We’ve had several cold days these last few weeks, which has made me fully accept that it’s completely and totally winter. It’s inescapable, so I have to brace my heart for the long and cold season.
One of the things I look forward to is the Otaru Snow Light Path Festival (小樽雪あかりの路, Yuki Akari no Michi). Basically, streets in the city will be decorated by handmade frozen lamps. People use different things to enhance these ice sculptures, but because they are meant to be lit, they have more impact at night.
Get to the city early if you want to go sightseeing, but make sure you are bundled up because you will be spending most of the time outdoors. Also, remember that Otaru is by the coast so it will be much colder than Sapporo because of the winter sea winds.
When it gets dark, head to the main event stage, which is of course, at the Otaru Canal. Generally, the accepted starting point is from the Tourist Information Booth, which is diagonally across the Otaru Denuki Koji. From that point, you walk down the canal to the end. It’s not a difficult path and it’s fairly short, but it will be
ridiculously crowded fun to share body heat with all the other tourists :).
The path along the side of the canal will be filled with different types of ice sculptures. They range in size and design, but they are all linked by light. The lamps below show the basic design.
But as you walk some more, they become more whimsical and take the shape of proper art sculptures.
Some are symbolic of Hokkaido like the white owls native to the island.
Some are big and interactive. This tunnel below is off the path, but it’s very sturdy ice so you can walk right through it.
Finally, some of the sculptures and design are more artistic:
Once you get to the end of the path, you’re much closer to the Otaru Station. This is the view from the end of the path.
All that walking around will make you hungry, so you need to find something good to eat. Since you’re in Otaru, seafood is the main local delicacy. It is a major fishing town, which means everywhere you go will most likely have something super fresh:
The festival itself is held at the same time as the Sapporo Snow Festival, so you can do both in one visit. Every year, the designs and the sculptures change. It’s possible to visit every time and see something different.
The only thing that stays the same is the cold. Brrr!