmen, and snow lanterns. By day, there are barbecues held inside the snow huts at the Heike no Sato main venue (reservation required) and sledding down a long slope at Yunishigawa Mizu no Sato Snow Park. By night, enjoy the marvelous world of illuminated snow scenery. Also available free of charge are local cuisine, sweets, and amazake (a sweet beverage).

Fukushima Prefecture

Ouchijuku Snow Festival

Ouchijuku Snow Festival
Date and time
February 13 (from 1:00 PM) and 14 (10:00 AM-3:00 PM), 2016
Venue and directions
Ouchijuku (Ouchi Aza Yamamoto, Shimogo-machi Oaza, Minami Aizu-gun, Fukushima) Take Aizu Railway to Yunokami-onsen Station. From there, take a taxi or the Saruyu-go Snow Festival Shuttle Bus (15 mins.)

Ouchijuku has been designated an Important Preservation District for Groups of Traditional Buildings, and it is here that a special snow festival is held. Countless snow lanterns are installed, with fun events like a costume festival, dancing, noodle eating contest, and more. The highlight of the festival is the fire ceremony held each night starting on the first day of the event. Men wrapped in loincloths light each of the lanterns one by one, and then a large fireworks display goes up, coloring the night sky.

Fukushima Prefecture

Urabandai Snow Festival

Urabandai Snow Festival
Date and time
February 19, 2016 (12:00 PM-8:00 PM), February 20, 2016 (10:00 AM-4:00 PM), February 21, 2016 (10:00 AM-4:00 PM)
Venue and directions
Urabandai Site Station, Rengenuma Lotus Pond (1092-65, Aza Onogawahara, Oaza Hibara, Kitashiobara-mura, Yama-gun, Fukushima) From Inawashiro Station on the JR Ban'etsu West Line, transfer to Bandai City Bus and disembark at Bandai Kogen Station (30 mins.). Then transfer to Mori no Kumasan (Lake Hibara tour bus) and disembark at Site Station-mae (20 mins.)

By day, enjoy events like finding treasures hidden in the snowdrifts, ice cream making, and candle making, among others. The signature event begins at 5:30 PM and is dubbed "Eco Night Fantasy." The lotus pond, frozen over white, plays host to 3,000 candles, their flames flickering among the snow and ice -- what would be more romantic? You can also have a hand at lighting the candles yourself (on a first come, first served basis).

Aomori Prefecture

Hirosaki Castle Lantern Festival

Hirosaki Castle Lantern Festival
Date and time
February 11-14, 2016 (9:00 AM-9:00 PM) Lantern and snow sculpture illumination begins around 4:30 PM (dusk)
Venue and directions
Hirosaki Koen Park (1 Shimoshirogane-cho, Hirosaki-shi, Aomori) Take Ou Main Line to Hirosaki Station. Take taxi (10 mins.) or city loop bus to Shiyakusho-mae (15 mins.). Four minute walk from there.

A range of lanterns and snow sculptures can be seen throughout the park -- 150 of them! The castle keep and old pines are beautifully lit up against the snow. 300 miniature snow huts with lanterns also dot the lotus pond, creating a magnificent sight. By day, you can see snow sculpture dioramas of traditional buildings and a giant snow slide, as well as street stalls and a local products fair.

Akita Prefecture

Kamihinoki-nai Paper Balloon Launch

Kamihinoki-nai Paper Balloon Launch
Date and time
February 10, 2016 (3:00 PM-8:30 PM)
Venue and directions
Paper lantern square (Aza Ochida, Kamihinokinai, Nishiki-cho, Senboku-shi, Akita) Take Akita Nairiku Jukan Railway to Kamihinokinai. Seven minute walk from there.

Massive paper lanterns with images of warriors and beauties fly up into the winter night sky. The lanterns contain cloth balls soaked in kerosene; when lit, the heat works like a hot air balloon, pushing the lantern aloft. The one hundred lanterns, with messages of prayer from participants, ascend to the heavens. The lanterns are variously launched between 6:00 and 8:30 PM.

Iwate Prefecture

Iwate Snow Festival

Iwate Snow Festival
Date and time
January 30-February 7, 2016 (9:00 AM-9:00 PM)
Venue and directions
Koiwai Farm (36-1 Maruyachi, Shizukuishi-cho, Iwate-gun, Iwate) Take Tohoku Main Line or Tazawako Line to Morioka Station. Transfer to bus bound for Koiwai Farm Makiba-en (30 mins.). Alternately, take taxi (10 mins.) from Koiwai Station on the Tazawako Line.

A vast labyrinth made of snow, a 4 meter tall snow slide, snow huts where you can sample "Genghis Khan" (a grilled mutton dish), and stage shows and fantastic fireworks, to name but a few! At night, the snow and ice sculptures are illuminated in a rainbow of colors. For 2016, an extra snow sculpture has been added, bringing the total to 12. This year, the Snowman Contest launches for the first time -- make your own snowman and submit it to a vote!

See more from Rakuten Travel