The Most Popular Hokkaido Winter Events and Festivals 2018/2019



You might have heard that there was a big earthquake in Hokkaido in September. Despite that, Hokkaido citizens are making an effort to invite as many tourists from all over the world as possible. More places and events start translating their homepages into various languages and the tourist flow keeps on rising.
Hokkaido is a huge island and it would take a lot of time to see all the gems of the northern Japanese island. It is the coldest and the snowiest island in Japan, which allows everyone to experience the real snowy winter and gives joy to a lot of people especially coming from the south and to those who love skiing. Let’s take a closer look at the events that are going to happen this winter in Hokkaido.



December Hokkaido Winter Events and Festivals
January Hokkaido Winter Events and Festivals
February Hokkaido Winter Events and Festivals

December Hokkaido Winter Events and Festivals

Winter in Hokkaido is long and snowy. However, in December it is still more clear than in the other winter months, Obviously, in the mountains and inland is much colder than around coastal areas. The average temperature would be from +4 to -4 in December. But this doesn’t stop locals and tourists to enjoy their time and expect Christmas.

Sapporo Art Stage 2018 (Nov 1st – Dec 2nd, 2018)

Image courtesy of kyu3

During this festival term, the streets of Sapporo turn into art exhibition facilities and stages for various performances. The event started in 2005 and attracts more artists and visitors every year. You will enjoy “Theater Go Round”, which features original stage works of more than 30 performance groups, song contests, music concerts, art book fair, art street, and much more. From children to professionals, citizens and artists come together to enjoy the various art events. If you are in Hokkaido at the beginning of December drop by the Sapporo Ekimae-dori Underground Walkway to see the stunning works of a contemporary Japanese artist. Find out more information about this event from an official website, URL (Japanese only):

Hokkaido Comita 9 (Dec 2nd, 2018)

Image courtesy of Kobak

For the manga and anime lovers, there will be a bit event taking place in Sapporo on Sunday (Dec 2nd, 2018) in Hotel Lifort Sapporo. Over 300 vendors will present their original art, cartoons, and comics at this festival/flea-market. Instead of getting an admission ticket, you need to obtain a catalog (costs 700 Yen on the official website). If you would like to buy something in particular, or just wander around the stalls and find something cool and cute, this anime fair will satisfy you completely. This event takes place on a regular basis twice a year in various locations around Sapporo. The next one will be at the end of June. For more information about this event, please refer to the official website, URL (Japanese only):

Hakodate Christmas Fantasy 2018 (Dec 1st – 25th, 2018)

In the Christmas season, there is a big event in Hakodate called “Hakodate Christmas Fantasy.” It just takes 5 minutes to get to the venue from Hakodate station. This venue is Hakodate Bay Area. You will see the illumination of Hakodate from this place, and the view is fantastic. You will also see the big Christmas tree on the surface of the ocean.

Every year, Halifax in Canada, which is the sister city of Hakodate, sends a Christmas tree for this event. Locals call this big Christmas tree “Shiawase no Mominoki” (Christmas tree of happiness). The lights are on at 18:00 pm. 50,000 lights are decorating the tree. You can see Fire Works there, too. As the events, there are a live stage, dance, and quiz. There are also 14 soup bars and you can taste various kinds of soups to make your body warm. The date of opening “Hakodate Christmas Fantasy” is 1st of December till 25th of December in 2018. The time will be from 16:30 till 17:45 and 18:00 till 24:00. (Saturday and Sunday until 2:00 am) Parking is free. If you are curious about this event, please take a look at the following article, URL:

Hakodate Illumination 2018 (Dec 1st, 2018 – Late February 2019)

At this event you can experience the mood of westernized Japan at night with the fantastic lights. Among Hachimanzaka, Nijuumazaka and Hakodate station, there is a street connecting those places in the Bay area. Over 160,000 lights look fantastic at night. Near Hachimanzaka and Nijuumazaka, there are churches and historical buildings that will be lightened up as well. So, you can take pictures and put them on Instagram. Here is the link for this event, URL (Japanese only):

Sapporo White Illumination 2018/2019 (Nov 22nd, 2018 – Mar 14th, 2019)

