The Sapporo Snow Festival is one of the most famous annual events in Japan, and a staple of both Hokkaido and its largest city. The festival has been in existence since 1950, and its average of 400 snow sculptures attract millions of visitors each year. However, 2020 is proving to be an extremely difficult year for the upcoming festival. Snowfall in the region has hit a record low for December 2019, seeing the lowest numbers of snow since tracking began in 1961.
As a result, officials realized they would not have enough snow for the February event. Therefore, in order to host the annual event, snow from other regions is now being transported to Sapporo.
This tactic is not so different from what many governments do when popular beaches see receding sand due to erosion. Waikiki, for example, it’s notorious for bringing in substantial amount of sand in order to replenish the famous beach.
However, this sets an interesting precedent for the festival, and one that has worried officials. While weather patterns do tend to change with time, Japan saw temperatures reaching record highs in 2019, and many regions not receiving enough snow in December. That’s why some ski resorts are struggling this season, and why the festival had to go to such lengths to bring snow from other areas.
This is happening as people around the world become more aware of the climate crisis and its effects. Summers are getting hotter, typhoons and hurricanes stronger and more frequent, and wildfires a common occurrence.
Wildfires alone have devastated forests across the world, including in Siberia, Alaska, the Amazon Rainforest, and California. In fact, as of this writing, Australia is facing the worst environmental crisis in its history as several wildfires continue to ravage the country. This heartbreaking tragedy has already killed more than 500 million animals and devastated communities, and the wildfires are expected to continue for more weeks (perhaps extending until March).
As a result, the climate crisis has now become something an increasing number of people and local governments have started to accept as real, and as something that needs to be tackled despite other parties still trying to play down the events and dismiss climate change.
In the case of Sapporo, there are now concerns that the snow problems the prefecture has been facing this winter could be something seen more and more often in the following years.
Nevertheless, the events taking place this season have already started to make people think about the future, and what things lie ahead.
For this year, though, the renown Sapporo Snow Festival will have to rely on the snow that happened to fall in other areas so that it can take place.