Towering snow sculptures pay homage to Final Fantasy and Osamu Tezuka’s beloved anime characters.

One of the highlights of the winter season in Japan is the stunning Sapporo Snow Festival, or Sapporo Yuki Matsuri, held on the northern island of Hokkaido in February each year.

The event is held across three sites – at Odori Park, Susukino and Tsudome – with most of the activity centred around the 1.5-kilometre (0.9-mile) stretch along Odori Park, where enormous snow sculptures, created with the help of Japan Self-Defense Forces members, can be found.

With the lineup changing from year to year, curious attendees are now being given a sneak peek at what to expect on the grounds of the park for the 2018 event, as festival organisers have revealed some of the biggest showstoppers for the festival’s 69th year.

There will be five “heavy snow” figures, measuring approximately 15 metres in height and depicting scenes like this one from Square Enix’s Final Fantasy series.

There’ll also be a sculpture featuring Osamu Tezuka characters like Astro Boy, Black Jack and Princess Sapphire, as a tribute to the 90th anniversary of the legendary animator’s birth.

Also at the Odori Park location will be two large ice sculptures, noted for their “transparent beauty” which is said to be particularly gorgeous when lit up at night.

▼ This display recreates the old station building at Taiwan’s historic Taichung Station in ice form.

Odori Park will also be home to the International Snow Sculpture Competition, featuring entries from countries like Finland, Hawaii, Indonesia, Australia, Macau, Poland, Singapore, Thailand, the United States, South Korea, and China.

▼ Last year’s winning design came from Macau.

▼ And the 2017 runner-up was Latvia.

The local townspeople will also be contributing some designs of their own, with teams currently turning blocks of snow into artistic masterpieces for the “Citizens’ Snow Sculptures” section. Attendees will be able to vote for their favourite sculpture at the event, with the winner announced on the afternoon of 10 February.

A short walk away from the main venue is “Crystal Street”, located at the Susukino venue, which has a fantastic display of glistening ice sculptures each year.

While the Tsudome venue will be drawing crowds to its six-lane “tube slider”, a child-friendly snow slope where attendees can enjoy sliding down the snow in inflatable rings.

▼ The “tube slider” is an annual event at Tsudome.

With the opening date for the Sapporo Snow Festival now less than a week away, many of the massive sculptures are already beginning to take shape.

If you’re too far away to travel to the festival, the official site has a number of live webcams set up to keep track of the process on the larger designs at Odori Park. One of the views, from Sapporo Tower, shows workers continuing with construction into the early hours of the morning.

▼ Sapporo Tower, located in Odori Park, is one of the city’s most famous landmarks.

The Sapporo Snow Festival is scheduled to run from 5-12 February at the Odori and Susukino venues, and from 1-12 February at the Tsudome location. With last year’s event revealing hidden gems like this crazy snow Piko Taro, who knows what surprises lie in store for attendees this year!

Source, images: PR Times