6 Traditions Only Locals in Hokkaido Can Understand

YOSAKOI Soran Festival in 2010 | © Tzu-hsun Hsu / Wikipedia
YOSAKOI Soran Festival in 2010 | © Tzu-hsun Hsu / Wikipedia
Photo of Dave Afshar
9 February 2017

With its long winters, rich history, and indigenous population, the northern island of Hokkaido has a distinct culture, unique to that of the rest of Japan. We take a look at some of the holidays, special events, and traditions that make Hokkaido truly one of a kind.

Strawberry and Pork Festival

While most people don’t typically associate one with the other, the small town of Toyoura in southern Hokkaido is famous for two things: strawberry farming, and pork. Apparently, the local government decided to save time and celebrate both products at once, and thus the Strawberry and Pork festival was created. Aside from the obvious dining options, the event also features live performances and marching bands.

Otaru Snow Light Path

Located just an hour’s drive from Sapporo, this beautiful port city already has a reputation for being something of a fairytale, but the real magic happens around the first two weeks in February. For 10 days, the entire city is lit up by lanterns and miniature snow statues, creating a beautiful and calm winter wonderland.

Sapporo Autumn Fest

Hokkaido is known as the “Kingdom of Food” to the Japanese due to its fresh seafood, strong agricultural industry, and locally raised livestock. Every year for about three weeks in September, restaurateurs and farmers from all over Hokkaido set up booths to promote their local delicacies and products at the Sapporo Autumn Festival. All the staples of Hokkaido can be found here, such as miso ramen, sashimi, and soup curry.

Yuki Zanmai

Located at the famous Jozankei hot spring resort, Yuki Zanmai (literally, “snow indulgence”, but more commonly known in English as “Jozankei Mountain Party”) is an all-ages winter celebration taking place every year in mid January. Guests have a chance to ride dog sleds and snow rafts and take a pleasant stroll through Yukitouro (“Snow Candle Way”), which is a local shrine lit up at night by around two thousand candles.

Sapporo Snow Festival

Drawing in over two million tourists per year, this now legendary festival of ice and snow was started by a group of high school students in 1950. Participants can join sporting competitions, ski and snowboard events, ice sculpture exhibits, and even a beauty contest where the winner is awarded the title of “Ice Queen”.

Sapporo Snow Festival | ©David McKelvey / Flickr

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