Tokyo: A major annual snow festival kicked off in Sapporo in the northernmost Japanese prefecture of Hokkaido on Saturday, displaying snow sculptures at physical venues for the first time in three years.
The 73rd Sapporo Snow Festival, running through Feb. 11, features more than 160 snow and ice sculptures. The winter celebration was held virtually for the previous two years due the COVID-19 pandemic, Xinhua News Agency reported.
Five gigantic snow sculptures over 10 meters tall are on display at the main Odori Park venue, including the one in the shape of Hokkaido Ballpark F Village, a new baseball stadium complex scheduled to open in March.
Sculptures created by citizens include those featuring shimaenaga, a subspecies of long-tailed tits found in Hokkaido, as well as rabbits as 2023 marks the Year of the Rabbit, according to the Chinese zodiac.
The famed snow festival first began in 1950 when local middle and high school students created six snow sculptures in Odori Park in central Sapporo. Since then, the event has developed into a large popular seasonal festival held every winter in Sapporo.
According to the organisers, the major Hokkaido tourist attraction usually attracts more than 2 million domestic and overseas tourists every year, with 2019 seeing a record 2.74 million visitors.