If you happen to be in Hokkaido in February, there are several snow festivals you should check out. One of them is the famous “Otaru Snow Light Path Festival” with lovely illuminations in the snow.
In case you’re visiting the most famous snow festival in Japan, the “Sapporo Yuki Matsuri“, you should also do a day trip to Otaru.
Otaru is probably mostly known for the “Otaru Canal” which you can see in the photo above. It’s also lit up during the winter festival. The city is located in Hokkaido Prefecture (map), not too far away from Sapporo.
When is the Otaru Snow Light Path Festival?
If you happen to be there in early February, make sure to attend the “Otaru Snow Light Path Festival” (小樽雪あかりの路, Otaru yuki akari no michi).
In 2018 it will be held from February 9 (Fri) – 18 (Sun).
You can find more details on the official website.
The illumination is daily from 17:00 to 21:00.
The more popular “Sapporo Snow Festival” is usually held around the same time, so visitors can attend both festivals.
Two Main Event Areas
There are two main event areas: the Unga Kaijo (運河会場) area and the Temiyasen Kaijo (手宮線会場) area.
Both event areas are only a short (~ 5-15 mins) walk from the JR Otaru Station.
The festival itself is free of charge, so you barely have to spend any money.
The Unga Kaijo is more popular as it runs along the famous “Otaru Canal“. There are various “snow lanterns” and sculptures illuminated, creating a warm atmosphere despite the harsh cold of Hokkaido in February.
The Temiyasen Kaijo is located a bit closer to the current train station. It runs along the former abolished Temiyasen railway line.
It stretches for about half a kilometer and volunteers have created various “snow items” that are lit up. There’s so much to discover!
I can’t tell which one I liked better. Both event areas had their very own charm and if you have enough time, definitely check out both! They’re very close to each other after all.
The only problem I had was the cold. On that day it kept snowing while there was a strong wind. Although it “only” had around -10°C, it felt much colder. Dress accordingly and if you can’t take it anymore, warm up inside in one of the cafés or at the station, drink something hot!
It’s also very romantic, so it’s a great spot to take someone out on a date.
As you can see, they worked hard and created a lot of details and various different snow items.
A large ice cube with frozen flowers inside. What a nice idea.
A small snow village. So lovely! I wonder how long it took to make it.
Busy volunteers are re-lighting the candles despite the cold. Thanks to their hard work, the festival is always a big success.
You really should take your time to explore everything. You’ll discover so many cute things on your way.
Many shops, restaurants and other tourist spots also have unique snow sculptures in front of their buildings to lure in customers.
It’s probably impossible to visit Otaru during the festival without running into some weird snow sculptures.
Some buildings also are lit up. I really loved the windows of this one.
Last but not least, I had to eat something hot. And if you’re in Hokkaido in winter, it’s gotta be Ramen, of course.
After freezing in the cold, there’s nothing better than hot Ramen. And Hokkaido’s Ramen are known to be especially delicious.