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Japan Winter Festivals Calendar: Sapporo Snow Festival, Otaru Snow Light Path Festival, and More!


lake shikotsu ice festival at night
Shimmering ice sculptures and ethereal illuminations create a mesmerizing winter fairy tale at Lake Shikotsu

Winter in Japan is a breathtaking spectacle, defined not only by its enchanting snowy vistas but also by an array of vibrant and exhilarating winter festivals and events. The country itself is a haven of delightful experiences during winter, offering invigorating hot springs (onsen), exquisite views of plum blossoms in the late winter, and a plethora of outdoor activities to indulge in during this season.


Regions like Hokkaido and Akita are particularly renowned, showcasing Japan’s most remarkable snow festivals and winter illuminations. These areas are quintessential winter holiday destinations, but there are also other parts of Japan that host spectacular festivals worth experiencing. For instance, the Saidai-ji Eyo Hadaka Matsuri in Okayama Prefecture — held on the third Saturday in February, this unique "Naked Festival" sees thousands of men, clad only in loincloths, competing to seize a pair of sacred sticks tossed by a priest. Though it's not centered around snow like you would expect a winter festival to be, it's still worth seeing!


To truly embrace the ultimate Japanese winter experience, it’s essential to acquaint yourself with the schedules of the myriad festivals and events that captivate both locals and tourists across the country. To enhance your journey with delightful surprises, we present a curated list of must-visit winter festivals and events in Japan for 2023-2024, complete with their opening and closing dates. Check it out below:


Table of Contents

  1. Winter Festivals in Hokkaido

  2. Winter Festivals in Akita

  3. Winter Festivals in Other Prefectures

  4. More about Sapporo Snow Festival and Other Winter Festivals in Japan

Winter Festivals in Hokkaido

otaru canal during otaru light path festival
Glowing lanterns line Otaru’s historic canals and streets, creating a serene pathway of light

If you prefer a more traditional wintertime experience, or if you're a skiing and snowboarding enthusiast, then Hokkaido is the perfect place for you! The region is equally celebrated for its awe-inspiring giant snow and ice sculptures, augmented by magnificent night illuminations featured in various winter festivals.

Name of Festival

Place

Dates

Sapporo Snow Festival

Sapporo

​4-11 February 2024

Otaru Snow Light Path Festival

Otaru

10-17 February 2024

Asahikawa Winter Festival

Asahikawa

7-12 February 2024

Chitose - Lake Shikotsu Ice Festival

Lake Shikotsu Hot Springs, Chitose

Late January - Late February 2024

Tokachi River Swan Festival Sairinka

Tokachigawa Hot Spring Resort, Otofuke Town

Late January - Late February 2024

Tomamu Ice Village

Hoshino Resorts TOMAMU

10 December 2023 - 14 March 2024

Obihiro Ice Festival

Midorigaoka Park, Obihiro City

Early February 2024

Sounkyo Ice Waterfall Festival

Sounkyo Hot Springs Resort, Daisetsuzan National Park,

Late January - Late March 2024

Noboribetsu Onsen Hot Water Festival

Noboribetsu Onsen, Iburi Subprefecture

3-4 February 2024

Lake Shikaribetsu Kotan

Shikaoi Town

Late January - mid-March 2024

Sapporo White Illumination

Sapporo

  • Odori Park: 22 Nov - 25 Dec 2023

  • Sapporo Station Ekimaedori: 22 Nov 2023 - 11 Feb 2024

  • Minami 1-jo dori: 22 Nov 2023 - 14 Mar 2024

  • Sapporo Kita 3-jo Plaza (Akapla): 22 Nov 2023 - 14 Mar 2024

  • JR Sapporo Station South Exit Plaza: 22 Nov 2023 - 14 Mar 2024

  • German Christmas Market in Sapporo: 22 Nov - 25 Dec 2023

Hakodate Illumination

Hakodate

Dec 2023 - Feb 2024

Get more info about Sapporo Snow Festival 2024 with our guide on how to Experience the Magic of Winter at Sapporo Snow Festival 2024! 