Sapporo White Illumination has started as the first illumination in Japan since 1981. Odori Kaijo has a lot of various artistic lights. At Odori Park 2 chome you can see München Christmas market in Sapporo for the whole December. The place is perfect for couples with the Christmas mood. There are several sights to walk around to enjoy this illumination. The most famous is at Oodori park, Ekimae street, and Minami 1 dori. This long-lasting illumination event makes you feel like you are in a winter fairy tale and raises the mood of everyone who visits Sapporo in winter. To learn more about this event, please take a look at the following article, URL:

January Hokkaido Winter Events and Festivals

Hokkaido is the best place to meet the New Year in Japan. You can either go skiing in the mountains, soak in the warm hot spring, or stay in vibrant Sapporo, but you will definitely enjoy your New Year in a winter wonderland of Hokkaido. Let’s look closer at what waits for you in the upcoming year!

Toyako Onsen Illumination Tunnel 2018/2019 (Nov 1st, 2018 – Mar 3rd, 2019)

Image courtesy of bo-slove

Between Sapporo and Hakodate there is a beautiful lake Toya with a single big island in the middle. This is boasted not only warm waters of hot spring but a fantastic illuminated tunnel in winter. You can see Toyako Onesen Illumination tunnel from the middle of November 2018 until the beginning of March in 2019. At the city center of Toyako Onsen, the tunnel with more than 400,000 lights will appear. The tunnel is 70 m long. o access the tunnel, you need to take a bus to Toyako Onsen from Toya station. It would be a 20 minutes ride. And there is no admission fee. To learn more about this event, please click on the following link, URL:

Furano Kan Kan Mura (Dec 22nd, 2018 – Mar 10th, 2019)

Furano village is almost in the middle of Hokkaido and takes about an hour by bus from Asahikawa airport. There is a big event at Kan Kan Mura (Cold Village) in Furano. The event provides you with a chance to feel yourself in the snow cave. Kan Kan Mura is in front of the Prince Hotel close to the ski slopes. Until the evening, you can enjoy skiing there. And after the sunset, you can enjoy a café called “Snow Café” Which is good for families and couples. Chairs, tables, and counters are made of snow and there is an ice museum as well. Besides, the “Cold Village” features the longest Snow Tubing course in Japan (200m long).

The fee is 300 Yen per person. For people under the elementary school student age, there is no fee. The fee includes using the snow tube fee for one time. For banana boat or snow rafting, it would cost 1,000 Yen if you are an adult. If you are a child, it costs 500 Yen. Also, you can experience riding a sled lead by dogs like in a movie. It costs 2,500 Yen for one time. For more details on this event, please refer to the official website, URL:

Jozankei Mountain Party (January 11th -14th, 18th – 20th, 2019)

If you would like to soak in the warm waters of Japanese hot spring in the snowy mountains of Hokkaido, Jozankei Onsen is the proper place to visit this winter. Jozankei Mountain Party is a perfect event to visit with family as everybody can enjoy various activities that include dog sledding, skating, horse riding, tube sliding, and even a petting zoo. There is a special hot spring with a water temperature of 70 degrees Celsius where you can even boil eggs.

Every year the organizers prepare a big BBQ event so you can enjoy it outside, that makes it taste even better. However, the most popular attraction of this area is a breathtaking view of the mountains from the hot spring baths. Jozankei Onsen is very easy to reach from Sapporo as it won’t take you more than an hour to get there by bus or a car. To find out more about this outstanding winter event, please refer to the following article, URL:

Tokachi River Swan Festival Sairinka (Jan 26th – Feb 24th, 2019)

If you enjoy light shows and snow rafting, this event is for you. This festival is held in honor of 1,000 swans flying every year to Tokachigawa Onsen. The festival features a fantastic show with music and lighting performances at Tokachigaoka Park as well as opportunities to experience snow rafting and snow candle-making. You will see over 300 pyramid shaped lanterns that change their colors with overwhelming music during this festival. This event is free, and if you feel cold, you can always hide in the nearest hot spring or get a cup of some hot beverage in one of the stalls. Find more information about this festival at the official website, URL (Japanese only):

Chitose – Lake Shikotsu Ice Festival (Jan 25th – Feb 17th, 2019)

