Sapporo White Illumination adds color to the city center of Sapporo in winter.

Sapporo White Illumination

With a population of approximately 2 million, Sapporo is the fifth most populous city in Japan (including Tokyo), and is favored for its moderate size, convenience, and cool climate, earning it the top spot as a “desirable place to live” in annual surveys in Japan.

Sapporo is famous as the city with the most snowfall among cities with a population of 1 million or more. Sapporo stands out from the crowd with approximately 6 meters of snowfall, ahead of Montreal, Canada with a similar population (approximately 2 meters of snowfall per year) and St. Petersburg, Russia with 2.5 times the population (approximately 3 meters per year).
As a result, many winter events are held in the city, and the image of winter and snow is well established, such as the “Snow Festival” and “host of the Winter Olympics.

However, when you actually live in the city… snow is quite a nuisance, as you have to remove snow almost every day during the winter, dig out your car occasionally, and expect to spend two to three times longer than in summer to get to your destination when you go out.
On the other hand, the city’s ski slopes, jumps, and open-air skating rinks provide the perfect environment for enjoying winter sports.
Sapporo’s unique features can be either advantages or disadvantages, but it is because of the abundance of snow that the citizens of Sapporo are able to survive the long winters by making the most of and enjoying each other’s company.

Odori Park venue: Main venue with a theme for each section.

Crossing the center of Sapporo from east to west, Odori is where Sapporo’s three subway lines, Tozai Line, Nanboku Line, and Toho Line, intersect. 1-chome to 13-chome is a 1.5 km long and 65 m wide park, which is popular with citizens as a place of relaxation with fountains and greenery in summer.

In the “White Illumination,” each section of Odori Park, from 1-chome to 6-chome, has its own theme, and each section is decorated with distinctive objects in different shades of color, designed by object designers to match the theme.

From the observatory of the TV tower on Odori 1-chome (about 90 meters above ground level), looking west over the park where the event is held, you can see the illuminated venue as a whole, the lights of the surrounding buildings, the lights of the city of Sapporo, and the Okurayama ski jump stadium in the back of the park.

The reason why the Odori Park venue ends at Christmas, while other illumination venues are held until February or March, is because of the preparation for the Snow Festival. As soon as the new year begins, beautiful snow is brought in from various places in Sapporo and as far away as Nakayama Pass, and the snow sculptures begin to be built.
Although the Odori venue is only open for a month, there are many highlights to see. If you can, you should visit Odori during this one-month period.

Odori Park Venue Data

Dates: Wednesday, November 22, 2023 – Monday, December 25, 2023
Hours: 16:30 to 22:00
*Only until 24:00 during December 23-25
Lighting hours are subject to change without notice during the exhibition period.

Odori 1-chome, Winged “Wish Bars”

Odori 1-chome, near Sapporo City Hall and the Clock Tower, where the TV Tower is located. A large, beautifully decorated tree welcomes visitors to the plaza in front of the TV Tower.
This tree is not only installed during the white illumination, but is a “Akaezomatsu” tree planted at this location. It is decorated with illumination and objects in warm shades of gold, which contrast sharply with the blue-lit TV tower in the background.
The front of the tree is decorated with an objet d’art in the shape of the Sapporo city bird, the cuckoo, and is a popular photo spot.

Odori 2-chome, “Gift of Snow” and “Munich Christmas Market in Sapporo”

Together with Odori 1-Chome, Odori 2-Chome is positioned as an “international exchange zone.
The “Munich Christmas Market in Sapporo” was first held in 2002 to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the sister city affiliation between Munich, Germany and Sapporo, and has been held for 22 years since then.
The “Gift of Snow” is set up right in the center of the venue, and booths selling Christmas goods and other items as well as German-style food and drinks line up around it.
If you want to enjoy the illumination as well, you can choose the night time, but if you are looking for goods, we recommend you to go during the daytime when you can enjoy shopping at your leisure!

Odori 3-chome, Colorful “Winter Blossoms”

Odori 3-chome has a fountain in the center of the park and is loved by citizens seeking coolness during the summer months.
During the festival, objets d’art featuring lilacs, lily of the valley, and hibiscus, flowers related to Sapporo and Hokkaido, are installed, and from 2023, five different colors will be added to the objets d’art.
The large lilac sculpture in the center is especially popular, and people are constantly taking commemorative photos. On the west side, there is also a photo booth where visitors can enter and take pictures.

Odori 4-chome, Dreaming of “Snow Fantasia”

Facing Sapporo Ekimae Dori, the main street that runs from Sapporo Station to Susukino, it is a busy place along with 3-Chome. The central fountain, which fills with water in summer, is now decorated with illuminations and surrounded by a tunnel covered with light particles.
The tunnel is illuminated at intervals with flickering blue-white lights, creating a snowy corridor, and once inside, visitors feel as if they are enveloped by the light.
If you come to the event, this object is a must-see and recommended photo spot.

