Every year, Japan outdoes itself with stunning winter illuminations and light displays including the gorgeous frozen waterfalls in Aomori prefecture. If you’re looking for another winter wonderland to explore, don’t miss the annual Chitose Lake Shikotsu Ice Festival up in Hokkaido.
The festival takes place from late January to late February, but in early January, you can visit the site to see how the festival’s eye-catching ice sculptures are made. The freezing temperatures are ideal for ice-making and the icy skeletons of these icy giants are created and built up over the month.
The behind-the-scenes ice tour is run by Kyukamura Shikotsuko resort and you can join between January 1 and 28. Knowledgeable staff will guide you through the area, where you'll get to see huge icicles hanging overhead and learn how each sculpture changes in colour and shape over time.
The pre-opening tour and experience plan includes accommodation, dinner and a tour of the site for ¥20,000 per person. Visits are scheduled for either 7am to 8.30am, 10am to 11.30am or 1pm to 2.30pm. Don’t forget to pack your winter gear – after all, temperatures are often below freezing outside. To book, visit the resort website.
If you’d rather check out the sculptures once they’re complete, the Chitose Lake Shikotsu Ice Festival is held between January 29 and February 23 2022. Now in its 44th year, the festival is open from 10am to 8pm, with a colourful light up between 4.30pm and 8pm. Entry is just ¥500 per person and is free for junior high school students and younger.
The ice festival is held at Lake Shikotsu Onsen and is a 40-minute drive from New Chitose Airport or an hour drive from Sapporo. For more details on the festival, visit the website.
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