When a group of enthusiastic Japanese students built a couple of snow sculptures at their local park in 1950, little did they realize they were kicking off a tradition that would snowball into one of their city's biggest attractions the Sapporo Snow Festival. A weeklong exhibition of frozen sculpture created mostly by Sapporo residents (with a little help from members of Japan's Self-Defense Forces), the annual festival in the capital of Hokkaido sees more than 2 million visitors braving the cold to marvel at icy renditions of everything from fantastical creatures and animé characters to Japanese deities, scenes from movies and scale replicas of architectural icons that over the years have included the Taj Mahal, St. Paul's Cathedral and the Statue of Liberty.
This year's event, from Feb. 5 to 11, features more than 290 displays of which the biggest are ambitious reproductions of ancient Egyptian ruins, including the Great Sphinx of Giza, standing up to 55 ft. (17 m) high. Work is on show at three free-admission locations. Odori Park is hosting entries for the International Snow Sculpture Contest, alongside cultural performances and specialty winter food outlets. A 10-minute walk away, the downtown Susukino shopping and dining district has been converted into another display area, with sculptures lining the streets. A little way out of town, at the Sato-land amusement site, the fun is more interactive: you can rocket down a 330-ft. (100 m) snow slide, take a whirl on a snowmobile or get lost in a maze of ice. Find out more at www.snowfes.com.
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