Winter Festivals in Akita

yokote kamakura festival snow huts
The snow-covered city of Yokote transforms into a mystical playground of illuminated kamakura snow huts

Winter in Akita Prefecture is a captivating season, marked by its intense snowfall that blankets the landscapes, turning them into stunning winter wonderlands. Akita's winter is not only about its mesmerizing snowy sceneries but also vibrant festivals like the Yokote Kamakura Festival, where exquisite snow huts illuminated by candles captivate the hearts of visitors. Coupled with the delightful opportunity to relish in onsen (hot springs) amidst the cold, and savor regional culinary delights such as Kiritanpo Nabe, Akita’s winter is a blend of natural beauty and cultural richness that promises an unforgettable experience.

Name of Festival

Place

Dates

Yokote Kamakura Festival

Yokote City

15-16 February 2024

Hiburi Kamakura Festival

Kakunodate Samurai District

13-14 February 2024

Paper Balloon Festival of Kamihinokinai

Semboku City

10 February 2024

Kariwano Giant Tug of War

Daisen City

10 February 2024

Namahage Sedo Matsuri

Shinzan Shrine in Oga City

Every year on the second Friday, Saturday and Sunday of February

Inukko Festival

Yuzawa Town

Ever year on the second weekend of February, both Saturday and Sunday

Takeuchi (Bamboo Fight) Matsuri

Misato Town

11-15 February 2024


Winter Festivals in Other Prefectures

nagasaki lantern festival
Vivid lanterns ignite the night, weaving a vibrant tapestry of color and light through Nagasaki’s streets

Winter in regions of Japan outside of Hokkaido and Akita is a delightful spectrum of experiences, each with its unique charm and beauty. In Tokyo, the winter is milder but with crisp air, lit-up illuminations, and seasonal delicacies that make the city sparkle with holiday spirit. Kanagawa Prefecture brings the magic of the season alive with the enchanting Sagamiko Illumillion light display. In Kyoto, the old capital, historical temples and gardens are gracefully adorned with delicate frost, and traditional tea houses offer a warm refuge with matcha and seasonal sweets.


Nagano, known for hosting the Winter Olympics, presents majestic snow-covered alps perfect for skiing and snowboarding, while its famous Jigokudani Monkey Park welcomes snow monkeys taking refuge in its warm onsen waters. Further south, in places like Osaka and Hiroshima, winter is more subdued, yet delightful, with lesser snow but colder temperatures, and streets are adorned with beautiful illuminations and decorations, making winter in Japan beyond Hokkaido and Akita a diverse and enchanting experience.

Name of Festival

Place

Dates

Tokamachi Snow Festival

Tokamachi City, Niigata

Mid-February 2024

Iwate Snow Festival

Koiwai Farm, Morioka City, Iwate

Early to Mid-February 2024

Hirosaki Castle (Yuki-Doro) Snow Lantern Festival

Hirosaki Park, Aomori

Mid-February 2024

Zao Snow Monster Festival

Zao Onsen, Yamagata

December 2023 to mid-March 2024

Aizu Painted Candle Festival

Aizuwakamatsu City, Fukushima

Second week of February 2024

Yunishigawa Kamakura Festival

Yunishigawa Onsen, Tochigi

Late January to early March 2024

Dosojin Fire Festival

Nozawa Onsen, Nagano

15 January 2024

Niino no Yuki Matsuri

Izu Shrine, Nagano

14-15 January 2024

Saidai-ji Eyo Hadaka Matsuri (Naked Festival)

Saidaiji Temple, Okayama

Annually on the 3rd Saturday of February

Hachinohe Enburi Festival

Hachinohe City, Aomori

Mid-February 2024

Nagasaki Lantern Festival

Nagasaki City

10-24 February 2024

Ashikaga Flower Park Flower Fantasy

Ashikaga Flower Park, Tochigi

18 October 2023 - 14 February 2024

Tsunan Snow Festival

Tsunan City, Niigata Prefecture

March 2024

More about Sapporo Snow Festival and Other Winter Festivals in Japan

Learn more about the Aizu Painted Candle Festival, Zao Snow Monster Festival, and more by checking out our guide: Can't Make It to the Sapporo Snow Festival 2024? Check Out These Other Winter Festivals in Japan! 

Need more travel inspiration?

Don't worry, we've got you covered — check out our Japan guides below:




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