It’s a frozen fantasy.
He Sapporo Snow Festival – an annual celebration now in its 74th year – is in full swing.
Located in three main locations in the city of Sapporo on the island of Hokkaido: Ōdōri Park, Susukino and Tsudome, the free-entry snow spectacle is Japan’s most popular winter event, attracting two million visitors each year.
In total, 196 impressive snow and ice sculptures are on display, from fairy-tale castles to galloping thoroughbred horses, and from smiling dinosaurs to manga heroes.
The centerpieces of the festival are five large-scale snow sculptures at the Ōdōri site, each measuring between 12 (39 ft) and 15 meters (49 ft) tall, built by the Japanese Great Self-Defense Force and hundreds of volunteer citizens.
The Sapporo Snow Festival, an annual celebration now in its 74th year, is in full swing. Above: Asirpa and Saichi Sugimtoto, characters from the successful manga Golden Kamuy
Look at it snow: one of the large sculptures in Odori Park depicts a thoroughbred galloping to glory. Upstairs, during the day, downstairs, with light projections that animate it at night.
A large-scale ice sculpture of Neuschwanstein Castle, also known as ‘Swan Castle’
Dust for the people: photographer Basil Villacortes Sali in front of Yuji and Gojo from the popular anime series Jujutsu Kaisen
These gigantic glacial carvings, which took 28 days to build, include a diorama of Asirpa and Saichi Sugimtoto, characters from the hit manga show Golden Kamuy, set in Hokkaido; Neuschwanstein Castle, also known as “Swan Castle”, the Bavarian palace perfect for a fairy tale; a thoroughbred galloping to glory; Former Sapporo train station and Hokkaido baseball park.
At night, plays of light are projected onto the creations, animating the white canvas to bring them to life.
The Susokino site, called “Ice World”, has 60 ice sculptures.
It is home to the 50th International Snow Sculpture Competition, where teams from around the world create ice creations designed to reflect the spirit of their nation.
Pieces are carved during the festival, allowing visitors the opportunity to witness these wonders come to glittering life.
Farewell is such a painful pain: if the sculptures melt during the festival, they will be torn down
Don’t rush, be happy: entry to the festival is free. Above: a majestic pagoda amidst a soft layer of snow.
The Susokino site, called “Ice World,” features 60 ice sculptures, including a revealing work in which fish are trapped in a block of ice, floating ethereally in the air.
This year teams from South Korea, the United States, Indonesia, Lithuania, Mongolia, Poland, Portland, Singapore and Thailand participated.
His creations include icy dragons, stingrays, fairy tale characters, Komodo Island, and even the concept of “harmony.”
In addition to the contest creations, there is a revealing work in which fish are trapped in a block of ice, floating ethereally in the air, cute cartoon creations and large-scale sculptures made by the Ainu people, the indigenous people of Hokkaido .
The Tsudome site is a large-scale playground, where revelers can participate in snow mazes, slides and interactive ice exhibits, or make their own snowman.
He Old Sapporo train station by day and below by night, with a light projection that brings it vivid and charming life
Impossible: the Susokino site is the venue for the 50th International Snow Sculpture Competition (above)
A collection of curious mini snowmen at the Tsudome site
Run to get the chills: At Tsudome, there are several family attractions and interactive snow exhibits
How are Sapporo snow and ice sculptures made?
Since there was not enough snow in each of the places to build the buildings, snow was brought.
Five-ton trucks transported snow to the various locations, making 6,000 trips to accumulate approximately 30,000 tons of white powder to create the frozen phantasmagoria.
The snow has to be of the purest quality: dirty snow absorbs light, so the creations melt more quickly. Most of it came from neighboring parks, cemeteries and golf courses, where it remained intact.
Above: A Tyrannosaurus-rex growls out of the snow. Below: A much friendlier looking reptile
Melted madness: Some of the sculptures err more towards the conceptual
To make the creations, participants use shovels, machetes, saws, chisels and chainsaws. If it is a large sculpture, cranes and scaffolding are used.
When a sculpture is finished, water is sprayed to freeze it in place; if it starts to melt, it is torn down, even during the festival.
The snow and ice sculptures will be removed on the last night of the festival.
2024 Sapporo Snow Festival It will run until Sunday, February 11.
Thanks to local English teacher Basil Villacortes Sali for his kind permission to use his photographs from the exhibition. Visit their Instagram profile here – www.instagram.com/basilvsali.