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It's Anime! On Ice at the 2018 Sapporo Snow Festival

posted on 2018-02-13 12:45 EST by Heidi Kemps
In a sea of anime ice sculptures, visitors slid down a frosty wave of ramen, watched Nidhogg come to life, and celebrated Tezuka's 90th birthday

Sapporo is the largest city in snowy Hokkaido, the northernmost island of Japan known for its robust agriculture and chilly winters. It's one of the few big cities in Japan where snow tends to linger for a long period of time. Because of this, winters in Sapporo are considered to be something special -- and every year, a Snow Festival is held to celebrate the season in a spectacular way. Millions of tourists come from around the world to see stunning snow and ice scultpures, enjoy winter sports and activities, and enjoy seasonal foods at the Sapporo Snow Festival. While the Snow Festival encompasses several different locations across Sapporo, the bulk of it is contained in the famous Odori Park, a nearly mile-long public park in the heart of the city with plenty of famous landmarks like the Sapporo TV Tower.

Among the many snow and ice sculptures each year are several anime, manga, gaming, and pop-culture-related pieces. This year was no exception, featuring some massive and breathtaking snow creations highlighting some popular fan favorites, both old and new.

I went on the first day of the Snow Festival, February 5th, and while some things were still being prepared (like the sculpture for upcoming Hokkaido-themed anime Golden Kamuy, many of the Snow Festival's offerings were up to enjoy in all their carefully crafted glory. Let's have a look at some of the cool (no pun intended) sights to behold at the 69th Snow Festival!

One of the first creations seen when entering Odori park was this Osamatsu-san snow sculpture, featuring the famous sextuplets from the popular anime franchise riding a sleigh while each displaying their unique personality quirk.

Exclusive Snow Festival merchandise featuring the Matsunos was also offered at a booth near the statue, and was garnering a lot of interest from fans in attendance.

Cardcaptor Sakura also put in an appearance at the Snow Festival near the entrance. While there was a booth promoting the newest anime series, Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card, there sadly was no snow or ice statue to represent the young heroine, which was a real shame -- imagine how nice Sakura and Syaoran would look in illuminated ice...

One of the biggest showstoppers was a massive Final Fantasy XIV themed statue that towered above the crowd at nearly three stories high. Depicting a fierce fight betweenFell Worm Nidhogg and Azure Dragoon Estinien Wyrmblood, the amount of detail contained in this piece is nothing short of breathtaking.

At night, the sculpture came to life with a special projection-mapped light show that brought the fierce battle of these two beings to life. While the sculptures themselves didn't move, the lights managed to convey the choreography of an intense fight, complete with soaring orchestral music. It's a stunning technical achievement, and whenever it came on, all of the crowds around stopped to watch in rapt attention.

Further into the Festival, past myriad stands offering unique and exotic food and drink from around the globe, was another very nice anime-based snow sculpture.

The Love Live! Sunshine!! piece featured the various members of idol group Aquors in chibified forms on a unique semi-circular snow stage, making for an exceptionally cute and memorable representation of the popular series.

Surprise megahit anime Kemono Friends also put in a snowy appearance, featuring the characters Serval, Arctic Fox, and Arctic Wolf.

One of the biggest features at the Festival was this massive tribute to one of the most important and enduring figures in anime and manga, Osamu Tezuka. 2018 would have been the year of Tezuka's 90th birthday, and to celebrate his legacy, a massive display featuring character murals and a gigantic snow sculpture was set up.

The sculpture centerpiece of the tribute, comparable in size to the Final Fantasy XIV piece, featured four of Tezuka's most famous characters: Black Jack, Astro Boy, Princess Sapphire, and Leo the lion (often known Stateside as Kimba). As viewers admired the huge statue, classic theme songs from Tezuka's various anime series played over speakers.

While many of the statues at the Snow Festival have some sort of corporate or organizational tie-in, there are spaces for local groups and individuals to create their own amateur snow sculptures, as well. Many of these are entered into a public competition, and they're all free for everyone to admire. Several of these local creations used anime, games, and pop culture as inspiration.

Super Mario Galaxy was a theme choice for two such statues, one featuring a Cappy-possessed Yoshi and another featuring Mario with his friendly hat companion.

Another local submission featured cranky Animal Crossing inhabitant Mr. Resetti looking like he's about to blow a gasket... again.

Pop culture cats were also popular sculpture choices. The ever-present Doraemon made an expected appearance, along with a very cool piece highlighting three famous anime cats: Catbus from My Neighbor Totoro, Nyarome from Mouretsu Ataro, and Jibanyan from Yōkai Watch.

Goku even showed up to join in the snow festivities! While big, official Dragon Ball statues have been a highlight of the Snow Festival in previous years, this fan-made creation still has a lot of spirit.

Hatsune Miku has become a big part of the Snow Festival in recent years, with her yearly Snow Miku reincarnations making her a major part of not only the Festival, but Sapporo culture in general. I have a lot more pictures of Sapporo's Snow Miku related tie-ins, locations, and merchandise I'll be putting in a separate gallery, but for now, let's enjoy the lovely sculpture of this year's Snow Miku design, Crane Priestess Miku.

After dark, a light and music show would run every half-hour for Snow Miku, playing this year's festival theme song, "Round Off the Square Earth." Fans gathered around to as Miku's voice and a simple but charming light show warmed up the chilly night air.

Of course, there was plenty of cool stuff not expressly related to anime or games. A towering slope in the middle of the park allowed viewers to watch live winter sports demonstrations, while a beautifully lit skating rink let people pretend they were in Yuri!!! on Ice. (Okay, maybe that's exaggerating a bit.)

Meanwhile, a Cup-Noodle themed sledding slope mimicked the experience of gliding down a cascade of tasty instant noodles.

Other gigantic snow sculptures in Odori Park included a recreation of Sweden's Stockholm Cathedral and the Daikodo, which also featured a stunning projection-mapped light show.

These are only a fraction of the pictures I took at the Odori Park Snow Festival site, and but a small sampling of all the interesting snow-themed creations they had on display. This was truly an inspiring, magical event that left me in awe. Even without the anime- and game-themed creations on display, the amount of winter beauty and amazing effort here was a sight to behold. If you ever get a chance to go to the Snow Festival -- don't hesitate, do it! You won't regret it!

Sapporo's Snow Festival wouldn't be the same without Hatsune Miku, check it out here!


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