Japan is famous for its colourful and enriching events and festivals. Wherever you may be visiting in Japan with its array of both local (matsuri) and national festivals, you are sure to be close to a celebration or marked occasion of some sort.
Otaru Snow Light Path
Enjoy the romantic sight of Otaru’s snow-carpeted streets illuminated by the gentle glow of thousands of snow lanterns.Every February, the small harbour city of Otaru transforms into a magical winter wonderland for ten days for the Otaru Snow Light Path festival (Otaru yuki-akari-no-michi), which sees the town decorated with hundreds of small, candle-lit snow lanterns. Temporarily check out of the humdrum of daily life, bask in the cosy glow of the candlelight, and take the time for some positive reflection during this cheerful, welcoming local festival.
The festival has two main areas that are lit up daily between 17:00 and 21:00. The more famous of the two, the Unga Kaijo area, is a 300 metre-long stretch along the town’s iconic Otaru Canal. Candles in small glass buoys bob gently on the freezing waters of Otaru Canal and a row of small snow statues holding candles line the path along the canal. The illuminations set off the quaint atmosphere of the canal area’s restored stone and brick warehouses and old-fashioned gas streetlights. The canal is an easy 10-minute walk along the main road leading from Otaru Station.
The other main area is the Temiyasen Kaijo area, a 500-metre section of the former Kamiyasen railway tracks which transported coal and later passengers from 1800 until its closure in 1985. During the festival, a snow tunnel is constructed along the route of the old tracks and decorated with snow lanterns and illuminated snow statues. The two main areas are both about fifteen minutes walk from the train station, so festivalgoers can easily enjoy the town’s atmosphere on foot.
Aside from the two main festival areas, festivalgoers will also stumble across other pockets of festivity as they stroll around the town. Local residents put out around 100,000 private candles in front of family homes, churches, schools, shops, companies and hospitals. Meanwhile, in Asarigawa Hot Spring Village, located on the city’s outskirts, candles are placed in pockets on snow-capped boulders in the river, creating a magical snowy landscape.
Conveniently for visitors, the festival usually runs at the same time as the nearby Sapporo Snow Festival, meaning it is easy for visitors to Hokkaido to visit both festivals on the same trip (Otaru is under an hour by train from Sapporo).
Every FebruaryDates and functions are subject to change without notice. Be sure to check the latest information in advance.