Odori 5-chome, Starry “Cosmic Square”

Although there are no large objects, there are several tall, transparent spheres that begin to emit blue light in response to the movements of people around them.
Inside the spheres are mirror balls (shining balls), which reflect ambient light as well as the light from the lights, creating a fantastic atmosphere throughout the venue. Looking around from a distance, the orange objects on the left and right, the tunnel of light in 4-Chome, and the blue illumination of the TV tower in the back, combined with the objects floating in a faint blue color, create a scene as if you are in a different world.

Odori 6-chome, The “Emerald Forest” in shimmering

The entire venue is covered with trees in 6th Street. You can see this by looking at the map service.
Installed here is a maze made of emerald green illumination.
The green light emitted from the maze reflects off the snow and trees, making the entire venue glow green.
The maze is located away from the center of the venue, 2nd Street, and on the day I visited, there was not a soul to be seen. It is recommended to enjoy the illumination in a quiet atmosphere away from the hustle and bustle of the city.

Ekimae-dori venue: Continues from Sapporo Station through Odori Park to Susukino.

Sapporo Ekimae Dori, the main street of Sapporo, runs north-south from Sapporo Station to Nakajima Park.
The 1.5 km stretch of Sapporo Ekimae Dori from the south exit of Sapporo Station to Susukino is used as the venue for the illumination of 220,000 illuminated trees along the median strip between the two lanes of the street.
This section is now connected by an underground shopping arcade, but until 2011, there was no underground shopping arcade between Sapporo Station and Odori, so some Sapporo citizens may be more familiar with this area as the venue for the White Illumination.
We recommend the section from Odori Park to Susukino. The buildings across the street are decorated in their winter costumes and illuminated with trees.

Ekimae Dori venue data

Dates: Wednesday, November 22, 2023 – Sunday, February 11, 2024
Lighting hours: 16:30 to 22:00
*Only until 24:00 during December 23-25

Minami 1-jyo venue: Adjacent to Sapporo’s shopping zone and characterized by glamour.

The Minami Ichijo Dori venue stretches approximately 400 meters from Ekimae Dori to Sosegawa River from east to west, and although the distance may seem short, more than 70,000 LED lights decorate the ginkgo trees on either side of the street.
The white and gold illumination combined with the lights in the show windows of department stores and other stores creates a bright and lively atmosphere that is enjoyed by passersby.

Minami 1-jyo Venue Data

Dates: Wednesday, November 22, 2023 – Sunday, February 11, 2024
Lighting hours: 16:30 to 22:00
*Only until 24:00 during December 23-25

Kita 3-jyo Plaza (Akapura) venue: Red Brick Dosho (Hokkaido Government Office) in the back.

The Kita 3-jyo Plaza (Akapura) is a pedestrian-only space extending from Sapporo Ekimae-dori to the well-known red brick “Old Hokkaido Government Office Building”.
The ginkgo trees lining both sides of the street, Hokkaido’s oldest roadside trees, are decorated with white and blue illuminations, and the plaza itself is also illuminated.

Currently, the red brick government building is under construction to replace the roof and make it barrier-free until 2025. Looking back from the street in front of the station, the distinctive government building would normally be lit up and appear to float, but currently a picture of the building painted on a sheet greets you.

Kita 3-jyo Plaza (Akapura) venue data

Dates: Wednesday, November 22, 2023 – Thursday, March 14, 2024
Lighting hours: 16:30 to 22:00
*Start time is changed according to the sunset time during the period.

Sapporo Station South Exit Station Square venue: Colorful objet d’art are recommended for photo spots.

Along with the illumination, the square in front of the south exit station is decorated with red and green flower motif domes, blue and orange arches, and other objects that change with the music playing, delighting visitors with their light effects.
Although more compact than the other venues, the objects display the richest variety of colors of all the venues, and are highly recommended as photo spots.

Sapporo Station South Exit Station Square Venue Data

Dates: Wednesday, November 22, 2023 – Thursday, March 14, 2024
Lighting hours: 16:30 to 24:00
*Start time is changed according to the sunset time during the period.

Forty years after the first event, 750,000 illuminations bring smiles to the faces of visiting citizens and tourists.

The “Sapporo White Illumination” is a famous event held in Sapporo on winter nights under the slogan “Bringing Smiles to Sapporo’s Winter.
It started in 1981 with about 1,000 light bulbs, and the number of lights was changed from light bulbs to LEDs, reaching about 750,000.
More than 40 years have passed since the first event was held, and during the period of the event, which also coincides with the “Munich Christmas Market” and the “Sapporo Snow Festival,” Odori Park is the main venue, with a total of six venues within a radius of approximately 700 meters, adding lively colors to the city center covered with pure white snow, delighting visitors and tourists once again this year. The park is now open to the public for the first time this year.

Recently, more and more people from overseas are coming to Sapporo, and there is a growing demand for ways to enjoy winter sports other than winter sports and to promote the culture of snow country.
Please come to Sapporo, Hokkaido in winter to enjoy the White Illumination and Snow Festival while catching a glimpse of the “snow blur” of Sapporo citizens as mentioned at the beginning of this article.