We already know Sapporo and its popular snow festival, Yuki Matsuri, happening every year in February. Not far from there, Asahikawa organizes Fuyu Matsuri, during the exact same period, a few days apart. While the city might not be of the best interest for tourists, this winter event reveals its attractiveness.
Ephemeral statues are livelier than Sapporo’s statues: worked with movements and more detailed in their expressions. Moreover, the gigantic size of the main snow sculpture is worth the visit: It is actually known worldwide for its record in the Guinness World Records book.
The festival takes place at two sites. They are close to the JR Station and can be reached easily on foot or by bus. The first, called Kaimono Koen, houses ice masterpieces along one kilometer on the commercial street Heiwa dori. It is an international championship, and visitors can see artists working at the beginning of the festival. Farther from this avenue, visitors reach the second and main place of the matsuri: along Ishikari River and Asahibashi Bridge. This is where snowmen and sculptures, including the biggest one, stand, as the highlight of the show. Additionally, numerous open-air activities, such as sleds for adults, ice slides, and food stalls, embellish this promenade.
With about 1 million visitors per year, two times less than Sapporo’s Yuki Matsuri, the Asahikawa festival has the advantage of not being crowded and being more pleasant to discover. We recommend staying longer to enjoy nocturnal illumination, bringing life to sculptures now totally in the dark. However, spending a night is not essential for those willing to go back to Sapporo.
In 2019, Asahikawa Fuyu Matsuri celebrated its 60th anniversary. For this occasion, the main gigantic snow statue involved several elements that marked the past 60 years, starting with a reproduction of Nagoya castle, honoring its financial participation during the first edition of the festival.
How to get to Asahikawa Fuyu Matsuri
From Asahikawa JR Station:
- Kaimono Koen -- from the main exit, turn on the left and walk 2 minutes
- Asahibashi -- ~15 minutes on foot (1,4 km) or ~5 minutes with the free shuttle
Location reachable with the JRP : order your Japan Rail Pass (from ~US$ 281)
In 2020: from February 6th to 11th
Free access between 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.
How long / when to visit
Six consecutive days at the beginning of February
One day is enough to see the whole festival