This lack of snow, combined with unusually warm weather, threw some wrenches in the plan for the snow festival organizers. This year, they had to source and tow snow from other towns to create 200-plus signature snow sculptures.
The show must go on
The blockbuster snow sculptures are different every year.
The latter took the Japan Self-Defense Forces (JSDF) almost a month to make and created was in celebration of 100 years of diplomatic relations between Japan and Poland in 2019.
To make the sculptures, festival organizers use around 30,000 tons of snow from Sapporo. This year, they towed it in on trucks from dozens of places outside of Sapporo.
People ride a mini steam locomotive through the “Cup Noodles and Rui Hachimura’s snow tunnel” during the Sapporo Snow Festival on February 4, 2020.
CHARLY TRIBALLEAU/AFP/AFP via Getty Images
Festival organizers went to these extraordinary lengths as they need pristine snow for their creations, according to Isshin Yamagami, a spokesperson from the Sapporo Snow Festival. “It can’t have any gravel or dirt,” he told CNN Travel.
But they still had to make some concessions this year. Among the casualties? The 100-meter-long snow slide was cut to 70 meters.
But Yamagami believed the figures would bounce back in 2021 and said the festival had put information on its website on how visitors could take precautions in crowded spaces where infections easily spread.
“We advised visitors to wear masks and use hand sanitizers, and [we] kept sanitizers on site,” he added.
A legacy of sculptures and snowball fights
The Sapporo Snow Festival, or “Sapporo yuki matsuri” in Japanese, was founded in 1950 when six local high school students built six snow statues in Odori Park.
The organizers had low expectations for turnout. However, a heady mix of snowball fights, sculptures and a carnival atmosphere proved an instant hit. Up to 50,000 people came.
Five years later, the JSDF joined in the fun, building the first gigantic snow sculpture.
Interest grew even more after the festival was broadcast on TV in 1959. Visitors poured in from all over Japan to enjoy the sculptures, festivities and regional delicacies such as fresh seafood and hot sweet sake served on site.