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The Japanese love celebrating and they love festivals. There are literally thousands of festivals in Japan from the tiny local community festivals just for the residents of one village or city ward, to the huge events such as the Takayama and Gion festivals, attended by hundreds of thousands of people every year.

Festivals in Japan are rich and vibrant occasions. Girls put on their best 'yukatta' (a light kimono) and often the men wear traditional dress as well. The streets are lined with food and drink stands selling grilled meat on sticks, 'yakisoba' fried noodles and all manner of food delights. And of course, the Japanese love a drink at these occasions so beer and sake are never in short supply.

In this section we will be collecting together some of our favourite festivals that we think you may like to consider attending whilst in Japan. Some are really famous, other less so, but what we can guarantee is that you will have a lot of fun. Accommodation for major festivals can get booked up as far as a year in advance so if you are looking to attend a big event then let is know as soon as possible so we can get planning. Often though, it is just a matter of seeing what coincides with your visit and heading along for some festival fun and a chance to meet the Japanese at their most laid back.

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Sapporo Snow Festival (Feb)

Overview

The Sapporo Yuki Matsuri or Snow Festival is one of the highlights of the winter in Japan. People flock in their tens of thousands from all over Japan to see the huge ice and snow sculptures which fill the squares of Odori Park in the centre of the city. This is truly a winter wonderland. The snow sculptures are carved from snow brought down from the mountains surroudnig the city. From these white blocks grow the pyramids of Egypt, huge prehistoric animals, the famous sights of Japan such as Matsumoto castle and Kyoto's Golden Pavilion.

As dusk falls the sculptures are lit up with an array of colourful spot lights and twinkling fairy lights. Hot sake and mulled wine warms the visiting crowds and of course, all the usual Japanese festival food is available with yakitori chicken skewers, okonomiyaki pancakes, yakisoba noodles, takoyaki octopus balls and much more besides.

Outside of the centre of Sapporo is the second site with a snow maze, ice bar, toboggan rides and organised snow ball fights! - A fantastic place to visit with kids or to go and see Japanese families out for the day.

Sapporo Yuki Matsuri really is one of the highlights of the winter season.

When:

The Snow Festival takes place at the beginning of February each year, here are the latest dates:

2015: Thu 5th Feb to Wed 11th Feb

Accommodation during this time is at a premium so if you wish to attend you will need to book early. Our Winter Highlights Small Group Tour also includes 3 days in Sapporo for the Snow Festival.



Where:
Sapporo is the capital of Japan's north island, Hokkaido.

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Inside Japan Tours - Independent British Travel Awards 2011 - Best Tour Operator To East and Central Asia
The Guardian, The Observer - Travel Awards 2010 Winner - Best tour operator (small)
Inside Japan Tours - Silver at the British Travel Awards 2009