Thursday, January 9, 2014

Hokkaido Winter 2013 北海道冬季之旅 - Asahikawa Winter Festival 旭川冬まつり

Visited 08.02.2013
Year 2013: 06.02.2013 - 11.02.2013
Year 2014: 06.02.2014 - 11.02.2014
Year 2015: 06.02.2015 - 11.02.2015

Apart from Sapporo Snow Festival, the next largest winter event that is held in the same week is Asahikawa Winter Festival. This event, held in Asahikawa - the second largest city of Hokkaido, has been around for more than half a century, 1 decade younger than Sapporo Snow Festival. During the 6 days event, both ice and snow sculptures, in various forms and sizes are put up for display in two venues - along the populated Heiwa dori shopping street and the riverside beside Asahibashi bridge.



- Numerous ice sculptures lined both sides of Heiwa dori shopping street. These beautifully crafted masterpieces are created by ice sculptures all around the world and are also entries competing in the annual World Ice Sculpture Contest. At night, these ice sculptures are lit up, looking vastly different appearance as what we see in the day. Felt that the details of the sculptures looked more well-defined as various coloured lights are shone upon them under the dark skies. Was amazed by the fine and intricate details that each of this ice sculpture portrayed.

Intricate details on every masterpiece
Ice sculptures took on a different form at night
- Made our way to the main venue located beside Asahibashi bridge. The main highlight of this annual event is the construction of one gigantic snow sculpture - Transformers took the centre stage in 2013 (and in 2014 as well). Construction activities started in late Dec/early Jan as snow quantity began to accumulate. If you are wondering who are the artists behind this big masterpiece, they are actually from Japan Ground Self-Defense Force! Truly impressed by their dedication in such ad-hoc events as well.

54th Asahikawa Winter Festival theme: Transformers - More than meets the eye
- Another main attraction is the longest snow slide that is about 100 m long! But do expect to queue for your turn as these slides are hugely popular (because its free!) and only two slides are available (did not manage to try out as the queue was too long on the day of our visit). There are lots of other activities to keep visitors occupied throughout the entire event period. Visitors can also participate in snow rafting, banana boat, sledding, tubing, etc made available in the main venue (at a nominal fee). There are also live performances and light shows (at night) taking place at the center stage. Many medium sized snow sculptures, featuring many familiar cartoon characters and Asahikawa's very own mascot - Asapi, were also on display for endless photo taking.

A thrilling ride down this 100 m long snow slide!
Medium sized snow sculptures; Top Right: Iconic Asahibashi bridge
- The main venue also housed a Winter Market which is packed with food stalls. A lounge area was also set up for visitors to escape from the cold and enjoy their food indoors. Do visit their souvenir shop as well as to purchase limited edition merchandise - bought a collar pin that was specially designed for this year's event.

Winter Market and Lounge
Collar pin collected!

Asahikawa Winter Festival 旭川冬まつり
(1) World Ice Sculpture Contest: Along Heiwa-dori shopping street
(2) Main event venue: Beside Asahibashi bridge


How to get there? 
(1) Free shuttle bus service operates during the entire period of Asahikawa Winter Festival. The bus commutes between Asahikawa JR Station and the main event venue.

Another free shuttle bus commutes between the main event venue and Asahiyama Zoo and Yuki no Mura Snow Village (雪の村). This bus service allows visitors to visit both attractions conveniently on the same day. Do note that the timing for this bus is less frequent.
Bus schedule:

(2) Walk: Start from Asahikawa JR Station and walk along Heiwa dori shopping street to admire the ice sculptures. Continue to walk straight till you reach the roundabout and make your way towards Asahibashi bridge.

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