Star Wars, anime favourites, and tennis pro Naomi Osaka all make an appearance at this year’s event.

Hokkaido’s capital city of Sapporo came to life with crowds of visitors yesterday, as the 70th Sapporo Snow Festival officially opened to the public across two sites at Susukino and Odori Park in the city’s centre.

A total of 200 ice and snow sculptures have been created for this year’s event, with the largest designs – measuring 15 metres (49 feet) in height and constructed with the help of the Japan Self-Defence Forces – located at the Odori Park location.

▼ Odori Park is home to five large snow sculptures, two large ice sculptures,
and over 100 other small-to-medium creations.

One of the largest sculptures on display this year is dedicated to the Star Wars film franchise, and this is where the festival’s official opening ceremony was held last night.

▼ The huge creation, pictured here pre-opening, has been officially approved by Lucasfilm.

During the ceremony, where Kylo Ren and several Storm Troopers made a surprise appearance, it was announced that Star Wars: Episode IX would be released in Japan on 20 December, the same day as the film’s premiere in the United States.

The announcement was met with cheers from the crowd, who were then treated to a grand light-up display, which runs at regular intervals throughout the evenings during the festival period.

According to festival organisers, this particular sculpture is extra special as visitors will be able to interact with it, by “boarding” Poe Dameron’s X-Wing Fighter at the front of the display. This is the first time in the history of the festival that visitors will actually be able to climb up onto one of the large snow sculptures.

Another large sculpture at the park is dedicated to one of the festival’s stalwarts, vocaloid Hatsune Miku, who’s being joined by BanG Dream!‘s Kasumi Toyama this year.

▼ These pictures show the immense scale of the sculpture.

The two characters “perform” a special collaboration song called “Yakousei Haizu” (translated as “Nocturnal Kids”) with an impressive projection mapping display scheduled at regular intervals during the evenings, thanks to support from the Hard Rock Cafe.

Hatsune Miku can also be seen on the grounds as “Snow Miku“, a character version that’s been appearing at the festival since 2010.

This year she’s dressed as a snow princess, in collaboration with characters from Re:Zero.

Another large display that makes use of projection mapping is this one by the Japan Racing Association. Hokkaido is a major producer of thoroughbred racehorses, with the Hidaka and Iburi regions accounting for 98 percent of thoroughbreds foaled in Japan.

Japan Freight Railway Company has also gone big for the event, with a sculpture dedicated to Red Bear, a class of freight train that helps to deliver produce from Hokkaido to other parts of the country.

This giant snow sculpture of Helsinki Cathedral celebrates the friendship and cultural exchange between Japan and Finland, as the two countries celebrate the 100 years of diplomatic relations.

Yushan, also known as Mount Jade, is the highest mountain in Taiwan, standing at 3,952 metres above sea level. This sculpture pays homage to the mountain, and also to a famous train station called Kaohsiung, which has a historic station building that is currently due to be combined with the new station building after careful relocation work.

Some of the medium-sized sculptures at the park pay homage to popular anime franchises like Sword Art Online.

And Touken Ranbu: Hanamaru, which stars Tsurumaru Kuninaga, the anthropomorphised sword smithed by Gojou Kuninaga in the year 1053.

The Citizens’ Snow Sculptures section of the festival always has an interesting collection of designs featuring beloved characters and well-known faces from the previous year.

▼ Which means we get to enjoy sculptures like Naomi Osaka striking a pose from Da Pump’s pop hit “U.S.A.”

▼ And classic characters like Totoro and Pikachu.

There’s a lot to see and do at the 70th Sapporo Snow Festival, but it’s only on for a very limited time, from 4-11 February. To see how this year’s sculptures stack up against previous years, feel free to check out the sights from 2017 and 2018, when epic Final Fantasy battles were set in snow…literally!

Source: Twitter/#雪まつり2019
Featured image: Instagram/komkoma7118

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