As the season of ice and snow sculptures exhibitions is in full swing, especially in Sapporo and Asahikawa, where the most monumental are found, the little harbor city of Otaru also helds its own minimalist and nocturnal only yuki matsuri.
This winter festival is to be enjoyed walking the two main paths linking the train station to the historical downtown. The first one, named Temiyasen Kaijo starts immediately when getting off the train, and follows an old disused railway. Half a kilometer long, it is boarded by typical street food stalls. The second path, Unga Kaijo, is the most famous as it hugs a part of the industrial canal, the symbol of the city.
Visitors walk among little snowmen and ice lanterns incrusted with ornamental elements, such as maple tree leaves, letting a gentle mellow light filter. The canal’s water is even illuminated with floating candles. The beautiful shimmering of lights gives Otaru a poetic charm, that is somehow lacking the rest of the year.
It is thus highly recommended to discover this destination during Yuki Akari no Michi, whose magical atmosphere reminds of Christmas. Quite crowded, the walk is nonetheless pleasant and the darkness surrounding visitors allows for some privacy. It can be a good idea for a romantic date.
Yuki Akari no Michi’s light up is turned off quite early, at 9 p. m., so it can be an easy one-day getaway from Sapporo. Going back for the night at Hokkaido’s capital, you will be able to enjoy its Yuki Matsuri as well.
In 2019, Yuki Akari no Michi celebrated its 20th anniversary and welcomed about 500,000 visitors.
How to get to Yuki Akari no Michi
From Otaru JR Station:
- Temiyasen Kaijo -- 5 minutes walk
- Unga Kaijo -- ~10 minutes walk
Location reachable with the JRP : order your Japan Rail Pass (from ~US$ 281)
Get your Japanese Yens free of charge
In 2020: from February 9 (Sunday) to February 16 (Sunday)
Free access from 5 p. m. to 9 p.m.
How long / when to visit
10 days in early February (usually from Friday to the next Sunday)
Allow about two hours
小樽雪あかりの路 (Otaru Yuki Akari no Michi)
Otaru Snow Light Path Festival