When you live in a place where it snows for nearly 6 months every year, why not make it pretty? This seems to be the guiding principle for the many snow and ice festivals across Hokkaido. While I have yet to make it to the ones farther away from Sapporo, such as Sounkyo, Shikotsuko, and the ice village in Tomamu, this year I was lucky enough to see Otaru’s Yuki Akari no Michi (Snow Light Path). Around a half-hour seaside train ride from Sapporo Station, the old-style European streets of Otaru are impossibly picturesque, and especially romantic in the evening. The charm factor is multiplied a thousand times when the streets are lined with snowmen and countless little lights made of snow and ice.


This year’s Yuki Akari no Michi was held from February 5-14, and I went for a few hours on Sunday, February 7. The two main sites for evening illumination are the famous canal, and the old railway tracks halfway between the canal and Otaru Station. As my companions and I wandered closer to the canal, we found that there are also snow sculptures and lights throughout the main touristy streets and covered shopping arcade. Even some surprising ones, like Colonel Sanders outside KFC!



About halfway down the canal, I was overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of lanterns and sculptures. There is a small, homemade feel to many of them, and only at the end of the line did I discover the reason for that. You can buy lanterns, write your own messages, and place them anywhere along the path! What a cute idea, and a memorable way to personalize your trip to Otaru.

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The train tracks are also packed with sculptures, many more than I expected. Everything from the Sapporo Beer star, to a mini maze of snow tunnels, to a happy snowman family seems tailored specifically to melt your heart. It reminded me that life is all about the little things – the small joys we make and share with our loved ones.


As part of a day trip to Otaru from Sapporo, you could easily spend a few hours perusing the streets and snapping photos of each beautiful display. However, I recommend making time for a rest stop as well, since you’ll need to warm up your freezing extremities!


Otaru Yuki Akari no Michi happens in early February every year.
Lights are on from 17:00-21:00 each day of the festival.

魅力満載 小樽雪あかりの路