Sounkyo Hyobaku Festival 2019 – A Wonderful Winter World of Hokkaido



Have you ever seen a frozen waterfall? Or stepped into a cave carved out of the ice? In this article, we are going to travel to icy Hokkaido to celebrate the beauty of winter at this breathtaking winter wonderland – Sounkyo Hyobaku festival! Hokkaido is a winter wonderland indeed, but at this festival, you will feel like you are in a real fairytale.

History of the Festival

This festival is in winter! Winter in Hokkaido is freezing cold. You will have an opportunity to see fabulous fireworks in the middle of cold Hokkaido!
The Ice Fall Festival (Hyobaku Matsuri) began in 1976 (Showa 51 year), celebrating its 30th anniversary in 2005. It was developed under the guidance of Mr. Takenaka – a sculptor born in Eniwa City, Hokkaido, which is also known for creating Shankshine statues.

The Sounkyo Association will host this festival at the Ishikari River. It usually takes place from the end of January every year and ends in March. The venue boasts a large area of 10,000 square meters, and the hot spring town of Sounkyo is nearby.

Japanese Words That are Useful to Travel Around

Ko-Ri (Ice)
Ice (Ice cream! It is not Ice cubes!)
Samui (Chilly, Freezing cold)
Daijobu (It’s Okay)
Sake (Japanese traditional alcoholic drink usually made of rice)
Tabe -mono (Food)
Nomi -mono (Drink)
Muryo (Free)

What Happens? And How to Enjoy the Festival?

The winter is so cold here that even a waterfall falling from the cliffs also freezes!
The 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.

If You Go on a Weekend

‘Kita – no – Kori – Sakaba’ Pop-up Japanese Sake Tasting Area

You can also enjoy drinking limited edition liquors from “Kamikawa” and “Takasago Brewery” of “Kamikawa Daisetsu Brewery” which originated in Kamikawa town. Also, limited edition sake cocoa is recommended for children. Why not have a drink at the ice bar?

Hyobaku – Shrine

You can find the holy sphere (Kamidama) made of ice at the Ice Shrine. The sphere is a charm for love and money, and the Ice Shrine should bring good luck to those taking their examinations. The sacred mountain to which the shrine is affixed looks like a piece of art. There is also a shrine dedicated to the safety of travelers, so please visit both shrines.

Mochi – Spread away

You will also have an excellent opportunity to try a special mochi from red and white glutinous rice from Kamikawa after the fireworks display. Due to its popularity, the mochi is often sold out. So, if you manage to pick it up, you will be lucky for sure!

Main Ice Sculpture (Igloo)

The main ice sculpture is usually an image of a famous Hokkaido building.
It has a lot of tunnels that you can explore inside and icicles like chandeliers. You can enjoy the feeling of getting lost in the world of ice.

Ice Climbing (Weekends)

Why not have an ice climbing experience using ice axes and other tools? With the equipment and guides available, even an absolute beginner can try out this amazing activity, so feel free to join!

Additional Information About the Festival

Dates: End of January to Mid-March every year. January 25th, 2019 – March 17th, 2019.
Time: 10:00 – 22:00
Address: Hokkaido, Kamikawa-gun, Kamikawa-cho, Sounkyo Onsen

Location: Kamikawa, Kamikawa District, Hokkaido
Official Homepage:


Tokyo to Asahikawa (Main Stop) then change to Train, bus or taxi.

・Train: It takes nearly a day to get there and costs much more than a flight! If you have enough time to do it, it would be fine, but I don’t really recommend you to take a train, to be honest.

・ Flight: Tokyo Haneda to Asahikawa (Hokkaido)
It takes 1 hr 30 min+ and costs from 20000 Yen. AirDo, ANA and JAL are available.

・Car: Take the Tohoku motorway and the Do-oh motorway. About 18 hrs drive! You definitely need to find some accommodation along the way. If you use ETC for a motorway, it will be a cheaper option, but you have to sort out ETC card which is a kind of contactless payment card used on motorways in Japan.

Where to Stay

If you stay at the Cho-yo Resort hotel and Cho-yo Tei, you can use a free shuttle bus to the festival from your hotel, and an Onsen experience is free of charge.
You can have a great traditional experience at both accommodations.

Minshuku – Todate

Small Cute Minshuku! You will have to share a bathroom but have a cheap and great simple stay.

Hotel Northern Lodge

There are so many different types of meals available for your booking. You can choose from European food or traditional. Also, the famous Hokkaido hot pot is available too! Guest service is great at this hotel.

Airb&b is still not common in Japan and hotels do not often provide you a room without a prior reservation. I highly recommend that you book your hotel in advance.

Souvenirs From Hokkaido

Royce (Crisps with Chocolate)

We gently coat potatoes in Hokkaido with chocolate. You cannot imagine how tasty it is actually. Not too sweet, not too salty. Just right!

Rokka-Tei (Marusei Butter)

Everybody loves these biscuits!
A biscuit made of wheat flour, that sandwiches cream with white chocolate and 100% butter from Hokkaido and Californian raisins. If you are a fan of dried fruits, you will enjoy it.

Ishi-Ya (Shiroi Baum)

A soft and thick taste of this treat makes it different from other Baumkuchen (a popular type of roll cake in Japan). A white Baumkuchen that reminds you of the snowy scenes in Hokkaido. This is one of Hokkaido’s most popular souvenirs all over Japan.

Anyway, if you visit Kitanomori Garden, you can get pretty much all of the popular souvenirs from Hokkaido!

Local Food

There are so many great restaurants in this area. The residents love to cook and use local ingredients. Few restaurants you need to book in advance.

Frattello Di Mikuni

They have a skilled chef at Mikuni’s restaurant! Who doesn’t know him in Japan?! He is a French chef so you might be a bit surprised with the Japanese French fusion.
Mikuni seeks to offer the real taste of Hokkaido to his customers in Kamikawa Town. For that purpose, he sticks to the local, seasonal ingredients and challenges his cooks to create the best dishes!

Daisetsuzan – Shokudo(Restaurant)

Regional dish – “Pig’s Valley” is ramen using a pork broth. Other specialties, such as the Maiku rice bowl are popular as well. In the evening there is a pub menu featuring many ramen and rice set menus.

Ryokkyu Sabo

A homey café that will warm your heart. This is a lovely place to relax with many types of coffee and herbal tea available all year round. In the summer, you can enjoy locally produced gelato. A cozy place with a taste to match every season!

Traditional and European flavors are all mixed up and a gorgeous new cuisine is born in Hokkaido!

Closing Remarks

Hokkaido is a beautiful area of the country that people often forget about. Far from the metropolitan centers of Tokyo and Osaka, it is a wonderful place to visit. The food is amazing, and where else could you see a frozen waterfall? Just don’t forget to pack an extra pair of socks!

If you would like a local guide to take you to this festival and take you to other places in Hokkaido, please check the banner below!

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!


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!


Would You Like to See the Biggest Winter Festival in Japan?

Hokkaido is the coldest Island in the Japanese archipelago. But this fact doesn’t scare Japanese people who have matsuri in their blood. Sapporo is holding the most significant winter event in Japan in February – Sapporo Snow Festival. So, if you are planning to come to Hokkaido in winter for skiing, visiting hot springs or even just on a business trip, don`t miss an opportunity to walk through the city and see this outstanding Festival! The following article will provide you with essential information on this beautiful event. Please check the link below!


Don`t Stay Hungry at the Festival!

Image courtesy of Tomomarusan

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!



Hi! I`m Manami - a freelance writer originally from Chiba, but now living in Bournemouth in the south of England!

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