In winter, snowy areas of Japan become a sculptor’s workshop. Iiyama Snow Festival is a spectacular snow festival in the region of Nagano that attracts more than 50000 visitors. This is one of the largest snow festivals not only in Nagano but also in the whole of Japan.
Iiyama is a city located in Northern Nagano Prefecture and takes approximately 20 minutes by car from Nozawa Onsen. The famous TV manufacturer ‘Iiyama’ comes from this city. Iiyama city was founded in 1954 and it calls itself ‘Japan’s Hometown’. It also happens to be the city that hosted the 1998 winter Olympics. It also set a Guinness World Record for the highest number of snowmen built in an hour. This place is famous for its ski resorts such as the Nozawa Onsen Snow Resort. It holds many festivals such as Iiyama Dontokoi in August and, of course, the Iiyama Snow Festival on the second Saturday and Sunday in February. For 2016 the dates are the 13th through 14th of February.
In different areas of Japan that receive heavy snowfall, ‘Yuki Matsuri’ or snow festivals in English, are common. The city of Iiyama holds the festival every year as it receives a good amount of heavy snow every winter. The entire city is adorned with a number of snow sculptures just like any other snow festival. On top of that, the city gets sparkled with dazzling fireworks, bonfires and so on with local people performing arts and many more.
The event attracts more than 50000 visitors to Iiyama’s downtown featuring hundreds of sculptures made by students and local residents. There is a procession called ‘omikoshi’ where a portable shrine is paraded around the city. At night, the area is lit with bright illuminations bringing a magical feeling to the sculptures and roads.
The venue of the festival is usually Johoku Field in Iiyama city which is reachable from JR Kita Iiyama Station 5 minutes on foot. Shuttle buses are operated every 30 minutes from JR Iiyama main station to the venue. There is a 2-day pass that can be useful for transportation during the event. For more information, you can contact ‘Shinshu-Iiyama Tourism Bureau’ or check out the event’s website. There are also many stalls selling local food, artifacts, and other things during the festival.
Enjoy the spectacular Iiyama Snow Festival and take back home plentiful of pictures and videos of your fond memories. This is one of the best snow festivals happening in the Nagano region.