Studio Ghibli bathhouse owner, other anime characters recreated in snow and ice at annual Hokkaido event.

Every year in early February, people bundle up and flock to the capital city of Hokkaido Prefecture for the Sapporo Snow Festival. Well, almost every year. After multiple years of pandemic-related precautions, including being an online-only event in 2021 and 2022, this year on February 4 the festival opened in-person and full scale for the first time in four years.

During the event fantastic snow and ice sculptures are displayed in the open (and very cold) air in downtown Hokkaido. Many of the sculptures are created by local businesses and citizens’ groups, and visitors are asked to vote on the best work from this category, which this year contained 78 different sculptures. One day prior to the festival wrapping up on February 11, the event organizers announced the results of the voting, and the top honor went to this amazing character recreation from Studio Ghibli’s Spirited Away.

With her bouffant hairstyle and deeply set eyes, this is none other than Yubaba, the antagonist witch/successful business owner from the Hayao Miyazaki-directed anime film. Yubaba’s cooly calculating gaze feels all the chillier rendered in snow, and there’s even a snow version of her pagoda-like Aburaya bathhouse included in the installation.

Yubaba wasn’t the only anime icon appearing at this year’s Sapporo Snow Festival. Also present were Saichi Sugimoto and Asirpa from Hokkaido-set adventure series Golden Kamuy, whose live-action theatrical adaptation premiered in Japanese theaters a few weeks ago…

…the titular mecha of Gundam Seed Freedom

…and some of the cast of Jujutsu Kaisen, though it’s unclear if the non-Yubaba characters were eligible for the citizens’ group-made visitors’ choice award.

▼ There are more views of the Spirited Away sculpture at the 33-second mark.

Following Yubaba in the visitor’s choice award-rankings were Yabee Bear, a mascot character promoting the Hokkaido dialect of the Japanese language, striking a pose referencing William S. Clark (the American educator who established Sapporo Agricultural College/Hokkaido University and popularized the phrase “Boys, be ambitious!”) and a snow sculpture of professional baseball player Shohei Ohtani.

With a limited number of artist entry slots available for the Sapporo Snow Festivals, participation is usually decided by a lottery system. The top three teams from the visitors’ choice rankings, though, are automatically granted entry in the next year’s Snow Festival, and if Ghibli’s The Boy and the Heron follows in the footsteps of Spirited Away by winning an Oscar next month, maybe we’ll see sculptures of its protagonist Mahito or the mysterious Grey Heron in Sapporo next year.

Source: HBC
Top image: Studio Ghibli
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