The Ice Festival at Lake Shikotsu is one of the most famous winter festivals in Hokkaido. People visit lake Shikotsu as it has one of the purest waters in Japan, and during the Ice Festival, the area attracts even more people. The glowing ice sculptures that are blue in the day time, are lit up at night that creates a fairytale atmosphere. Besides, every weekend and national holiday you can enjoy stunning fireworks during the term of this festival. Furthermore, there are many hot springs with different quality and temperature of waters in the vicinity and you can warm yourself up from when you feel cold. This lake is easy to reach from Sapporo (about 40 min by car). So, this will become a great weekend destination or even a good place for a one-day trip. Please refer to the official website for more details about this festival, URL (Japanese only):

February Hokkaido Winter Events and Festivals

February is the coldest month all over Japan. However, it doesn’t influence the way how people enjoy winter and the level of happiness from the festivals in Hokkaido. You will see the largest amount of snow in February all over Hokkaido, which makes it a paradise to skiers and hot spring hoppers. Besides some of the greatest winter events take place in February in Hokkaido.

Sapporo Snow Festival 2019 (Jan 31st – Feb 11th, 2019)

Sapporo Snow Festival started from a few small snow statues made by local high school students in Oodori park in 1950. It evolved into the biggest and most famous winter festival not only in Hokkaido but in Japan as well. It attracts over two million people from all over the world every year. A lot of famous artists come to show ice carving skills from different countries and to compete. The festival occupies 3 large sites around Sapporo downtown including a 1,5 km alley of Oodori park. Thus, the scale of this festival is huge, and you can enjoy a totally different view of the same objects at the day time and at night.

In addition, in 2019 there will be the 70th anniversary of Sapporo Snow Festival. Thus, something tremendous is going to happen. Also, if you are in Sapporo for the snow festival, drop by the Otaru Snow Light Path Festival which takes place at the same time. Undoubtingly, there will be a lot of food stalls serving warm dished and drinks, so you won’t stay hungry or cold. For more information about this outstanding snow festival, please refer to the following article, URL:

Asahikawa Winter Festival 2019 (Feb 6th – Feb 11th, 2019)

The access for the Asahikawa Winter Festival is easy. Just take a bus from Asahikawa station. It’s free and takes only 20 min. Asahikawa Winter Festival takes place every February. It copies one of the biggest winter festivals – Sapporo Snow Festival. It has started in the 1960s and now over 1,000,000 tourists from all over the world visited this event. This winter festival is famous for the variety of snow sculptures. You can also experience music, dances, comedy shows and attractions such as house sled. The famous food of this Matsuri would be “Asahikawa Ramen”. The soy souse flavor is so tasty, and the price is very reasonable. The opening time is from 9 am to 21 pm. To learn more about this festival, please refer to the following link, URL (Japanese only):

Abashiri Okhotsk Drift Ice Festival 2019 (Feb 10th – Feb 12th, 2019)

Abashiri Okhotsk Ryuhyo Matsuri (Drift Ice Festival) will celebrate its 53rd anniversary in 2019. It’s very traditional. Thus, you will even see how locals carry mikoshi through the snowy paths. Besides, there are many statues made of snow and lit up in various colors at night. You can also taste the meals from the neighboring mountains and the ocean. The place is of this festival is at Abashiri Shoko Futo Kaijo which is 10 minutes away from JR Abashiri station by a car. It opens from 10 am to 8 pm. For more information about this festival, please take a look at the official homepage, URL (Japanese Only):

The Hakodate Russian Festival (Early February 2019)

Hakodate and the Russian Far East have a strong historical connection. In the Meiji Period, after Japan opened to the world again (around 1980) Russia was the first to send its delegation and establish a consulate at Hakodate. To celebrate that connection and influence, the countries started this festival in 1994. At the festival, you can try various Russian food, play traditional games, and even take classes of the Russian language. Besides, part of this festival is devoted to an old Russian tradition – Maslenitsa. Maslenitsa is an ancient Russian festival, that takes place between orthodox Easter and lent for about six days. During this period everybody makes Russian crepes and enjoys it with various fillings until the lent arrives. It would be a great experience to compare two different cultures in one place and enjoy various stage shows and dances at the same time. For more information about this event, please refer to the official website, URL (Japanese only):

Sounkyo Hyobaku Festival (End of January – Middle of March 2019)

Sounkyo Hyobaku Festival (Sounkyo Frozen Waterfall Festival) can also boast a 40+ years history as it started in 1976 under the guidance of Mr. Takenaka – a sculptor born in Eniwa City, Hokkaido, which is also known for creating Shankshine statues. The waterfall falling from the cliffs nearby freezes! This waterfall stands like a huge ice tower, and the ice buildings along the Ishikari river are illuminated with lights of all colors, giving it a mysterious look.

