Yuki Matsuri: Experiencing the Winter in Hokkaido

Last year, I was able to travel to the northern region of Japan, Hokkaido to visit Yuki Matsuri. In Japanese, “yuki” means “snow” and “matsuri” means “festival.” So, Yuki Matsuri is a festival that features sculptures made of snow and it is held every February in Sapporo, the biggest city in Hokkaido.

I first heard about Yuki Matsuri on television seven years ago and I swore to myself that I would go someday. As a person from Chile, this experience was amazing! Even though it snows in the southern region of Chile, my home city of Santiago (the capital) doesn’t really get any snow. We are lucky if we see a few snowflakes a year… but even that is a rare situation.

Being there in the winter allowed me to experience intense cold and snow for the first time in my life. Seeing so much snow is an experience that I’ll never forget.

My first day in Sapporo was amazing from the start. While walking to my hostel in evening, I went through the Yuki Matsuri area and my first sight was a giant ice sculpture of Star Wars characters. The Star Wars sculpture was the main attraction of the 2015 Yuki Matsuri.  

Of course, I didn’t want to miss out on anything. Propelled by my initial excitement, I just had to walk around and see some of the other ice sculptures even though it was late and I was tired from my flight. After that, I went back to my hostel and went straight to sleep so that I could visit the Matsuri at a quieter pace the next day and fully enjoy it.

The next morning, I met up with some people from Keio University and Hokkaido University, who had planned to show us around the city and the festival. The first sights we encountered were breathtaking! So many ice sculptures everywhere… It was hard to choose which ones deserved to have a picture taken!

Even though it was crowded and cold, the excitement and awe of seeing all that intricate ice sculpting was incredible. You really can tell how much effort goes into finishing these magnificent pieces! They also had other festival decorations, activities, and stores selling food and cute souvenirs.

At night, the students from Hokkaido University took us to see the traditional Yosakoi (an unique style of Japanese festival dancing), where students from the University prepared a special dance while wearing only small clothes in such a cold weather and on an ice stage. I felt cold just looking at it!

The next day was the end of the festival, and you could watch the machines break apart all the wonderful sculptures made for the festival. It was unfortunate that they had to destroy such amazing pieces of art.  But everything comes to an end, and this was the end of Yuki Matsuri.

Going to this event was incredible and I can’t describe all the gratitude I feel for the opportunity to see it! I definitely recommend going at least once to this amazing festival. But don’t forget to wear warm clothes!



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