During the exhibition period, you will also see fireworks in the winter night sky along with various ice sculptures where you can wander around. Besides, there will be plenty of activities, including pop-up Japanese sake tasting are, ice climbing, ice shrine, huge igloo, and even mochi spreading workshop. Don’t forget that Sounkyo is an area famous for hot springs, so don’t miss soaking in a local onsen. Please find out more information on this event by reading the following article, URL:

Closing Remarks

Even though Hokkaido is covered with a thick layer of snow in winter, that doesn’t influence the local’s busy way of life and the flow of tourists. Hokkaido is the place where you can enjoy various events and Matsuri even in winter, plus the food is one of the freshest and tastiest in Japan. Japanese people mainly love food when they travel to Hokkaido. They visit the island not only for skiing. Besides, when you taste hot local food outside in snowy weather, you will feel the real atmosphere of winter in Hokkaido.

It would be a great idea to visit Hokkaido for Christmas. If you like to see snow, wonderful illumination, and taste outstanding food, then this northern island is a perfect place to visit this winter. I am sure you will easily feel the winter vibes and have a great time being close to Ainu and enjoying a view on snowy mountains from a hot spring with a cup of warm sake after a fascinating winter festival in Hokkaido.

If you would like local guides to show you around Hokkaido, tell you more about its history and traditions, and advise you the best destinations and events to visit, please clock on the banner below, and let your winter fairytale begin with Huber.!

Explore Everything in Hokkaido

Hokkaido is the most northern island in Japan and is a great place to visit as it boasts plenty of tourist attractions and outstanding food. If you would like to see rural Japan, Hokkaido gives you a unique opportunity to visit a land of snowy mountains and admire authentic traditional northern Japan. The following article assembled the best festivals and activities to enjoy in Hokkaido throughout the year, which will make your trip to Japan even more rewarding!


For All Snow Lovers…

Winter is a great season to enjoy Japan! I hope you enjoyed reading this article and it made you visit this event. There are plenty of festivals and events in Japan in winter, as Japanese people traditionally have a lot of celebrations this season. Most of the events are held in the evening to enjoy candle lights which bring a cozy and charming atmosphere. For all snow lovers, the following article suggests you 10 best spots to enjoy snow in Japan!
Click here! URL:

Don`t Stay Hungry at the Festival!

For all foodies who enjoy Japanese Festivals would be nice to get acquainted with the rich choice offered by Yatai (Japanese festival food stalls). The food presented during Matsuri is pretty different from the one you get at the restaurants in Japan. Besides, there is a certain charm in grabbing some snack from a food stall and diving back into the festival crowd. I am sure that you will discover something new about Japanese festival food from the following article!


Did You Know That There is a Festival Every Day Somewhere in Japan?

Japan is a country of festivals indeed. Matsuri is an essential part of traditional Japanese culture. Thus, every day somewhere in Japan a festival takes place. There are traditional and modern festivals, on the sea and on the ground, in summer and winter. Japanese are hardworking people. However, when you attend at least one festival in Japan, you will understand how locals like to party. The article under the link below will introduce you to a celebration on any day of the year. I am sure you will find an event that suits your interests utmost!


Would You Like to Know How to Enjoy a Japanese Festival Even More?

A lot of people when they get to a Matsuri for the first time feel a bit lost. They confuse about what is happening around. If you are new to Japanese Festivals or want to know an alternative way of how you can enjoy these events, the following article will provide you with a set of helpful tips on how to choose a proper festival and activities you should try there. Please don`t hesitate to take a look at it!



I`ve been living in Japan for over 10 years and still fascinated with this unique country. I always discover something new about the land of the rising sun when there is a chance!

Written on

Other Events You May Like